Prosopis cineraria, also known as ‘Ghaf, is a species of flowering tree in the pea family, Fabaceae. It is native to arid portions of Western Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iran, India, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Its leaves are shattered and stripy along its branch. It can be found in desert places where it can survive. It is an established introduced species in parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia.
It is the national tree of the United Arab Emirates, where it is known as Ghaf. Through the Give a Ghaf campaign its citizens are urged to plant it in their gardens to combat desertification and to preserve their country's heritage. The desert village of Nazwa in the UAE is home to the Al Ghaf Conservation Reserve.
It is also the state tree of Rajasthan (where it is known as Khejri), Western Uttar Pradesh (where it is known as Chhonkara) and Telangana (where it is known as Jammi  ) in India. A large and well-known example of the species is the Tree of Life in Bahrain – approximately 400 years old and growing in a desert devoid of any obvious sources of water.
In 1730 AD, the village of Khejarli near Jodhpur in Rajasthan was the scene of a violent environmental confrontation. Amrita Devi and her three young daughters gave their lives in an attempt to protect some Khejri trees which Maharaja Abhay Singh had ordered cut to make way for his new palace. This led to widespread defiance in which 363 people were killed trying to save the trees. In the 1970s memory of this sacrifice led to the start of the Chipko movement. 
P. cineraria is a small tree, ranging in height from 3–5 m (9.8–16.4 ft). Leaves are bipinnate, with seven to fourteen leaflets on each of one to three pinnae. Branches are thorned along the internodes. Flowers are small and creamy-yellow, and followed by seeds in pods. The tree is found in extremely arid conditions, with rainfall as low as 15 cm (5.9 in) annually; but is indicative of the presence of a deep water table. As with some other Prosopis spp., P. cineraria has demonstrated a tolerance of highly alkaline and saline environments.
The tree is not to be confused with the similar looking Chinese lantern tree, Dichrostachys cinerea, which can be told apart by its flowers. While the Chinese lantern tree has bicolored pink-yellow flowers, the true Shami tree only has yellow-colored bristled flowers like most other mesquites.
This tree is highly revered among Hindus and worshiped as part of Dusshera festival. This tree takes importance during the tenth day of Dasara Festival when it is worshiped in various parts of India. Historically among Rajputs, the ranas – who were the high priest and the king – used to conduct the worship and then they used to liberate a jay which was considered the sacred bird of Lord Rama.:29–30 In the Deccan, as part of the tenth day ritual of Dussahera, the marathas used to shoot arrows onto the leaf of the tree and gather the falling leaf into their turbans as a custom.:36–37
The tree is known by different names across the western and northern regions of India, e.g. Shami in Maharastra & Uttar Pradesh, Jammi in Telangana, Khijro in Gujarat, Khejri in Rajasthan, Janti in Haryana, and Jand in Punjab.
In Karnataka, Acacia ferruginea has also been locally referred to as Banni mara in place of the accepted Khejri tree and erroneously accepted as the tree where the Pandavas hid their weapons during exile. There are also some unconfirmed references which consider Acacia ferruginea as the tree which is revered and worshiped on Vijay Dashami day. However as per historical references, Prosopis cineraria is the tree which is known as the Banni mara and is also the tree which holds a special place in the Mysore Dasara where its worshiped on the Vijay-dashami day.
In the Mahabharata, the Pandavas are known to have spent their thirteenth year of exile in disguise in the kingdom of Virata. Before going to Virata, they are known to have hung their celestial weapons in this tree for safe keeping for a year. When they returned after a year, they found their weapons safe in the branches of the Shami tree. Before taking the weapons, they worshipped the tree and thanked it for keeping their weapons safe.
Extract from unripe fruit pods of the plant was shown to ameliorate artificially-induced damage to testes in an animal model.
- "Prosopis cineraria (L.) Druce". Catalogue of Life. Integrated Taxonomic Information System and Species2000. 2012-03-15. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
- "Prosopis cineraria". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2009-12-31.
- Philp, Myra (2013-06-17). "UAE groups help to save ghaf trees on UN 'Combat Desertification Day'". 7DAYS in Dubai. Al Sidra Media. Archived from the original on 2013-10-12. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
- "Six natural reserves declared in Dubai". The National. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
- "What's common to jinka, paalapitta, jammi chettu and thangedu puvvu?". The Hindu. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
- "Prosopis cineraria (L.) Druce". Tropical Forages. Centre for International Agriculture Research and Food and Agriculture Agency. 2005. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
- Edwards, S.M. (March 1922). "Tree-worship in India". Empire Forestry Journal. 1 (1): 78–86. JSTOR 42594479.
- Crooke, W. (1915). "The Dasahra: An Autumn festival of Hindus". Folklore. 26 (1): 28–59. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1915.9719701.
- Gandhi, Maneka; Singh, Yasmeen (1989). Brahma's hair – Mythology of Indian plants. New Delhi: Rupa & Co. pp. 29–32. ISBN 978-81-7167-005-5.
- Babu N.M. Ganesh (2 May 2017). "Tree that hid Pandavas' weapons when they were in exile". The New Indian Express.
- S.G. Neginhal (2011). Forest Trees of the Western Ghats. S.G. Neginhal. p. 133. ISBN 9789350671733.
- S. Sivapriyananda (1995). Mysore Royal Dasara. Abhinav Publications. pp. 51, 55.
- L. Krishna Anantha Krishna Iyer (Diwan Bahadur); Nanjundayya Hebbalalu Velpanuru (Diwan Bahadur); H.V. Nanjundayya (1935). The Mysore tribes and castes. Mysore University. p. 68.
- Fuller, Christopher John (2004). The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and society in India. Princeton University Press. p. 121. ISBN 978-0691120485.
- Claus, Peter; Diamond, Sarah; Mills, Margaret (2003). South Asian Folklore: An encyclopedia. Special Reference. p. 536. ISBN 978-0415939195.
- Parsons, Constance (1930). Milford, Humphery (ed.). Mysore City. Oxford University Press. p. 184.
- "Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society". Mythic Society. 32 (1): 309. 1941.
- Milton, Lawrence. "Why Dasara procession culminates at Bannimantap". Times of India.
- Thurston, Edgar; K. Rangachari (1909). Castes and Tribes of Southern India. p. 147.
- Smaranananda Swami (2001). Prabuddha Bharata: Or awakened India. 106. p. 49.
- Bharata Prabuddha. "Mysore Dasara - a living tradition". Archived from the original on 7 March 2007.
- Krishna Nanditha; M. Amirthalingam (2014). Sacred Plants of India (1st ed.). Penguin books India. pp. 171–175. ISBN 9780143066262.
- Khaskheli, Jan. "Bountiful desert". www.thenews.com.pk. Retrieved 2019-09-20.
- Ramalingam S, Logeshwaran; Vellapandian, Chitra; R Vetrivelan, Venkataramanan; Sukumaran, Evelyn Sharon (October 2020). "Un-riped[sic] fruit pods of Prosopis cineraria (L.) Druce ameliorates Cisplatin therapy-induced partial testicular atrophy in male Wistar rats". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 261: 113070. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2020.113070. PMID 32585233.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Prosopis cineraria.|