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Village superstitions, in Srikhand - flower causes stir, harinam to purify

nabadip - Thu, 05 May 2005 15:36:52 +0530
If the arum flowers...

Statesman News Service

KATWA, May 4. — The flowering of an arum plant has led to a controversy in Srikhanda, a tradition-bound village under the Katwa sub-division in Burdwan, recently. Priests and residents have been exchanging angry words. The house-owner, who owns the kitchen garden where the apparently “rare” flower is found couldn’t care less but the priests want a puja performed to ward off evil.

Hundreds from different villages in this part of Katwa have been visiting the village to have a glimpse of the flower. The research workers meanwhile have taken up this as a matter for further study.

The arum plant had been surviving at a corner of the kitchen garden, since years, of Mr Arun Dutta, a solvent farmer of the village has become the point of discussion in villages like Srikhanda, Pindira and Daskolgram these days.

The plant never drew any attention of the house owner. But in the last week of April this year, the ladies of the household sensed a different smell arising from the garden side. The domestic helps finally discovered that the Arum plant had emerged with a gigantic stype covering the leaves like an umbrella. They were surprised and the matter took no time to get spread across the villages. This was the first time that an Arum flower could be seen in the area after decades.

The curious villagers irrespective of their age and cast made a beeline to Mr Dutta’s house. Mr Dutta said, “I have never heard of the flowering of Arum since my childhood. So when we saw it happen, we felt that it indicated something.”
A traditionally religious Arun rushed to the village priest and the priest consulting the prescriptions by the panjika expressed concern with the flowering of the plant. As stated Mr Robinath Chatterjee, the 70 year-old village priest said, “this is highly ominous and this evil will no sooner beget evil. It should be wiped out and the family needs to go through a series of rectification process.”

No sooner Mr Chatterjee started campaigning against the evil effects of the flower and he also reached the house of Mr Dutta to get certain rituals performed at the earliest. Though the family initially refused to allow such bragging in it’s courtyard, but according to Mr Dutta, “the female members of the family got scared by the apprehensions made by the priest so we had to allow the performance of certain ritual practices.”

The old priest said, “the family and also the village will have to suffer. The family will witness a sudden collapse of its generation and may face a disaster and the flowering of Arum is a sign to that.” He stated, “the place where the flower has emerged needs to be washed off all evil by holding a sacrificial fire and constant horinam sankirtan. The flower and the plant needs to be uprooted and immersed in the Ganga.”

Already four persons have fallen ill in the locality and the villagers believed that the priest was right. Later however the Katwa doctors identified the disease as jaundice and was a result of water contamination.

The locals however did not bother to listen to logical explanations. Thus now a days a beeline of villagers, with hands full of sweet and holy smoke pots, can be seen in the Dutta family courtyard.

According to the botanists and agricultural experts Arum is a flowering plant and it is not unusual that the gigantic flower has emerged in the village. Dr Kaushik Brahmachari, a resident of Katwa and agricultural expert with the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswa Vidyalaya said, “the villagers are still a victim of superstition and there is nothing wrong with the flower. It is a fact that the Arum flower is not common. This is due to several reasons.” He explained, “most of the times the Arum stem that is edible is separated from the plant and the chances of flowering is lost.” Arum, scientifically known as Amorpho phallus campa nulatas belongs to the Araceae family and is generally a flowering plant.

Dr Ambarish Mukherjee, a botanist in the Burdwan University said, ‘the Arum usually goes through vegetative reproduction in the under ground level and its stem gets grows above the soil layer.” He added, “a suitable temperature with permeable humidity is required to help the giant flower grow up.”
braja - Thu, 05 May 2005 18:49:38 +0530
The Titan Arum or "corpse flower," noted for a nasty stench given off by blooms that can have a diameter of as much as four feet, is exceedingly rare among cultivated plants [in the US]....The plant, whose scientific name is Amorphophallus titanum, is a member of the family Araceae. It may bloom only two or three times during a 40-year lifespan.

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nabadip - Thu, 05 May 2005 20:34:59 +0530
Whether that is the same plant, braj?

Here what googling produces:

According to Ayurveda, Jimikand (Amorphophallus campanulatas; family Araceae) is dry, acrid, pungent, increases appetite and taste, stomachic, constipating (but not for all) and useful in treatment of piles, enlargements of spleen, tumours, asthma, bronchitis, vomiting, abdominal pains, blood disorders, elephantiasis (Hathi pav), leprosy, leucoderma (Safed Dag) etc.
braja - Thu, 05 May 2005 21:23:22 +0530
It's related. The newspaper article spells the botanical name incorrectly. Seems it should be Amorphophallus campanulatus ('tus' not 'tas'), which yields a lot of google results.

Here's the British library image of it:

user posted image