I had often heard of Mahua flower in stories, in songs, and in folklore, but never had a chance to see the flower itself. And then I find myself in Chhattisgarh, right in the middle of the Mahua season. Every morning waking up to Mahua flowers scattered around with people, especially women and little girls picking them up in their baskets. With courtyards of houses full of Mahua flowers laid out in the sun for drying and hearing the nuggets about the flower.
Mahua season lasts for 2-3 months when the tall trees shed them during the wee hours. The pale yellow flowers lie face down on the ground making a yellow sheet on the ground. And in a jungle, they lie on the dried leaves creating a nice pattern on them. Men, women, and children come out of their homes and start filling their baskets with flowers. They take a lunch break and empty their baskets and then come back for the second round of picking. You can see people walking on the road with baskets full of flowers, with small girls carrying small baskets.
At night they burn the dry leaves around Mahua trees so that next morning the flowers can be picked up easily over the dark ash. And no flowers are lost amongst the leaves. At night we saw several fires lit around the trees creating a haunting scene in the pitch dark.
Mahua tree is considered sacred by the tribals, as almost all parts of it are useful for the humans. The bark has medicinal value, seeds make good fertilizer and oil can be used as fuel oil. A tree can give as much as 200 kgs of seeds in a year.
Its leaves are fed to the moth that produces the yarn for Tussar Silk.
Scientific name of Mahua is Mahua longifolia.
The economy of the Flower
In a day an adult can pick up to 5-6 kgs of the flowers that get reduced to half after drying. It is then sold in the market and fetches around Rs 30-40 per kg. Mahua flower is also used in home recipes both as an ingredient and as a herb. As an ingredient, this flower is added to the dishes for flavoring. So instead of boiled rice, you may get Mahua flavored boiled rice. It is used to make pickles. This flower is also fed to the cattle. As a herb, it is given to lactating mothers both human and cattle as it is said to help the body produce more milk.
The most important product from the flower though is, of course, the country liquor made out of it. After all, it is the same flower that can make even the elephants go ‘Mast’. For local tribes this is a part of their culture, a celebration cannot be complete without the Mahua drink. Usually, Gur is mixed with these dried flowers to make the drink. Now I know the name Mahua always has a haunting intoxication associated with it.
Recommend you to read the following Tourist Places in Chhattisgarh.