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Unpeeling the Mango’s Interesting History in India

Update: 06/10/2016
Mangoes have delighted people’s senses with their sweet fragrance and flavour for ages. However, while Indians have been cultivating this juicy fruit for more than 4000 years, the Western world has savoured it only for the last 400!
 

Unpeeling the Mango’s Interesting History in India

 

If you are curious about its origins, here is the\r\ninterestingjourney of the mango in India over the years.

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History yields some very interesting facts about this\r\ncelebrated fruit. The mango has been known to Indians since very early times.\r\nScientific fossil evidence indicates that the mango made its first appearance\r\neven earlier – 25 to 30 million years ago in Northeast India, Myanmar and\r\nBangladesh, from where it travelled down to southern India.

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The earliest name given to the mango was Amra-Phal. On\r\nreaching South India, the name translated to Aam-Kaayin Tamil, which\r\ngradually became Maamkaay due to differences in pronunciation. The Malayali\r\npeople further changed this toMaanga. The Portuguese were fascinated by\r\nthe fruit on their arrival in Kerala and introduced it to the world as Mango.

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In ancient India, the ruling class used names of mango\r\nvarieties to bestow titles on eminent people –like the honour given to\r\nthe famous courtesan of Vaishali, Amra Pali. The mango tree was also associated\r\nwith the god of love, Manmatha, and its blossoms were considered to be the\r\ngod’s arrows by the Hindu Nanda Kings. It was during the Nanda rule that\r\nAlexander arrived in India and fought the famous battle with King Porus. When\r\nit was time for him to return to Greece, he took with him several varieties of\r\nthe delicious fruit.

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With the rise of Buddhism, mangoes came to represent faith and\r\nprosperity among the religion’s followers, as there were several legends about\r\nthe Buddha and mango trees. Among Buddhist rulers, mangoes were exchanged\r\nas gifts and became an important tool of diplomacy. During this period,\r\nBuddhist monks took mangoes with them wherever they went, popularising the\r\nfruit.

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Legend has it that the Buddha was presented with a mango\r\ngrove so he could rest under the shady trees.

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Megasthenes and Hsiun-Tsang, the earliest writer-travellers\r\nto ancient India, wrote about how the ancient Indian kings, notably the\r\nMauryas, plantedmango trees along roadsides and highways as a symbol of\r\nprosperity. They also wrote about the incredible taste of the fruit,\r\nbringingthe mango to the notice of people outside India.The Munda\r\ntribals and the Dattaraya sect of Swamy Chakradhar were also instrumental in\r\ntaking this decadent fruit to the masses of ancient India.

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In the medieval period, Alauddin Khilji was the first patron\r\nof the mango and his feast in Sivama Fort was a real mango extravaganza with\r\nnothing but mangoes in different forms on the lavish menu. Next came the Mughal\r\nEmperors, whose fondness for the mango is legendary. The obsessive love for\r\nmango was, in fact, the only legacy that flowed untouched from one generation\r\nto another in the Mughal dynasty.

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The first Mughal, Babur, was reluctant to face the feared\r\nwarrior Rana Sanga of Mewar, despite Daulat Khan Lodi’s promises of a good part\r\nof his empire and war booty. It is said that Lodi then introduced Babur to the\r\nmango, a fruit he became so fond of that it convinced him not only to face Rana\r\nSanga but to also lay the foundation of hisempire in India!

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While on the run from India to Kabul, Humayunensured a\r\ngood supply of mangoes through a well-established courier system. Akbar built\r\nthe vast Lakhi Bagh near Darbhanga,growing over a hundred thousand mango\r\ntrees. This was one of the earliest examples of grafting of mangoes, including\r\nthe Totapuri, the Rataul and the expensive Kesar.

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Shah Jahan’s fondness for mangoes was so deep that he had\r\nhis own son, Aurangzeb, punished and placed under house arrest because the\r\nlatter kept all the mangoes in the palace for himself. It was also mangoes that\r\nAurangzeb sent to Shah Abbas of Persia to support him in his fight for the\r\nthrone.

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The famous Persian poet Amir Khusrau called the mangoNaghza\r\nTarin Mewa Hindustan,the fairest fruit of Hindustan

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The Mughals relished their favourite addiction, with Jahangir\r\nand Shah Jahan awarding theirkhansamahsfor their unique creations\r\nlikeAam Panna,Aam ka LauzandAam Ka Meetha Pulao, a\r\ndelicate mango dessert sold all through the summer in Shahjahanabad. Nur\r\nJahan used a mix of mangoes and roses to create her legendary wines. The\r\nyellow-golden Chausa Aam was introduced to celebrate Sher Shah Suri’s victory\r\nover Humayun, while the luscious DussehriAam owes its birth to the\r\nRohilla chieftains.

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The Peshwa of the Marathas, Raghunath Peshwa, planted 10\r\nmillion mango trees as a sign of Maratha supremacy. Though it retained its\r\nsuperiority of taste, many varieties disappeared from the scene while several\r\nnew ones emerged.

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The Mulgoa mango is the outcome of Portuguese experiments\r\nwith new varieties of mango, a result we cherish today.

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Over the ages, the mango became a household fruit and odes\r\nwere sung in its praise. Rabindranath Tagore was extremely fond of mangoes and\r\nhas written several poems about the fragrant flowers of mangoes, including the\r\nvery famousaamer monjori. Legendary Urdu poet Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib\r\nwas a mango aficionado too; he despised people who didn’t share his addiction\r\nfor the fruit.

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Today, the curvaceous shape of mangoes, which has long held\r\nthe fascination of weavers and designers, has become an iconic Indian motif.\r\nThe mango is seen as a symbol of good luck and prosperity and in many parts of\r\nIndia mango leaves are strung up over the front doors of homes asToran.

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APurnakumbhais a pot filled with water and\r\ntopped with fresh mango leaves and a coconut. It is considered to be the\r\nfoundation of a puja, with the mango leaves symbolising life.

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Childhood memories for many Indians include precarious\r\nattempts to pick elusive mangoes, dangling enticingly from the branches of\r\nfruit laden trees. Every summer, the heady smell of mangoes ripening on trees\r\nand the velvety taste of home-madeaamrasbring happiness to\r\ncountless Indian homes. It’s no wonder then that the mango is rightfully called\r\nthe king of fruits.

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With mango festivals being celebrated in Ahmedabad, Lucknow,\r\nAllahabad, Delhi, and Goa, mangoes in India have become a symbol of summer and\r\nare no less than a cultural legacy. Noted mango cultivator Haji Kalimullah has\r\neven named a new variety, a cross-breed of Kolkata’s Husn-e-Aara and Lucknow’s\r\nDussehri,as the “Modi Mango”!

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Sanchari Pal –\r\nThe Better India

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