Hiuen Tsang, Chinese scholar after being in India is going back. Time AD 627-643, on the fabled Silk Route. Apart from his knowledge of Buddhism, his rucksack contains an extraordinary fruit called Mango.
The name in hindi AaM is derived from Sanskrit word AMRA which seems to be the loan word from Dravidian and is related to Tamil words for Mango like “mamaram”. Portuguese were responsible for transferring the name to the West. It is growing in India since 4000 years at least.
Moguls were great connoisseurs of the fruit. Akbar got 100000 mango trees planted in Lakhi Bagh (Lakhi: 100,000, Bagh means Garden) near Darbhanga Bihar India. Others who relished the fruit were Shahjahan and Noor Jehan, Aurangzeb, Sher Shah Suri. Raghunath Peshwa got large numbers planted all over Maharashtra.
Citric acid and related compounds are responsible for sour taste. Several terpenes have been found in unripe fruit..
Ripe mango contains volatile compounds like alpha terpineol, ocimene, limonene, 3-carene etc. Yellow colour is due to beta Carotene.
Mangoes are rich in potassium, about 8% carbohydrate with 1.6 % dietary fibre. Very rich in vitamin A , C, B-6, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Some famous Indian Varieties:
1: Alphonso or Hapoos King among the mangoes. Named after Portugal admiral D Afonso de Albuquerque. Deogad in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra has got the GI tag of genuineness.
2: Dasehri It is birth place is Malihabad in Lucknow. Soft, succulent and mild.
3: Banarasi Langda It was born in an orchard belonging to a Langda (lame) fellow and thus got this name.
4: Himsagar Fibre less, creamy and full of pulp. Pride of Murshidabad in West Bengal.
5: Fazli Quite big in size, famous in Malda of West Bengal. Late maturing.
6: Chaunsa: From Bihar. Full of Flavour. It is pressed into mouth and juice is sucked.
7: Gulab Khaas Native of Jharkhand. It is graceful mango
Aromatic fruit of Junagadh Gujarat. Giving a tough fight to Hapoos. Plantations are on foothills of mount Girnar.
Taste depends upon the plucking time.
10. Totapuri: it is abundant in southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka.
11: Sindoori: it gets its name from the vermillion colour of the skin.
12: Banganapalli/ Bagan Phali/ Safeda From Andhra’s small town Banganapalli. Sweet, yellow and fibre less.
13: Himam Pasand/ Humayun Pasand A cross made from Banganapalli and Malgoa. It is very popular in Deccan.
14: Chandrakaran: it is delicacy from Kerala. Sweet and sour. Quite costly.
Vidurashwatha, a nondescript village in the Kolar district of the state. It gets its name from a banyan tree (ficus religiosa) said to have been planted by Vidura. Vidura is known for being staunch supporter of truth. When all the great men like Bhishama, Dronacharya sat helpless and looked on mutely the excesses of Duryodhana, he was the one to protest and chastised these elders to do something to stop Duryodhana’s excesses. He sided with truth and earned the wrath of Duryodhana.
Banyan trees are considered very auspicious throughout India. Siddhartha became Buddha while meditating under the Bodhi tree which was a Banyan tree. The tree belongs to fig family. It is a very long lasting tree.
However, the village has more than just its mythological inheritance to be proud of. It was here, 75 years ago, that a freedom movement was bravely fought and brutally suppressed.
At a time when India’s freedom struggle was at its peak, a group of villagers, taking out a peaceful procession, were indiscriminately fired at by the police – a massacre that sent a chilling reminder of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre that had happened just 19 years ago, proving that British here did not had any qualms about what they did. No repentance and repeated the crime again.
The group was headed towards a maidan (ground) near the village temple for a non-violent flag Satyagraha. However, as they congregated and rent the air with cries of Vande Mataram, the police opened indiscriminate fire killing 10 people.
Mysore is a famous city in Karnataka. It has a rich history and also pleasant climate. Due to this there are always flowers everywhere. It is city of gardens. There are numerous monumental buildings and temples. Near by is the Sangam where Cauvery river segments again merge. Also the famous palace of Tipu Sultan and his fort which was surrounded by a deep moat on all sides. But he was killed there.
I came across these shrubs first time in the campus of CFTRI Mysore. The institute is doing research to increase the yield of flowers and seeds. Seeds are used as natural dye for food coloring. Seed coating contains carotenoids which impart red color and terpenes give the scent.
The trees are natives of South America. Small numbers grow in Karnataka and adjoining states of South India. Flowers come in bunches and have tough spiny hairs. When you open the the flower case, inside are seeds and your hands will be colored red with the dye. South Americans used it for many purposes like lipstick, body painting and medicine. I took some photos.
I landed at Bangaluru earlier known as Bangalore airport at half past five in the evening on Wednesday. I had boarded the flight from Delhi. It was dot on time. At the airport, drivers were asking exorbitant money for going to the city where I had booked online a room in a hotel near railway station. I chose this hotel in the proximity of railway station because I had booked a berth in a train called “Mysore express” for going to Mysore. In fact, Mysore is not so easily accessible from outside places. I have a meeting with the scientists at Central Food Technology Research Institute (CFTRI) where a collaborative project was running and it is about to conclude in November. I even tried taking a taxi directly from Bangalore airport to Mysore but again taxi drivers were asking for a fare which included the return fare also. Already we were knowing this exigency and as an alternative had booked a room in a hotel in Bangalore and leaving by early morning train for Mysore.
From Bangalore the distance to Mysore is only 140 kilometers but trains run very slow due to single track for coming and going trains. If two trains are coming from opposite sides which usually is the case, one of the trains has to halt at a passing track and allow the other to cross. At the railway station, it first seemed very confusing because instead of Mysore Express, name of the train was written as Tuticorin express. Anyway the train came very much on time from Tuticorin and commenced its journey towards Mysore on time.
Soon the city was left behind. All along there were fields of sugarcane, rice and millet. There were coconuts planted everywhere. Trees and shrubs with beautiful flowers could be seen around the houses. The whole countryside was lush green. Occasionally the train crossed a bridge on a river. And which river? It is none other than the sacred river Cauvery. It is also a bone of contention between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The waters of the river are used as a Political weapon by the Karnataka state because it has erected many dams on the river and Tamil Nadu is starved of water whenever Karnataka state wants to pressurize the Central government to meet its demands.
Anyway, the greenery became more and more intense as the train chugged towards its destination. There were banana cultivations also at many places. Farmers were seen working in the fields. At last the train reached the destination after three and half hours and I was received by colleagues from CFTRI and went to the hostel.
We went to Goa, once upon a time Portuguese dominion, and now a state within Indian Union. It is admixture of Konkani and Portuguese cultures. Everyone knows that alien powers came to India for its resources like fabled spices of Kerala where Vasco da Gama set his foot and set the process of rat race for the natural wealth of India. Spreading the Christianity was the another motive, although it was never their intention to treat the converted locals as their equals.
The inhabitants of a region who are content and happy with whatever the nature has bestowed upon them. They are not adventurous. This was what the people in different regions of India were. The outsiders easily took control of the resources and subjugated the original people. All the European adventures came in search of spices, minerals, cotton and so many other resources available in India. Goa was taken by Portuguese.
But Portuguese also carved the Goa which is now a days entirely different from other places in India. It is a favored destination of tourists from Europe and USA. Many places in Goa do not give you any indication of being in India. For example, Palolim which has a very beautiful beach, is full of white people. They live entirely a life of complete abandon.
They also gave the world a unique cuisine which is blend of Portuguese and Konkani food. Usually everything is cooked in the coconut milk. Coconut which grows in abundance in the region. While traveling in the train, one can see a solid wall of coconut trees. Another item on the food menu is sea food consisting of dishes made from prawns, crabs, fish and mollusks. Many dishes are prepared using pig meat.
The cashew nut trees are also another abundant commodity. Portuguese invented an alcoholic beverage from the cashew nuts called “Feni”. Although it does not tastes great and generally not liked by most Indians outside of Goa, I found it to be good. I gargled my mouth with it and my toothache was soothed. It also seems good for body in moderate amounts.
We started for Goa from the Panvel near Bombay by train in the early morning. The train is called Satabadi Express and runs quite fast. It takes about 7 hours to cover a distance of about 700 kilometers. The track is a single track meaning trains running in both the directions run on the same track. The trains which are ordinary coming from the opposite end have to wait on the spare track on a railway station till the faster train crosses that station. Thus the time taken becomes inordinately long.
Konkan railway is a marvel of technology. The track has been made by cutting through the hills, making numerous tunnels and bridges on the many rivers emptying themselves into the sea. All around are lush green woods, dotted with fields and houses. There are coconut trees, some of them bending towards the river waters as if to touch the river. There are hills. Some tunnels are so long that it seems that train will never come out of them. Suddenly you see the light and train is out in the open but only to enter another tunnels. From this pattern, it is clear that there are parallel rows of hills and track is running across them. The trend continues till the train reaches Madgaon station.
We had a training institute located at Betul. It is situated on a hillock. Because we had booked the rooms there, we took a pre-paid taxi for traveling a distance of about 20 kilometers to reach the place. The road is very narrow and sinuous and it seems that people live only along the roadside. There are churches in every locality. Also there are small statuettes of Christ and Saint Xavier encased in the glass boxes. Taxi crossed many rivers small and big and then began the steep rise of 1.5 kilometers leading to the hostel. We checked in and being exhausted waited for evening tea time and after taking the tea and snacks, rested in the rooms and took the dinner at nine o’clock in the evening and retired for the night.
Next day after taking the breakfast, we went out to the gate of the institute and guards told us that there are buses available for going to Betul or Madgaon. There are some shops serving snacks nearby the gate. Strong smell of liquor Feni were issuing behind these shops. Toddy in bottles was kept on the wine shop counter. Bus arrived after a short while and we boarded it. The bus made great noises as its windows were loose . Loud music blared inside the bus. There were passengers inside the bus who made signs of cross every time the bus passed a church or Christs statute. The must be the Christians. Since they don’t resemble the Portuguese people, their forefathers must have adopted Christianity during the Portuguese rule.
After about an hour the bus reached the bus stand in Mudgaon. By this time at about 11 o’clock, it became very hot. We again boarded a bus to go to Palolim beach which is in the extreme south of Goa bordering Karnataka. This bus was very slow because as soon as it left a stop the bus conductor blew a whistle to stop for another. Interestingly we saw the bus waiting for passengers to come out of house and lazily board it. So after 2 hours it reached the beach. The beach was full of foreigners and women attired only in undergarments were lolling on the beach. They were soaking there sun starved bodies lying on the sand. Along side the beach, there are shops offering wooden platforms for lying down in the sun and watch the beach. The steamers owners pester you and tell for taking a ride in the boat. After bargaining we boarded a boat propelled by an diesel engine. The pilot took us into the deep blue sea surrounded by the rocky mountains. He had promised to show us the dolphins which he did and we could see three four of them diving in and out of water. Then he took us further away to a place called butterfly mountains so called because of its shape resembling a butterfly. There we saw a kite which was holding a snake in its talons and flying away to a tree in the rocks where its chick was waiting for the food. The guide also pointed to a very small beach in front of the rocky hills and told us that it is called honeymoon point. Eventually we returned and somehow jumped out of the boat on the shore. After this we searched a shop for the lunch. In Goa if you order vegetarian fare, it will take a long time since most people eat the sea food. We return by similar kind of bus we had come in. Again it took 2 hours. Then again we caught the bus to return to hostel at Betul. Since it was evening and night fell soon, the bus was crammed with people. The bus conductor see to it that not a single corner remains unfilled. Again the loud music. There were fancy lights every where on the way as if some festival is permanently on. We reached the hostel tired and exhausted. After taking the dinner, went to sleep and rejuvenating for another tiresome day.
Next morning we left for Madgaon by the same bus and reached Madgaon bus stand. There is a bus service called Shuttle bus service to Panjim, the capital of Goa, which is really very good. No standing and no stops on the way. The road is NH-17 which goes to Bombay via Panjim. There are hills on the way running parallel to each other and bus road crosses each across each of it. The route is very beautiful. There are fields of paddy dotted by coconut palms. As such there are dense palm groves. Bus passes through an industrial area. The bus arrived in bus stand of Panjim. From there we caught a local bus to market and alighted in front of the Mandovi river. There were barges ferrying the huge amounts of sand from the old Goa side. It was pleasant. We tried to hire a self driven car for visiting the interesting place near Panjim but the plan did not materialize. It was lunch time so we entered a hotel which was doing extremely good business and we have to wait for 1/2 an hour for the table. We took the Goan thali which consisted of prawn curry in coconut milk, mussels, crab in coconut curry and a big piece of fried fish called surmai (king fish)and rice.
After this we roamed around and visited the local vegetable market. On the walls were sketches made by the Goan painter Mario Miranda depicting the life of Goa vividly. As he is a cartoonist, he does not draw the figures exactly but exaggerates the points he wants to emphasize. For example, there is a fisher woman carrying a basket of fishes. One of the fishes is trying to jump out of the basket with its open mouth with teeth visible. Crows are sneaking in and pilfering the smaller fish. Similarly there are women with elongated breasts.
We sat on the banks of Mandvi river. Sun was shimmering in the water. There was a partial moon hanging in the sky and it seemed to waiting for the Sun to hide away in the West. It did not know that by the night will be there, it will also have traveled away from the sight. There were three or four ships which have been converted into Casinos. They come alive in the night.
After this we decided to go to old Goa to see the Basilica of Bom Jesus. It is about 10 kilometers from the Panjim. The roads runs along the river with small ships faring on the water ways. It was all in haste. First we went to the side of museum but it was closed that day. But we saw the big hall where the large sculptures of saints are placed. There is a artillery piece of olden times outside the museum building. So we took few photographs and proceeded towards the church where the body of the saint is kept. So many people kept clicking the cameras. The church has been declared World Heritage Building by UNESCO. It deserves to be the one. Credit goes to the Goa government for keeping the place in spic-n-span condition. In many states of India many heritage buildings are in the ruinous condition and may be lost forever.
The saint who spread Christianity in the Goa performed many miracles. The local people were awe stricken and many of them adopted the christian religion. He died in 1552 at Sancian from fever. His body was brought back to India. One of his arms is displayed in a reliquary in Rome and other was intended for Japan but was kept at St. Joseph’s Seminary and the Sacred Art Museum of Colane island. The saint is called “Goencho Saeb” by the local people in Konkani language.
The saint is accused of heading the Goa inquisition which was established to punish the heretics especially the new converts which were believed to be reverting the practicing their old faith customs.
In a hurry to go to Madgaon and Betul we left the place and followed back in same route buses. Next day, we called a taxi for which we have to inform the receptionist a day before, for going to railway station for catching a train for Ratnagiri. Again, there were sketches by Mario Miranda at the station. The train rolled out of the station and I was left with a sense of unfulfilled desires because I could not see many places of interest in the short time. If you go to such a place as Goa where things are spread across a large area and you have a short time then you have to buy the time with money otherwise most of your time will be wasted in the journey only.
It is said that a person feels elated when you remember his or her name and call that person by the name. Even the Shakespeare said hundreds of years ago “What is in a name?” A rose smells the same by any other name”. But think of this peculiar situation in the Village Guanlli of Kopal district of Karnataka. Every male is called Gyanappa and every female as Gyanavva. If you give the shout Gyanappa, you can imagine how everyone in the listening distance will respond.
Identity is created by prefixing with certain words. Elders are called Dodda and kids Chikka. The gyanappa derives from the name of Saint Gyaneshwar who lived in this place. He was revered by the people for his miracles and nearness to the God. Villagers since believe that perpetuation of the name keeps them protected from evils and there is a peace and healthy ambiance all around.
This belief has been consolidated even further from the fact that the few who tried to break the tradition suffered bad luck and have to repent and rename their children. peaceful and healthy lives. Presently no one is going to change the names and you have to be very sure which Gyanappa or Gyanavva you are going to see if you are visiting that place.
Innumerable plants grow on the earth. The very diversity is mind boggling. We did not even know the names of plants growing around us. In fact, most of us never bother to even look around. These become just the backdrop of landscape we dwell in. I don’t think that even God, the creator, has given them names. It is us mortals, who in order to make our life easier document the things. We give nomenclature to everything living in the nature. We have classified them into different kingdoms for our convenience and harmony in the views of different individuals.
I always has the curiosity to know the names of plants around us, the plants which give us hope, clean the atmosphere and provide oxygen for us humans to breathe, give beauty to the surroundings. I admit I don’t know the names of most of them.
In this effort, while searching and searching for days, I chanced upon a website about the flowering trees of India. This site is treasure trove of information about the plants and trees. Thanks to this website, I have been identify some of the plants and trees growing in my colony. Here is a start.
This is a native of Mexico. In Indian languages, it has names like Hindi: Kamal cactus कमल कैक्टस , Gwarpatha ग्वारपाठा • Manipuri: Kewa • Telugu: Kalabanda • Kannada: Kantala • Sanskrit: Kantala. Botanical name:Agave americanaFamily:Agavaceae (agave family)
The Cashew is a flowering tree, native to northeastern Brazil, where it is called by its Portuguese name Caju (the fruit) or Cajueiro (the tree). It is now widely grown in tropical climates for its cashew “nuts”.
This tree stands in the ground behind hospital in our colony. It looks very majestic. Those beaded threads hanging in a huge bunch like the beard of an saint.
Common names around India are Fishtail Palm, Jaggery Palm, Toddy Palm, Wine Palm • Hindi: Mari • Tamil: கொண்டல் பனை Kontalpanai • Malayalam: Anappana Botanical name: Caryota urensFamily:Arecaceae (Palm family)
When these palms grow to reach a height of about 20 feet, they start producing flowers at the top of the trunk with subsequent flowers produced lower and lower on the trunk. When the lowest flower blooms, the tree dies. Flowers are long plait like bunches hanging down. Toddy palm is an Asian species that grows from India to Burma and on the island country of Sri Lanka.
Common name: Barringtonia, Freshwater Mangrove, Indian Oak, Indian Putat • Assamese: Hendol, Hinyol, Pani amra • Bengali: Hijal • Hindi: Hijagal, Hijjal, समुन्द्र फल, Samundarphal • Kannada: Mavinkubia, Niruganigily,
Barringtonia is an evergreen tree of moderate size, called by Sanskrit writers Hijja or Hijjala. The fruit is spoken of as Samudra-phala and Dhātriphala or ”nurse’s fruit,” and is one of the best known domestic remedies. Also called Stream Barringtonia or Itchy Tree (after a catepillar with irritant hairs that sometimes colonises the undersides of the leaves) Barringtonia is a tree 5-8 m tall with rough fissured dark grey bark. Leaves are obovate. Red flowers are produced on pendulous racemes about 20cm long. Four sided fruits are produced periodically throughout the year. Partly deciduous in extended dry periods. This species grows on the banks of freshwater rivers, the edges of freshwater swamps and lagoons and on seasonally flooded lowland plains, commonly on heavy soils. Found in Madagascar and tropical Asia, amongst other places. Propagation is by seed. Tolerant of heavy clay soils with poor drainage, it can grow in a range of soils.
These are the trees which bear very beautiful flowers. These flowers hang on the tree branches like garlands. The flowers has a very short life: only one night. By the morning, the branches which were laden with flowers begin to shed the flowers which plop like rain on the surface. Whole ground beneath the trees become a carpet of red color, which nature seems to have rolled out to welcome the passersby.
This plant is growing in the lawn in front of IEOT. Its botanical name is Ravenala madagascariensisFamily:Strelitziaceae (Bird of Paradise family)
Endemic to the island of Madagascar, Traveler’s Palm is one of the most interesting tree-like plants. Traveler’s palm is not a true palm. In part it looks like banana plant and in part a palm tree. Its long leaf stalks and deep green leaves resemble those of the banana and extend out symmetrically from the trunk like a giant Chinese fan. The leaves are up to 10 ft long and 12-20 inches wide. Young traveler’s palms have no visible trunk which, is underground. In adult plants, the trunk emerges above the ground, raising the symmetrical leaf-fan to heights ranging from 30-60 ft. The green palmlike trunk grows up to 1 ft in diameter and displays distinctive trunk leaf scar rings. The small white flowers, in a foot long inflorescence, are held in bracts. In these bracts and leaf folds, rainwater is collected. It is this rainwater collecting property of this tree, which can be consumed by thirsty travelers, what gives it the name traveler’s palm. The fruits are brown while the seeds are blue.
The tree has names in Indian languages asHindi: कदम्ब Kadamb • Tamil: வெள்ளை கதம்பு Vellaikkatampu • Malayalam: Katampu • Kannada: Kaduavalatige • Telugu: Rudrakskamba Botanical name:Neolamarckia cadambaFamily:Rubiaceae (Coffee family) Synonyms: Anthocephalus cadamba, Anthocephalus indicus
In Hindu mythology, Kadam was the favourite tree of Krishna. Tree up to 45 m tall, without branches for more than 25 m. Diameter up to 100 (-160) cm but normally less; sometimes with buttresses. The crown is umbrella shaped and the branches are characteristically arranged in tiers. Leaves simple, 13-32 cm long. Flowers orange, small, in dense, globose heads. They appear like solid, hairy orange balls. The fruits are small capsules, packed closely together to form a fleshy, yellow or orange coloured infructescence containing approx. 8,000 seeds. The small capsules split into four parts releasing the seed at maturity. There are approximately 20,000 seeds per gram. It is believed to have medicinal value in curing astringent, ulcer, digestive, diarrhoea, expectorant, fever, vomiting. A postal stamp was issued by the Indian Postal Department to commemorate this tree.
In the Hindu mythology, there had been many sages endowed with supernatural powers, who had used these powers for the destruction of women for very flimsy reasons. May be the customs and culture was such that men prevailed over women when it came to equality.
One such story concerns Renuka or Yellamma who was cursed by her husband, sage Jamadagni. Her only fault was that she thought about having sensual pleasure after coming across a couple having the carnal pleasure in a jungle.
Sage Jamadagni lived in a cottage in woods with his wife Yellamma and five sons, the youngest of who is known as Parshuram. After the fifth son, the sage occupied himself in very difficult penances and took the vow of complete abstinence from sensual pleasure. Yellamma was also supposed to follow this oath.
Every morning, she will go to fetch water from the lake for the sage to perform various rituals. She was very spiritual and upright woman. By leading the pious life she had also acquired extraordinary powers. She went to fetch water without any pitcher. After taking bath in the lake, she will concentrate her powers on the sand and a pitcher would be created. After filling this pitcher, she would make a rope of a snake on her head to place the pitcher and come home.
One day, an incident took place on her way to bring water from the lake which turned her life to nightmare. As she was crossing the woods, she chanced to see the fairies called Ghandharas, indulging into carnal pleasures. She was curious and since it had been years, she had such pleasure with sage, she watched and listened and in her imagination substituted herself and sage with the couple.
As she came out of fantasy, her concentration was lost. She bathed but could not create the pot from sand however hard she tried. She realized her mistake and with downcast gaze she returned empty handed to the cottage. Sage understood and became enraged and cursed her to become ugly and loathsome. The sage then asked his four sons to kill their mother but they refused. At this, the sage went mad with anger and with his powers burnt his sons to ashes. At this time, Parshuram was not at home.
As he returned home, he saw the painful scene. His father then ordered him to kill Yellamma and promised him to grant a boon in turn. Parshuram, intelligent as he was, killed her mother with an axe, but in the boon, he asked from the sage to return all his brothers and mother to life again. Sage did this. But his anger was not quenched. He expelled his wife from cottage. She went out, begged alms and according to one legend, lived with poor low caste women. Even after all this, she performs penances so that her husband would forgive her.
According to another legend, when Parshuram killed his mother, the axe stuck to his hand and would not dislodge. He went place to place seeking pardon from sages and ultimately reached at Brahamkund. When he took a dip in the holy water, the axe detached from his hand. He threw the axe away and it hit a frozen mountain, which split into two and waters flowed to a reservoir. This is said to the Parshuram Kund and is located in the Arunachal Pradesh and is a holy place where thousands of pilgrims take bath to cleanse themselves from all the sins.
The temple of Yellamma is located in Karnataka and is called Yallammagudda, Saundatti. The Goddess was revered by low caste or temple girls called Devdasis. They were, in ancient times, devoted to the temple and supposed to be married only to the Lord. But now due to the ban on this abhorrent custom, the economic conditions force many of them to turn to prostitution.