Close your eyes and imagine a fragrance of bright, woodsy, and fresh smell. Take a deep breath and take it in as you walk through the garden in India, surrounded by tall beautiful Sandalwood trees. Sandalwood trees? Is that where the wonderful fragrance is coming from? Its fragrance and uses are so intoxicating that the tree is declared the “royal tree” by the Sultan of Mysore in1792. Its versatile nature allowed its use in multiple aspects of culture such as religion, beauty/skin care, medicine and fragrance to name a few. In earlier times, the tree was an important part of devotional Indian rituals and was often carved into various religious artifacts as well as burned for its scent in Hindu and Buddhist temples. Used in other religions as a sacred oil. It was also used as a paste that served to purify the skin, heal rashes and cool burns. One of the sandalwood tree’s most infamous characteristics is its essential oil.
Keep your eyes closed and imagine standing in this Indian garden with the presence of these royal trees, but all of a sudden you hear ax and saws, you hide and peek through the bush and see men cutting the “royal tree” down! How dare them! Did you know that Sandalwood trees are protected by the government of India? It is basically protected almost anywhere it is grown. The majority of Santalum album, Indian Sandalwood, grows on the Deccan Plateau in the southern portion of India. Australia and Hawaii are also known for their Sandalwood, species names, Santalum spicatum and Santalum lanceolatum are the most commercial.
Sandalwood is a valuable wood and decreasing in numbers because of its value. In India no individual may own a sandalwood tree. Even if the tree grows on private land it is owned by the government. However, an individual is entitled to receive seventy five percent of its value as a bonus for growing and protecting the trees. Due to its high value and increased demand in internal and external markets, sandalwood prices have skyrocketed. The increase in price is partly due to a decrease in supply during the 1930s-1950s. In 1950, 4,000 tons of heartwood was produced, in 1990, this was down to 2,000 tons. Increase in demand can be attributed to the popularity of aromatherapy and trends in the cosmetic industry toward natural products.
Are your eyes still closed? Okay, imagine the men you saw cut down the tree hauls the fallen Sandalwood away, not fallen on its own but by the hand of man. The next morning, security that guards these precious “royal trees” does not notice on their watch and not until eight a.m. does a Sandalwood tree watcher coming through the protective garden notices a Sandalwood stump and informs security. What! Security does not notice? Believe it or not, this is a real story and recently happened on July 11, 2013. India newspaper reads: An 80-year-old sandalwood tree, said to be worth Rs 8 lakh, was reportedly stolen from the Kamatibaug garden in Vadodara on Thursday morning. According to Kamatibaug activists, the tree, cut with great precision using electronic cutters, could not have been felled without help from authorities. The incident is the second of its kind to take place this year and has cast a shadow on the security at the garden. The tree was felled near the Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery and it is believed that a hacksaw blade may have been used to cut it and then take away its trunk. The incident came to light only at around 8a.m. and the garden authorities as well as the police were informed regarding it.
Now you can open your eyes and ask yourself, if our natural resources and animals are depleting on our planet, from turtles, certain birds, elephants, tigers, even certain species in our oceans. How do we protect it? How do we keep man from continuing to cut down Sandalwood trees before their time? The “royal tree” must mature and cannot be cut until it is 30 years to 50 years old. Okay now that you have asked the question, close your eyes one more time and imagine a tracking brace around a person’s ankle or a tracking electronic brace on a tiger or elephant; well what about a tracking device on Sandalwood trees….lol! Well do not laugh because that is exactly what is being proposed. A fantastic or rather wild idea has struck the Forest Department to prevent smuggling of sandalwood trees from the Marayoor forests. The plan, which is still on paper, is to fix radio collars on trees to alert the forest sleuths about theft attempts. Smuggling of sandalwood by poachers from Tamil Nadu has become rampant and the Forest Department in association with Keltron has proposed to get microchip embedded in each tree. Though elephants and tigers carry radio collars, the department itself is not sure how the plan will work successfully in the case of trees.
When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them? Deuteronomy 20:19
As much as we love Sandalwood essential oil, let’s respect the tree that allows us to enjoy its oil by allowing it to mature and to present itself unto us when it is ready to fall.
The “Royal Tree”