Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Travel: Shendurney, the Royal Tree

“In some old texts,” the elderly physician continued, “it is said that sleeping regularly on a cot made of shendurney wood helps to resist seven major diseases. It increases potency as well.” (Flash Fiction: THE ROYAL TREE.)

There is no proven scientific basis to the statement quoted above but the belief is that Shendurney (also spelt Shendurni; local name Chenkurinji, botanical name gluta travancorica), a tall hardwood tree, has several medicinal properties. Research is going on regarding this. I know personally that a piece of shendurney wood (it has a crimson-red color) kept in a container of water would almost chill the water!

Shendurney is also called ‘Royal Tree’. There could be two reasons for this. Firstly, this highly endangered species is found almost exclusively in the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary in the erstwhile princely State of Travancore. Secondly, only the Maharajas of Travancore had the power to order cutting down a shendurney tree or its branches. Violating this rule could result in imprisonment and a huge fine.

The 171sq.kms Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary which is situated in the Agastyamalai Biosphere Reserve of Quilon District, Kerala, seems to be the only wildlife sanctuary in the world named after a tree. There is of course the Redwood National Park in California, USA, but it is not strictly a wildlife sanctuary. Incidentally, the precise area where shendurney grows is called Rockwood. The government of Kerala is doing a commendable job in conserving and propagating shendurney which is endemic to the locality.

The wildlife sanctuary spread on either side of Shendurney River (which also apparently got the name from the tree) is part of the Thenmala (Honey Hill) Ecotourism Project, the first of its kind in India. It is reportedly a highly successful venture.

This is not surprising. The area, with an altitude between 100-600 m above MSL, is world famous for its biodiversity. Thenmala Dam has formed a beautiful lake through which also one can reach the sanctuary. Then there is Palaruvi (River of milk) with its 300ft waterfall which is considered to be the most picturesque one in Kerala. It is believed that the water of this beautiful river also has many medicinal values. The Travancore Royal Family used to have a retreat palace in the area.

With all the natural beauty of the place which is about 90kms from Trivandrum airport, the greatest attraction is still the royal tree, shendurney.

For travel information, visit www.keralatourism.org/ or contact

Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala
Park View, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India - 695 033
Phone: +91-471-2321132 Fax: +91-471-2322279
Tourist Information toll free No:1-800-425-4747
Email: info@keralatourism.org, deptour@keralatourism.org


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