Prosopis cineraria 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, Iran, India, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. It is an established introduced species in parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia.
It is the state tree of Rajasthan and Telangana 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.
It is also the national tree of the United Arab Emirates. 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.
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.
This tree, called Shami, is highly revered among Hindus and worshipped as part of Dasara festival. This tree takes importance during the tenth day of Dasara Festival when it is worshipped in various parts of India. Historically among Rajputs, the ranas, who were the high priest and the king, used to perform the worship and then they used to liberate a jay which was considered the sacred bird of Lord Rama. In the Deccan, as part of the tenth day ritual of Dasara, the marathas used to shoot arrows on to the leaf of the tree and gather the falling leaf into their turbans as a custom.
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 worshipped 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 However as per historical references, Prosopis cineraria is the tree which is known as the Banni mara  and is also the tree which holds a special place in the Mysore Dasara where its worshipped on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.
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