A slice of 'Green Qutub' beckons nature lovers
By Rahul Chhabra, Dehradun, March 12 : When the foundation of Delhi's historic Qutub Minar was being laid in the late 12th century, a deodar seed germinated in the Tehri Garhwal mountains in what is now Uttarkhand.
For the next 700 years, the sapling grew into a colossal tree of almost the same height as Qutubuddin Aibak's 72.5 metre victory tower. A slice of this gigantic tree, also known as the 'Green Qutub', is on display at a museum here.
When felled around 1919-20, the 704-year rare deodar tree had a girth diameter of nearly 2.75 metre - almost the same as the top of Qutub Minar.
A preserved piece of the tree's girth, which has a mean radius of 140 cm, is a centre of attraction for visitors who flock to the timber museum at the Forest Research Institute (FRI), which comes under the union environment and forests ministry.
"The girth is indeed a sought-after exhibit. Nothing similar or of the same age and dimension is, perhaps, known to exist in the country," FRI Director P.P. Bhojvaid told IANS.
Though the reasons for the rare tree's end are not known, the records at the British-era institute reveal that it was felled and carried away on elephants and mules.
"The girth of the tree was brought by a European in four pieces, as carrying it in a single piece would have been cumbersome. What we see today in display are four pieces joined together to make a uniform single circular chunk of timber," said a museum official.
Caption: The slice of the girth of a deodar tree, which survived for over 700 years, at a museum in Dehradun.
Bhojvaid said the age of the tree was calculated by the European experts, who worked in FRI in the 1920s, by counting the rings in the girth. Each ring in the girth represents an year and there are over 700 of these in the deodar tree.
For the ease of visitors at the museum, a line has been drawn to show the mean radius of the girth - with 20-year sections marked right up to 704 years.
According to N.S.K. Harsh, head of the forest pathology division of FRR, "The tree must have had a grand canopy and offered a magnificent sight. It could have been 60-70 metres high - almost the size of Qutub Minar or a 15 storey building."
A tree's survival for 704 years would in itself have been interesting to study, he said, adding that there were no records in the institute on who brought the girth here or what happened to the tree after it was cut seven centuries ago.
Apart from the deodar tree's girth, the museum also showcases a girth of a 330-year-old teak tree, brought from Parambikulam in Kerala.
A 2000-year-old fossilized piece of wood brought from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh by a Briton, A.E. Lawrie, is also at display at the museum. The high density piece of wood is oval-shaped and about a foot wide. It was found under the foundation of a house by Lawrie, about whom there are no records.
(Rahul Chhabra can be contacted at email@example.com) --IANS