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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Ganjifa: Playing Cards

Original Ganjifa was brought to India by Moghuls. There is a district called Sawantwadi in Maharashtra. This touches the Goa state. When you travel by train to Goa from Mumbai, it is the last station in Maharashtra. Whole area which is adjacent to Arabian Sea is dotted with unending rows of Coconut palms. Ganjifa was popularized here by the ruler Khem Sawant Bhosle, who heard of it from scholars of the Telengana region. The Chitari community in Sawantwadi, known for their skill in shellac ware and wood craft, learned  to make these cards

Ganjifa are circular playing cards made from paper that is covered with a mixture of tamarind seed powder and oil, painted and coated with shellac. Darbari cards have decorative borders and Bazaar cards are without borders. It used to be a popular pastime at the Indian courts. The classic Mughal Ganjifa with its 96 cards and 8 suits penetrated into the social milieu of India and the Deccan that later, with its themes and characters from Hindu mythology, gained widespread acceptance. The most popular was the Dasavatar with ten different circular pieces depicting the ten incarnations of Vishnu. These form a set along with painted cards of Vishnu`s weapons. They are no longer used to play games but used as gift items and educational aids.

Dasavtar: Means ten incarnations of Vishnu. These are depicted in these cards

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Box for packing these cards

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Janjira Island Fort

Murud is a beach 165 kilometers away from Mumbai. You go to Alibaugh which is also a beach town situated on the Arabian Sea and is halfway between Mumbai and Murud. The scenery of Konkan region is breathtaking after you leave the Alibaug for Murud. There are coconut palm and areca groves on the way. Sea is everywhere blue and green. Road runs parallel to sea coast. There are small hillocks on the way. On holidays lots of people visit the beaches here. There are boats available which takes you to the fort. One has to be very careful though while alighting at the landing because the boat rocks with waves and stairs are slippery.

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From the beach, lapped by the waves is the fort called Janjira fort. It is situated on a rock of oval shape. Janjira is one of the strongest marine forts of India. The name is derived from Arabic word Zazira which means island. It is most strategically situated fort. The fort is approached by sailboats from Rajapuri jetty.  The main gate of the fort faces Rajapuri on the shore and can be seen only when one is quite close to it.  It has a small postern gate towards the open sea for escape.  The fort has 19 rounded bastions, still intact. There are many canons of native and European make rusting on the bastions.

Presently the fort is in very bad state, all in the ruins. But in its heyday had all necessary facilities, e.g., palaces, quarters for officers, mosque. It was built by Siddis, who came to India from Africa and served many rulers here. They are master sea people. They rose to power by dint of hard work. The fort’s residents were Siddis, Marathi, Koli  and people of many other communities. Siddis were very generous towards their populace.

Although it is surrounded from all sides by the briny sea, there was a big fresh water tank which provided the residents with fresh drinking water.

Originally the fort was small wooden structure built by a Koli chief in the late 15th century. It was captured by Pir Khan, a general of Nizamshah of Ahmednagar.  Later the fort was strengthened by Malik Ambar, the Abyssinian Siddi regent of Ahmednagar kings.  From then onward Siddis became independent, owing allegiance to Adilshah and the Mughals as dictated by the times.  Despite their repeated attempts, the Portuguese, the British and the Marathas failed to subdue the Siddi power.  Shivaji’s all attempts to capture Janjira fort failed due to one reason or the other.  When Sambhaji also failed, he built another island fort, known as Kansa or Padmadurg, just 9kms north of Janjira.  The Janjira state came to an end after 1947.  The palace of the Nawabs of Janjira at Murud is still in good shape.

Flaunting the Assets

If you have lived in Mumbai for a long time and then come to visit Chandigarh and adjoining Panchkula, you would be shocked to see how people in the Northern cities flaunt their wealth. When they drive they think that they are the only ones who are on the road. They talk on their cellphones, honk incessantly without any patient even if they can see clearly why the traffic ahead is halted. It seems that they have utmost urgent jobs to attend to. At night, many drive with the high beam lights on making the vehicle drivers coming from opposite side almost blind.
I don’t mean that the people in Mumbai don’t have big cars and other assets. I have seen high end cars lying along the roads in the most neglected style. Mumbai being the economic capital of India, many residents in Mumbai may be having more resources and wealth. But they don’t display it like they do it in the North. It may be that metropolis is used to heavy traffic since so many years and thus people have become quite disciplined barring some aberrations. In the North, the number of vehicles have exploded exponentially while the distances to be covered are shorter. For example, when we were studying in Chandigarh in during early seventies, there were only few cars to be seen. People used mostly bicycles and at the most well off ones had scooters. Nowadays there are traffic snarls to be seen at many places. One cannot plan for the future changes many many years early when the city was planned. It should have been a continual change which requires future vision. The problems are increasing by every passing day.

Trees in Mumbai & Dehradun

The geographical locations of both the cities are very different. One that is Mumbai is sitting by the Arabian sea. Its importance is largely due to being a fine harbor. Thus it is a window through which India looks at the world. The city is hemmed in by the sea from all sides and hence has limitation in expanding in itself. So the population spills over to the mainland around it. Its weather is strongly affected by the breeze from the sea. Strong breeze breaks up at the noon time as the lighter hot air over the land is displaced by the cool air from the sea surface.

Dehradun on the other hand is nestled in the lap of Himalayas and is a valley. It is surrounded by lower Himalayas on North and West sides. Although it becomes very hot in the summers now, on the whole the weather is not so harsh as over the plains of Northern India. Being situated in the valley, hardly any breeze blows here.

I have lived very long years of my service in Mumbai and observed the flora over there. Now for the second time I am posted here in Dehradun. Due to the habit, the mind started to compare the flora of both places. First of all, the brain seeks to find the same trees at new place as were present in the older place.

I found some of these trees common at both places. But the look and color of leaves and flowers is different. The trees in Mumbai seem to be in haste of growing flowers. In this process they also wither away too fast. Winds aid this process. On the other hand, in Dehradun they seem to be taking their own time for maturing. They stay fresh for long periods. In fact, they seem to be like Yogis, simply serene and majestic, lost  in meditation being completely detached from the surroundings. Sometimes, it seems that they are standing still and waiting to be photographed. They are like the wallpapers on the computer screen.

Karnaphul: Crinum brachynema From Maharashtra & Gujarat

Crinum brachynema, called Karna phul is an ornamental restricted to Gujarat and Maharashtra States in western India. Due to its narrow range of distribution and extreme rarity, it has been listed as Critically Endangered.

It was first imported into the UK from India by Messrs Loddiges of Hackney, who sent the bulbs on to William Herbert at Spofforth (North Yorkshire). Herbert subsequently described C. brachynema as a new species, in 1842.

Restricted to the North Western Ghats of western India, where it occurs in three areas: in the Dharmapur forest range of the Bulsar District in Gujarat State at about 700 m above sea level; at Kate’s Point, Mahabaleshwar; and on the Kas Plateau, Satara District of Maharashtra State, at 1,250–1,300 m above sea level. It is usually found on lateritic plateaus along the margins of stunted, semi-evergreen forest, and more rarely on hill slopes. It has been found growing in association with Adelocaryum coelestinum, A. malabaricum, Crinum woodrowii, Curculigo orchioides, Curcuma caulina, C. neilgherrensis, Euphorbia nana, Habenaria brachyphylla, H. grandifloriformis, Ledebouria species, Pimpinella heyneana, Pinda concanensis, Pteris quadriaurita and Strobilanthes reticulata.

A bulbous herb, 30–60 cm high, with an ovoid bulb 5–8 cm across. The leaves develop after the flowers, and are erect, then recurved, folded, bright to dark green, linear-oblong, moderately firm, with a smooth margin and an obtuse (blunt) apex. The scape (leafless flower stalk) is stout, almost circular in cross-section and 30–60 cm long. The fragrant flowers are borne in an umbel (of 5–20 individual flowers). The spathe (sheathing bract) bears two valves, is lanceolate and 3–5 cm long. The bracts are awl-shaped or thread-like. The pedicel (individual flower stalk) is as long as the ovary. The perianth (petals and sepals) is funnel-shaped and the tube is slightly curved, greenish, and 3–5 cm long. It has six lobes, which are pure white, oblanceolate to oblong, obtuse, cuspidate (abruptly tipped with a sharp, rigid point) and about 5 x 2 cm long, many times longer than the stamens. The six stamens are attached to the throat of the perianth tube. The filaments are short (about 1 cm long), and are attached to the tube. The pollen grains are mono-aperturate (have a single opening), ovoid, 50 x 55 µm. The exine (outer wall) is micro-verrucate (warty) with bulbous excrescences (outgrowths). The ovary is about 1 cm long and slender. The style is shorter than the stamens and the stigma is shortly three-lobed. The fruit is sub-globose

Abutilon ranadei (Ghanti Mudra): Endangered Species of Indian Flower

Abutilon ranadei is critically endangered species of ornamental flower of Maharashtra where it is called Ghanti Mudra or Son Ghanta. It was first collected at Amba Ghat in the Kolhapur District of Maharashtra State by Namdeorao B. Ranade, who was the  keeper of the Herbarium at the College of Science, Pune. Kew botanist Otto Stapf and G.M. Woodrow described it as a new species in 1894 and named it in honour of Mr Ranade.

Because of its narrow range and extreme rarity, in the past it has been rated as Endangered or even presumed extinct, and has only recently been assigned to the critically endangered category. In addition to its type locality, it has now been collected in nine new locations: in Pune (Shilimb, Rajgad, Torna Fort, Purandhar Fort), Satara (Vasota Fort), Sangali (Gothne, Prachitgad), Kolhapur (Radhanagari), and Sindhudurg (Amboli) Districts of Maharashtra State.

It is an undershrub, measuring 2.5-3.5 m high. The vegetative plant parts bear star-shaped hairs. The leaves are ovate to rounded-ovate, with tips that taper to a point, heart-shaped bases and scalloped to toothed margins. The solitary flowers are about 2.5 cm in diameter. The calyx is bell-shaped, with lobes free up to the middle, and is covered with glands and star-shaped hairs. The corolla is bell-shaped with pale purple petals with orange-yellow tips. The petals are twice as long as the calyx. The staminal column is 2-3.5 cm long and is hairless with purple lines. The filaments are white with a reddish base, 3-5 mm long, and have dumbbell-shaped glandular hairs in the upper part. The anther lobes are kidney-shaped and are initially green, turning dark rose at maturity and brownish-violet at dehiscence. There are five styles, which are up to 7 mm long and sparsely hairy. The five carpels have a sharp point and are densely hairy throughout. The fruits are schizocarpic (split into a number of seed-containing parts).

The species has danger of extinction from natural as well as man made threats. Anthropogenic threats include the periodic harvesting of firewood from the edges of the forests where it occurs, forest fires, and the collection of Strobilanthes callosa stems for house-building and agricultural practices, which disturb the habitat of this dwindling species. A. ranadei also faces natural pests such as tropical red spider mites, striped mealy bugs, cabbage semi-loopers, aphids, purple scale insects, leaf miners and snails. Amongst the known natural pests, mealy bugs present the most common threat.

Pollination Stage of Flower