Chinar locally called “Bouin” is an integral part of Kashmiri culture having social, cultural as well as religious beliefs. Chinar was introduced to Kashmir by Sufi Saint Syed Qasim Shah who is credited with planting of oldest Chinar tree in Chattergam of district Budgam around 650 years ago.
Iran origin Chinar namely Platanus orientalis also known as oriental plane exists throughout valley. Political, social and religious emotions are reflected with Chinar being a heritage tree. As far as Hindu belief is concerned the name is associated with Bhawani goddess and one can assess it through dense planting of Chinars at Khair Bhavani Tulmulla in district Ganderbal. On the other hand all the Sufi shrines loved planting of Chinar trees which adds to the harmony from religious point of view. Keeping in view the beauty of Chinar tree and autumn charm of flame view fallen leaves even premier and pivotal poet of international repute Sir Mohamad Iqbal has quoted:
JIS KHAAK KE ZAMMER ME HAI AATISH-E-CHINAR
MUMKIN NAHI KI SARD HOU WHO KHAAK-I-ARJUMAND
The quoting describes the beauty of Chinar and its importance in environmental stability and heritage point of view. The great poet has linked the Chinar tree with conscious and its impact from aesthetic and recreational point of view.
People born during 1950s are witness to the fact that religious teaching and social gatherings were performed in the lap of Chinar tree even during 1970s and 1980s. Most of the shrines in Kashmir has dense Chinar plantation which proves the facts. Sur names for Chinars are assigned throughout valley like Baba Bouin, Molvi Bouin, Doodar Bouin, Chari Boiun etc which reflects specific meanings and particular landmark.
Former chief minister of J&K Late Sheikh Mohamad Abdullah choose name of his famous book and concluded the name “AATISH CHINAR” . Not only this the then Prime minster of India and former veteran politicians late Mrs Indra Gandhi was so fond of the autumn Chinar charm that she loved to visit Kashmir in autumn purposely to enjoy the charm of flame of fallen leaves. Though Sufi Saint Syed Qasim Shah was credited of introducing Chinar in Kashmir but the work was carried forward by Mugal emperors from time to time. One of the milestones in Chinar popularization in Kashmir was laid down by Akbar in 1586 A.D. when he laid foundation of Naseem Bagh in Srinagar and planted around 700 trees and simultaneously developed Shalimar, Nishat and Verinag Mugal gardens where heritage trees were planted with an objective of aesthetic and recreational value. Morning breeze is the name associated with Naseem Bagh as it facilities cool relaxation atmosphere being on the bank of Dal lake and attracts the nature lovers from recreational point of view. Char Chinari is another important spot in dal lake which attracts majority of visitors due to its unique location in Dal lake. Chinar leaves during autumn has romantic sense as has been reflected in Bollywood films like Hyder and Mohabatain.
Chinar revolution is credited to Mughal Emperor SHAHI- JAHAN when he planted around 12000 in Kashmir during1686 and 1200 alone in Naseem Baugh. During his reign Nishat and Cheshmashahi were developed and Chinar was main feature of these gardens. Current scenario depicts around 35805 Chinar trees in Kashmir with maximum 7294 existing in Srinagar and lowest 1500 in Bandipora. In Mughal gardens of Srinagar 418 chinars exist out of which around 207 (Nishat garden),165(Shalimar garden), 17(Cheshmashahi), 3 (Parimahal) and 41( Harwan garden) respectively. Systematic planning can be understood from area of garden and number of chinar trees planted by Mugal Emperors which teaches us the planning and management of this Heritage tree. Nishant garden is spread on 20 ha, Shalimar 13 ha, Chashmashahi 3.05 ha, Parimahal 3ha, Varinagh(4.8 ha) and Achabal 2.8 and accordingly planting of Chinars was done keeping in view open spacing and other means of Landscape Architecture.
In NBPGR, Srinagar around 160 Chinars exist as on date. In gardens of Kashmir total number of chinars is 7294 including Kulgam 225,Anantnag 201,Ganderbal 110,Baramulla 150,Bandipora 47 and Kupwara 30. Average age of Chinar trees in Mughal gardens is around 400 to 500 years. One of the oldest in Srinagar is reported at Shalimar namely Baba Bouin which is estimated around 450 years old. Baba Qadir shrine in Tragpora Rafiabad district Baramulla is one of the ancient sites as far as Chinar heritage is concerned.
Chinar development programme reach is now covering Pirpanjal range where 750 Chinars has been planted during recent years through collaborative approach of government and non-government agencies under mission of introduction and conserving the heritage tree. One of the Chinar development programme is going on under the domain of Directorate of Floriculture, Parks and gardens where 60000 saplings are planted every year from propagation point of view and 10000 Chinar trees of 4-5 feet are annually donated free of cost to interested people for carrying out mission of environment stability and conservation. Chinar can be summarized as a heritage tree which is identity of Kashmir and Kashmiri emotions from cultural and religious point of view and needs special focus from propagation to planed plantation and conservation.