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An era of mangoes at Dilli Haat

I had an opportunity to visit the 25th Mango Festival in Delhi to enjoy the flavour of mangoes. Moreover, I was keen to have a glimpse of 500 varieties of mangoes on display and meet the growers from the states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat.
The organiser, Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation’s claim of showcasing a different theme and contour in their silver jubilee Mango festival attracted me to leisurely visit the event.

The festival also provided a vivid manifestation of various mango products exclusive of our age old tradition and skill of food processing. It was an opportunity to meet Aishvarya, Hema, Kareena, Priyanka and Noor Jahan at one place – names given to the different kind of mangoes. I noticed large crowds of people gathered in front of the stalls that sold aam panna, aam chats, aam concentrates, aam sherbets, aam pickles and various other products like candy, jam and murabba. Visitors were astonished to see the differently named variety.

As I kept myself involved in knowing more about the king of fruits, I noticed a person jumping from one stall to another to find out if he could get any ‘diet’ mango in the festival. Being a high diabetic, he looked tired and exhausted as his search yielded no results. His keenness to taste a variety of mango which may not affect his sugar level brought him to the festival. I offered him a glass of water and wanted to know more about the reasons of his frustration. Once I figured out his problem, I helped him find an expert in mango cultivation and a scientist to learn about a diet mango.
They made it clear that out of all varieties such as Langra, Chausa, Sinduri, Dashhari, Neelam, Alphonso and others, Totapuri and Safeda are less sweetened and can be termed as diet mangoes. The experts offered him a Totapuri mango to eat which brought some satisfaction on his face. The experts stated that these mangoes with added sweetners were being used in all market brands of mango drinks like Frooti, Maaza, Slice etc. Moreover Totapuri mangoes are the best to be eaten raw with salt and chilli powder.

The experts also went on to describe the medicinal value of mangoes. Almost all parts of the mango plant – the fruits, leaves, twigs, and bark – are used as medicine in one or the other way. The fibre present in mangoes prevents constipation and regulates cholesterol while antioxidants and enzymes in mangoes help in prevention of cancer and heart diseases. The tender mango ensures digestion and its powder is good in curing diarrhoea and diabetes. The juice of fresh leaves and dried flower powder controls chronic dysentery. Further, powdered mango kernel is used in tooth paste which helps in strengthening gums.

Also, the powder of skin of the unripe fruit cures sore throat and various gynaecological diseases whereas the ripe fruit is useful in taking care of kidney defects and anaemia. He added that Mango and Jamun juice taken in equal proportion is useful in controlling diabetes.The experts also provided
historical and other factual information on the historical and cultural significance of mangoes and explained how they are as an inseparable part of Indian cuisine. Mangoes were central to the destruction of Raavan’s Ashok Vatika by Hanuman.  Alexander described it as the ‘King of fruits’. Babur called it the fairest fruit of Hindustan. It is learnt that Akbar planted one lakh mango plants in Darbhanga. An Urdu poet of his times, Mirza Ghalib, was a great fan of the exotic mangoes. The mango tree is of religious significance in Hinduism. The leaves of mangoes are treated most auspicious to be used to decorate entrances of social and religious functions and the wood is used in havans and pujas.

The motif of the mango is an auspicious symbol that signifies fertility and are used in weddings. Mangoes originated in Southeast Asia thousands of years ago and gradually spread to the rest of world. Our country is the top producer of the fruit but India ranks 5th in terms of export. The highest consumers of Indian mangoes are in UAE, UK and Saudi Arabia and our country’s net exports had been around 51,600 MT worth Rs 226 crore. India grows more mangoes than all other fruits combined as more than 1,100 varieties of mangoes are grown and certain varieties can weigh from about six ounces to five pounds.
The author is a communication consultant
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