Does your mouth water at just hearing the word “Imli”, “Hunasehannu” or “Puli”? Isn’t tamarind rice delicious? Tamarind is a favourite of the sour loving people in South Asia, parts of Africa and Mexico. The tamarind tree is found in many areas where its leaves, seeds and bark are useful to cure many health ailments. It cures cold, purifies blood, generates enzymes, kills germs, and reduces heart diseases.
In Sanskrit texts, tamarind is referred to as the tintrini tree. The shade of the tamarind tree is sacred to Krishna in mythology. It is said that Krishna sat under a tamarind tree when he was separated from Radha and experienced an intense epiphany with her spirit permeating him.
The evergreen tree with its mass of feathery foliage has strong and supple branches and is highly wind-resistant. It’s leaflets fold at night and believed to be the haunt of ghosts at this time. Sleeping underneath a tamarind tree is considered to be foolishness. This belief has possibly gained currency because the acidic nature of the tree makes the soil around it barren of other plants.
There are many tales regarding the small leaves and the spirits residing in the tamarind tree. At the time when demons and Gods walked the earth, Bhamasura, the chief of the demon army challenged Mahadeo or Shiva to a duel. The winner would become the ruler of the earth. The fight wounded Bhamasura severely. He escaped and hid in a Tamarind tree that had giant leaves. Mahadeo looked everywhere until he heard some rustling in the tamarind tree. He opened his third eye at once and turned each leaf into small pieces and then he could see Bhamasura. He then killed him. They say that, since then the demons have never returned to the earth and the leaves of Tamarind stay small.
Another tale comes from the Ramayana at the time when Rama was banished to the forest for fourteen years. He along with Sita and Lakshmana made their house under a large leaved Tamarind tree, but one day Rama mused over their comfortable accommodation and felt unhappy. He said, “My father has sent us to this forest to see how well we cope with hardship. I’m sure he never meant for us to shelter ourselves from all that the gods send us.” Before he could even finish his sentence Lakshmana drew out a series of bows into the tree. The large leaves split into small leaves and, so they have remained to this day.
There are many stories expressing the wisdom of the tamarind tree. Its sheer size is a wonder for many. India is the largest manufacturer of tamarind with extensive tamarind orchards producing large quantities of pulp predominantly found in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
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