Dehradun: Wildlife Week’s fifth-day special issue of Dehradun-based Maaty Organization is on Brahmakamal – The Himalayan Beauty. Besides taking out a special issue each day, Maaty Organization is observing wildlife week by organizing some online competitions.
The fifth day’s special issue has been authored by Mr. Gaurav Baloni & Dr. Ved Prakash Kumar
Special focus on: Brahmakamal – The Himalayan Beauty
The Bethlehem Lily or night-blooming cereus (Saussurea obvallata) is a species of flowering plant and belongs to the family Asteraceae. The plant is native to Himalayas i.e Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in India at a rise of 4500 m. the flower have been declared endangered and are listed in ‘Appendix I’ of CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Saussurea obvallata is a perennial flourish to 0.3 m (1 ft) and the flowers are purple, hidden from view in layers of yellowish-green papery bracts, which helps them to survive in the alpine. The flowers can be seen till mid- October, after which the plant perishes and can be seen again in April. The flowers are bisexual (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects. Local names of the flower are Brahma kamal, kon, kapfu and vansembru.
In Uttarakhand, Brahma Kamal is found in the province of Kedarnath, the Valley of flowers, Hemkund Sahib and tungnath. The plant holds immense scared value in the region. Being regarded as a spiritual flower, it is offered to Lord Vishnu at Badrinath temple and Lord Shiva at Kedarnath temple. In the month of September and October during the Nanda Ashtami, it is offered in temples and also distributed as ‘prasada’. According the folklore in Hindu mythology, Brahma kamal is the creation of Lord Brahma to help Lord Shiva place the head of an elephant on the body of Lord Ganesha. The flower showered ‘amruta’- the elixir of life from its petals on the body. It is also believed that on the revival of Lakshmana using Sanjeevani, the God showered Brahma Kamal from heaven in celebration. Hence, Brahma Kamal hack down to earth and took root in the valley of flowers. Besides religious value, the plant is extensively harvested by local people for preparation of folk ayurvedic medicines. The flowers rhizomes are used for the treatment of cough/cold, treatment of bone ache, intestinal ailments and urinary tract problems. The rhizomes in particular are helpful as an antiseptic and for healing cuts and bruises. In the Tibetan system of medicine, the plant is used in the treatment of paralysis of limbs and cerebral ischemia.
Despite its traditional medicinal use, the plant has a disregarded status in the scientific community. Till date there has been neither an effort to preserve the germplasms of Brahma Kamal nor a focused research plea to document and evaluate true clinical potential of the species. Consequently, illicit and unscientific harvesting, constraints in conventional methods of propagation, climate change, anthropogenic activities and lack of scientific interventions have resulted in the plant being categorized as ‘endangered’ by the CAMP (Campo Assessment Management Plan). As the entire plant of Brahma Kamal is utilized for medication, it becomes more liable to annihilation, calling for immediate conservation strategies for this top-ranking priority species.
Conservation measures should begin with the establishment of nurseries in areas adjoining natural habitats wherein conventional methods of propagation can be tired. This has to be done in conjunction with the sensitization of the local people to control the overexploitation of the species. Synchronously efforts in the R& D sector to establish the pharmaceutical potential of the species can hence be employed to make the local people aware of the mercantile value of Brahma kamal.
Mr. Gaurav Baloni & Dr. Ved Prakash Kumar works at Maaty Organization, Dehradun. They can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org