Mango – A wish-granting tree (Part 1)

Getting behind the trees physical and healing properties and understanding of practical qualities is the key to comprehend their unique character.

An esoteric study of trees in folklore and mythology is essential to understand them more extensively and clearly in order to obtain exclusive benefits from them.

By esoteric study, I propose inherently gravitating towards the intellectual side of the trees and appreciating their uniqueness and individuality to such a great extent that it becomes easier to discover more about various cultural aspects of these trees in our folklore and mythology.

To observe trees in their grandest form is always a pleasure and contentment in itself. I should have compiled these anecdotes a decade ago but due to professional loyalties and commitments, I have to abandon that dearest practice of learning about trees a long time ago as an enthusiast.

Today the topic is about idealizing the benefits of a heavenly tree that is very close to the heart of people where it has been growing for centuries. There is no doubt about that the history of the mango tree is as delicious as the taste of mangoes.

Mango – A wish-granting tree

Let’s know about the mythical meaning of the mango trees in folklore and mythology by first emphasizing upon their geographical distribution and significance.

The accumulated global knowledge and information on the majestic mango trees have a tendency to fill many volumes. Even a single story about the mango tree has a propensity to fill many papers. Even a single fact about the mango tree requires comprehensive research and analysis.

So, the sole purpose of this article is to summarize different characteristics of the mango trees that made them so attractive and beneficial along with their various historical meanings and findings in ancient scripts and writings.

Since the Ancient time, mango tree has a great cultural, socio-economic and religious significance in Indo-Pak Subcontinent.

It is seen as a symbol of love and people believe that the mango tree can fulfil our wishes.

The origin of Mango trees

A brief history of mango trees

1. The mango tree is native to South Asian countries and has become one of the most essential fruit crops in the world with the passage of time.

2. The domestication and cultivation of mango trees in Pakistan and India are as old as 4,000 to 6000 years.

This time period in history is known as the Holocene epoch or the age of man. What does that mean?

It was that time when old civilisations were developing such as Indus Valley Civilisation in its Pre Harrapan phase. Also known as an early food-producing era.

3. Chronological records and palaeobotanical science provided interesting information on tree fossils and gave sufficient proof about its origin in the Indo-Burma-Malay region.

Indo is the term used as relating to India. It is mostly used when referring to ancient India which now combines many neighbouring countries especially Pakistan and Bangladesh which was once considered as the part of India.

Old map of India featuring Indo Burma Malay Region

4. Based on the detailed history of the origin of mango trees, it is determined that the native home of common mango (Mangifera indica) was known as Eastern India, Indo-China, Assam and Burma.

5. Scientific fossil evidence indicates that the mango tree made its first appearance even earlier 25 to 30 million years

6. It was Mukherjee who suggested that Mangifera indica first appeared during the Quaternary period.

The Quaternary Period is divided into two epochs: the Pleistocene(2.588 million years ago to 11.7 thousand years ago) and the Holocene (11.7 thousand years ago to today).

7. History is mostly guessing and the rest of everything is pure discrimination. Hence, it’s proven from the above data that this celebrated fruit tree has been known to the inhabitants of Indo Pak subcontinent since very early times.

8. The mango tree is discreetly associated with the history of agriculture in Pakistan and one of the earliest known proof of mango trees dated back to Indus Valley Civilization which flourished from around 3000-1500 BCE. It was the time when sugar was not yet known and inhabitants of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa used natural sweetening methods that mainly came from honey, dates and fruits such as Jamun and mango.

Mango, date palm, banana, guava, and orange are typical fruit-bearing trees cultivated in the Indus valley.

The botanical name of the mango tree

9. Its botanical name is Mangifera indica L. and is the most important species of the genus Mangifera, which produces the most delicious fruit called the mango.

The lustrous journey of mangoes from Aam- kay to manga

11. The mango tree is lucky to have its origin in South Asian countries because of its vast and splendid history but do you know in its native countries, this fruit tree is not known as mango but as aamra or aam. There is no doubt about that the original name of the mango tree is quite different from the one that is spoken now.

12.The earliest known name given to the mango tree was Amra as cited in Dharmashastra and mango fruit is known in those ancient times as Amra-Phalam.

13. This tree is mentioned in old Sanskrit as bearing good fruits. These domestic trees were planted in and near villages by the rulers of those ancient empires.

14.The mango tree was also present at the time of Indus valley civilization and used as an alternative of sugar.

15. Starting from the Urdu speaking regions, it is widely acknowledged as Aam ka darakht (the mango tree).

16. In Northern and Southern regions of Punjab (Pakistan) where Urdu and Punjabi are the well-spoken languages, the tree is called aam ka darakht or mango fruit is equivalent to aam ka phal.

17. The tree then migrated to the other side of the border on the southern plains of India where predominantly Hindi, Punjabi and Tamil languages further altered the names of mango in the form of aam, ambha, Amra, respectively.

18. In Hindi language, it is also known as aam and fruit is aam-phal.

19. In the Tamil language, the kaay word is used instead of phal. So, with the diversity in spoken languages, aam phal is referred to as aam kaay.

20. Aam-kaay gradually transformed into man-kaay or maam-kaay owing to the differences in pronunciation and because of use of different accents.

21. Man-kaay is a Dravidian word which is also understood as one of the oldest known languages of South Asia. Man means mango tree and kaay word is used for fruit.

22. Now comes the Malayalam language which plays a substantial role in reshaping the name of aam to its modern form.

The Malayali people further changed this name mamkay or mangai to Maanga.

23.The mangoes were undoubtedly introduced to the modern world by the Portuguese on their arrival to Kerala, India.

24. The mango fruit was not known to Europeans until the arrival of the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama in 1498 in Calicut, a port town in the Malabar coast of Kerala, India.

25. It was the untiring efforts of Portuguese who then adopted the Malayalam word maanga in Portuguese and introduced it to the rest of the world. How? Now here comes an interesting anecdote that I have heard about a long time ago.

26. The story goes like that one of the Portuguese who landed in Calicut happened to write to his British friend and boasted that they have found a new fruit in India which is known as manga. It was those golden days when the letter was written by hand and the typewriter was not invented at that time. The British friend out of curiosity read the name as mango, not by mistake at all. Most of the Portuguese words ended in “o” such as avocado, potato, tomato, tobacco and so on. Therefore, this is how the word mango entered the English dictionary.

27. The French variation of this name is mangue.

28. The European countries were introduced to this fruit during their spice trade with Indo Pak subcontinent in the 15th and 16th centuries.

29. It was the crucial stage in the history of mangoes in regard to the popularity of these trees. How?

It was in the Mughal era that the Portuguese are said to introduce vegetative propagation methods in India for the first time to clone superior mono-embryonic trees in the 15th Century.

Who is the first person to bring the mango to the attention of the ancient world?

30. Hsüan-Tsang appears to be the first person to bring the mango to the notice of people outside India.

Megasthenes and Hsiun-Tsang, the earliest writer-travellers to ancient India, wrote about how the ancient Indian kings, notably the Mauryas, planted mango trees along roadsides and highways as a symbol of prosperity.

They also wrote about the incredible taste of the fruit, bringing the mango to the notice of people outside India. 

The custom of bestowing titles

31. In ancient India, there was a custom of the ruling class to bestow titles on prominent people by using names of mango varieties.

Thank you for reading.