The British defeated Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah's forces in a battle at Palashi, near Kolkata in 1757. Palash, of course, comes from the name of the flowering tree, Palas. Known to botanists under the inelegant name of Butea frondosa, its red flowers possess a rare beauty all of their own. Edible for monkeys, they can also be used to make gulal, the red colour powder used to smear friends in the spring festival of Holi.

Like the flowers gathered from Palas trees, over time humans had brought about changes in the land, long before the coming of the East India Company to these shores. Colonial rule and its multiple dispossessions, its subjugation of the waters, hills, lands, and peoples should not lead to a Golden Age view of the past ...

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