Juicy, sweet and a perfect messy handful, mangoes have been cultivated by humans for thousands of years. They have been a culinary staple in everything from spicy condiments to sweet pastries to alcoholic beverages, and their importance doesn’t stop there; the mango is a highly symbolic fruit, particularly in India, where it plays a role in numerous religious and cultural traditions.
In India, the mango is known as the “king of fruits” and over a thousand different varieties are grown throughout the sub-continent. Ambika, the mother goddess of Jainism, is closely associated with mangoes and is usually depicted either holding the fruit or sitting beneath a mango tree. Mango blossoms are used in the worship of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of the arts. Saraswati's son, the elephant-headed god Ganesh, is sometimes portrayed holding a fully ripe mango, which represents a state of attainable perfection.
In Tamil Nadu, a state in India’s southeast corner, the mango is a particularly auspicious fruit. In fact, the word “mango” is believed to come from the Tamil word ‘manga’. Along with the banana and the jackfruit, the mango is one of the Mukkani, or three royal fruits, in traditional Tamil culture. Mango leaves are also used to decorate the doors of houses for events such as weddings and important religious festivals.
The mango has become also a symbol in its own right: it is the national fruit of India and the national tree of Bangladesh; stylized mango images appear in traditional Indian textile and embroidery patterns; and in India today the mango harvest signals a time of intense joy and competitive shopping for the best of the fruit. Different types of mangoes have also become identified with certain areas of the country; in the region around Mumbai, for example, the Alphonso reigns supreme, while in the capital of New Delhi this type of mango is phased out in favor of more local varieties.
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Religious symbolism is the use of symbols, including archetypes, acts, artwork, events, or natural phenomena, by a religion. Religions view religious texts, rituals, and works of art as symbols of co… read more »