The favorite of Nawabs, the gem of Awadhi orchards. Guess who?
Volume: 13, No: 06 ; June-2019
“Those who say, the colour of summer is not yellow, are those who failed to see Mango” – Zephyr Limns
We all drool over the king of fruits that is – Mango and yearn for the Mango season to arrive. As soon as the summer sets in, Lucknowites, in particular, eagerly await the mangoes to flood the fruit markets. And their excitement is completely natural owing to the wide variety of mangoes that are produced in the Awadh region.
Moreover, the eternal connection between the Nawabs of Awadh and the mangoes make this region rightfully the mango paradise. Mangoes were not only a favorite fruit of the nawabs but also much-guarded possession of their orchards. And the vestiges of these orchards still flourish in many regions of Awadh especially in Malihabad and Kakori, the area that is full of mango orchards.
As per historical account, trade of Dussehri – a famous mango variety, first began in Awadh. It is said that the Pathans who settled here towards the end of the Mughal era, developed the Dussehri belt of Lucknow in Malihabad & Kakori.
As historian from Lucknow, Yogesh Pravin says, “Each time Mirza Ghalib had to go to Kolkata from Delhi to collect his pension, he insisted to go via Lucknow so that he could eat Dussehri and other mangoes.” At present, Dussehri is not only a variety of mango but a brand itself!
For the royal families here, mangoes were also a significant means to socialise by holding mango parties and relishing & naming the new variety of mangoes.
Malihabad – the mango capital
“Mujhse poochho, tumhein khabar kya hai, Aam ke aage neyshakar kya hai” said Mirza Ghalib
(Ask me, as you do not know, a mango is far luscious than sugarcane.) And how very true; this couplet is so relevant when one tries the mango variety that originates in this region. Malihabad is often termed as the mango capital of India.
Poet Mirza Ghalib’s love for mangoes was legendary that he composed a whole narrative poem or masnavi called Dar Sifat-e-Ambaah (On the Attributes of Mangoes) in the honour of India’s king of fruit, Mango. And to give you the best experience of this king of fruits, exists a dusty village or a hamlet just about 40 km from Lucknow.
There is something very supercilious about Malihabad, the mango capital of the country. Within its 20 sq km radius grows about 700 varieties of mangoes that fetch roughly Rs 1.5 Billion each mango season. Here everyone is born with a definite occupation – owning an orchard ! Ask anyone in this quaint village what makes it so special and you are told – “Mitti ka masla hai” (it is all about the soil). If you are a mango lover to a fault, it is bliss to be here in this lush & luscious mango capital of India.
During the times of Nawabs, Malihabad used to be a repository of 1300 odd mango varieties. Although the count of varieties might have waned, but you would be surprised by the number of mango related stories and discussions you will find at every turn of this mango paradise.
Malihabad is also home to families who have been growing the fruit for more than 200 years. The reason can be attributed to the fact that Nawabs patronised mango farming in Awadh and mango was their favourate summer fruit. And not only did the nawabs guard the secrets to grow best mangoes, but they were very proud of their orchards and highly rewarded experimentation and development of new varieties of mangoes.
British too fancied this fruit and often during summers, lavish mango parties were thrown in the orchards to entertain European guests of Nawabs. Mango parties also became a status symbol of the Nawabs and each family wanted to host bigger and better.
The remnants of that era can still be found in the mango orchards of Malihabad and nearby areas. These mango producing families also have amazing tales to tell about their legendary ancestors and orchards. Also, it is believed that the first ever mango orchard here was planted by a group of Afridi Pathans who came from Khyber Pass in Afghanistan and settled in Malihabad.
During summer, the orchards here become lush and alive with mangoes growing all around. The orchard owners, guards and other village people are often seen resting in and around orchards sitting or lying over a charpai (cot). Thus, it becomes the best time to visit this treasure trove of mangoes and allows you to indulge in the sweet mango affair.
If you happen to be in Lucknow during summer (June-July), you would find mangoes stalled abundantly in every market.
Some say that there are about a thousand varieties of mangoes produced in Malihabad. Although there is no accuracy to the count, but every variety has its own narrative. Even today, if you set out to explore there are dozens of folktales on Malihabad’s mango history.
However, among the varieties produced here, Dussehri is the most awaited and loved one. Lucknowi Dussehri is held in high regard among mango lovers across the country.
The first ever Dussehri Mango tree in the world still exists here, located in a small village near Kakori. Originated in the18th century, the Dussehri mango is famous for its irresistible sweet fragrance and taste. No wonder, it is called the king of mangoes.
Another old variety of Malihabadi mango is Johri Safeda which has an interesting story behind its name. Fakir Mohammad Khan, the great Urdu poet Josh Malihabadi’s great grandfather Goya had sent mangoes to the then Nawab of Awadh, Naseeruddin Haider. The Nawab was so impressed by the taste that he gave pearls to Khan in return. The mango was thus named, Johari Safeda (meaning pearls of the jeweller).
Mango – one fruit, many shapes, many tastes but all on one tree
If 300 different mango varieties can coexist peacefully in one tree, then why can’t we? Said once the Padam Shree Kalim Ullah Khan also called, the India’s mango man. His 14-acre orchard in Malihabad in Uttar Pradesh is unlike any other and what earned him the title of Mango Man is this unique mango tree planted by him which produces 300 unique varieties of mangoes.
Khan himself hails from Malihabad which is widely known for Dusseri mangoes. But Khan didn’t stop at it. He started cultivating the tree in 1987 and it’s been over 30 years – but the tree is just growing lush every day, often leaving the visitors in awe to wonder about the bold imagination and scientific genius applied by this great man.
It’s a tree like no other bearing mangoes of vivid shapes, sizes and aroma. However, Kaleem Ullah Khan recognises every single variety from the way it looks and smells. He is also fond of naming the mangoes he grows on the tree just as they are his own children. Some he has named fondly after his family members — the heart shaped variety Asl-ul-Muqarrar, the bright red Husn-e-Ara, the Khas-ul-Khas and so on. While there are some he has named after some famous Indian personalities like the legendary cricketer – Sachin Tendulkar and Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai, also after prominent political leaders like – the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
From his orchard, mangoes are boxed in crates and sold across the country and even exported to the Gulf countries. Kaleem Ullah Khan’s magical tree has placed a small hamlet of Malihabad on a very high pedestal internationally. His genius in grafting and curating mangoes is beyond compare and so is Kaleem Ullah’s love and passion for his mangoes.
Tornos has curated special Mango Tours in the month of June & July that introduces guests to different varieties of Malihabad Mangoes. Guests enjoy interaction and even a mango lased Awadhi lunch. A special meeting with the Great Mango Man, Padam Shree Kalim Ullah Khan can also be arranged here on special requests.