When Basanti’s Mausi reminds the former to get mangoes for *achaar* in the film Sholay in 1975, she spoke for all the women before her and after.
Mangoes have come to symbolize the coming of summer. It is the season of romance and abundance when everything is in bloom and the air is rich with the joyful singing of koels. Kalidasa’s verses were replete with references of Mango and the Indian Cuckoo.
The months of March and April which coincides with the start of the mango season shapes New Year celebrations in many parts of India. Raw, unripe mangoes are cooked along with jaggery and seasoned with neem flowers, a couple of red chillies, a pinch of salt and thus the philosophy of life is taught through this dish.
This little mood lifter, available in more varieties than one can count, has always enjoyed a good rapport with chroniclers and explorers. The English word ‘mango’ is said to have its roots in the Indian mangga (Mangifera indica). It was brought to East Asia around 500-400 BCE, ferried to the Philippines in the 15th century and, in another hundred years or so, to Africa and Brazil. Hendrik van Rheede, a Dutch commander of the Malabar region, talks about the mango in his 1678 book Hortus Malabaricus. The legendary Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang, too, is said to have carried back tales about the uniqueness of the fruit. Numerous Indian folk tales have been spun around the mango. A royal courtesan in the kingdom of Vaishali was named Amrapali because she was found under a mango tree as a baby.
The king among the fruits finds itself a place in literature, mythology, as a motif for saris, a design for Jewel, a refreshing drink to beat the heat, lip-smacking pickles and many other culinary experiments made out of this exotic fruit. The Britishers even termed it ‘bathroom fruit’ after witnessing its native eating style!
The 5th Century saint, Karaikkal Ammaiyar is supposedly to have received the mango fruit as a boon from Lord Shiva for her devotion and the festival of Mangani is celebrated every year in Karaikkal (Tamil Nadu). In Bhagavata Purana, it is mentioned that mango tree is present on Mount Mandara.
The Ekambareswar Temple at Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu means God of one Mango tree. The story goes that Goddess Parvati was doing penance under the mango tree which is within the premises of the temple. The tree is sacred and unique in the fact that the four branches of the tree represent the four Vedas and it is said that the tree bears four different kinds of mangoes in four different seasons.
According to Ayurveda, mango cures all the three doshas; Vata, Pittha and Kapha. Auyurveda believes in perfect balance of the energy of movement, metabolism and lubrication. Any imbalance would cause physical distress. The unripe fruit has cooling properties and in combination with other food, it aids digestion.
While much has been written about the side effects of mango bingeing — the accumulation of high calories, for example — Ayurveda seems to think that the raw fruit cools the body and, when eaten in combination with other fruits, aids digestion.
I discovered the raw mango’s cooling properties through a refreshing drink of aam panna in Lucknow. It was an eye-opener for someone who’d only had green mangoes in pickles until then. As the beverage filtered down my parched throat, I felt rejuvenated.
You can catch the recipe for Aam Panna along with a slightly different version in the link given below: