♣ Students go herbal to preserve Indian tradition and ecology

An urge to uphold Indian traditions mixed with environmental concern has urged a bunch of students of P S Senior secondary school to start a medicinal garden there. They also plan to plant such floral varieties in neglected alleys of the neighbourhood.

Over 160 students of the school’s eco-club started the herbal garden a week ago. Most of the members from classes 6, 7 and 8 plant the saplings and maintain the garden. As of now plants like Karpooravalli, Tulsi, Nandyavatta, Thiruneerpachai, Vasambu, Vallarai and alternanda, which comprise the garden, are bought from private nurseries at Rs 10 to Rs 15.

“We plan to get more medicinal plants, mostly rare ones. The gardens will be in unused stretches behind classrooms. The breeze that comes in after caressing the herbs will rejuvenate the students. Initially the saplings have been planted near and behind the principal’s office,” said C Sharan and R Mohan of class X and senior members of the eco-club.

Vaishali Jayaraman, a class 8 student and editor of the eco-club magazine, said they planned to plant saplings around temples and unattended alleys in Mylapore. “Though many of these lanes are clean, these plants would make them beautiful. The smell of these floral varieties is also good for health,” she said.

According to her, every plant held spiritual and scientific significance in the Indian tradition. “Tulsi, used for curing illness like cold and malaria, is considered as goddess Lakshmi in India. Even hibiscus leaves grown in the garden were crushed and used as natural shampoo. Earlier, every house used to have them. Now, the practice is forgotten due to lack of space. We want to revive this age-old tradition, to create a healthy society,” she said.

Radhika Menon and Vasantha Kumari, biology teachers and co-ordinators of the eco-club, plan to have the medicinal garden even near kindergarten classrooms and encourage the tiny tots to plant trees. “Such medicinal plants in the city will improve the health of people, especially when lifestyle diseases are becoming common,” said Radhika.

The students are assisted by K Venkatasamy and A Saravanan, the school’s gardener and physical education department assistant. “My granddad was a practitioner of traditional medicines and I am using the knowledge I gained from him to select the plant varieties,” Saravanan said.

The school is also encouraging students to plant saplings on birthdays. “We have also reduced paper usage by 70% and we encourage the students to avoid using plastic,” said Vasantha Kumari.



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