To mark India’s 75th year of Independence, Srinagar’s district administration has announced it will build the largest Chinar Park in the Valley.

The park, which will be called ‘ChinarZaar’ or The Valley of Chinars, will be constructed as a part of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, an initiative taken by the central government to celebrate 75 years of Independence.

ChinarZaar will be spread over 50 acres and developed as a green zone to attract more tourists and locals.

As per several media reports, the goal is to plant as many as 75 Chinar trees by 15 August.

Let’s take a look at the Chinar tree, why it is significant and how the administration plans to build the largest park in the Valley.

What is the Chinar tree?

With a height measuring up to 50 feet, the Chinar tree grows best in cold areas. Chinar trees shed their leaves once a year. The tree can even survive a drought if it grows in optimum conditions – cool temperature, rich soil and a sunny location.

During summers, the leaves of Chinar are all green. It is during autumn that the leaves acquire different colourful hues, varying from Blood-Red, Mauve, Amber and Yellow. It is due to these colours that the tree is called ‘Chinar’, a Persian word which means blaze or flame.

According to a report by The Hindu, the tree was revered by Islamic preachers who travelled to Kashmir from Central Asia four centuries ago. The oldest Chinar tree in Kashmir was planted by the Sufi Saint Syed Qasim Shah in Kashmir’s Budgam district.

In India, the Chinar tree usually grows in the Kashmir Valley near River Chenab. Though in smaller numbers, the tree is also found in Himachal Pradesh. However, the weather conditions in Kashmir are most suitable for its growth.

The goal behind developing the largest Chinar Park is to enhance the scenic beauty of the region and also to attract more tourists which will in turn improve the socio-economic condition of local.

The park will be developed jointly by Roads and Buildings and Floriculture and Urban Forestry Departments.

The DC has also asked officers to begin planting Chinar saplings so that at least 75 tree saplings are planted by 15 August. Initially, the plants will be protected by guards.

Significance of the Chinar tree in Kashmir

The Chinar tree has been revered by both Hindus and Muslims in the Kashmir Valley. The two major Muslim shrines in Kashmir – Sultan-ul-Arifeen and Hazratbal – are covered with Chinar trees to provide a place for devotees to pray.

Similarly, trees can be found at Hindu temples in Kashmir like the Khir Bhawani temple in Ganderbal.

According to a report by The Hindu, many Hindus believe that the Kashmiri name for the tree, Buen, comes from goddess Bhavani.

The tree has proved as an inspiration for many Kashmiri politicians. Former chief minister Sheikh Muhammad Abdulla named his autobiography Aatish-i-Chinar, meaning ‘Flame of Chinar’.

According to Congress leader Muzaffar Parray, former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi used to visit Kashmir during autumn as she was fascinated by the Chinar trees.

There were around 42,000 Chinar trees in Kashmir in the 1970s, as per the official count.

But that number has been reduced to a mere 5,000 now. The horticulture department is trying to get back to the original number.

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