Mangoes have been consumed for nearly as long as man invented agriculture. Mango trees could be found throughout much of ancient Asia and Oceania and were beloved for their beautiful flowers, sweet and sticky fruit, and the solid wood that could be harvested. It should then come as no surprise that so many of the myths that surround the mango focus on love, marriage, and – of course – sex.
For example, take Kama, a sort of Cupid-figure in Vedic mythology, but way more interesting. (He is also known as Kamadeva, or as Māra in Hindu mythology. However, he goes by many other names such as Kandarpa, Manmatha, and Madana. These names translate to “inflamer of even the gods,” “churner of hearts,” and “intoxicating,” respectively; helping to demonstrate just how potent his powers are.) Much like Cupid, Kama inspires loves in both humans and gods through the use of arrows. However, Kama’s arrows are tipped with mango flowers. The alluring aroma of the floral arrow fills any target with insatiable lust and love. Similarly, in the Ramayana, Rama becomes sexually aroused after encountering a mango blossom and its “maddening scent.”
One of the most famous Hindu rituals involving mangoes is the marriage of mango trees. Some believe that mangoes can only be consumed after the trees have been consecrated in matrimony. These marriages protect the fruit, those who eat the fruit, and supposedly ensure a bountiful harvest.
Generally, mango trees may be married to other mango trees, but sometimes they may be married to other trees such as fig or tamarind. In these cases the mango tree is considered the bridegroom, and the other tree the bride.
Of course, these days many Hindu couples simply skip marrying the trees and prefer to hold marriages for people in mango groves with the belief that the trees will bless the couple with happy union filled with many unions, while the trees are blessed with a good crop. In some cases, people are even married to mango trees.
In Hindu mythology, the mango also granted knowledge to the god, Ganesha. A cruel sage, Narada, came to Shiva and Parvati with the intent to use the special mango to create a rift in their marriage. However, the two refused as they could not share the mango, which, if shared, would devalue its powers.
The couple’s two sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya, came upon it and began to fight for it instead. Shiva declared that there would be a contest to see whoever could circle the world three times would win the mango. Kartikeya knew that Ganesha could not beat him in a fair race and quickly took off knowing the mango would be his. However, Ganesha, relying on cleverness rather than speed, told his parents that they were his entire would. He circled them three times and with that won the mango and devoured it before Kartikeya could even return.
This post has been sponsored by the National Mango Board. No compensation was received for this post. However, the author did get the opportunity to eat a few very tasty mangoes.