[INDOLOGY] The Significance of the Iṅgudī Tree?

Jonathan Peterson jon.peterson at mail.utoronto.ca
Tue Apr 25 02:06:44 UTC 2017

Dear all,

I’m curious about the significance of the Iṅgudī tree (Balanites roxburghii?) and how the translator of the Majma’ al-Bahrain might choose this tree in particular as a stand-in for the ‘blessed olive tree’ (shajaratin mubārakatin zaytunat). Dārā Shikoh in the Majma’ al-Bahrain, section IX, tells of the similarity between the light of Brahman (brahmaprakāśa) and the light of God using Qur’ān 24.35, the famous āyat an-nūr, as a metaphor. As the Qur’ān says:

"'God is the light of the heavens and the earth; the likeness of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp - the lamp in a glass, the glass as it were a glittering star - kindled from a blessed tree, an olive that is neither of the East nor of the West whose oil well-nigh would shine, even if no fire touched it; light upon light. God guides to His light whom He wills. And God strikes similes for men, and God has knowledge of everything.” (Q24:35)

The olive tree and its fruit have broader significance in Islamic mystical literature, and Dārā Shikoh holds fast to the olive tree to complete his metaphor. The Sanskrit translation of the Majma’ al-Bahrain, the Samudrasaṃgamaḥ, renders the āyat an-nūr fairly faithfully, but substitutes the Iṅgudī tree, fruit, and oil for the olive tree. The Sanskrit reads as follows:

"tad uktam asmadvede śuddhaṃ brahma prakāśaḥ pṛthivyākāśayoḥ saḥ prakāśo yathā gavākṣadīpaḥ kācaghaṭīmadhye kācaghaṭī ca prakṛṣṭaprakāśatārāvat prakāśate sa dīpaḥ prajvālita iṅgudīphalatailena sa ceṅgudīvṛkṣā na pūrve na vā paścime / nikaṭe tu śobhamāneṅgudītailaṃ prakāśate vinâgnisaṃyogena / prakāśasyopari prakāśaḥ / mārgaṃ jñāpayati parameśvaraḥ svaprakāśasya yam icchati"

As far as I know, the Iṅgudī fruit and oil have medicinal uses, but I’m wondering if anywhere it takes on broader mystical or metaphysical significance like the olive tree does for certain mystical Abrahamic traditions.

Thanks a lot,

Jonathan Peterson
Department for the Study of Religion
Centre for South Asian Studies
University of Toronto

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