With the coming of June and July, Desi mango trees laden first with raw fruit and then slowly ripening with bright colours present a spectacular look in Jammu region. Everywhere in the mango orchards and wayside trees, fragrance of ripe mangoes is a treat to the eyes and the soul. Mangoes can be seen everywhere-on the trees, under the trees, in the baskets in the markets spreading their aroma & making the atmosphere colourful. But sadly, the number of desi mango trees is shrinking with the passage of time. Old trees planted centuries ago are meeting their natural death & decay while few new saplings of Desi mango are being planted. Mango, whose botanical name is Mangifera indica, is the National fruit of India and mango tree is a native tree of India which is one of the major producers of mango in the world. It is believed to have been grown for about 6000 years. This tropical tree is also known as Aam in Hindi and Aamra in Sanskrit language. It can be relished by cutting into slices or just sucking the pulp. Most parts of this tree have medicinal and other properties. For instance, the bark of this tree is known to contain tannins which are primarily used for the purpose of dyeing cloth. The juice of the tree of mango is a restorative tonic and can be used to relieve heat strokes. Mango has miraculous properties-It cures all the three doshas -Vata, Pittha and Kapha. The ripe mango causes heat and boosts the energy levels in the body. The unripe fruit tastes sour and has astringent and cooling properties. However, Ayurveda advises caution about eating raw mangoes alone in large quantities, as it can increase the pitta dosha. The various parts of the plant are used as an antiseptic, astringent, dentifrice, diaphoretic, vermifuge, laxative, diuretic and laxative. It has also the capacity to relieve dysentery, diarrhea, asthma, cough, bronchitis, hypertension, insomnia, anemia, rheumatism, hemorrhage, piles etc.It contains saponins, triterpenes, hydrocarbons, xanthones, phenolics, chromones, fatty acids and essential oil. It also contains Vitamin A as well as Vitamin C. Mango is low in protein, sodium and contains no cholesterol. The fibre in the fruit cleanses the body and thus is a panacea for constipation. Mangoes improve the appetite and are effective in removing the toxins from the body.
The pulp of the fruit is also fed to ruminants .In fact, all the parts of this tree are used to relieve abscesses, rabid dog, tumor, snakebite, datura poisoning, miscarriage, anthrax, wounds, blisters as well as stings. It is also an important remedy for relieving colic, bacillosis, bloody dysentery, excessive urination, indigestion, tumpanitis, asthma, glossitis and tetanus. Raw mango is used to make pickle, chutney (called ‘Shasha’ in local parlance) and pickles. It is peeled off and ground to make ‘amchoor’ which is mixed with vegetables to add sour taste. Mango also finds use in preparation of aam paapar, jams, mango shakes and drinks. It is also an integral part of our rituals. When a havan is performed at the time of auspicious occasion such as marriage, mundan, retirement etc, the wood of mango is used as fuel to produce fire and its leaves woven and hung at the entrance of the home. The leaves of mango are also used when ‘saakh’ is sown and a kalash is kept at the puja site at the time of Navratras. In Bhagavata Purana, it is mentioned that mango tree, which is called heavenly tree, is present on Mount Mandara. The mango tree is considered sacred by both the Hindus and the Buddhists. Lord Buddha was once presented with a grove of mango trees, under which he would relax. Thus, the Buddhists consider the tree sacred. There are many legends associated with the mango tree. Once Lord Buddha ate a mango fruit, the seed of which He gave to Ananda who was his favourite disciple, to plant at a chosen place. After Ananda had planted the seed, Buddha washed His hands over it and suddenly a mango plant sprang from it bearing flowers and fruits.
The daughter of the Sun God Surya was under the spell of a sorceress. She fell into a pond and became a lotus to escape the evil design of the sorceress. A King saw the lotus flower and desired to possess it. Even before he could possess it, the sorceress burnt the flower into ashes. From the ashes rose the mango tree. When the mango tree bore flowers and fruits, the King desired to keep the fruit to himself. When the fruit ripened and fell on the ground, from it arose the daughter of the Sun God. The king immediately recognised her as his wife in his previous birth. Lord Shiva used to sit under the mango tree during His separation from goddess Parvati. Later by the grace of goddess Lalitha, Shiva married Parvati and went to reside at Mount Kailash.
There used to be a time when our ancestors would grow and take care of a large number of mango trees with the hope that someone in future would eat the fruit of the tree they had planted. The mangoes would be planted over vast tracts and sometimes, places would be named after the shape of the mango tree such as Dinga Amb (curved mango). It would not be uncommon to find mango trees in groups or a single one on chowks, along pathways, Dhakkis etc in every village in Jammu region so that travellers would sit in their shade and take rest to refresh themselves. In many cases, an earthern pitcher was kept filled with water under the mango tree to enable the travellers to quench their thirst as in those days journeys were conducted mostly on foot. Sometimes, Panchayats and small functions would be held in their cool shade.
There are many anecdotes associated with mangoes. The great Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib was fond of eating mangoes.’Aamo main buss do khubiya honi chahiye, ek meethe hon aur bohut saare hon.” (Mangoes need to have two qualities, they need to be sweet and plenty.) he would say. Once Ghalib was out on a stroll with Bahadur Shah Zafar when they came upon a mango orchard at Lal-Qila. Zafar noticed that Ghalib was looking intently at one of the trees which were particularly laden with fruit. Perturbed, the emperor asked him why he was staring at the tree. Ghalib is said to have replied,”Badshaah salamat maine buzurgo se suna hai,/ Daane Daane pe likha hai Khaane waale ka naam. Dekh raha hoon kisi aam pr mere baap dada ka naam bhi likha hai kya.” (Oh emperor, the wise say that each morsel has the name of the person who will eat it, I am seeing if any of the trees have the name of my fathers or forefathers etched on a mango).Praising the mangoes, he says:
Brayae aamon ka kush byaan ho jaaye
Khaama nakhle rataab fashaan ho jaaye
(Simply let something in praise of mangoes be expressed joyously
Like a palm tree when stirred brings down showers of ripe sweet dates).
Recently, in a village in Haryana a man sold his land on which grew an old desi mango tree. When the buyer came to fell the tree, four old men of the village, who had grown old playing under it in their childhood and were greatly attached to it, bought the tree pooling and paying rupees 10,000 and thus, saved it from being fallen. This should be the spirit in preserving this tree which is related to our rich culture. So there is need to plant more and more such trees and also encourage farmers to grow desi mango trees for making jams, pickles, mango drinks and make arrangements for their marketing. Cutting of mango tree should be completely banned and incentives should be given to the farmers who grow mango trees in their orchards. Research needs to be conducted on mango to bring out its more uses & benefits. Every effort need to be made to preserve the existing trees and regenerate the extinct ones in order to make up the loss as this tree is deeply connected with our culture.
The writer is serving as Sr. Lecturer in English, Govt.Hr. Sec. School, Thial (Udhampur)