Hail the King!
Today, 22nd July, is the National Mango Day. The event was started in India but is now celebrated in other countries such as the USA also. It may soon become an international event. And why not! After all; mango is the fruit with the golden nectar. It is an important fruit both commercially and otherwise. The emotional responses (by passionate Indians) alone to this sweet fruit is worth poems galore. Mango is innately a part of Indian culture and life.
A comfort for some; luxury for others. Luscious and succulent. Lush and resplendent.
Green and yellow; at times speckled with red.
Raw or ripe. Pickled or candied. Pulpy or sliced. Sweet or spiced.
Familiar or mysterious (termed exotic by almost all with no connection to India).
All in all: mango is glorious.
It deserves a National Day of its own. And good that it has one!
This 22nd July, to honor this beloved fruit, here are some celebratory snippets related to mango.
Oldest mango trees in India: Of course; there is no way to know exactly which is the oldest mango tree in India. But there are some candidates for the honor and the accolade.
There is a mango tree grove in Hampi that is considered 500-years-old. It is assumed that these were planted during the reign of Sri Krishnadevaraya or Krishna Dev Rai (Kṛṣṇa Dēva Rāya) of the Vijayanagara Empire. Sadly, a few trees from this grove have died and many others are in the process of dying.
The grove consisted of 21 trees; planted between some 300-500 years ago. It is behind the famous and the sacred Virupaksha Temple. Most trees in this grove are around 80 to 100 feet tall with girths of around 12 to 13 feet. Surprisingly, these trees are still bearing fruits.
The grove is revered by the people in the region and it deserves this reverence.
Interesting fact: The grove was specifically planted for the monkeys residing in the area.
By some accounts; the oldest mango tree in India is in the present-day Jalgaon, Maharashtra. When it was planted; the area was known as East Khandesh. This tree also still bears fruits.
It is not surprising that so many old mango trees exist in India – a country where mango is part of its identity; each region has its own native variety, and mango leaves are used as auspicious ornaments in Hindu festivals.
Perhaps the oldest mango tree in the country (or even the world) exists somewhere silently; bearing fruits – watching time go by; experiencing the elements; still standing strong in the storms and the scorching sun – demanding very little but offering fruit and shade and oxygen; adding to the biodiversity – hosting birds and insects and worms and perhaps services rendered hidden from the human eyes.
A mango tree that has it all: A young mango tree is quite the sensation in the Saharanpur region, UP. It is just 15-years-old and bears fruits of some 121 varieties such as Dussehri, Chaunsa, Amrapali, Langra, Ramkela etc. The tree was borne out of grafts of 121 mango tree branches. It is a good thing or a bad one remains to be seen. The experiment was planned by horticulturists. If only this tree could speak!
Revival of a 125-year-old tree: It is easy to do away with a ‘senile’ or old tree unable to bear substantial amount of fruit. But not everyone gives up on these wise-old trees so easily. One such man resides in Gujarat. Rajesh Shah from Valsad in the state utilized the girdling technique to save a tree planted by his grandfather. This technique involves creating a hole in the tree’s trunk (in simple terms). It took him some 15 years to master it. He learnt of this technique via a local folklore. So, where there is a will; there is a tree still standing!
The trees of the ‘Mango Man’:
Padma Shri Kaleem Ullah Khan is famously known as the ‘mango man’. The name is apt as he has devoted his life to the care of mango trees in his orchard in Malihabad, UP. The man and a 120-year-old tree share a beautiful friendship. They grew old together; each taking care of the other. His work of grafting different mango variety trees has garnered him worldwide fame and also made him the recipient of one of India’s highest civilian honors. He, at times, names new mango varieties after famous people (current and historical); such as Sachin Tendulkar and Anarkali. Creating new mango varieties is not his job but his passion. It is his lifetime’s work. He has devoted most of his life working at the nursery and taking care of his beloved mango trees. He is nurturing not just trees but a legacy – for generations to enjoy.
Interesting fact: He named one mango variety as NaMo in 2014 when Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India.
The mango fruit is proud and noble. Mangifera indica or as its tree is scientifically known as stands tall and humble – but growing a fruit that knows it is the king. Its reduced crop is not only commercially a reason to worry. But it can create hue and cry in people’s heart. One can hear disappointing notes and worried exclamations in the market. It becomes a topic of discussion in neighborhood gatherings and parties. Such is the रुतबा (Status, Panache) and शान (Grandeur, Magnificence) of the glorious mango fruit.
Once more: All Hail the King!
Take flights to India next summer to enjoy mangoes in all their glory. Visit City Village News for more interesting articles.