Mango : The King of Fruits

Hiuen Tsang, 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 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 in Lakhi Bagh near Darbhanga Bihar. Others who relished the fruit were Shahjahan and Noor Jehan, Aurangzeb, Sher Shah Suri. Raghunath Peshwa got large numbers all over Maharashtra.

Main Constituents:

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.

Nutrients

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.

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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

8: Kesar

Aromatic fruit of Junagadh Gujarat. Giving a tough fight to Hapoos. Plantations are on foothills of mount Girnar.

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9: Bedmi: 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.

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Is Collective Wisdom always Correct?

At the starting point of human evolution timeline, the progress was very slow and full of dangers. Learning was at the cost of many human lives. In the beginning, man was a hunter and did not have a stable life. He was always on the move because animals which he hunted were also capable of running. Life of hunting was not easy.
They were on lookout for more stable life. To be able to stay put at one place. For this, humans had to enable themselves replace their diet with grains and cereals which could be grown near their abodes. As we know there must had been plenty of vegetation all around. But today we know that all of it is not suitable for animal consumption. Plants have been here from the beginning and since they could not move from one place to another to defend themselves, their defense mechanism was already in place for survival. As a result only a few of the plants are useful.
Humans did not know what was good for eating and what was not good. It was all a hit and trial process with some of them scarifying their lives. But with the passage of time, information begun to build up and thus the present generation was better equipped than the previous one. Now we have reached a stage where a huge treasure of knowledge is at our disposal.
So have we become so wise and knowledgeable that we cannot commit mistakes? The answer is sadly no. we are committing mistakes. One reason is that we work in groups with members having all shades of knowledge. Thus the resultant knowledge is averaging out.
Take for example the green revolution in the North India particularly Punjab. It saved the masses of the country from starvation. There was a great scarcity of the food grains. India was dependent on the mercy of the countries like USA and USSR. Green Revolution introduced the modified varieties of wheat and rice which have high yields. The state increased the production so much that it was able to feed all the country with food grains.
But the real results of that exercise are now becoming evident. The land was drained of all the nutrients. It was not kept any time fallow to regain the natural strength. The result was the increased use of fertilizers and insecticides. The water footprint was very high for the production of these crops. Since the river water was not sufficient, the underground was exploited up indiscriminately. Since the quality control during manufacturing was poor, many heavy metals which are very toxic slowly made their way to underground drinking water. The water table went deeper. The disastrous effects are now visible in the form of many fatal diseases affecting the children in the Punjab.
On the other hand, there were negative effects elsewhere which disturbed the equilibrium. The states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal which were naturally suited for rice production stopped or tried to change the crop patterns with negative results. So it seems that for short term Green Revolution was a blessing but in the long run it was a collective failure.

Monkeys

Hanumant or Hanuman is considered as the rare combination of wisdom and strength. He was loyal to the core to his Lord Rama and played a stellar role in Rama’s war against the demon Ravana who had abducted Rama’s wife Sita. In fact, many demons belonging to Ravana harassed the ascetics living in the jungles and Rama destroyed them. This enraged Ravana who to take the revenge abducted Sita coming in the guise of a ascetic coming to beg alms.

While Rama and and his younger brother Lakhsman were roaming from one place to another in the jungles in search of Sita, they chanced upon Hanuman who from then on put him at their disposal. He did many Herculean tasks like lifting the entire mountain and flying on the straits going to Lanka to locate Sita and reassure her. His heart was completely immersed in the devotion towards Rama.

It is said that his army consisted of monkeys. He himself is shown as half monkey and half man. This seems to be an incredulous idea. But I don’t know why Monkeys are called his Sena. These creatures have a very destructive mind. They snatch eatables from inattentive people, root out the plants and many a times attack the people. Here in our colony we are wary of them as hundreds of them swoop on the colony every morning and make the life of residents  a nightmare. Children are terrified and you have to be very careful about them when bringing milk and eatables. They leap into balconies and if doors are open get inside the homes, eat the fruits and other eatables like groundnuts. More than eating the things, they pull out the plants which have been tended so long for growing and blossoming.

In Kerala, however, monkeys have been trained to pluck the coconut fruits from the coconut palm which is a difficult work for human. Similarly, there are entertainers in India especially in rural areas which use monkeys in the roles of man and woman.

They can’t be his clan because He is a benign God who is a rescuer and harbinger of good luck.

Frescos

Uttrakhand is called Dev Bhumi meaning the land of Gods just as Kerala is called “God’s own country“. There is no doubt that the state is endowed with nature’s blessings in the form of beautiful Himalayas, Hill stations, Lakes and sacred rivers like Ganges and Yamuna. The state was created in the year 2000 and carved out from the Uttar Pradesh. There are many tourist attractions like hill stations of Mussoorie and Nainital. There are sacred places alongside the Ganges path in the high altitudes like Devprayag, Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Haridawar and Rishikesh.

Dehradun is the capital of the state. It was important town since the British times as attested by the headquarters of a number of Central Government offices like Survey of India, ONGC, Forest Research Institute and so many others. Due to this fact, many people from other states have settled down here and made it their permanent home.

After becoming the state capital the population of Dehradun has increased exponentially. The rates of real estate have sky rocketed. There are crowds jostling for space in the markets and on the roads. To drive a vehicle in the city is a nightmare.

There is still some space near Forest Research Institute. It sprawls on a very vast area and there are trees which have been nurtured with care and grown to dizzy heights.

A road runs on one side of its boundaries from ONGC crossing towards Ballupur. Here on this wall, an artist creates frescoes which depict the life of the people of the hilly people and their religious places and social customs. There are village nestling in the dense vegetation, temples on the rivers banks, women dancers dancing to the music of musicians. Some are shown below.

Moors Last Sigh

Last of the Moors to rule Granada was Boabdil (Arab. Abu-Abdallah or Ez-Zogoiby, the Unlucky). In 1491 the Moorish capital fell to Ferdinand, though Boabdil fought with a courage strangely at variance with his infirmity of purpose. As he rode away to the coast he halted on a ridge at Padul, still called El Ultimo Sospiro del Mora (The Moor’s last sigh), to take a farewell look at the Alhambra, and burst into tears at the sight. Whereupon his mother is said to have thus reproached him: “You may well weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man.” He died shortly afterwards on the field of battle in Africa.

Salman Rushdie‘s famous novel “Moors Last Sigh” is based on the story of a Moorish family from Kerala. Kerala is a state in extreme south of India. It has a natural beauty which earned for it the epithet “God’s own country“.  Moors like Europeans also came and settled in Kerala, fabled for spices which lured the Europeans. Who can forget the Vasco da Gama‘s expedition to India in search of spices. Even Columbus set out to discover India. It is another matter that he discovered the New World, the US.
The family in the novel moves to Bombay to expand their business but gets enmeshed into local politics. One of the main female characters is based loosely on Amrita Shergil, the famous painter of old days India due to her bold personality. After this book, Rushdie was threatened and asked to refrain from entering Bombay or face the ire of a political party.

Coconut Plant: Kalpavriksha

Coconut grow in the coastal areas. In India, whole of the coast is dotted with coconut trees. Kerala tops the list in coconut plantations. Known as Coconut in English, Narikela in Sanskrit & Nariyal in Hindi, coconuts can grow to between 15 and 30 m tall in plantations. Their trunks are ringed with scars where old leaves have fallen. The top of the trunk is crowned with a rosette of leaves.

Fruits are called coconuts. They are oval and covered with a smooth skin which can be bright green, brilliant orange or ivory coloured. Below the skin is a thick fibrous layer which is used for coir. The next layer is the shell of the seed with the three characteristic ‘eyes’.

English: Ivory Coastian coconut. Suomi: Norsun...

The coconut finds so many uses. The shell may be used to make charcoal which is used in the water filters for absorbing the coloring contaminants.  The inside of the shell is lined with a white, edible layer called the meat. This is used to make chemicals, and medicinal products. The fluid inside the seed cavity is known as coconut water. This fluid contains many minerals and is taken as such to rejuvenate the body. It is recommended in case of dehydration caused by diarrhea. It has a cooling effect and removes the body heat in summers. When seeds germinate, the new shoot sprouts from one of the eyes. Due to so many uses, in India it has been called the ‘tree of heaven‘ or ‘kalpavriksha’.

In India, it has great spiritual value. The three ‘eyes’ of the coconut represent the three eyes of the great god Shiva. An earthen pot or pitcher, called a purnakumbha is filled with water and mango leaves and a coconut is placed on top. This purnakumbha is used in the ritual of worship and adoration of the gods, called puja. It is placed as a substitute for the deity or by the side of the deity. The purnakumbha literally means a ‘full pot’ in Sanskrit. It represents Mother Earth, the water the giver of life, the leaves life itself, and the coconut divine consciousness.

In South Asia, coconuts are named Sriphala or fruit of the Gods and symbolise complete usefulness, selfless service, prosperity and generosity. The palms are believed to be the embodiment of the ancient Indian concept of kalpavriksha, or the tree which grants all wishes. It plays an essential role in many religious and social functions in South Asia.

Coconut is an integral ingredient of South Indian cuisine. It is used in one form or another in the food. It is used to make chutneys, thickened with milk and sugar to make delicious sweets. It is milk is used in many fish preparations. Its oil is used for cooking and hair dressing.

English: Idli with Coconut chutney

Golden Flowers: Amaltas

Plants did not have the flowers in the beginning. But there were massive herbivorous dinosaurs which guzzled mountains of plants in a day. Since the plants have not evolved flowers and hence seeds for propagation, they felt threatened with extinction. So they evolved flowers and instruments of sexual reproduction were established. Still there was problem for cross pollination. Plants came out with another strategy for transporting the pollen from one flower to another. They used insects like bees and flies as the vehicles for carrying the pollen. But why shall the insects do such chores for free. To award them the plants laced the flowers with sweet nectar and brilliant colors of petals to lure the insects. Bees in fact have acute visual power than humans. They can see in the ultraviolet range of the light spectrum which our eyes cannot. Whether color or not, there are cues or guiding arrows which plants have developed inside the flowers near the pollen.

Flower have great power over the human minds. Due to this they are used on all occasions from happiness to grief. In the marriages and on the dead bodies. They are offered in the worshiping places. All countries have one national flower. Flowers are the means for reproduction which is considered as the most pious activity. Flowers blossom in different seasons.

Normally maximum flowers are seen in the spring season when the winter is slowly receding giving way to the most pleasant season of spring which transits to the hot weather. In fact with each passing day, the heat is building up and vegetation begins to crumble. Flowers begin to wither because they are very delicate. But still there are certain trees which bloom in the heat. They seem to enjoy the heat and bear devil may care attitude to the Sun. In this process, they give us the moments to enjoy the nature’s glory.

Amaltas is one such tree which blooms during the onset of summer. It is called Cassia Fistula in the botanical language. The trees hardly bear any flowers. From the skeletons of the branches hang the beautiful bunches of golden colored flowers. Before becoming the full fledged flowers, the buds are like “Ghungroos” of gold.

The tree is the national flower of Thailand;  its yellow flowers symbolize Thai Royality. The golden shower tree is the state flower of Kerala state in India where the flowers are of ritual importance in the Vishu festival. The tree was made it to the 20 rupees stamp. It is also used in medicine.

There are eight to ten trees in our location and they are in full bloom as you can see them bursting forth with full glory.