Friday, December 26, 2014

Hunting for a bride, finding a chutney powder

My dad was her eldest son and my grandmother's favourite child. So naturally, the hunt for a bride for him was a long drawn out affair which lasted a long time and my paternal grandmother, with an attendant retinue of aunts, scoured pretty much the length and breadth of Karnataka for the "perfect girl".

The final choice  - my mother -  was found in Dakshin Karnataka, but in one of the ladki-dekhna trips somewhere in North Karnataka, my daadi-n-aunts were served a delicious chutney powder. It was such a hit that my granny asked for the recipe and as soon as she got home, the recipe was tested and tried out on her favourite son, who immediately added it to his favourite foods.

When my dad did finally get married, consignments of this chutney 'podi' (along with other goodies) were regularly dispatched to the newly wedded couple. (My grandmother obviously didn't think very highly of her 17-year old daughter-in-law's culinary skills.) One day, the parcels stopped coming (some family dispute which is too silly and too boring to be narrated here) and my mother, aided by my dad and their collective taste buds, figured the recipe out  for herself and ever since, "kuttindi" has been a much looked-forward-to guest among the rather large clutch of pickles and chutneys on the Rajaiah dining table...

Now, the most unusual thing about this chutney powder is the main ingredient - a strange, little black seed which looks like a fatter version of  a sunflower or  marigold seed. Which is not surprising because it is a member of the Asteraceae familya massive clan of at least 23,000 species that include the marigold, sunflower, various daisies, chrysanthemumsdahlias and zinnias

The strange little seed's botanical name is Guizotia Abyssinica. (One of its popular English name is niger seed, obviously a reference to its gorgeous black colour.)
If you haven't figured already, the second part of that name - Abyssinica - makes it a native of Africa; Ethiopia to be precise. (Abyssinia is what Ethiopia was once called.)  But like many other foods that came to India from Africa in ancient trade routes - ragi (finger millet) and watermelon being two such examples - this little seed took up residence here thousands of years ago.,
But in Kannada, we call it uchellu. Now 'ellu' is the Kannada name for sesame seed or til. (The Hindi name - kalatil - and the Tamil name - payellu - have a similar reference to sesame.) And I'm thinking this is so for two reasons. 
First, the niger seed is an oil seed - like sesame. No surprise then that this seed provides about 50% to 60% of  the edible oil needs of the country of its origin - Ethopia. And like many oil seeds, it's a good source of minerals and its oil is rich in unsaturated fats, some minerals (iron, magnesium, calcium etc, and vitamins (B1, E). 
Second, it has a lovely, nutty taste, also is a characteristic of many oil seeds, like the sesame seed.
So, "uchellu" seems to be a an apt handle.
And now that I have introduced you to this lovely little oilseed, how does it transform into that fragrant, delicious chutney powder called "kuttindi"?
Well, here goes....

You will need
4 tablespoons of niger seed (uchellu)
 tablespoons ccorianderseeds
 tablespoons roasted gram
4-5 dried red chili (adjust to taste)
1/4 medium sized copra (dried coconut) cut into small pieces
2-3  tablespoons grated jaggery (adjust to taste)
Tamarind ball, size of a small marble
Salt to taste

Roast the 'uchellu' and coriander seeds separately in a thick-bottomed pan or tava. Both will give off a toasted aroma and coriander seeds will turn a darker brown. Warm the red chilies so they become crisp (you can even char them a little.) Take the tava/pan off  the heat and as it begins to cool, add the copra pieces n the roasted gram - the pan shouldn't be very hot.
Let all the ingredients cool off.
Now add the copra. red chilies, tamarind and roasted gram to the mixie and grind till you get a coarse powder. Now add the rest of the ingredients and grind till you get a finer powder, but not very fine.

That's all - and there it is - the gorgeous, multi-tasking "kuttindi".

 You can mix it with ghee, even curd and accompany it  with dosas, idlis and rotis (akki roti or rice roti is a particularly favourite partner!), You  can even  add it to rice with a spot of ghee. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why is it that we start every auspicious occasion, very often even every day, by lighting a lamp?

Today is Deepavali. And in memory of the triumph of good over evil, and that no matter how deep and impenetrable the darkness may seem, light will always triumph, millions of lamps will be lit all over the land. Twinkling, sparkling, shimmering as if armies of stars have descended from skies to reprimand the darkness for having the nerve to think that it would ever win.
Many of these lights will come on at the mere flick of a switch, many others will be in colours that our Lord Rama, in whose glory these lamps are being lit, would never have seen and many more will wink and blink and perform visual calisthenics that is only possible because of modern technology.
But, as we delight at these marvels of electricity, let us take a few moments to revisit the humble little oil lamp or the diya.
Why is it that we start every auspicious occasion, very often even every day, by lighting a lamp? Why is it that generations of us have grown up watching the glow of the aarti lamps light up the face of our ishta devi or devata? Why is it that in the puja thali filled with other offerings like flowers and incense, a diya is always there? Why is it that there is something sacred in the lighting of a lamp, that it is almost always an act of worship, an offering, even a supplication to something divine?
Well, I guess it’s because the connection with light is primordial. With the sun and fire, one without which life as we know on this planet is not possible, the other which constitutes the 5 elements of which all matter is made of. And beyond that, all knowledge is impossible without light – the light to read a book by, the light that light ups the computer screen, the light inside a microscope, the light to take a photograph. Therefore light symbolizes our journey from ignorance into enlightenment and therefore, light represents Divinity itself.  Swami Chinmayanda said, “The Lord is the "Knowledge Principle" (chaitanya) who is the source, the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge. Hence light is worshiped as the Lord himself. Hence we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth Why not light a bulb or tube light? That too would remove darkness. But the traditional oil lamp has a further spiritual significance. The oil or ghee in the lamp symbolizes our vaasanas or negative tendencies and the wick, the ego. When lit by spiritual knowledge, the vaasanas get slowly exhausted and the ego too finally perishes. The flame of a lamp always burns upwards. Similarly we should acquire such knowledge as to take us towards higher ideals. Whilst lighting the lamp we thus pray: 
Deepajyothi parabrahma
Deepa sarva tamopahaha
Deepena saadhyate saram
Sandhyaa deepo namostute

I prostrate to the dawn/dusk lamp; whose light is the Knowledge Principle (the Supreme Lord), which removes the darkness of ignorance and by which all can be achieved in life.”
The enlightening and purifying symbolism of the flame of a lamp or a candle spills across almost all religions and cultures and always it means the same thing. The triumph of the spirit, the reaffirmation of the divine, the expelling of darkness, inside and around us.
So, light a lamp. Not just today, because it is Deepavali, but everyday. Find a small, quiet, clean niche in your home – in the puja room or the bedroom. And there, everyday as the sun rises or as dusk falls, light a diya. And as flames quivers into life and stretches up in a namaskara, imagine its golden glow spreading inside you, dispelling the darkness sorrow and pain and negativity. Feel its light purifying the space inside and outside you. And then imagine it to be the little shining beacon that will lovingly, gently beckon into and bless your home and your heart all that is good, beautiful and divine…
Happy Diwali.

The Jewish festival of Lights
Hanukkah is a Jewish festival also called "The Festival of Lights". It marks the victory of reclaiming of the ancient and holy Jewish temple in Jerusalem by the Jews from the oppressive control of the Greek King Antiochus IV. As the story goes, once the temple came back into Jewish hands, it had to be deconsecrated. But there was only enough sacramental oil in temple to burn for just one day. Yet when the lamps were lit, they burned miraculously for 8 days, the time that was needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil. Hence the festival is celebrated for 8 days.
So, in the memory of this, the Jews light candles in a special candle stand called a "menorah" or a "hanukkiah" which holds 9 nine candles. The central candle, called the "shamash", is lit every night and used to light the other candles. Along with the shamash, one more candle is lit on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah so that on the eighth night, all 9 candles are burning.  Traditionally, foods fried in oil are eaten during Hanukkah.
The Light of Buddha
In the Buddhist temples of Sri Lanka, the oil lamp plays an important role, both as the illuminated guardian on the inner sanctum of the temple and as an offering during worship. Like the dolosmahe-pahana or the twelve-month lamp, thus named because it is kept burning every day of the year, similar to the nanda deepa in many Hindu temples.
On full-moon days, which are considered auspicious for temple visits, Sri Lankan Buddhists, traditionally offerings coconut oil for the temple lamps and flowers. The lighting of lamps is also an offering made when redeeming a vow (baraya) or during the ritual (pahan-puja) to counter evil planetary influences. The coconut oil used is specially prepared for the purpose and the wicks are made from a clean, white, fresh cloth. Sometimes an entire village will get together for a mass lamp offering, where for example 84,000 lamps will be lit of each the 84,000 elements of the Dhamma (dhammakkhandha) of the Buddha's Teaching.
This beautiful tradition began when King Dutugemunu (2nd century B.C.), considered the first Singhalese hero, lit 1000 lamps with ghee in twelve sacred places in Anuradhapura. (205 kms from Colombo, a city built around a cutting from the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment, Anuradhapura is the first capital of Sri Lanka. King Vasabha (1st century A.D.) similarly lit one thousand oil lamps. This ritual, over time, became so popular that it soon was the way that Sri Lankan Buddhists celebrated the annual Vesak festival commemorating the life of the Buddha. In other words, the Buddhist festival of lights.
The Advent Candles
“And the Lord said let there be light”.
Advent is the month before Christmas when Christians prepare for the birth of Jesus Christ. The term comes from the Latin word "adventus", which means coming or arrival. So, on each of the 4 Sundays before Christmas, 4 candles, usually on a wreath of green leaves, are lit, to symbolize that the birth of “the Light of The World” as Christ is also known. Some say that each of the candles represents different aspects of Christ’s birth - the first candle is for hope or expectation
 of Christ's coming; the second, for Bethlehem; the third, for the shepherds; the fourth, for the angels.
The Advent candles are traditionally 3 purple ones and 1 pink. The purple symbolizes royalty, for Christ the King. In earlier Christian times, when Advent was also a period of introspection like Lent, the purple stood for penance.
The pink candle, lighted on the third Sunday, signifies joy.  Many Christians light a fifth larger white candle, placed in the center of the wreath, on Christmas Eve.
The Jain Diwali
The Jains celebrate Diwali as the day when Lord Mahaviar, the 24th Tirtankhara attained Nirvana. On the day before Diwali, early in the morning, Lord Mahavir commenced his last sermon, which lasted until the night of Diwali. At the midnight, in the presence of 18 kings from various parts of North India who were in the audience gathered for the sermon, he left his earthly body. The kings decided that to remind the world of the light that Lord Mahavir had thrown on the path to enlightenment and knowledge, they would light lamps. A tradition that continues to this day….
Did you know…..
·         That the Sanskrit word “taila” for oil comes from “til” (sesame, gingelly) and that til is an ancient symbol of goodness and purity, which is probably why til oil is used so much in pooja lamps?
·         That the oldest clay lamp found is about 4,200 years old.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

About Turning Mysore into Paris - An Open Letter to Mr. Pratap Simha, MP Mysore constituency.

Dear Mr. Pratap Simha
The front page of yesterday eveninger, City Today said that you are all set to turn Mysore into Paris.
Now while it is my dearest wish to sip champagne atop the Eifel Tower while wearing a Chanel original - and what could be better than if I could do that in Namma Mysooru - I reigned in my untrammeled ecstasy to take a few minutes to read beyond the headline and try to understand what exactly you had in mind.
First of all, according to you, this Paris-of-India idea is Mr. Narendra Modi’s pre-election promise. Lovely, really, though I think what he said was slightly different. But, I won’t quibble – after all, who can say ‘no’ to Paris.
Secondly, on carefully perusing your “development agenda” as stated by the newspaper, I noticed that apart from a “think tank” on ideas to develop Mysore, the rest of it is all to do with improving connectivity between Mysore to Bangalore.  And of course having tour guides printed in all Indian and foreign languages, which I hope will include Serbo-Croatian and Swahili because there is no saying from where tourists will flock to = Paris of India.
But, in your pre-election and post election tours of namma soon-to-be-Paris-of-India, you may have noticed that we have a few pressing problems. And I am only bringing them to your noticenot because we locals are inconvenienced – how could I be so selfish
But  because  the tourists are likely to notice.
 Like this one.

Thing is, of late, we Mysoreans have begun to  produce  a lot of garbage. Side effects of development, I’m told
About 400 tonnes of it a day, give or take a few tonnes. And it seems that we – (by ‘we’, I mean we the public as well as the Mysore City Corporation) haven’t yet figured out what to do with all this garbage.  To understand  what I mean, just walk around the city and you will see  piles of garbage lying around much like the one in the picture. Now, I haven’t been to Paris but I’m guessing that mounds of putrid, stinking garbage do not figure as one of its attractions. And yes, I know you plan to  light up Chamundi Hill and the Mysore Palace every evening but I don’t think that will really distract the tourists from the garbage, if you get my drift.

Or this one.

Now, apart from garbage, we Mysoreans have decided that we need a lot of vehicles. On the roads and off them.  (In fact, in many residential areas, there is more parked vehicle than road.) So, vehicular traffic is currently  estimated at about 5 lakh vehicles which makes it about 1 vehicle for every 2 Mysoreans. And every third shop, after a chemist and a bakery is a two-wheeler showroom.
So what‘s the problem?
Er, a small one really. In order to drives all those vehicles, we need roads.  And our roads are….well, let’s just say that we are moving to a situations where there may be more potholes than vehicles. Or Mysoreans. And it isn't as if our ever diligent civic authorities don’t repair the roads. But for some strange, till-now-not-understood-by-science-and-technology, the potholes pop up again. And again.  And again. Bigger and deeper and more pot-holer than the last ones.  And the reason why this might come in the way of our hurtling towards becoming the Paris-of-India is that tourists travel on roads too.
 From their hotels to Chamundi Hill to see all those pretty lights.
And then to Mysore Palace to see more pretty lights. And so on and so forth.
Let me say for the record that it isn’t as if the aforementioned diligent civic authorities are trying. As an example, they planned to convert  5-kilometer stretch of road along which the annual Dussera procession travels into a “Raja Marga”. I’m not sure what exactly that means, but  from the name, it sounds like something really grand. And a tourist-magnet.
The foundation stone for this Raja Marga was laid in August 2010. We are now in 2014 and it is unlikely that the Raja Marga will be completed for this Dussera…er, I mean tourist season.
Then there are overflowing drains, resulting in a delicious monsoon special cocktail of sewage water being mixed drinking water. Talking of drinking water, when it doesn't rain, many parts of the city have no water, drinking or of any other kind.
Did I mention unplanned, uncontrolled urban sprawl? .
Or shrinking lung space?
Or deforestation of Chamundi Hill that you plan to so prettily light up.
It’s a long list. Some of which the tourists won’t notice. (And after all, not every part of Paris is touristy, is it.) But some of it they will. And this may come in the way of namma Mysooru becoming namma Paris-in-India.
So, dear Mr. Pratap Simha. This cri de couer is not on behalf f us Mysoreans. (See, I’m already speaking French.)
It is not because once Mysore was not just one of the most beautiful but one f the most progressive cities.
It is not because we Mysoreans deserve better
But only because the tourists must come. And Mysore must become the Paris of India
Do something.
Yours truly
Ratna Rajaiah

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hasi Aunty and her Sindhi kadi

Hasi Malkani
For the world, she was my landlady and I was her paying guest, living for many years in one of the two little but very clean and airy rooms of her flat in Khar, Mumbai.
For me, though, she was my Hasi Aunty. (And if truth be told, we shared the flat, she allowing me access to every part of it with typical generosity)
Meaning laughter.
But if you looked at her life, there was very little that Hasi Aunty to laugh about.
The second eldest of a large brood of 4 sisters and 2 brothers, her mother died when she was just a teenager.
And within a short while of her mother's death, her father decided to marry again - a young girl; one of Hasi Aunty's friends, to be precise.
When she got over the shock, the young Hasi was very clear about her father's decision. If he married the girl, she told him, she'd leave home with her entire brood of brothers and sisters - the youngest, a boy was just two years old. (I'm not too sure, but I think one sister - the one older than her - was married by then.)
But her father was adamant about what he wanted to do.
And Hasi about her decision. So, she left home with her brood - of till now siblings, but from now, her children.
Obviously there was little or no money (she later got a job as a postal clerk) and home was a tiny one room kitchen house in an LIG colony. But, in those very limited resources, she somehow managed to get her all her "children" educated and on their feet and her two sisters married - all before the elder of her two brothers started working. He did very well for himself in the real estate business and by the time I started staying with Hasi Aunty, he was a rich builder with a bungalow in Juhu and had bought his beloved Didi this little flat.
She must have been about 56 years old then. Se never married and was still working in the Mumbai GPO along with her best friend of some 30 years, Sheila. She already had a bad back which necessitated that she wear one of those ghastly back support belts all the time. She also had Type 2 diabetes.
But none of that in anyway came in the way of the full, busy life that she led.
She travelled, had a small  group of good friends (other than Sheila) who gathered twice a week to play cards and eat and generally have a blast. She often chipped in as a supervisor in PUC and SSLC examinations.
And most of all, she laughed. And smiled. And laughed some more. And smiled even more. Always true to her name - Hasi.
You'd think life would give her a break after the really bum deal it dealt her when she was young.
Not so.
 Her youngest brother, her baby whom she reared from age 2, died of a heart attack at age 40. Her eldest sister had a miserable marriage and a younger one got cancer. Then the older brother fell sick and she had to see him go too.Finally, she fell out with best friend Sheila and stopped seeing her completely. (They used to be so inseparable that they were known as a "couple" in office!)
But through all of that and in all the years that I have known her, (I continued to visit her long after I stopped being her paying guest) I have never seen her lose faith in life. Or in her Bhagwan to whom I'm sure she asked nothing but never failed to light a lamp twice a day, once before she started her day and once when the day was done, before she settled down for bit of telly and dinner.
And I have never known her not to smile. Or laugh.
She was, in every sense of the word, truly Hasi.
And of all the things that I learnt from this amazing lady, I learnt to make this delicious kadi, apparently a popular dish of the Sindhi community to which Hasi Aunty belonged.
So, I share the recipe in the hope that when you make it, some of my beloved Hasi Aunty's indomitable spirit - and "hasi' - will seep into your life...

Hasi Aunty's Sindhi Kadi
(To serve about 4)

 1/2 kabuli chana (chole) washed and soaked overnight
About 2 cups mixed vegetables – , washed and cut into about ½ inch pieces
 (I use green beans, carrots, gavar beans, potato and peas. But you can change/add as per your taste. Hasi Aunty used to add bhendi but this may give a slight ‘slimy’ quality to the kadi if you add too many...)
Juice from tamarind the size of a marble (adjust to taste)
2 small tomatoes 
15-20 curry leaves
¾ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder ((adjust to taste)
2-3 green chillies, chopped large 
(You can skip one chili or the other, depending on your preference and how hot you like your food)
3/4 inch piece of ginger chopped into thin slices or slivers
Salt to taste

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

For kadi base
1-2 tablespoons of oil
to 1   ½ heaped  tablespoons besan flour (you have to adjust this depending on how thick you want the
kadi. Thicker means more besan)
¾ teaspoon jeera
½ teaspoon methi seeds (optional)
A pinch or two of hing (asafoetida) 

Heat the oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add the jeera. When it starts to brown n swell, add the methi seeds and hing. As they start to brown, slowly sprinkle in the besan flour and brown it to a thick, even, crumbly paste. 
Now this is a tricky part, so make sure that
1. You keep the heat very low
2. You are stirring constantly as you add the besan
3. You add add the besan slowly, otherwise you will get a lumpy, unevenly burnt mess.
When the besan flour has turned a nice golden brown, smooth paste, remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Now, while stirring all the time, slowly add water till the besan turns into a smooth sauce. 

Once again, this is tricky and so make sure
1. You have allowed the besan to cool a little, otherwise when the water hits it, it will turn in to hot steam and scald you
2. You add the water very slowly and in a steady stream AND you stir all the time. Not doing either will result in a lumpy mess.

When you have a smooth, golden sauce, thin it with water to that desired thickness. 
Then, reserving about half the curry leaves, add the rest along with all the other ingredients except the tamarind juice and fresh coriander.
Pressure cook - two whistles. You can also cook in a open pot till the veggies are just done.

Now add the tamarind juice and half the fresh coriander and simmer for about 10 minutes on a very low heat.
The thing about this kadi is that it tastes better the  more you simmer. (In fact, it tastes even better the next day!) Of course, you have to make sure the veggies don't disintegrate or turn into a pish-pash!
Before serving, add the rest of the fresh coriander and serve with plain, steamed Basmati rice

I love you, Hasi Aunty and I will never forget you...

Monday, January 06, 2014

Precious Parijata

I suppose many people think that some things are really not of very much use. A few days ago, I read a news item that said that 11 subjects had been dropped from a state school curriculum because there weren’t enough students interested in studying them. Among them were Drawing and Painting, Indian Music and Western Music. It’s one way of looking at things, I guess. For example, how will knowing to play the piano or recognizing Raag Khamaj or drawing a crayon sun shakily rising up between some un-mountain-looking mountains help to make your child a better software engineer or a doctor? Has a poem ever been known to increase the GDP or a song made the Sensex soar? And therefore, what is the point of a tree that doesn’t seem to do much but stand around and scatter the ground with a carpet of white-orange fragrance every morning? No fruit, not much in terms of shade either because it’s often not even a full fledged tree. And what silly flowers, many would say! They bloom at night when we are all asleep and in the morning, they have all fallen to the ground.
Which is why the West calls this tree Nyctanthes Arbortristis. Meaning the night-flowering tree of sorrow  (or sadness) because by the time it’s morning, the tree has shed all those flowers like so many cream-and-orange tears. And there’s nothing much you can do with these flowers anyway (sell, wear in your hair, fill a vase with, make into a bouquet to send to your boss/girlfriend/MLA) because they are so fragile that in a matter of hours, they shrivel up into tiny bits of nothingness. Here, in India where this tree probably originated, we call it the parijata. (English – night jasmine, coral jasmine, Indian coral; Hindi – harsinghar, shefalika; Kannada –  parijata; Bengali – shiuli; Malayalam - pavizhammalli, parijat kam; Marathi - khurasli, parijatak; Oriya - ganga shiuli; Tamil - manjhapu, pavazhamalligai; Telugu - pagadamalle, parijatamu)
 According to the Agni Purana, one of the first things that the Sagar Manthan or the churning of the ocean brought up – after Surabhi the cow and Varuni – was the parijata tree. And then, it went to live in Devaloka as one of the 5 divine Kalpavrksas or wish-granting trees that have the power of granting any wish. I haven’t really tried sitting near a parijata tree and wishing for anything but I thought to myself that it’s not for nothing that it was given this pride of place in the heavenly gardens. So, maybe there’s more to this tree than just pretty little flowers….
And there was…
Ayurveda, homeopathy and Unani are all unanimous about the many medicinal properties of the parijata. Almost every part of the tree has been used to treat a wide variety of ailments from rheumatism to dandruff to piles to skin diseases like ringworm. But it’s the leaves that seem to be most commonly used, decoctions of it used by all three systems of medicine in the treatment of all types of fever, especially the persistent type that occurs daily. Ayurveda also uses the leaves to treat sciatica, liver related ailments, arthritis, as a tranquilizer, laxative, purgative and to expel intestinal worms, especially in children.
But what about the flowers, you ask. Ah yes, the flowers. First, indulge me a small eulogy. For me, one of the most wonderful ways of waking up each morning is to rush outside and harvest the parijata flowers. I say “harvest” and not “pluck” because there’s not much to pluck since many are already on the ground, lying there so fragile and defenseless. (According to the Hindu scriptures, flowers found fallen on the ground should not be offered in puja, with two exceptions – the parijata and the bakula!) And the ones still left on tree just need the gentlest tug – anything harder and they despair and disintegrate and leave you feeling the cruelest ogre in the world. And as I gather them one by one, the softest, most exquisite fragrance surrounds me and fills me up every time I breathe – a faint but undeniable presence, just like the flowers. In a few hours, they will be gone, but don’t underestimate these little blooms. Frail and ephemeral as they are, they do more than just fill the morning air with their wonderful scent, packing in a lot into their short lives! The Unani system of medicine uses them as a stomach medicine, to treat flatulence and even as a hair tonic!  In Ayurveda, their essential oil is used in treatments. Traditional folk medicine in Central India uses them to treat gout and adds them to the daily bathwater, not just for the fragrance but also because traditional healers believe that they  “keep the skin smooth and free from all troubles.”
The parijata flower also has non-medicinal uses, befitting one so beautiful and fragrant. Its tiny, tubular orange stalks have been traditionally used to make a saffron-coloured fabric dye that according to one version was once used to dye the delicate Tussore silks of Bengal! Even to this day, in many parts of Bengal, the sari used to adorn the Goddess Saraswati during the ritual puja is still dyed with this dye! “The parijat is an integral component of home gardens in Chhattisgarh. It is a common belief among the natives that the presence of this herb in home gardens keeps the family tension free.” (Pankak Oudhia in And rightly so! How can anyone have angry, quarrelsome thoughts after sniffing the fragrance of the parijata gently wafting in with the early morning air?
But even if the parijata was the most “useless” tree in the world, I will still have at least one in my garden. Because picking the parijata flowers teaches you the lesson of gentleness and patience. That some of the most beautiful things in the world are fragile. Like children and love. Grab greedily or handle roughly and the damage is irrevocable.  Touch gently and with gratitude and your life will blessed with their fragrance and with a sense of wonderment. Also, never underestimate Nature or indeed the nature of things. Just because we can’t see the “purpose” or the “use” of a thing, does not mean that it does not have one. So the flautist or the cartoonist in your child may not get him that all-important “percentage” in his PUC or admission into that fancy college. But imagine a world without Lata Mangeshkar or the Beatles or R. K. Laxman’s the Common Man! Or without the parijata.
Source material : Pankak Oudhia’s article in , Central Council For Research In Homoeopathy (, Indian Journal of pharmacology and other websites.

Krishna’s Tree

There are many versions of the story of Lord Krishna and the parijata tree. Here’s my favourite:
Ever since she saw the parijata, Satyabhama had been fascinated by it. When Lord Krishna killed the demon and went to heaven to return the ear-rings of the Lord Indra’s mother, Aditi, which had been stolen by the demon, Satyabhama accompanied him and sighted the parijata tree and insisted on taking it back with her and Lord Indra had no choice but to part with it. The tree was planted in Dwarka in Satyabhama’s palace. But Rukmini was jealous that Krishna had so favoured her “rival”, Satyabhama. So, Lord Krishna arranged the parijata tree in such a way that it would remain in Satybhama’s palace grounds, but the flowers would fall in Rukmini’s garden!
Maya Tiwari, Vedic monk and world-renowned practitioner and teacher of Ayurveda in her book, “Ayurveda: The Secrets of Healing”, lists seven sacred daily actions which “when observed, bring complete peace to the body, mind and spirit”. Of these seven, “he fifth action is to play, to revel in the universe’s beauty, to appreciate the flowers, streams, light and love cast within nature……..”


The colour of ancient wisdom

“In the ancient times Buddhist monks and Hindu ascetics dyed their robes a rich fiery color to show that they had renounced the world. This dye was produced from the very same orange centers of the parijat. When the flowers would fall to the ground, people would collect them and separate the orange tube from the white petals and dry them. Once they were dried they could be used for making this saffron-colored dye. At one time an attempt was made to commercialize this dye as it gave a fine color to cotton and silk but due to the labor intensive nature of its collection and the fact that a good means of fixing it were not obtained the concept was abandoned. Perhaps in the future the study of this dye will be resumed and a cottage industry developed where its beautiful color could be extracted.” Plants of India: by Christopher McMahon