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Sect rites harming Tree of Life

SECTS practising ancient rites could be behind damage to the Tree of Life, it has emerged.

Parts of the historic tree have been burned in what one councillor described as "weird" religious rituals.

Ironically, the culprits could belong to a sect which worships trees, but is inadvertently damaging one of Bahrain's national treasures.

Their ritual, practised in parts of India and Pakistan, includes burning twigs doused in incense in the hollow of a tree, said sources.

The Tree of Life, said to be 400 years old, is also being targeted by vandals and youngsters who carve love messages on its trunk.

A BD70,000 scheme to turn the site into a protected area has been on the books for two years, said Southern Municipal Council member and former services and public utilities committee chairman Dhiab Al Nuaimi.

He said that in the meantime, the council was trying to get the police to guard the tree.

"At the moment, we are only trying to get back the lone policeman posted at the site to guard the tree," Mr Al Nuaimi told the GDN.

"The guard was removed more than a year ago and we have never been told why that has happened. We are now in touch with the Interior Ministry to get at least one guard, if not more, back."

He said councillors had conducted their own investigations and found that parts of the tree were burnt.

"In some places, old clothes have been hung and incense sticks have been found stuck at various places," said Mr Al Nuaimi.

He said they believed some people with weird religious beliefs were conducting some ceremonies at the spot.

"We were also told some holes dug into the tree were part of those beliefs," said Mr Al Nuaimi.

He said some people carved messages on the tree to express their love for one another.

"All this happens because there is no proper fencing and no police security," said Mr Al Nuami.

But he said things should change once the development plan goes ahead.

"It should have been completed this year, but the plan is yet to begin due to bureaucratic and other hurdles," said Mr Al Nuaimi.

He said the plan entailed having a walkway, shaded areas, a cafe, children's rides, toilets, a traditional market for handicrafts and a food stall opening during weekends.

Earlier, a GDN reader, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was completely taken aback by what he saw at the Tree of Life.

"Someone has burnt two holes in trunk of the tree," he said. "One of the major branches was lying on the ground, some were dead on the tree itself. I felt hurt to the see the tree in such a bad state."

The Tree of Life stands alone in the desert.

The source of water remains a mystery because it stands in a place completely free of water.

No one from the Information and Culture Ministry or the Interior Ministry was available for comment. mandeep@gdn.com.bh



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