Why does the semul/semal/salmali have thorns?
Blame it on Draupadi. Bhima, the strongest and mightiest among the Pandavas was miffed that Draupadi spent as much time massaging his brothers every day as she did for him. He decided to register his resentment by playing a prank on her.
He uprooted a trunk of the salmali tree, which used to all smooth and thorn-less at the time and placed it on his bed. He covered it up with a sheet and then hid himself out of her sight. Draupadi came to his room as was her task every day and began massaging the log, through the sheet her hands hit the hard trunk of the tree but she kept at it. However after a while, finding no response at all from Bhima, she pulled off the sheet to discover the trick that had been played on her. Seeing her horrified face, Bhima burst into laughter and then fled, before Draupadi could turn her anger into a curse. Angry she cursed the tree instead.
“Let thorns grow on it so that no woman has to ever go through the pain of having to massage a log of wood,” she said. And so it has been, ever since.
Also read: Cotton trees and demons
Story collected by: Arundhuti Dasgupta
Location: Pan India
Source: Plant Myths and Traditions in India, Shakti M. Gupta