Pradeep Pattanayak

It is not for nothing that a Sal tree aged over 350 years in Rajabasa jungle under Champua range in Keonjhar district is revered by the people living nearby. It has many legends and folklore around it which make people deifying this centuries-old tree. 

There are many things in Keonjhar district still standing testimonial to the time when the area was ruled by kings. This huge tree, according to researchers, is one of them. 

This ancient tree is located near Jagadala stream on the border of Kaliapal and Kasia villages. Its girth at 4 feet from above the ground is around 19 feet. Even though it is a difficult task to measure the height of the tree, a rough estimate pegs it at around 80 feet. 

According to the villagers, it was when the first king of the Keonjhar district (Adi Bhanja) was being brought from Mayurbhanj to Keonjhar, the entourage took rest in this Rajabasa jungle and made the king sit against this Sal tree. The jungle perhaps got its name Rajabasa from that incident. Rajabasa means where the king sat. 

There is also a popular theory behind the nomenclature. Then the kings of Koenjhar used to visit this jungle for hunting. During their stay in the jungle, they might be taking rest under its shade. This is why the jungle is called Rajabasa.

As per folklore, once a mine owner tried to cut down the tree but he had to suspend his idea. When his people started to axe the tree, it started oozing a liquid that looked like a mixture of milk and blood. Seeing this, they refrained from causing any harm to the tree. 

According to botanists, a tree’s girth keeps increasing by 2.5 centimetres a year. From this, it can well be imagined that the tree is over 250 years old. 

According to some others, there is a similar tree in Mayurbhanj’s Similipal sanctuary. While its girth is 14 to 16 feet, its age is calculated at over 320 years. And since the girth of the Keonjhar Sal tree is more than that of the Mayurbhanj tree, it is claimed that the Keonjhar tree is older than its counterpart in Mayurbhanj. 

The local people have demanded steps to preserve the tree as the Mayurbhanj tree is being preserved. 

The forest department is going to take steps for the tree’s safety.