It is used for timber, resin, fodder, medicine, and dye. The gum from the tree, called kamarkas in Hindi, is used in certain food dishes. The gum is also known as Bengal Kino and is considered valuable by druggists because of its astringent qualities and by leather workers because of its tannin. The wood is dirty white and soft and, being durable under water, is used for well-curbs and water scoops. Good charcoal can be made from it. The leaves are usually very leathery and not eaten by cattle.
The flowers are used to prepare traditional Holi colour.
In poorer regions of many parts, for example in Maharashtra, this tree amongst others provides leaves that are used either with many pieced together or singly (only in case of a banana leaf) to make a leaf-plate for serving a meal over, and for example a would-be son-in-law was in older times (until a century ago) was tested on his dexterity in making this plate and bowl (for serving more liquid parts of the meal such as daal or stew) before being declared acceptable by the would be father-in-law.
In West Bengal, it is associated with Spring (season), especially through the poems and songs of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who likened its bright orange flame-like flower to fire. In Santiniketan, where Tagore lived, this flower has become an indispensable part of the celebration of spring. The plant has lent its name to the town of Palashi, famous for the historic Battle of Plassey fought there.
It is said that the tree is a form of Agnidev, God of Fire. It was a punishment given to Him by Goddess Parvati for disturbing Her and Lord Shiva's privacy.