Thursday, 27 June 2019

A View to the Starry Kareel

Trees of Shekhawati – Part III – April 2019

Before entering Fatehpur to look at the huge Bhartiya clan mansions, we drive past the town towards Laxmangarh. Few kilometres away, we pull into the grounds of the magnificent Fatehpur Bawri. The square bawdi is ringed with imposing pavilions on the corners and walls pierced with gateways. The bawdi with a never seen before pavilion mounted on a minar in the centre of the kund will have to wait.

View to the Kareel at Fatehpur Bawdi

Capparis decidua in Shekhawati Rajasthan
The Twinkling Red Rubies of Kareel Tree

Surrounding the bawdi are twinkling trees. The woolly trees that look like overgrown bears seem to have cast a net at night when the twinkling red stars come down to play in the dunes of Shekhawati. The red stars that got entwined in the net twinkle in the bihad land all around. On a brilliant early evening as clouds float in a blue sky, this is a delightful scene and you will spend next half hour trying to frame the Kareel trees and their blooms against the bawri.

The flowers of Kareel trees are as captivating as the Roheda flowers. Pradip Krishen describes them as showy clusters and usually brick-red or pink in colour. The four petals are long and narrow with a prominent bonnet-like flower-cup. The long stamens are deep red and tipped with gold. A small, green ovary is borne at the end of a long stalk. In a mass blooming bush the flowers look like a delicious red whirlpool.

Shekhawati’s open air art galleries in the towns are getting a run for their money by these Roheda and Kareel flowers blooming in the surrounding scrubland. The beautiful red canvas of the Kareel flowers with the backdrop of structures look stunning. It seems a toddler given a brush drenched in red paint has gone berserk. Sometimes, taking from the title, the canvas seems to depict the gory blood splattered crime scene. But mostly it is the ruby like stars that seem to twinkle.


Kareel (Capparis decidua) also called Kair and Dhalu is a deciduous small tree or a large bush. The tree in its bush form and the older grown tree looks quite like Khabbar except the crown is a mesh of interwoven twigs with spines and absence of leaves. Before Shekhawati, you had seen this lovely solitary tree in Qutb Complex that was just beginning to flower. In Delhi, Kareel is common on ridge.

Kareel loves dry, sandy and rocky habitats and can even survive fire! It has leaves for just about a month while the function of leaves is carried out by its green twigs.

The young buds and fruits are used to make pickle. In Western UP, where the tree enjoys association with Lord Krishna since it is found in Mathura, Agra and Aligarh, the fruits are called Taint or Tainti.

There is a saying in Sanskrit – “If the Kareel does not have leaves, how can the Spring be blamed for it?” Trees in arid regions adopt the strategy of shedding leaves so as to reduce water-loss. And as if to compensate the absence of leaves, nature gifts the spiny twiggy tree with such eye-catching flowers in the Spring!

Let’s walk through the red twinkling universe.

What else do you want - Shekhawati, Blue Skies, Fluffy Clouds, and Kareel Flowers!

Kareel with the backdrop of the johda gateways

Just when you think you have the place to yourself, this family invades the quiet

The Mammoth like woolly Kareel trees in Shekhawati Rajasthan

The furrowed and corky bark of an old tree helps it to survive fires

There are hardly any leaves here - wonder what the goat is looking for

Another Johda outside Loharu in Haryana

Desert Caper - Capparis decidua

Gimme Red - Red Magic of Kareel in Shekhawati

Capparis decidua

Views to Kill For - Kareel (Capparis decidua)

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