Kadamba tree, botanical name Anthocephalus cadamba (or Anthocephalus indicus) and Nauclea cadamba of the Rubiaceaei family, is common in Indian subcontinent. The name Kadamba is a suffix to the dynasty of Mayursharma, the progenitor of his dynasty—the Kadamba Dynasty which ruled from Banavasi in what is now the state of Karnataka from 345 CE to 525 CE, as per Talagunda inscription of c.450 CE. The Kadamba tree was considered a holy tree by the Kadamba dynasty. Karam in Munda language also represented a tree called ‘Karam’ or ‘Kaim’. Later this tree was known as Kadamba tree. And some of its common names are Kadamb (Hindi), Vellaikadambu (Tamil) and Kadamba (Sanskrit). Kadamb is a fragrant and beautiful solid flower, which is round in shape.
The Grama Paddhati, a Kannada work dealing with the history of the Tulu Brahmins, narrates a story that after Parasurama created the Haiga and Tulu countries, Shiva and Parvati came to Sahyadri, and there a child was born to the divine couple. Since the birth took place under a Kadamba tree, the child was named Kadamba, and was placed in charge of the Sahyadri region. Mayursharma belonged to this family and he made Banavasi his capital. Kadamba tree is also mentioned in other mythical stories. It is considered the Tree of Buddhism, and was thought to reunite separated lovers.
Kadamba is mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana (Lord Krishna’s ‘biography’) and in verses that praise Devi (Goddess). In Northern India, it is associated with Krishna while in the south it is known as “Parvathi’s tree”. Radha and Krishna are supposed to have conducted their love play in the hospitable and sweet-scented shade of the Kadamba tree. Devi is the radiant beauty who dwells in the Kadamba forest: Kadamba-vana-vasini or Kadamba-vana-nilaye, whose presence is sensed if the koel (Cukkoo) sings in the Kadamb-van (forest).
In the Sangam period of Tamil Nadu, Murugan of the Tirupparankundram hill of Madurai was referred to as a centre of nature worship. He was in the form of a spear under a Kadamba tree. In another mythical story, it is stated that Dhruv, son of King Uttanapada and wife Suniti, set out with firm determination to please Vishnu. He arrived in Madhuban (Garden) and took a seat under a Kadamba tree on the bank of the river Yamuna. During the first month he ate roots and tubers. In the second month he ate dried leaves. During the third month he managed with Yamuna river water. During the fourth month he sustained himself on air. Then Dhruv even stopped breathing. Now, standing on one leg only, he was fully concentrating on Vishnu. In Jayadeva’s Gitagovindam, Song of Govinda, (a poetic work on Lord Krishna composed in 1200 AD by Jayadeva of Puri] stanza 1, says “He who is mixed up or mingled in the darkness at a peaceful Kadamba tree, pre-set by me, --- deserve supreme love and affection of the Supreme and hence I reminisce about him." 
An episode that represents one of the naughtiest acts of Lord Krishna, which he performed when he was a boy relates to his stealing away the garments of 'gopis' (damsels) when they were bathing semi-nude in a pond near Vrindavan. It is said Varuna, the sea-god, had forbidden nude bathing in rivers, ponds and other public places, but 'gopis' often resorted to it. One day to teach them a lesson Krishna reached the bank of the pond where they were taking bath and before any one of them noticed him he took away their garments and spread them on the branches of nearby 'Kadamba' tree. He himself climbed the tree and hid there behind a branch. After the 'gopis' had bathed, they looked for their garments but found them missing from where they had put them. The eyes of the astonished 'gopis' searched each and every corner of the bank but their garments were nowhere to be found. Suddenly their attention was drawn to the nearby Kadamba tree by the stirring of its branches. When they looked up, they saw Krishna hiding there and their garments scattered all over the branches of the tree. Krishna insisted that they shed their shame and come out naked to receive their garments. This is endlessly portrayed in song, story, painting and artefacts, in the backdrop of the Kadamba tree.
Karam - Kadamba is a popular festival of the farmer (agriculturist), celebrated on the eleventh Moon day of the month ‘bhado’(September). A twig of ‘Karam’ (Kadamba) tree is brought and worshipped in the courtyard of the house. Later in the day, young shoots (‘ears’) of grain are distributed among friends and relatives. This festive custom has been adopted by Tulu people in ‘Posatt’ (‘new crop’ festivity) or the ‘Koral parba’. The impact of the ‘koral parba’ on the regional populace is so deep that it is also celebrated by local Christians, converted from Hinduism; Onam (Kerala) and Huttari (Kodagu) are regional variants of this festival. Kadambotsava ("The festival of Kadamba") is also the festival that is celebrated every year by the Government of Karnataka in honor of the Kadamba kingdom, the first ruling Kingdom of Karnataka, at Banavas], as it was here that the Kadamba kings organised the spring festival every year.
The Kadamba tree is also associated with a deity called Kadambariyamman. The Kadamba tree, which is considered the ‘sthalavruksham’ (Tree of the place) of the city that is otherwise known as ‘Kadambavanam’ (Kadamba forest) and is present in Meenakshi Temple and a few trees at the Meenakshi Government College for Women at Madurai. A withered relic of the Kadamba tree is also preserved in the precincts of the Madurai Meenakshi temple.
Kadamba tree's botanical name is Anthocephalus cadamba. It is a large tree with a broad crown and straight cylindrical bole. It is quick growing, large; has large spreading and grows rapidly in first 6-8 year and produces golden ball of flowers. The tree may reach a height of 45 m with trunk diameters of 100-(160) cm. The tree sometimes has small buttresses and a broad crown. The bark is grey, smooth in young trees, rough and longitudinally fissured in old trees.
Some botanical features are detailed below:
- Leaves glossy green, opposite, simple more or less sessile to petiolate, ovate to elliptical (15-50 x 8-25 cm).
- Flowers inflorescence in clusters; terminal globose heads without bracteoles, subsessile fragrant, orange or yellow flowers; Flowers bisexual, 5-merous, calyx tube funnel-shaped, corolla gamopetalous saucer-shaped with a narrow tube, the narrow lobes imbricate in bud.
- Stamens 5, inserted on the corolla tube, filaments short, anthers basifixed. Ovary inferior, bi-locular, sometimes 4-locular in the upper part, style exserted and a spindle-shaped stigma.
- Fruitlets numerous with their upper parts containing 4 hollow or solid structures. Seed trigonal or irregularly shaped.
Uses of the tree
The fruit and inflorescences are reportedly edible. The fresh leaves are fed to cattle. The fragrant orange flowers attract pollinators. It is Sapwood white with a light yellow tinge becoming creamy yellow on exposure and is not clearly differentiated from the heartwood. The wood has a density of 290-560 kg/cu m at 15% moisture content, a fine to medium texture; straight grain; low luster and has no characteristic odor or taste. It is easy to work with hand and machine tools, cuts cleanly, gives a very good surface and is easy to nail. The timber air dries rapidly with little or no degrade. Kadamba wood is very easy to preserve using either open tank or pressure-vacuum systems.
The timber is used for plywood, light construction, pulp and paper, boxes and crates, dug-out canoes, and furniture components. Kadamba yields a pulp of satisfactory brightness and performance as a hand sheet. The wood can be easily impregnated with synthetic resins to increase its density and compressive strength. The alkaloids cadamine and isocadamine are isolated from the leaves of Kadamba.
Kadamba is stated to be one of the most frequently planted trees in the tropics. A yellow dye is obtained from the root bark. Kadamba flowers are an important raw material in the production of ‘attar’, which is Indian perfume with sandalwood (Santalum spp.) base in which one of the essences is absorbed through hydro-distillation. The flowers exhibit slight anti-implantation activity in test animals. Kadamba extracts exhibit nematicidal effects on Meloidogyne incognita. The dried bark is used to relieve fever and as a tonic. An extract of the leaves serves as a mouth gargle.
The tree is grown along avenues, roadsides and villages for shade. Kadamba are suitable for reforestation programmes. It sheds large amounts of leaf and non-leaf litter which on decomposition improves some physical and chemical properties of soil under its canopy. This reflects in increases in the level of soil organic carbon, cation exchange capacity, available plant nutrients and exchangeable bases. Kadamba is suitable for ornamental use. Intercropping: Suitable for agroforestry practices. Artifcats and statues of Gods and Goddesses are engraved.
- George M. Moraes (1931), The Kadamba Kula, A History of Ancient and Medieval Karnataka, Asian Educational Services, 1990, p10
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- Media related to Neolamarckia cadamba on Wikimedia Commons
- Neolamarckia cadamba on Wikispecies
- The sacred fig tree and the North star
- USDA database
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