Mango : The King of Fruits

Hiuen Tsang, after being in India is going back. Time AD 627-643, on the fabled Silk Route. Apart from his knowledge of Buddhism, his rucksack contains an extraordinary fruit called Mango.

The name in hindi AAM is derived from Sanskrit word AMRA which seems to be the loan from Dravidian and is related to Tamil words for Mango like “mamaram”. Portuguese were responsible for transferring the name to the West. It is growing in India since 4000 years at least.

Moguls were great connoisseurs of the fruit. Akbar got 100000 mango trees in Lakhi Bagh near Darbhanga Bihar. Others who relished the fruit were Shahjahan and Noor Jehan, Aurangzeb, Sher Shah Suri. Raghunath Peshwa got large numbers all over Maharashtra.

Main Constituents:

Citric acid and related compounds are responsible for sour taste. Several terpenes have been found in unripe fruit..

Ripe mango contains volatile compounds like alpha terpineol, ocimene, limonene, 3-carene etc. Yellow colour is due to beta Carotene.

Nutrients

Mangoes are rich in potassium, about 8% carbohydrate with 1.6 % dietary fibre. Very rich in vitamin A , C, B-6, calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Some famous Indian Varieties:

1: Alphonso or Hapoos
King among the mangoes. Named after Portugal admiral D Afonso de Albuquerque. Deogad in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra has got the GI tag of genuineness.

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2: Dasehri
It is birth place is Malihabad in Lucknow. Soft, succulent and mild.

3: Banarasi Langda
It was born in an orchard belonging to a Langda (lame) fellow and thus got this name.

4: Himsagar
Fibre less, creamy and full of pulp. Pride of Murshidabad in West Bengal.

5: Fazli
Quite big in size, famous in Malda of West Bengal. Late maturing.

6: Chaunsa:
From Bihar. Full of Flavour. It is pressed into mouth and juice is sucked.

7: Gulab Khaas
Native of Jharkhand. It is graceful mango

8: Kesar

Aromatic fruit of Junagadh Gujarat. Giving a tough fight to Hapoos. Plantations are on foothills of mount Girnar.

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9: Bedmi: Taste depends upon the plucking time.

10. Totapuri: it is abundant in southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka.

11: Sindoori: it gets its name from the vermillion colour of the skin.

12: Banganapalli/ Bagan Phali/ Safeda
From Andhra’s small town Banganapalli. Sweet, yellow and fibre less.

13: Himam Pasand/ Humayun Pasand
A cross made from Banganapalli and Malgoa. It is very popular in Deccan.

14: Chandrakaran: it is delicacy from Kerala. Sweet and sour. Quite costly.

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Palash Flowers: The Fire of Jungle

Near Panchkula which is our native place are Shivalik hills. One of places in these hills is called Morni. The entire route is through hills and zigzag. There are streams passing through under the bridges. A number of wild trees and plants grow. It is a very picturesque site.

We go on to that route many times just for drive. There are hordes of monkeys and langoors. This time we went yesterday. There is a part of jungle adjoining a stream and lots of trees which is marked as bird habitat.

From the beginning of the hilly road, there were beautiful blossoms of trees called Palash. There season has just begun. At many places there are clumps of many of these trees. The intense light red colored flower bunches look as if jungle is on fire. There are very few leaves on these trees when they bloom. For more information on this flower. see my another blog post “Flame of Forest

A lots of insects and bees converge on these trees for nectar. Similarly many birds can be seen visiting these trees.

We took some shots…

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Songs of Kuldeep Manak: Fragrance of Punjabi Soil

In Punjab and Rajasthan, folk singers belong to mostly Muslim religion. First example is of Mardana the disciple of Guru Nanak who played the Rabab when Guru sang the praises of the God. He along with Bala were constant companions of the Guru and accompanied him on his sojourns far and wide. The tradition continued and many of the famous singers in Punjab claim to be the descendants of Mardana. Also they have become so attached to Sikhism that from their outlook supporting the turban and beard, no one distinguish them from being the Sikhs.

Among these folk singers was Kuldeep Manak who hailed from Jalal village in the Bathinda district. He was born in 1951 and died in 2011. His father and forefathers were singers who sang in the Gurudwaras. His original name was Latif Mohammad which he later changed to Kuldeep Singh Manak. He supported the turban. For about 30 years from the age of 17, he was undoubtedly the king of folk in Punjab. Like when Sun shines, the stars fade away, other singers did not stand anywhere near in comparison except Surinder Shinda.

His voice was like the jangling of silver coins-pure and rustic. Bathinda borders Rajasthan and is a very dry and dusty place. There are frequent sand storms in the evening after the intense heat in the day time. The wind howls in the alleys and sand covers many things. One of the lyricists described his voice like the wind blowing during the storm-raw and hitting straight your heart. Since he sang the subjects related to folk stories and religion, he was immensely popular in the countryside. People were crazy about his songs. He sang a genre of folk music called Kalian and was called the Badshah of Kalian.

His songs cover so many popular and even unheard of Quissas-the stories of valor and love-which include Heer Ranjha, Laila Majnu, Mirza Sahiban, Kima Malki, Sassi Punnu as the love stories, Banda Singh Bahadur, Dulla Bhatti the Muslim Rajput who drove Akbar to such a desperation that he had to shift his base from Agra to Punjab to quell the Dulla, Jaimal Phatta-two Hindu Rajputs who refused to give their daughter to Akbar in marriage just like the parents of Jodha Bai did, Jagga Daku the Robinhood of Punjab and the death of Kehar Singh by his mother in law and brother in laws for the greed of money.

Further, his songs based on the religious stories like Sarwan of Ramayana who carried his blind parents from place to place for pilgrimage and was killed by an arrow from Raja Dashrath the father of Lord Rama, Pooran bhagat who was thrown in a well on the orders of his father King Salwan on the false charges made by King’s young wife Loona, subsequent rescue of Pooran by Guru Gorakhnath and his becoming a saint, then Raja Rasalu who was Pooran’s step brother born to the same Loona with the blessings of Pooran. The songs are replete with such stories.

The credit for his fame also goes to lyricist Dev Threekawala. The duo had a great rapport and churned out all this famous stuff. The winning quality of his songs was very simple and rustic language which tugged at the strings of the hearts of the simple village folks.

He was buried after death according to Muslim traditions. There were reports in the media that his wife who belongs to Sikh community tried to excavate his grave and to perform last rites in Hindu tradition but was prevented by the villagers.

Quissa Puran Bhagat

History of the undivided Punjab and adjoining areas on its western front is replete with stories of valour and love. This area acted like a conduit for those from the west who wanted to enter India. From the times immemorial, streams of people crossed into India in search of its rich resources. Some solely entered through this corridor for the purpose of looting and taking with the exploits back. Others like Aryans and Mughals came here and settled here permanently. Aryans are said to be the cattle raring people who were constantly on the move in search of green pastures for their livestock. First Mughal emperor Babur came this side because he was forced to by his cousins who had fully controlled the Western areas and did not allow Babur to get any hold there. He headed east and as luck would have it, he easily won Afghanistan. As he had heard about Hindustan, he drove down into plains of Punjab and adjoining areas. Even when he established himself in India, he longed to go to his native place as he found the weather here too hot. It was Akbar who however firmly established the Mughal rule in India.
Due to the continuous movement of the people including aggressors and traders, the cultures of many places diffused into culture of this area. Many forms of literature also entered this area. One such was Quissa or the oral story telling. The stories were of the religious type initially but took into their fold the folklore and other social forms. So quissa telling became very popular in the Punjab and many famous quissa are popular and people knew heard them again and again. For example, there were lovers tales like Mirza Sahiban, Sassi Punnu on one hand and religious stories on the other hand.
One such Quissa is named Quissa Puran Bhagat. Story is set in the Sialkot which is now in Pakistan. There a king ruled in older times and his name was Salwaan. He had two wives. First one was Ichhran and younger one was Loona. Loona belonged to Chamba and there was large difference of age between the king and her age. In fact, she was the age of his children. As she was the daughter of a very poor low caste man, there was no question of the poor man resisting the marriage although Loona was not inclined. But those were the olden days. She is said to be very beautiful. King was guest of Chamba Royality and saw her in fair and was mesmerised and wanted to make her the queen.
The king was blessed with a son from first wife. He was christened as Puran. Astrologers advised the king to keep the child away from the palace till he attains the age of twelve. So he was established outside with king providing all the facilities there.
After twelve years, he returned as a very handsome boy. He went to her mothers palace. As they days passed, he went to meet the second wife of the king as was the custom in those days. Upon seeing the handsome boy, Loona was bewitched and fell in love with him. But the boy resisted her advances and told her that she is like her mother being the wife of his father. He left the palace after extricating himself. But Loona was heart broken and out of jealously she planned revenge.
She called for the king and with tears told that Puran had tried to rape her. King without seeing the truth, ordered the limbs of Puran to be amputated and he be thrown into a well. Now here is the folklore part. Puran remained alive in the well for many years reciting the name of Gods. Once a wandering religious man called Guru Gorakhnath, a Jogi in local language happened to pass by the well and heard Puran’s voice from the well. With the help of his disciples he took him out and made him hid disciple and showered many spiritual powers on him. Thus Puran became a Bhagat-a religious person. He established him near the well. People began to flock to him for blessings.
In the meanwhile through these years, Loona did not get any children. She was very unhappy. She and the king decided to seek the blessings of Bhagat. Puran Bhagat blessed her with a son. But as the king and queen did not recognise him, he asked Loona that she might have done some terrible deed in the past due to which she had not got any children. She told the truth before the king and Puran revealed that he was the victim.
King was very repentant and beseeched the Bhagat to come home and take over the reins of Kingdom but he refused and told them that the child to be born shall be the next king.
The well in which he was thrown still exists. People even now come to seek blessings for having sons from all over Pakistan. It is called “Puran de Khuee” meaning the well of Puran.
The story has been told and retold for years. The famous Punjabi poet, Shiv Kumar, rewrote the epic by giving it a different interpretation. He says that what was the fault of Loona in desiring for Puran who was almost only slightly younger than her. Her only fault was to be born into a poor family which could not resist the king’s demands. Her parents thought it to be an honour that they have established relations with the mightiest person. But nobody saw into the heart of young Loona. She hardly knew Puran who as per the social norms of the time considered her his mother. She did not saw it that way. She surrendered to her suppressed feelings. Shiv’s argument is that the women was like slave and had no say in any matter. He attempted to bring the women at par with the men.

“The Emperor’s Writings” by Professor Dirk Collier

Professor Dirk Collier the Belgian writer has written a fictional autobiography of Emperor Akbar, laced with facts. It is titled “The Emperor’s Writings”. Why it is fictional is that Akbar was illiterate. Written in the form of a letter to his Jahangir, it chronicles the life and times of the Mughal emperor. The author talks about being inspired by Akbar, the emperor’s 5,000 wives and more!

Here are some conclusions from the book.

Akbar was not a very romantic man like other Great Mughal emperors including Jahangir and Shah Jahan. While he did sleep with countless many women, particularly when he was still young, it seems he had no real “love of his life”. It is however well documented that his cousin Salima Sultana, whom he married after Bairam Khan‘s death, was clearly his favorite, in spite of the fact that she did not bear him any children. She was highly influential, probably much more than Akbar’s mother was, and Akbar greatly valued her opinion. She appears to have been intelligent, exceptionally well-read, and an accomplished poetess.

It is reported that no less than 5,000 women lived in Akbar’s palace, of whom, chroniclers hasten to reassure us only about 300 (still a highly impressive number) were his wives or concubines. It should be remembered, though, that these unions were, above all, politically inspired: many a local ruler was more than eager to send one of his daughters to the imperial palace and thus establish a family link between himself and the emperor.

It is also well documented, that the ladies in the imperial palace were quite influential and active in society. Many mosques, madrasas and other monuments of the Mughal era have in fact been commissioned by women! It is also reported that the princess of Amber (Akbar’s first Hindu wife and Jahangir’s mother) was a highly astute business woman, who ran an active international trade in spices, silk, etc., and thus amassed a private fortune which dwarfed the treasury of many a European king.

From the reviews in the different newspapers and magazines, it appears that it is very well written and full of facts culled from authentic sources. Collier has spent 7 years researching for the book.

The book is also available on online bookstores like Amazon India, Flipkart, Homeshop18 etc

Dulla Bhatti: More than a Robinhood

Dulla Bhatti is a famous folklore hero of Punjab. Punjab means here the erstwhile Punjab of undivided India. His ballad called Dulle Di Vaar (Ballad of Dulla) is very popular in the rural area of Punjab. It extols the deeds of his extraordinary bravery in the form of songs. I still remember in our younger days, the ballad sung by folk singer Kuldeep Manak was a craze in whole of Punjab.

He is seen like Robinhood, who was savior of the poor and helpless, rescuer of the young girls abducted by Mogul soldiers during their raids. Dulla was a contemporary of Great Akbar. His real name was Rai Abdullah Khan Bhatti, was a famous legendary muslim Rajput who refused to be subdued by the Governors of Akbar in Punjab.

The bravery of the Rajputs is well known world over. His father was hanged by Akbar to instill a fear in the hearts of the Punjabi Rajputs who refused to submit to his rule. At that time Dulla was not born and somehow the truth of his father’s death was not told to him by his mother till he became a handsome and dashing youth. He vowed to take revenge from Akbar and for a time Akbar’s son Salim who had revolted against his father on the disapproval of his infatuation with Anarkali, sided with Dulla and even incited him. Dulla began by looting the horses from a trader who worked for Akbar. Then he looted the valuables sent by Akbar to Middle East and distributed them to the poor and needy people.  Such was the level of resistance put up by Rai Abdullah Khan that Akbar had to shift his capital from Delhi to Lahore for nearly 20 years, making the Lahore Fort his headquarters, and renovating its basic structure.

Akbar wanted to capture Dulla dead or alive and brought to his capital. He dispatched two of his able generals; Meerza Ala-ud-din and Meerza Zia-ud-din with the command of over 12000 troops. The army reached Dullah’s village but could not find him. Due to his Robin Hood personality, Dullah was popular among masses. Akbar had ordered the generals to bring Dullah, dead or alive and failing that, bring the women of his house to the court. In obedience of the orders, the army secured the women and started marching towards Lahore.

When word reached Dullah, he charged back. The two sides fought with courage but the Moghul army was soon on the run. The generals begged Ladhi, mother of Dulla, for their life, who then ordered Dullah to forgive them. After the shameful defeat, the Moghuls invited him for talks and deceitfully arrested him. Upholding tradition, he was kept for a while at the Shahi Qila and was hanged in front of Kotwali, a police station now marks the place. His funeral was administered by the Sufi poet, Shah Hussain.

Ashoka-The Great King

Ashoka-also written as Asoka and Akbar are considered as great and noble kings of the world. Ashoka belonged to the great Mauryan lineage of kings begun by his equally great grandfather Chandragupta Maurya. He succeeded to the throne in 269 B.C.

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Although according to Buddhist sources, Ashoka is said to have begun as a tyrant and usurped the crown by killing all his possible rivals, these may not be facts but speculations.

After the war of Kalinga in the eighth year of his rule there was a complete change of heart. In his own words he accepted that 100000 men were killed and 150000 were taken captive. This he found very pitiful and grievous and resolved to follow the path of peaceful persuasions. Even the forest tribes which troubled the people living on the fringes were asked to reform themselves.

Thus keynote of Ashoka’s reforms was humanity in internal administration and abandonment of aggressive war. He leaned towards Buddhism and supported the doctrine of Ahimsa. He banned animal sacrifices, regulated slaughter of animals for food and substituted pilgrimages in place of hunting expedition. Thus he was responsible for the growth of vegetarianism in India.

Among his prominent social services was improvement in the communication by planting fruit and shade bearing trees along the paths and making rest-houses for the weary travellers.

He preached his thoughts by engraving them on the pillars which studded the important places in his empire. He saw to it that the language used in the edicts was the local language so that people could read and understand them. He addressed his subjects by beginning with Priyadarshi- beloved of the Gods and his subjects as his sons.

He spread Buddhism to the lands outside India. In Ceylon his brother Mahendra spread the Buddhism. Indeed he was a great king who towers above the other kings of his times. But near his end, he began to loose the firm grip on the reins of power. He died in 232 B.C. and empire began to fall apart. The governors who were controllers of the provinces declared themselves independent. Also it is almost a logical conclusion that if you consider a king as the greatest, his successors and predecessors must pale in his comparison.

Thus Ashoka was by any means no worldly dreamer but every inch a king, a little naive, often rather self-righteous and pompous but at the same time indefatigable, strong-willed and imperious.

Thus it is with good reason that the Indian Republic has adopted for the device of its state seal the capital of an Ashokan column.