Nature unselfishly showers us with inspiration and joy. However, in our modern urban lives, we don't interact with nature directly as often as we ought to. On a hot day, I walk by the beautiful redwoods in my neighborhood without stopping to realize the cool shadow they provide over the path I walk.
Unlike me, my ancestors enjoyed a strong relationship with not just Nature but specifically with different types of trees, flowers, crops, etc. Each plant species grown in an agrarian society around the world gets added to a web of emotions and significance just as the Punjabis have done with the trees of their landscape.
In this collection, I explore some of these symbolic relationships that different cultures have developed with different types of trees. In doing so, I relate my experiences with the same type of tree not only through my interactions or memories but also through my brush and the unique Siahkalam style of Miniature Painting. The uniqueness of this collection is in recognizing leaf shapes of each tree, learning its possible significance around the world, and overcoming the challenge of capturing normally large scale organisms as "Tiny Trees".
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A mango tree. A memory of childhood and carefree days.
The palm tree. A sign of home, California.
The Peepal tree. An analogy for so much and a symbol of life. However, a departed member of the Punjabi landscape.
The almond tree. It has sacred significance in the miniature painting tradition. Often painted in gold, it is a beautiful depiction of clusters of leaves with or without beautiful white flowers.
Also known as the Indian Lilac, the Neem tree is beautiful and well-recognized for its medicinal uses. I couldn't count the amount of times the juice of Neem leaves was recommended for grownup ailments and teenage acne.
Referred to as a "lowly" tree in Gurbani, the Neem tree is mentioned abundantly in the Guru Granth Sahib as well as several other religious texts.
Known as a tree associated with ghosts and evil in some cultures, in the Chinese tradition the willow's presence wards off all evil rather than assembling it.
Known to live a life of almost 100 years, the palmyra is best known for its leaves being used as paper for writing. Believed to be a tree of many uses, it is well regarded in most Asian and African cultures. In Gurbani the palmyra is referred to as an "impure" tree. However, it is also said in Gurbani that this tree's leaves once impure become an object of reverence when Gurbani is written on them. In many ways it is easier to relate to this transformation from worthless to valuable than the example of a "pure" tree becoming corrupt....or maybe it depends on our choice of perspective.
Known for its beautiful aroma, the sandalwood tree is mentioned more than a few times in religious scripture. It's use in sacred ceremonies is widespread.
In Gurbani, the sandalwood serves as an example of a good person who can change those around them and make them more "fragrant" as well. However, this becomes an undesired quality as soon as a few conditions change and the sandalwood becomes immersed in water. It's fragrant quality soon turns into a horrible stench. What might the water signify in this case I leave for us to investigate and ponder.