The birth of any child is celebrated around the world in a variety of ways, ranging from the giving of gifts in blue or pink in many western countries, to the giving of red-dyed eggs as a symbol of happiness in China. However, there is one village in India that has the mother of all new-birth traditions.
In Piplantri, Rajasthan, India, the community of 8,000 comes together every time a baby girl is born to plant 111 fruit trees in her honor and over the past six years alone, they estimate that they have planted a quarter of a million trees.
How Did The Tradition Start?
Former village elder Shyam Sundar Paliwal started the tradition to honor his own daughter, Kiran, who passed away when she just a young child. The tradition has continued, even though he no longer leads the village.
Historically, the birth of a girl in India was considered a burden on the family – they would have to pay a dowry when she gets married, which would cost the family a lot of money. As such, female children were regarded as lesser than their male counterparts, they rarely got a proper education, and would often be married before their eighteenth birthday.
Piplantri’s tradition does away with this and makes the birth of a baby girl something to celebrate, spreading joy and positivity to all the village’s inhabitants.
What is the Tradition in More Depth?
When a girl is born, the village comes together with the parents to create a trust fund of sorts. The village donates 21,000 Rupees, and the parents put forward 10,000 Rupees, for a total of 31,000 Rupees (approximately $500). This is then untouchable for 20 years and ensures she won’t be a financial burden on the family.
In return for the trust fund, the parents sign an affidavit promising that the girl will not be married off before she is 18, that she will receive a proper education, and that the trees shall be planted and taken care of as she grows up. One father in the village, Gehrilal Balai, commented that he feels the same happiness in caring for the trees as he does lulling his daughter to sleep. The trees, starting as saplings, come to fruition as the young girl herself blossoms into an adult.
The tradition of planting trees also brings with it many advantages. First and foremost, the village is incredibly green and it instills a sense of environmental stewardship in the villagers. Further, to prevent the trees from getting infested with termites, the village has also planted two and a half million aloe vera plants around them and these, along with the trees themselves, have provided a livelihood for many of the villagers.
Finally, the tradition has completely reshaped attitudes towards the birth of female children in the village. It rejects the negative associations with baby girls from the past and fosters a real hope for what’s to come.
It seems as though this tradition is one that will continue for a very long time. In addition to the 111 trees planted for a new baby girl, the village comes together at times of death too and plants 11 trees for each person that passes away. By remembering and celebrating every life that becomes part of the village, the sense of community becomes so much stronger.
Around 60 girls are born in the village every year, so the future is looking very bright for Piplantri!