Power of Panja

We had bypassed Harkidoon valley , Morinda Taal and were in the midst of  Vast Borasu valley and heading towards Ratha - do campsite during our  trek to Borasu pass 5320m in Govind national park in Gharwal region of Himalayas. A group of Villagers from Puoni and Osla villages including women folk armed with  picks were busy in collecting  some stuff in the bushes. The valley was lush green   in riot of colours with flowers Geranium, Inulas, Impatiens, Bistorta and Erigerons in full bloom. Inquisitive to know  I hiked up and found one of the folk stuffing a root of a colorful plant  whitish in colour resembling ginger into his pocket.Upon inquiry he said it is called as Panja in local dialect and told that it is used in treating injuries.

            It is a well known fact that plants having medicinal properties is both boon and bane for the Park’s floral biodiversity. The boon comes in the form of abundance and diversity of beautiful flowers  in different hues, especially during the rainy season, when the alpine meadows are lush green. The bane is that many of the herbs and shrubs of the forests and meadows are much prized for their medicinal properties. In the past, they were collected in small quantities for local use and have always been a source of traditional health care practice. Now modern pharmacology with better communications and the demand for natural medicines have made the collection of medicinal plants a lucrative trade.



            Panja is Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza hatagirea  is a species of orchid generally found growing in the Himalayas, from Pakistan to SE Tibet, at altitudes of 2,800–4,000 metres (9,200–13,100 ft). It is locally called 'Salam Panja' or 'Hatta Haddi'. It is called 'Panchaule' (पाँचऔंले) in Nepali and Himalayan regions. The name 'Panchaule' (meaning 5 fingered hand) arises from its root resembling fingers of hand with around 3-5 fingers of Orchidaceae  family. It is an erect perennial herb with long flowering stems. The plant is well known for its medicinal value. The root has sweet taste. The Juice extracted from tuber is used as tonic and also used for the treatment of pyorrhea (inflammation of the gum & teeth). Root paste is externally applied as poultice on cuts and wounds and extract is given in intestinal disorders. The term Hatta Haddi is probably coined because it is used for treating bone fractures. As it is highly traded in the name of 'Panchaule' or 'Salampanja' and found in wild, is being unscientifically collected for its commercial importance. Dactylorhiza hatagirea is native of the Himalaya. It is found throughout from west to east at temperate to subalpine biocliates within 2800 – 4000 m altitude. Flowers spotted rosy-purple in a terminal spike, borne on a robust leafy stem. It has palmately lobed root tubers, grows well in moist places, open areas, shrub land and open meadows.

          Dactylorhiza hatagirea is endemic to the Hindu- Kush Himalaya. It is categorized as endangered in  conservation list, and strictly banned for collection, utilization and sale. It costs around NRs. 10,000-15,000 per kilo as exisiting in local market.

          However there is no way it can be stopped collecting though there  are strict  restrictions put forth by forest department.Extensive  collection for commercial purpose may result in extinction of the species in future.

Text  by : R. Vishwanath 

Photos by  : Srinivas Achar  Who was member during our Borasu Pass Trek  September 2016

Website: vishwanath.summiters.net Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Abenteuer India

Summiters was founded  by Vishwanath in the year 2005.  Being an avid nature enthusiast he started this concern as a freelancer and also helped a lot of fellow enthusiasts.  He is a certified Mountaineer  from Nehru institute of mountaineering and trained Wilderness First Responder  from NOLS ; USA.  He conducts wilderness camps in Western ghats , Himalayas and also locally.  He has custom designed  and executed various outdoor based learning activities at school, colleges and corporate levels.  In addition to these, he is a trained passionate PADI scuba diver, a  freelance writer and photographer. His  articles and photographs have been published  in several mainstream news papers and magazines.  He participates at National, International level photo salons and has won several certificate's of merit.

Vishwanath maintains his blogs at: http://.vishwanath.summiters.net/

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