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Mango people of murshidabad

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  • Published 18.06.15
Mango-based snacks at Mango Haat.

The Sheherwali community of Murshidabad served up a humongous platter of mangoes, with a dollop of heritage, at ITC Sonar’s Mango Haat last weekend.  

“Murshidabad is very famous for mangoes; we have around 200 varieties of mangoes produced there. They are from the royal gardens of the Mughal period, from Akbar’s time. The speciality is that these saplings are cross-bred with flowers and fruits. The taste and aroma of each is very delicate,” said Sanjay Doogar, vice-president, Murshidabad Heritage Development Society.

A Jain community from Rajasthan, the Sheherwalis settled in Murshidabad about 400 years ago and still preserve their unique cultural tradition, specially the production of unique varieties of mango. 

The third edition of the annual mango festival at ITC Sonar was organised by the Murshidabad Heritage Development Society, who came with exotic varieties of mangoes like Kohitur, Bimli, Ranipasand, Shahdullah (commonly known as Himsagar) and some that have been bred since emperor Akbar’s reign. 

“The Murshidabad Heritage Development Society is trying to preserve the food, language and the buildings of the town, and create awareness about Murshidabad. With the help of events like these, we can achieve that. Some of the best varieties of mangoes in the world are exhibited here today,” said Sandip Nowlakha, secretary, Murshidabad Heritage Development Society, dressed in the traditional Sheherwali style.  

The women of the community demonstrated the art of cutting the delicate mangoes, which is unique to the Sheherwali community.

“This event is a celebration of the indigenous and diverse flavours of Murshidabad mangoes, for the people of Calcutta who have always appreciated the fine things in life,” said ITC Sonar general manager Atul Bhalla.

Deborima Ganguly
Pictures: B. Halder

Mangoes of various kinds — each with a distinct taste and an interesting tale — were displayed at Pala, ITC Sonar. Guests got to sample over 15 varieties of the fruit from the Murshidabad region.
Priyankar Dugar, an artist, presented a stunning collage of old letters received from Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street, Marlborough House, thanking the zamindars of Murshidabad for the gift of mangoes. 
Members of the Murshidabad Heritage Development Society, dressed in the traditional Sheherwali attire. “The zamindars of Murshidabad were connoisseurs of mangoes and they used to experiment and cross-breed the mangoes with fruits and flowers. The mangoes of Murshidabad have very little fibre,” said Sandip Nowlakha (far right), the secretary of MDH Society.
“I support the culture of Sheherwalis. My aunt was married into that community, and I was fascinated with them. While I was growing up, I had tasted the mangoes and I realised they were vanishing as the orchards were being cut. We thought of starting Mango Haat to preserve the horticultural heritage of Murshidabad because some of the finest varieties of mangoes are from there,” said Pradip Chopra, trustee of iLead, who has written books on the Sheherwali culture (seen here with ITC Sonar GM Atul Bhalla).