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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Thangka Paintings of Kashmir

Thangka are painted scrolls depicting Buddhist deities and their cosmic realities. Although they are installed in domestic spaces as a talisman against all evils,Thangka are intended as navigational aids for the spirit, guiding the viewer in his quest for spiritual realization. It is in their capacity to render the invisible visible through iconographic representation that serve as installations in monasteries and prayer halls or as displays during religious festivals at monasteries. Due to the potency that the paintings are believed to possess, the painter is required to undergo rigorous spiritual and artistic training and in many cases is a monastic initiate. The proportions and iconographic details of the deities follow canonical prescriptions and the artistic genius of the individual is considered subordinate to the religious responsibility of the painter. Thangka are not signed by the artist but are given to a lama who blesses them with sacred syllables. The finished painting is then taken to only the male tailors of the community who mount the work on a frame of heavy gyasser, silk brocade panels. They back the painting with plain cloth and secure the scroll at the top and the bottom to wooden rods, with brass or silver knots at each end. Below are some samples:

A craftsman stitching a thangka at the Handicraft Centre at Leh.

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Detail of a thangka painting a the Handicraft Centre.

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A thangka depicting the golden Prajnaparamita or Yum Chenmo who embodies Supreme Wisdom. She is identified by the book placed on the lotus near her head.

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A Green Tara thangka which shows 21 different manifestations of the goddess Tara. Depicted at the top of the thangka is Buddha Amitaha who denotes Boundless Light.

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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.

Gautam Buddha

The founder of Buddhism, the religion practiced by millions in this world. Hindu religion considers him as an avatar of Vishnu. Born to Mahamaya the chief wife of King Suddhodhana of Sakyas. His mother had a dream in which she was carried by demigods to divine lake called Anavatapa in Himalayas. She was bathed by heavenly guardians. A great white elephant holding a lotus in his trunk came and entered her side. The dream was interpreted by king’s astrologers that a child would be born to her who shall either become a great emperor or a great teacher. Other interpreted the dream that the boy will see four sad events and decide to renunciate the world’s wealth and luxuries and riches.

picture of a wallpainting in a Laotian temple,...
picture of a wallpainting in a Laotian temple, depicting the Bodhisattva Gautama (Buddha-to-be) undertaking extreme ascetic practices before his enlightenment. A god is overseeing his striving, and providing some spiritual protection. The five monks in the background are his future ‘five first disciples’, after Buddha attained Full Enlightenment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was born as Siddhartha and Gautam was his Gotra. When he was born he immediately stood up and walked 5 steps and declared that this is his last birth. King was worried and tried every means to keep the boy away from all the events that can pain the boy and make him take up the path of renunciation. He married his cousin Yashodhara in a contest showing great skills and strength.

As the destiny would have it, he happened to see the four events predicted by the astrologer. First was when he saw an aged man in last stages of infirmity and decrepitude- actually the God himself in the disguise. Siddhartha asked his charioteer Channa who was this repulsive man. Channa explained that everyone who is born has to pass to this state. Then he saw very sick man, then a dead man which was the last straw to break his resolve and last one was a ascetic in red robes with peaceful face.

He returned to his palace and was in great pains. Even the news of the birth of his son Rahul did not bring any peace to his mind. That night he left his home with Channa and his dear horse Kanthaka and on reaching the forest cut off his flowing hair and removed his jewelery and robes and gave it to Channa to give it all to his father. The horse died instantly on parting with his master.

Then for years he wandered here and there. He practiced great penances and tortured his body and was reduced to a skeleton. He realized that this is not leading him anywhere. He began begging for food and regained some strength. He sat under a Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya and a village girl Sujata gave him rice boiled in the milk. He partook them and bathed and for next 49 days sat in meditation and at the end truth was revealed to him and he became Buddha.

After initial reluctance he started spreading his peace message and made so many people his disciples and many Kings who could not appease the Brahmins as they did not belong to warrior caste patronized Buddha. He toured all the North India from one end to another. He also converted his father, son Rahul to Buddhism and allowed his mother and other women to become Buddhist nuns.

Buddha in Bodh Gaya, India.
Buddha in Bodh Gaya, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When his end was near, he knew it and told his followers not to continue with the process of new successor. As was his nature, he would beg one house and whatever they gave him never refused. He was given contaminated pork meat by Chunda the smith. He ate it and was attacked by dysentery. He moved to Kusinagara and left this world there.

Buddhist Caves at Karle

Karla, Karle or Karli as it is known by different names is a small village just beyond Lonavala on the Bombay Poona Road. The village is also known as Vihar Gaon. The village sits in the lap of hills and is famous for Buddhist caves. You have to walk a steep path leading to the caves and it leaves you panting and gasping for breath. But experience in the Caves just offsets this laborious walk.

There are many caves bigger and smaller ones. Biggest resembles inside of a church consisting of nave and side aisles. Under the semi-dome is dogaba or relic shrine which it seems was painted and decorated originally. Near this cave is the temple of Goddess of Koli people called Ekvira. Kolis are fishing community and the Bombay’s original name Mumbai owes it to their another  Goddess named Mumba Devi.

Karle cave acted as a monastery for Buddhists. It is the largest and most completely built caves belonging to Buddhists in India. Pillars of the nave are almost perpendicular and decorated. Many defects of the earlier chaytias had been removed. Now there are no monks. Tourists visits these caves and a ticket has to be bought for visiting. The place is very easily accessible. From Lonavala even auto rickshaws ply there. Lonavala is famous place along with its twin Khandala which is an hill station and looks very lovely during the rainy season. Many waterfalls appear during the rains and even from the distance they present a beautiful panorama. Lonavala is also very famous for Chikki, a sweet concoction in which the sugar or jaggery is the main ingredient and dry fruits like cashew, groundnuts, Kishmish are embedded in it. There are shops and shops selling this delicacy.

You must visit these places. The best season would be from January to March. It is not very cold over these places. But for seeing and enjoying the waterfalls one has to come in the rainy season which is long one in this area from July to October.

What is Peace?

It has been days I have felt peace and tranquility of mind. In fact it seems that I am living in a state oblivious of my state of mind. Neither do I ever feel that I am calm, neither do I feel very much excited.

What is peace after all? Some say it the state of mind when your body is in agreement with mind. There is no struggle between two of them. They seem to merge into one another. In the turbulent state of mind, mind it seems is detached from the body and hovering outside. Body and mind are completely out of sync.

My state of mind is not what Buddha advocated. The middle path. In the state advocated by Buddha, there is peace of mind. Mind is unaffected overly neither by moments of happiness nor by sorrows. It is most difficult to control the feeling  which comes when we are elated. We like the world to know that I am happy. When we are unhappy we seek the sympathizers.

What colour is the peace? Some say it is white while others say it is green. Pigeons are symbols of white colored peace while woods are the green colored peace. But pigeons though they don’t seem to harm others, supposed to be innocent and easy target for birds of prey, are very aggressive in the company of their ilk. They will fight with each other to scare away the weaker from the food. They seem to be deeply involved in the procreation. Their droppings are very corrosive and contain an enzyme. If they fall on the cars they can damage the paint of car if not removed timely. But the enzyme has been used in the tanneries to make the softest leather as the enzyme decomposes any flesh clinging on the hide. In fact, in Fez in Morocco, famous for the best leather in the world, droppings are in great demand.

Whatever the season, I always find the male pigeons dancing around the females wooing them for copulation. Woods as such seem to be beautiful from a distance. Enter into them and you will have to struggle to keep yourself safe from the animals harbored in them. There are woods which are so dense that even the sun rays find it difficult to penetrate.

Peace is in our minds, it comes from within. It is the way we perceive the world. Perceptions are different for different people.  Even the way we see around us depends upon whether we are happy or sad. During many moods, sometimes a thing which interested us greatly once holds no interest at a later time. Sometimes emotions seem to be cyclic in nature. We are interested in a particular thing, then lose interest in it and again some events happen which recreate the interest again.

You can be at peace with yourself, if you don’t have high desires and take the life as it comes.