According to an ancient story, God himself weighed the intense Indian summer against a heap of mangoes, and found the balance even. Hotter the summer, sweeter the mangoes. Hence, as the summer heat settles, the Indian population celebrates the season with the many delicious varieties of this fruit.
Even though mangoes first appeared in Indian literature around 700 BCE in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as ‘Amra’, the origins of the mango can be traced back to 60 million years old fossils found in the Damalgiri hills of Meghalaya. References to mangoes have been found in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist literature as sacred fruit and tree. For instance, in Buddhism, it is widely believed that Buddha performed several miracles while meditating under a mango tree and also made a white mango tree appear out of thin air, as a result of which, mangoes are considered to symbolize knowledge and peace in Buddhism. In Jainism, Goddess Ambika, the harbinger of wealth, holds a bunch of mangoes in her hands representing fertility.
Goddess Ambika seated on a lion under a mango tree branch with her son in left - Royal Ontario Museum - 8th-9th century
In the textbooks of Ayurveda, mangoes are seen as an effective tool in treating various disorders which isn’t surprising due to their richness in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and minerals like copper, potassium, and magnesium. The high vitamin A content helps in hair growth and creates an oily substance known as sebum, which moisturizes the hair. The high potassium content reduces the risks of high blood pressure and keeps the arteries working reducing the risks of heart diseases. Mango leaves which are often discarded are commonly used in several ayurvedic medicines. They contain vitamins C, B, and A and are also rich in various other nutrients. These leaves also have powerful antioxidant properties as they have a high content of flavonoids and phenols. These antioxidant and antimicrobial properties of mango leaves can be used to treat various ailments effectively. Due to its indelible relationship with the practices and traditions of the continent, mangoes are considered extremely sacred and holy because of which, it was declared as the national fruit of India in 1950 and the mango tree was declared the national tree of Bangladesh in 2010.
Due to their immense popularity amongst the Indian populace, mangoes have found their way into Indian cuisine ranging from pickles and chutneys serving as perfect condiments to curries and dals and even in several desserts.
In Gujarat, mango pickle is prepared by mixing the achar masala generously with grated raw mango so the residue turns red and is coated completely alongside peeled small onions; oil is poured into the container to submerge the ingredients before leaving it to rest. The Punjabi version of the mango pickle, which is commonly eaten with aloo parathas, is made simply by adding turmeric, chili powder, fennel, dry fenugreek, and raw mango to a jar, and then filling it up with mustard oil.
In Bengal, Aamer chutney, which is a sweet and tangy raw mango chutney, is commonly eaten as a dessert or with dal. It is prepared by cooking mango slices in a pan with red chillies, mustard seeds, sugar, salt and turmeric. The mangoes will cook till they turn soft and mushy and then 'panch phoron' is added before serving. Aam Kasundi is another famous Bengali sauce made of mangoes eaten alongside fish fry, or hot rice in general. It is prepared by grinding mustard seeds, salt, chopped mangoes, chillies, turmeric, salt and sugar into a pulp. This mixture is then added to a jar alongside oil and is then shaken before being covered with a muslin cloth.
Aam Panna is a famous drink used for beating the summer heat. It is made by blending mango pulp, jaggery, mint, salt and roasted jeera powder in a mixer which is then added to a glass of cold water and thoroughly stirred before serving. Baflo is another great drink that is extremely famous in Gujarat which is prepared by simply blending mango pulp, water, salt and chaat masala in a blender.
In Tamil Nadu, a special type of sambar made from mangoes known as 'mambazham sambar' is commonly eaten during summers. It is prepared by soaking the tamarind in one cup of water, then squeezing it into the water and putting the water aside in a vessel. Add the mango pieces, salt, a pinch of turmeric, and hing to the vessel before boiling it for 15-20min. Dry roast the coriander, toor dal, methi, pepper, grated coconut, and chillies. Then grind coarsely with a little water. Add the boiled toor dal to the ground mixture and then mix this with the mango-tamarind water.
Prawn curry with raw mango is a famous Goan dish prepared by first soaking the tamarind in one cup of water, then squeezing it into the water and putting the water aside in a vessel. Clean the prawns, rub a little salt on them and keep them aside for half an hour. Heat the oil, and fry the sliced onion and green chillies until they are light brown. Add the ground masala paste and fry well. Add two cups of water and add the slices of raw mango and tamarind water. Let the slices cook. Add prawns and cook for about seven to eight minutes.
Parsi Pora with raw mango is a famous dish eaten by the Parsi community of India. It is a simple omelet prepared by mixing eggs, onions, coriander leaves, green chillies, a pinch of turmeric, salt, chopped raw mango, and ginger-garlic paste in a bowl. Then add this mixture to a heated frying pan for 5-6 minutes and serve with warm chapatis.
Mango kulfi is a favorite in Punjabi households prepared by boiling milk until it is reduced to half. Take two sliced Safeda mangoes, reduce them to a pulp and add an equal amount of sugar, alongside a few strands of saffron. Whisk the contents with cooled milk and condensed milk and add vanilla essence. Then pour the mixture into molds and place in the freezer until the kulfi hardens. Once it hardens, remove the kulfi from the molds and serve.
Due to their versatility and many varieties, mangoes are one of the most sought-after fruits globally with around 20 million tonnes of them being consumed every year. From being used in Indian traditions and dishes to being a common snack enjoyed by the locals on a hot summer day, mangoes have not only become an inseparable part of Indian culture but have also spread across the world thanks especially to the Portuguese, earning the title of “King of fruits”.