GARDENING: DIVINITY IN NATURE

Published April 7, 2024
The landmark at the beginning of the trail near the Ziarat Residency
| Photos by the writer
The landmark at the beginning of the trail near the Ziarat Residency | Photos by the writer

A distinct memory from my student days, almost three decades ago, was the photograph of a woman as she looked at a leaf in Karachi. On that leaf, she could apparently see the contours and visage of a renowned local politician of that era. Like thousands of others, she believed that this was Divine intervention and urged people to follow that politician as their true leader.

We certainly believe in what we see, and sometimes even vice versa is equally true. Sometimes, the desire to be a part of such a miracle is so overpowering that people begin to see clearly that which might not be there at all. On certain occasions, people can even go beyond these limits and conjure up illusions to offset the rational thinking of a staunch believer.

Having said that, there are a number of such places around the globe where believers see and interpret the ‘Divine interventions’ of God in the form of text, symbols and iconography in the natural habitat. Some see their religious symbols within the seed patterns of a fruit or on the skin of a potato tuber.

Pakistan, too, has its share of such locations, where such iconography can be found. Here, we list down some of the landmarks that have become known because of this celestial connection.

From tree branches that seemingly spell out religious text to holy symbols on the skins or seed patterns of edibles, nature is replete with examples that are mannah for believers

In the Khewra Salt Range, visitors are shown and made to believe that the names of Allah and of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are on the ceiling. On the ceiling, at the other end of the mine across a small lake, within dripping salt and cuts of the mountain’s folds, are formations that can give the feeling that Allah is written in Arabic.

The local guide emotionally builds up to the moment when he points his torch in that direction and makes the mark more luminous in the background of red, pink and white and, thus, more visible to the naked eye. The believers are left awestruck, capturing photographs of this maujza [miracle] to show it to their loved ones back home.

The Divine landmark in the Ushu Forest
The Divine landmark in the Ushu Forest

A similar phenomenon can be witnessed while passing through the Ushu forest — when going from Kalam to Ushu — within the Swat region. The area has a number of locations where ice-capped mountains, mesmerising scenery and dense forestation provide ample opportunity for selfies and other material for social media. The local drivers are aware of these scenic sites and know where to stop, especially for those families who may not be very keen on hiking themselves.

One such place, which they never miss out on, is a tree — or a number of trees — growing together in a pattern that gives the appearance of Allah written in Arabic. The local tourists also waste no time in acknowledging this setting of the trees as Divine, and it serves as a reinforcement of their belief in the Almighty.

If you happen to visit Ziarat, located at a drive of between one to two hours from Quetta, you must have seen the Ziarat Residency, the last abode of the Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The other major attraction for those making a day trip to this hill station, barring a lunch of local karrhai, is a trek on a small trail among the barren mountains.

Here, the visitors are greeted with not one but two such Divine names of Allah. At the beginning of the trail, there is a bent tree with its branches pointing upwards in a manner that gives it an appearance of Allah written in Arabic. A board indicating the same is placed there, which ensures that tourists treat the tree and its environs with due reverence.

Here, if you look across the mountain, on the other side, with a valley in between, you may witness a mountain with dense forestation. In this carpet of green and brown trees, some trees seemingly don’t grow in a pattern, which results in an outline, suggestive of the name Allah being carved out naturally. It was there around 15 years back or so, but I am not sure whether it is still there or not.

While such unique trees, flowers or fruits are a treat to watch for many, it may attract negative criticism as well. I can recall a headline regarding a tree, which was associated with a saint, being chopped down in Pakistan a few decades ago, due to increasing intolerance in some segments towards associating religious sentiments with a tree.

Plants and trees are considered sacred in other religions as well, including Hinduism, in which they are worshipped or part of a traditional practice. In Christianity, similarly, people hang mistletoe seeking romance, health and fertility, while Christmas is celebrated with a pine or fir being colourfully decorated and placed in the living room.

From the use of Maryam booti to relieve labour pain and the iconic lotus flower, which is a symbol of purity among the followers of Buddhism, the believers will continue to witness Divinity within flora, provided they maintain their connection with nature.

Please send your queries and emails to doctree101@hotmail.com. The writer is a physician and a host for the YouTube channel ‘DocTree Gardening’ promoting organic kitchen gardening

Published in Dawn, EOS, April 7th, 2024

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