The word ‘summer’ means so many things to so many people across the globe. Whether you relate it to holidays, beaches, ice-creams or blockbuster movies, summers usually usher in a wave of happiness and positivity into the lives of people. Indians in particular, relate summers to something very unique to the beautiful subcontinent – mangos.
Mango or ‘phalon ka raja’ (King of Fruits), as it is often referred to in Hindi, is more than just a delectable fruit for Indians. It is something that’s intricately woven into the waft and weave of the cultural fabric of the country. In fact, the influence of this fruit can also be seen across the subcontinent in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh as well.
Come summer there is always a sense of delectable anticipation in the air in India. The bazaars are filled with the heady, sweet aroma of mangos being sold by the crate as people from all walks of life line up to partake in the festivities. Buying and eating mangos with your family is a tradition that is followed nationwide every summer. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find one Indian who does not reminisce about eating mangos with his or her family as a child.
But this love affair with the grand fruit hasn’t just erupted in recent years. It has always been an integral part of India’s culture. We find references of the mango in ancient Indian scriptures that are as old as the Vedas wherein it is known to be a heavenly fruit, followed by mentions in epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata also. Vedic Cupid, Kamadeva, is said to possess five arrows, one of which is a mango blossom that is believed to be a potent missile. Mango, as deciphered from these sacred texts, symbolizes love and fertility. During most Hindu religious rites and rituals, mango leaves, which symbolize life, are used in the belief that they will bring prosperity and good fortune. A fruit so dear to the Indians, mangos and mango blossoms continued to be a subject of poetry in the works of Sanskrit and Urdu influential poets such as Kalidasa (Shakuntala), Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, and also the legendary Bengali author Rabindranath Tagore (Amer Monjori). Other than Hindu mythology, mango also maintains spiritual significance in Jain and Buddhist sects. Jain Goddess Ambika is depicted sitting under a mango tree, giving the fruit religious recognition. Similarly, Buddha is said to have created a large mango tree from the seed at a place called Shrivasti, hence signifying mango.
Moving on from religious to cultural assimilation of mango, as summer approaches India, myriad dishes revolving around their main hero mango, which have been dormant for the rest of the year, come alive. Indians being connoisseurs of all varieties of food get creative with seasonal fruits and vegetables; thus, all you will find during an Indian summer is the vibrancy of yellow coloured mango food products. During these few months, mangos are consumed in every state and form, from milkshakes to frozen desserts and are even preserved as frozen cubes or mango pickles.
Interestingly, the mango also plays a significant role in the economy of the country. India accounts for 52% of the world mango production. Cultivators profit from sale across the country as well as by exporting tons to countries like USA, Germany, Australia and many more. Mango products as commodity are also sold and exported. Apart from this, mango gives business to corporate giants and advertisers, as they take the opportunity to conduct seasonal marketing. Mango beverage companies have given fizzy drinks a tough competition in the recent years, which could either be attributed to the ever-increasing love for mangos or increase in health concerns and consciousness. Regardless of the reason, companies have been making good money off mangos and the fact that they are not perennial, implying that when one has access to mangos throughout the year, they needn’t wait for summer any more. Just as with food, Indians have also proved to be creative with advertisements.
Although numerous countries around the world savour the fruit; nobody celebrates it quite the way India does. Calling it in the King Of Fruits in the Indian subcontinent is definitely no exaggeration. It is impossible for Indians to imagine a summer without mangos, and for the rest of the world to imagine India without mangos.