• 16 May 2023
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Mangoes: The King that rules for centuries in South Asia

Mangoes: The King that rules for centuries in South Asia

Mangoes are one of the most popular and delicious fruits in the world, but they are more than just a sweet treat. In South Asia, where mangoes are believed to have originated, they have a long and rich history and culture that spans thousands of years and various religions and regions.

The Origin and Spread of Mangoes

Mangoes are the fruits of the tropical tree Mangifera indica, which belongs to the cashew family. According to some sources, mangoes are native to the region between northwestern Myanmar, Bangladesh, and northeastern India, where they have been cultivated for over 4,000 years. Other sources suggest that mangoes may have originated in Sri Lanka or Indonesia.

Mangoes were introduced to various parts of the world by traders and adventurers who were drawn to their taste and aroma. The Portuguese landed in India in the 16th century and were among the first to bring mangoes to Africa and Brazil. The Mughals, who dominated India and Pakistan from the 16th through the 19th centuries, were also influential in spreading mangoes throughout South Asia. They planted mango orchards in their royal gardens and named some of the types after their emperors and nobles.

Today, mangoes are grown in over 100 countries, with India being the largest producer and exporter. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, China, Mexico, Brazil, and Egypt are also among the significant mango-growing countries. There are hundreds of varieties of mangoes, each with its shape, size, color, flavor, and quality.

The Symbolism and Significance of Mangoes

Mangoes are not only a source of food and income for millions of people in South Asia, but also a symbol of life and prosperity. Mangoes are revered by many religions and cultures in the region, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Sikhism.

In Hinduism, mangoes are associated with several gods and goddesses, such as Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of wisdom and success; Parvati, the goddess of love and fertility; and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and abundance. Mangoes are offered to these deities as a sign of devotion and gratitude. Mango leaves are also used to decorate doorways and temples during festivals and ceremonies.

In Buddhism, mangoes have a special connection with Buddha himself. According to legend, Buddha was presented with a mango grove by a wealthy merchant named Amrapali. Buddha accepted the gift and spent his time meditating under the shade of the mango trees. He also taught his disciples about the impermanence of life using a ripe mango as an example.

In Islam, mangoes are considered a gift from Allah and a symbol of paradise. The Prophet Muhammad is said to have enjoyed eating mangoes and praised their sweetness. Some Muslims believe a mango tree in heaven bears fruits of different colors and flavors. Mangoes are also used to break the fast during Ramadan.

In Sikhism, mangoes are a part of the langar or community kitchen that serves free meals to anyone who visits a gurdwara or Sikh temple. Mangoes are also mentioned in some of the hymns composed by Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

Mangoes are also featured in many forms of art and literature in South Asia. They are depicted in paintings, sculptures, textiles, jewelry, and coins as motifs of beauty and fertility. They are also used as metaphors and symbols in poetry, songs, stories, and proverbs.

The Cuisine and Lifestyle of Mangoes

Mangoes are a part of the cuisine and lifestyle of South Asia. They are consumed raw or cooked in various dishes, drinks, desserts, pickles, and chutneys. They are also used for medicinal purposes and beauty treatments.

Raw mangoes are usually eaten with salt, chili powder, or spices to enhance their flavor and quench thirst. They are also grated or sliced and added to salads, curries, or rice dishes. Some people also make juice or sherbet from raw mangoes to cool down in hot weather.

Ripe mangoes are usually eaten fresh cut into pieces, and served with cream, yogurt, or ice cream. They are also blended to make smoothies, lassi, or milkshakes. Some people also make jam, jelly, or marmalade from ripe mangoes to preserve them for later use. Mango pickles and chutneys are made from unripe or semi-ripe mangoes cut into pieces and mixed with salt, spices, oil, vinegar, or sugar. They are stored in jars and consumed as condiments or snacks throughout the year. They add flavor and tanginess to various dishes, such as parathas, biryanis, or dal.

Mango desserts are also very popular in South Asia. They include kulfi, a frozen dairy dessert similar to ice cream; halwa, a sweet pudding made from semolina or flour; kheer, a rice pudding flavored with cardamom and saffron; and barfi, a fudge-like confection made from milk solids. These desserts are often garnished with nuts, dried fruits, or saffron.

Mangoes are also used for medicinal purposes in South Asia. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber which have various health benefits. They can boost immunity, improve digestion, lower blood pressure, prevent infections, and promote skin and hair health. They can also treat ailments such as scurvy, anemia, diarrhea, dysentery, and heat stroke.

Mangoes are also used for beauty treatments in South Asia. They can nourish, moisturize, and rejuvenate the skin and hair. They can also exfoliate, cleanse, and brighten the complexion. They can also reduce acne, blemishes, wrinkles, and sunburns. Some of the common beauty products made from mangoes include face masks, scrubs, creams, lotions, and shampoos.

Conclusion:

Mangoes are more than just fruit in South Asia. They are a part of the history and culture of the region that reflect diversity and richness. They are also a part of the cuisine and lifestyle of the people, which showcases their creativity and versatility. They are also a source of health and beauty that enhances their well-being and appearance. Mangoes are truly the king of fruits in South Asia and deserve to be celebrated and enjoyed.

 

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