Human Flower Project

Palash Will Do, and How!

The Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand split in November 2000. One of them had to find a new floral emblem.


Dressed up in dye from the palash flower for Holi

Barsana, India

Photo: Phat Beats

When political boundaries are redrawn, people usually don’t have flowers foremost in mind. Perhaps that’s why it’s taken Uttar Pradesh nearly 11 years to decide on a new state flower.

This huge and populous region of northern Indian was divided in November 2000. The northwesternmost territory, nearly all of it in the Himalaya, was split off to form the new state of Uttaranchal, renamed Uttarakhand (north country) in 2007. We would have guessed that Uttar Pradesh would have been entitled to retain its state flower, Saussurea obvallata, also known as Brahma Kamal, but no. In fact, this is an alpine plant that grows all over Uttarakhand but isn’t nearly so abundant in the lower lying provinces of Uttar Pradesh.


Brahma Kamal (Saussurea obvallata)

Photo: Chandresh Dhulia

“Going by the fact that state flower has to have wide presence all over the state, it did not qualify as symbol of UP,” the Times of India explains.

imageUttarakhand (pink) and Uttar Pradesh (lavender), both in northern India, split up in 2000

Map: Our Tours

Thus Uttarakhand was entitled to Brahma Kamal as its emblem, and Uttar Pradesh had to do some horticultural soul searching to find a flower of its own.

Several candidates were “found wanting on one or the other parameters,” and we can only imagine what those parameters were:

* native

* not claimed by a neighboring state

* beautiful

* fount of positive associations.

Finally, in April, authorities made their choice—Palash (Butea monosperma), also known as flame of the forest. What a contrast! 

Palash is actually a tree best recognized by its clawlike clusters of orange flowers.

imagePalash (Butea monosperma), newly chosen to represent Uttar Pradesh

Photo: Dehradun Plus

They’re used to make the coloring for Holi celebrations. And according to wiki the wood is used in a test of sorts that potential in-laws traditionally assign to men courting a daughter of the family. There are also ties to Lord Shiva and, well, let’s just say this is an amply qualified candidate to represent Uttar Pradesh. With its 199 million residents, this one state of India would be the fifth most populous nation in the world.

Other than its topographical extremes, and perhaps the difficulty of administering such an immense state, we’re not sure why Uttar Pradesh was divided 11 years ago. It appears that the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is stronger in Uttarakhand, so perhaps the concentration of BJP loyalists there brought about the schism. Indian readers, please advise.


Hikers in Yulla, Kanda (Uttarakhand), with Brahma Kamal

Photo: Andreas Wagner

We can, however, clear up a bit of human-flower confusion: many sources have mistaken Brahma Kamal with Night Blooming Cereus, an unrelated white flower with its own mystique, to be sure. But we don’t believe this New World cactus could survive the machinations of Indian politics or dizzy demands of life at 14,000 feet.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/19 at 05:47 PM


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