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  Home » Tamarind Tree-Uses and Mythology

Tamarind Tree-Uses and Mythology


The Indian Tamarind Tree (Tamarindus Indica) is known as “Imli” in Hindi. It is a member of the Leguminosae family. It grows throughout India and can live to be 200 years or even more. The wod is strong and it has tiny leaves that are sour in taste. Flowers appear in May and the seeds are encased in sweet-sour tasting pulp covered with a scaly rind. Leaves, flowers, wood, fruity pulp and seeds are all useful and the tree is a veritable Godsend to India.

The new tender leaves and flowers have cooling effect and are ground into a paste and eaten or made into a sorbet for a cooling effect in summer, besides having anthelmintic and antibilious properties. The pulp of the ripe fruit is used too add a sour touch too curries and as a cooling and refreshing drink in summer. The seeds have medicinal as well as industrial uses. The leaves also yield a yellow dye to colour fabrics. The wood is strong and is used to make wheels for carts and for furniture. Tamarind pulp is carminative and digestive. In Hindu lore the tree symbolizes the wife of Brahma, the creator. The pulp is widely used in Indian cuisines. It is also useful in cases of poisoning, vomiting, fevers and dysentery. Poultice made from the bark heals open sores. Paste of powdered seeds is applied on boils and in chronic diarrhea and dysentery. Decoction of the leaf is useful in jaundice. Leaf paste helps reduce swelling and pain on inflamed joints.

Folklore, legend, mythology
A tree as old and useful has its fair share of legends and mythological stories. One popular lore concerns Rama. While in exile Rama, Sita and Laxman were camping under the tree and Sita was cooking food. In those days the Tamarind tree had large leaves but still could not keep raindrops from disturbing Sita and putting out the fire. In anger Rama ordered Laxman to shoot an arrow of protext to Lord Indra, the rain god. The arrow pierced the leaves and they were divided into tiny parts that exist to this day. There is another story as to why the leaves are divided. Orissa tribal legend states that Bhima had a plantain tree w ith large leaves and Rama planted the Tamarind tree with large leaves. In a jealous fit of rage Bhima sent a parrot to break up the tamarind leaves into tiny parts and so they are to this day.

Yet another legend associates the Tamarind tree with Shiv, Parvati and their daughter Usha. Usha was so busy playing with Lord Ganesha, their son that she ignored the presence of Lord Shiv who became enraged and cut of his son, Lord Ganesha’s head. The frightened Usha hid in a barrel of salt where she was discovered by Parvati and accused of neglecting Lord Ganesha and cursed to be born on Earth as the daughter of Banasura. Usha begged for forgiveness but the curse could not be revoked. Parvati granted a boon that in her honor, instead of taking salt during the month of Chaitra, people would drink the juice of the fruit of the Tamarind tree and so it came to be.

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