Part of the On-going series on Indian Rides. This post is about the King of Indian Fruit – Mango, The ever growing – Banyan Tree and Flower of beauty and spirituality – Lotus. Yes, these are India’s National Fruit, National Tree and National Flower.
One of my favorite fruit Mango it is the National Fruit of India. Mango is a fleshy fruit of the tree Mangifena Indica. In India, there are over 100 varieties of mangoes in different sizes, shapes and colours. This fruit is very sweet in its various species. Along with its sweetness mango is a great resource of vitamins, it offers vitamin A, C and D. Mangoes are grown in India from ancient ages. Even in mythology mangoes have been mentioned and have been given importance. This national symbol is a fruit that symbolizes the softness and sweetness of Indians.
Mango, derived from the Tamil word Mangai or Mankay, as well as the Malayalam word Manna. In India, Mango fruit and leaves are sometimes used in various rituals and religious events.
Mango is mostly cultivated in tropical and subtropical climates in India. India stands in the 2nd position in mango production, after China. Around a 3rd of world`s total mangoes are cultivated in India only. But the country consumes most of its produce and contributes only 1% to the international mango trade.
The famous Indian poet Kalidasa has penned praises on mangoes and Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang, as well as Alexander the great have also savoured and praised mango, during their conquests to the country.
The great Moghul emperor Akabar has been known to plant as many as 100,000 mango trees in Lakhi Bagh in Darbhanga, Bihar. Now, the National Fruit of India, International Mango Festival is now conducted in Delhi every year that displays the wide range of traditionally favorite Indian varieties along with the latest discoveries of mango varieties that are tasty, healthy and quick to bear fruits.
Mango is widely used in Indian cuisine. Unripe mango is utilised in the preparation of Chutneys or side dishes and may also be consumed raw, mixed with spices. The green unripe mango is also used as a cooling drink called “Aam Panna”, which is most popular in summer months. Ripe Mango is also used in various drinks such as Mango Lassi. Mango is also used in making preserves, such as Amchur and Moramba, and curries. Moreover Mango is also utilised fro preparing smoothies, ice cream, juices and fruit bars.
National Tree: Banyan Tree (Ficus Benghalensis)
The national tree of India, banyan is a very huge structure, long and deep roots and branches symbolize the country’s unity. One can find banyan trees in throughout the nation.
The tree is also considered sacred by the Hindus of India. In the Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva is sometimes depicted sitting in silence, under the banyan tree, with the saints sitting at his feet. With its seemingly unending expansion, the banyan tree symbolizes eternal life. In Hindu culture, the tree is often called ‘kalpavriksha’, a Sanskrit word, which means ‘a divine tree that fulfills wishes’. Married Hindu women worship the banyan tree to lead a long and happy married life.
The name ‘banyan’ is derived from Banias, who rested under the trees to discuss their strategies regarding business. The widest tree in the world – the Great Banyan – is located in Kolkata. The tree is about 250 years old.
Historical records say that Alexander the Great camped under a banyan tree that was large enough to provide shelter to his army of 7000 men. Even today, the banyan tree is the focal point of village life and the village council meets under the shade of this tree.
Banyan tree is well known for its medicinal uses. Its sap is a medicine for treating external skin inflammations and bruising, dysentery, toothaches and ulcers. Its bark and seeds are used to produce a herbal tonic that can cool the body. Diabetic patients are also treated by the tonic made from banyan tree.
National Flower: Lotus
Lotus, botanically known as the Nelumbo Nucifera is the national flower of India. The Lotus plant is basically an aquatic plant with wide floating leaves and bright aromatic flowers which grow only in shallow waters.
The Lotus Flower symbolizes divinity, fertility, wealth, knowledge and enlightenment. It is also regarded as a symbol of triumph as it can survive to regerminate for thousands of years. Lotus represents long life, honor, and good fortune. Untouched by the impurity despite growing in mud, the flower is also meant to symbolize the purity of heart and mind. It holds additional significance for Hindus, as it is regarded as the symbol of many Gods and Goddesses and is often used in religious practices. It was because of these noble meanings and cultural significance that made the founding fathers of modern India enshrine the lotus in the Constitution as the National Flower.
Among the various flowers of Indian sub-continent, the flower Lotus is regarded with divinity and grace. Often, Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswathi are associated with the flower lotus. Even Lord Siva, who wanted to escape the wrath of the Lord Saneeswaran, morphed himself into the shape of a bee and took asylum inside a lotus. Buddhists regard this flower as a sacred one.
The plant is having various uniqueness attached to it. Though the large leaves of the plant are floating on the surface of the water, even a drop of water is not accommodated on top of the leaves. Perhaps, they are teaching the human beings, to lead a life of non-attachment and avoid the worldly pleasures.