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Lao authorities asked to rescue fallen holy tree
Publication Date : 30-04-2012
Laos' provincial authorities have been bombarded with requests from concerned locals to rescue a sacred manikhoth tree - a holy tree in Buddhist tradition - from being swept away by the Mekong River after it toppled over last month.
The tree stood on a rock in the middle of Khonephapeng waterfall, the thunderous 10km wide falls in southernmost Champassak province, near the Cambodian border.
The fallen tree is still partly on land while some of the trunk lies in the river, and locals fear the holy tree will be swept away by the strong current.
Locals want the Champassak provincial authorities to lift the tree out of the river and display it appropriately as a cultural relic.
According to local media, the tree fell on March 19, which has sparked public reaction as far north as Vientiane because of its perceived supernatural powers.
The manikhoth features as a holy tree in the ancient Sanskrit epic of Phra Lak-Phra Lam or Ramayana. A manikhoth has three limbs, and according to the legend fruit eaten from the first limb will bring eternal youth and long life, the second will bring great power and status, while fruit eaten from the third limb, pointing to the west, brings bad luck – the eater will turn into a monkey.
The people of Khong district believe that the fallen tree is holy and has powers as stated in the epic.
Champassak authorities reported that many people were trying to collect pieces of the tree for good luck and health, and some were cashing in by selling pieces of bark that peeled away, claiming they contain the powers of the manikhoth tree if consumed.
The practice is not limited to Champassak province. “Some people in my office even wrote an advert to sell manikhoth bark, saying it has supernatural powers,” a Vientiane res ident told Vientiane Times .
However, at present no one knows the exact species of the tree because it is surrounded by the falls, making collecting the bark a dangerous activity.
“Only birds can get to the tree,” said an elderly woman in nearby Thakhor village.
According to local residents, branches of the tree that have been found floating in the Mekong in the past are kept in some houses for religious purposes or sold to believers.
Champassak authorities are considering how the tree can be safely removed from the river.