Tag Archives: Tamil Nadu

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.

The Mother Godess

Mother Goddesses have been worshiped at all the times of history by the Hindus. They were mostly worshiped as the spouses of the Gods. From Harappa period to Gupta Period, their worship was only little known. Only in the Middle ages they emerged from obscurity as the upper classes of society began worshiping them.

She was considered as the Sakti, the strength or potency of her male counterpart. While the God was inactive and transcendent, she was active and immanent. By Gupta period, many of these Goddesses acquired their own independent identity and began to be venerated at special temples. Even today their cult is most strong in Bengal and Assam.

Chief form of the mother Goddess is Parvati, the wife of God Siva. Parvati means the daughter of mountain. Other names are Mahadevi– the great goddess, Sati– the virtuous, Gauri- The fair one, Annapurna- giver of much food, or simply the mother (Mata) or Ammai as in Tamil.

The mother goddess has another form which is grim aspect. Here she is known as Durga- inaccessible, Kali– the black one and Chandi- the fierce. In Tamilnadu, another goddess called Koravai- the war goddess who like Kali danced among the slain on the battlefield and ate their flesh.

In her fierce aspect she is depicted as a horrible hag, frequently having many arms in which she holds many weapons, a red tongue lolling from her mouth and sometimes as a stern beautiful woman riding and lion and shown slaying a buffalo-headed demon.

She has gentle aspect in which she is a beautiful woman sitting along with her husband Siva. As Lord Siva is worshipped in the form of a phallic emblem, she is worshipped as a Yoni emblem.

There is a legend, Parvati in her early incarnation was born as Sati to sage Daksha who gave her hand very grudgingly to Lord Siva. But he never missed any opportunity to humiliate Siva. During one such occasion in which a puja was being conducted, only she was invited by her father. In a fit of rage, she flung herself into flames. Siva became so numb with pain on her death that he carried the dead body of Sati all the times. It was feared that if Siva began his cosmic dance of Tandava whole universe shall collapse. So Vishnu cut the body of Sati into many smaller parts and scattered them all over the earth. The places are called pithas or sacred shrines.

 

Viramamunivar alias Father Costanzio Beschi Great Tamil Poet

Perhaps the greatest literary figure in Later Tamil poetry was Viramamunivar (1680-1747). Actually it was the pen name of Father Costanzio Beschi, an Italian Jesuits who taught for 36 years in Tamil country.

Like many early Christian missionaries, he lived in wholly Indian fashion and attained a complete mastery over the Tamil language and literary conventions. It is doubtful if any European before or since has gained so profound a knowledge of an Indian language. Beschi’s long poem “Tembavani” tells the stories from the Old and New Testaments in ornately beautiful Tamil. His style and the treatment of his themes were altogether in keeping with tradition, but influence of Tasso, an Italian poet of the 16th century, best known for his poem La Gerusalemme liberata, has been traced in his work.

In the Cauvery’s Land

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.

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

The more the Merrier

When Dharmendra wanted to wed Hema Malini, which was illegal as he already had a wife, he took recourse to convert to Islam which allowed him to have more than one wives.  If you are affluent, you can circumvent any obstacle and do whatever you want to do. The original woman did not have the courage to oppose and was resigned to her fate. These type of social aberrations occur regularly but go unreported unless the person involved is a celebrity. There are arguments for and against for this kind of behavior but such stories provide the entertainment and public is always eager for such stories. The interest wanes as soon as the new story breaks out.

This is not new to Indian subcontinent. In the mythology, Kings invariably had many wives. In addition to these, many of them kept many women in the harems for their carnal pleasures. Everyone is aware of the hundreds of keeps of a particular King of Patiala. Arjuna had many wives in addition to Draupadi. Affluent people try to emulate them though they have to manipulate the things and pull the strings at the higher echelons. It must be emphasized that the roles of every class in the society was clearly demarcated. No one could do what the King wanted to do.

But what about those who are supposed to be the lodestars and guides for the public which elects them to govern the country. For example in South India, many men have more than one wives.  For example, Suryanarayana had two wives became public only after his murder in Afghanistan, but the revelation isn’t surprising in Andhra Pradesh, indeed in most of south India.

In Tamil Nadu, bigamy is commonly accepted and has a term reserved for it. It is called Chinna veedu, which translates roughly to “Small Home” or the second home. And it is rampant despite being as illegal and is an age old tradition.

In the case of ruling politicians, the state has to provide security cover at the main house as well as at the Chinna Veedu.It may not be surprising that the politicians stop at only two. They are entitled to enjoy at the cost of public expenses. After all it is not theirs but public’s fault to elect them and empower them for 5 years at least.

All the great personalities like late M G Ramachandran, or M Karunanidhi, they have all had it, and flaunted it. Karunanidhi has married at least three women, the first of whom is dead.

The DMK chief now divides his time in the houses of both wives – spending mornings at the Gopalapuram residence with Dayaluammal while moving to the house of his other wife, Rajathiammal, at CIT Nagar in Chennai in the afternoons.

Another towering Tamil actor, Gemini Ganesan, married five times while his first wife was alive. The Chinna veedu concept is fairly common in Krishnagiri and Salem districts of TN, where males believe in more the merrier.

Actor-director K Bhagyaraj even made a Tamil movie called Chinna Veedu.

At least one top Union minister from Tamil Nadu is known to have two wives and so does a senior DMK official, who married his daughter’s classmate. An academic said, “The social sanction for two wives can be traced to religion and mythology. Lord Muruga, for instance, had two wives.”

In Andhra, bigamy doesn’t have the traditional sanction it enjoys in TN, but the practice is fairly widespread among the powerful and even a status symbol.

Raktika: The bright seed of Gunja

Raktika or Rati, seed of Gunja vine, was used in ancient India as a unit of weight for weighing the precious metals like Gold. The seeds have the quality of having almost identical weights. It is generally taken as 0.118 grams but the consistency over the different times is doubtful. The standard varied from time to time and place.

Gunja is also the name of girls in India. Remember, Actress Sadhana Singh was called by this name in the super hit Hindi movie called “Nadia Ke Paar“.

The botanical name of Gunja is Arbus Precatorious. It is vine which spirals on the trunks of the trees. The seed is bright red with black spots like ladybirds. The seeds contain a potent toxin called which is called abrin and consists of proteins which are dimers and called abrin A and abrin B respectively. It is very lethal. The unit B attaches itself to the cell. Once inside the cell, the A chain deactivates the 26S subunit of Ribosome. One moelcule is enough to deactivate up to 1,500 ribosome.

Manu defined the weight units in ancient India as follows:

5 Raktikas = 1 masa

16 masas = 1 tola or suvarna.

4 tolas =1 pala

10 palas =1 dharana.

Thus Raktika or Ratti was the smallest weight unit.

Besides, the Raktikas were used to make beads and ornaments.

The seed is also known as Jequirity, Crab’s Eye, Rosary Pea, John Crow Bead, Precatory bean, Indian Licorice, Akar Saga, Giddee Giddee or Jumbie  Bead in different parts of the world. It is, as one of its names suggests, used as rosary beads. The seeds are used in Andhra and Tamil Nadu in the medicine called Siddha medicine. For this purpose, the toxin arbin has to be deactivated. It is done by boiling the seeds with milk which helps in peptization of the proteins.

Chhatrapati Shivaji: Simply Extraordinary

Maratha are a very sturdy and brave people. They inhabited the region of India called “Deccan” which is modern day Maharashtra and Northern Karnataka and some parts of Madhya Pradesh and Andhra.
But extent of their valor is reflected in the fact that once they ruled even Delhi and many parts of South India. The foundations were laid down by the Great Shivaji. It fills one with awe to know that Shivaji occupied many areas in the Tamil Nadu which so far away from Deccan. What strength and grit these people must had possessed. Shivaji captured the famous fort of Gingee which is located in the Viluppuram district of Tamil Nadu. Shivaji described the Gingee fort as the toughest he had won in the battles. Gingee is more of a temples cluster inside a fort on a hill. From this hill, the whole plain below are clearly visible and thus it is best suited for guarding the place below as well as taking shelter in the circumstances of emergency.

The history of their forays into deep south begun with Shivaji father Shahaji Bhosale capturing Gandikota in the present day Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh. At that time he was a commander in the Army of Bijapur Sultan. Sultan bestowed a large Jagir upon him in the North Karnataka which included the present day areas Bangalore, Kolar and Tumkur. This was the beginning of the strong presence of Marathas in the South India although many maratha families were employed in many Muslim kingdoms of South and Vijaynagar empire.

Shahaji Bhosale was almost an independent ruler of the Jagirs. He died suddenly in 1664 and his son Venkoji took over the administration of the Jagirs. Venkoji was the son of Tuka Bai Mohite whereas Shivaji was the son of Jija Bai, the first wife of Shahaji. This way he was the brother of Shivaji. Venkoji lost no time in shaking off the allegiance to Bijapur Sultan and took campaign to Tanjavore in 1675 marking the beginning of Maratha people’s absorption into the alien culture of Tamil Nadu. These people are called “Raoji”. For centuries they are living there and have almost lost all the links to their relatives in Maharashtra. They speak fluent Tamil and their Marathi has taken different connotations. Original Marathi has undergone a sea change. The feminine gender has almost been replaced by neuter gender (“Gaadi aala”). The pronunciation veers towards Tamil, Telugu or Kannada.

Although Venkoji and his successors were no match to the military genius of Shivaji, they were great patrons of arts and literature. Venkoji himself was a writer of sorts but his sons were versatile writers who wrote in Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu. Tukoji in fact was a great linguist with mastery over these languages. During their regime, the place became a great centre of Carnatic Music. The great saint Thyagayya lived in their time.

The marathi influence is attested by the use of gottuvadya and jal taranga. They introduced Kirtan in the Tamil culture. Before this the Tamil had Bhavataras giving religious discourses without the accompaniment of music. During the reign of Marathi kings, Buvas and kirtankars introduced the kirtaan there.

What is in a Name?

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.