Of Bananas and Lore

KJ Staff
KJ Staff

How It Began!!

Since times unmemorable, the banana plant has been cultivated all around the world; mainly in South East Asia, especially in India. From there, it spread to the world through Arab conquerors, Caribbean missionaries and the unyielding explorers of the early ages. Banana is a best friend to farmers across the world and a fulfilling, healthy treat for the rich and poor, alike. Nutritious and affordable, with almost all parts of the plant is being useful.

More to Bananas than Just Bananas!!!

Banana plants can be fully utilized for various uses.  Its stem is edible, healthy and rich in fibres. The fibres are used as natural threads for crafts, to tie floral garlands and mixed with cotton to make beautiful garments. The berry banana is rich in nutrition and comes in its own biodegradable wrap, which can be eaten raw or cooked as a dessert or a dish. The leaves are used as natural platters and material for packing food. Not to mention the flower, which itself is rich in anti-oxidants, that make a perfect fit in the diet. And if given a deeper look in the soil, the banana rhizomes (underground lateral stems) have medicinal properties. In addition to all of this, it bears fruit year-round which makes it the perfect crop to cultivate, becoming a farmer's favourite.

Our Farmers against the World!!!

Banana is grown commercially in about 120 countries. The farmers who shed their blood and sweat in the magnificent land of India, are the largest producers of the banana in the world's, with a production of 14.2 million tonnes, in a year. Farmers in Maharashtra top the list of the highest producers within the country followed by the farmers in Tamil Nadu.

Banana, Ghost and Lore!!!

Throughout Asia and the world, one will come across many beliefs and folklore, regarding luck or superstitions. Even the bountiful banana could not escape from them.

Bananas take third place for the most important fruit crop in India. In India, especially South India, the banana and its plant is considered to bring good luck and happiness. During marriages, one will be able to find the entrance to bridegrooms homes and the entrance to the place of the wedding flanked on either side by banana plants. As a pre-wedding ritual, the plantain plant is worshipped and pooja is carried out wherein the bride touches the banana berry and prays for eternal happiness and prosperity, for which the banana is symbolised. Furthermore, for the Kalasa pooja, the banana leaves are laid, rise spread on them and the Kalasa instilled on it. The South Indian Hindus never compromise on their belief or the banana plant on auspicious days, for it is an eternal symbol of fertility, prosperity and good luck.

In Thai-lore, there exists a young, female ghost known as Nang Tani or Nang Mai, which essentially means Lady of the Wood who haunts the wild banana plants. She is said to blend in with the plant and come out, hovering just above the ground, during full moon nights. The villagers in Thailand believe Nang Tani to be a benevolent spirit, who only harms men if have wronged women. It is believed that it is bad luck to cut the plants in which she resides, as it triggers a series of misfortune.

In addition to this, there is folklore in the Philippines of stone charms that fall from banana hearts (fruits) which rewards the user and then a curse follows. Then there are sailors and seafarers who used to believe that carrying bananas onboard a ship brings bad luck and the ship won't carry or catch fishes. Some folks believe that anyone who discards a banana peel carelessly will die a painful death, but to be fair, this belief hold and real for anyone who has ever had the misfortune of slipping on a banana peel.

Luck, ghosts or superstitions, none can hide the magnificence of the banana or hide its immense usefulness. It indeed is a bountiful and exquisite plant. Truly, a splendour in the amazing land of India.

Vani Vinod
Volunteer in Bhava Social ventures and Psychology student

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