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ETCHED IN HISTORY: The squirrel and the cannon ball flower (Nagalinga flower) have been chosen the State animal and State flower of Puducherry. Photo: T. Singaravelou
ETCHED IN HISTORY: The squirrel and the cannon ball flower (Nagalinga flower) have been chosen the State animal and State flower of Puducherry. Photo: T. Singaravelou

Deepa H Ramakrishnan

The koel, squirrel, cannon ball flower find a place The government felt a need to protect the Koel in view of its shrinking habitat

PUDUCHERRY: Koel or kuyil or Eudynamys scolopacea ... call it by any name, the sweet song of this bird is enthralling.

Poets such as Subramania Bharathi and Bharathidasan have extolled the koel as a free spirit in their works.

The Puducherry Government has announced the koel to be its State bird, the squirrel as the State animal, the cannon ball flower (Nagalinga flower) as the State flower and the vilva tree as the State tree. Minister for Agriculture V. Vaithialingam recently announced this in the Assembly.

According to Deputy Conservator of Forests P. Devaraj, the State bird, koel, is a species still found abundantly in and around Puducherry despite its shrinking habitat. "Since its population is dwindling due to hunting, the government felt a need to protect the bird. As per the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, the Koel comes under Part-I of Schedule II and is considered endangered."

A comparison

"Both the poets were some what akin to the bird. They were too free to be restrained by anything or anyone. The bird doesn't know to look after itself or its kind since it would lay its eggs in crows' nests. The poets were too like that always thinking of others and not bothering about themselves.

"They would also not write stories and poems to please others, but do things at their will. Bharathidasan, in his story, has described the kuyil thus, "Koodu ondru kattikolla theriyaadhu"," explains poet Mannarmannan, Bharathidasan's son.

"In Kuyil Paatu, Bharathi has added a bit of philosophy and, at the end, tells other poets to read in between the lines and decipher the vedanta from it. Similarly in Panchali Sabatham, he likens Mother India, Bharatha Mata to Draupadi," he adds.

For the love of the bird

Following the steps of Bharathi, his mentor Bharathidasan too fell in love with the kuyil. He had three magazines named after the bird.

The flower of the Cannon ball tree (Couroupita guianensis), the nagalinga flower and the vilvam tree, botanically known as Aegle marmelos, are both used to worship Lord Shiva. The nagalinga flower, some say, resembles a `Shiva Linga' with a naga (snake) on top and hence the name.

The vilva tree, the State tree, is an integral part of every Shiva temple. Popularly called the Bell tree, it finds mention in the Atharvana Veda and its fruit is used to treat digestive ailments. A sherbat made from the bell fruit is a good appetiser.

The tiny squirrel that, according to mythology, helped Lord Rama to build the bridge across the sea to Sri Lanka has been chosen as Puducherry's State Animal.

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