Piplantri village celebrates birth of girl child by planting 111 saplings

In the village of Piplantri in Rajasthan, a unique tradition is held every time a girl is born. The community comes together to celebrate her birth by planting 111 trees in her honour. A fund is created for the girl, with contributions from her parents and the residents.

The fund, which amounts to INR 31,000, (about $376) is reserved for her future and can be used for education or marriage expenses when she turns 18.

The girl’s parents agree not to marry her off before she turns 18 and she receives a proper education. This tradition not only ensures the financial security of girls but also promotes gender equality and girls’ education in a society that traditionally favours boys. The trees planted for each girl become a symbol of her prosperity and a sustainable future for the village.

Empowering girls, restoring Nature

The tradition of planting trees in Piplantri originated from the initiative of Shyam Sunder Paliwal, the former village leader, who started it as a way to honor the memory of her daughter who passed away at a young age. Paliwal wanted to change the perception that the birth of a girl was less valuable than that of a boy, and saw planting trees as a way to achieve social and environmental change.

In 2007, tragedy struck Paliwal’s life when her 17-year-old daughter, Kiran, passed away due to dehydration. Deeply affected by this loss, Paliwal decided to honour her memory by planting trees near the entrance to the village. As the head of the village, he initiated this act as a regular practice for the community.

Image source: Piplantri.com

During that time, the birth of girls had less value compared to boys. Society considered adult males to be more useful for labour and work, dwarfing the potential of adult females.

Paliwal sought to challenge this perspective and bring about change.

Inspired by the village chief’s commitment to him, the villagers embraced this tradition and it gradually morphed into a broader movement of ecofeminism.

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With the annual planting of numerous trees, the once-depleted soil began to recover, water sources were rejuvenated, pollution levels decreased, and new employment opportunities opened up for women. To date, more than 427,000 trees have been planted around the village, including mango, gooseberry, and sapwood.

Celebrating Disha: Planting Trees, Renewal

Disha was overjoyed and excited as her mother gently massaged her body with a soothing aloe vera ointment. With deft, attentive fingers, her mother’s touch moved in a graceful, purposeful dance, from Disha’s belly to her heels and from her buttocks to her nostrils.

The beautiful ritual, accompanied by a bath and puja (a Hindu spiritual rite), marked both the end of the year and the celebration of Disha’s short but significant life. As a result of this ceremony, more than a hundred trees have been planted in her name in the town of Piplantri.

A tree in honor of the birth of their daughter Disha, in Piplantri. Photo Credit: PRAHLAD PALIWAL

Located in the arid state of Rajasthan, India, Piplantri not only welcomes the birth of boys with dance, song and offerings to Hindu deities but also celebrates the arrival of girls through a more earthy and enduring tradition of planting 111 trees in her honour.

Image source: Piplantri.com

By participating in the voluntary initiative called Kiran Hadhi Yogana, Piplantri families take responsibility for planting and nurturing 111 trees for every girl born in their household.

Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, the practice of planting 111 trees for every girl in Piplantri has also played a crucial role in tackling the problem of child marriages, which is a pressing concern in India. Lalitha, cradling her daughter Puja de ella in her arms, shares her own personal experience of getting married at the young age of 14.

Project empowers women

Funds deposited by families are used to shape a better future for their daughters. The trees themselves have inherent value and promise prosperity for the people of Piplantri. Shyam’s calculations estimate that after 18 years of growth, each tree will be worth 50,000 rupees, which will mean a total value of more than 5 million rupees (about 71,000 euros).

Image source: Piplantri.com

Jeetender Updhayay, the district head to which Piplantri belongs, highlights that the project empowers women, with 80% of them driving the development of the rural area while their husbands work in the marble mines. Marble mining is the main source of income for families in the region, but it also contributes to deforestation and degradation of already barren soil.

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However, through reforestation efforts, the environment has been rejuvenated, helping to retain water and essential minerals in the soil. Previously, water had to be drawn from depths of 200 meters, but now it can be found just 3.5 meters below the surface.

Environmental renewal

The tree planting campaign in Piplantri has not only brought about a major cultural shift, but has also had a profound impact on the environment. The once degraded landscape, ravaged by years of marble mining, has been transformed into a thriving ecosystem. The flourishing vegetation has had a positive effect on the region’s air quality, water resources, soil health, and microclimate.

Unlike neighbouring towns covered in marble dust, Piplantri now enjoys noticeably cleaner air. Groundwater levels, which had plummeted below 152 meters before 2007, have now risen to the 4.5 to 6-meter range, especially in forested areas.

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