Close this search box.

Let The Season of Mangoes Unfold

The history of Mango began thousands of years ago in the Indian subcontinent. The national fruit of India, Pakistan and Philippines, the mango tree is
history of mangoes in India
Bookmark (0)

As the mercury in Kolkata has touched a peak, intent eyes await the icing of the hot summer season- the array of mangoes spreading sunset colors on the parched soul and soil. Be it the choicest Dussehris, Langras, Totapuri, Kesar, Alphonsos, Himsagars, Imampasands, Chusnis; mangoes are not only the king of fruits but of the heart as well. No other fruit has so many varieties and so many names, no other fruit has so many songs written eulogising its taste or has been drawn in miniatures or written about as a metaphor of love and longing. The history of mangoes in India is riveting. 

The history of Mango began thousands of years ago in the Indian subcontinent. The national fruit of India, Pakistan and Philippines, the mango tree is also the national tree of Bangladesh. Scientific fossil evidence indicates that mango made its first appearance 25 to 30 million years ago in Northeast India, Myanmar and Bangladesh from where it travelled down to South India. The earliest mention of mango trees is found in Sanskrit scriptures dating back to 4000 BC.  Mango was first introduced in China during the middle of the 7th Century when Hsuan Tsang returned to China. The Portuguese were the first to establish a mango trade. The English word Mango originated from Malayalam “manga” and Tamil “mangai”. The Portuguese were fascinated by the fruit on their arrival in Kerala and introduced it to the world as “Mango”. Mangoes were first recorded in Europe in 1328. 

history of mangoes in India
It is the national fruit of India, Pakistan & Philippines

Mughals and mangoes

The  Mughal Emperors’ fondness for mangoes is legendary and in fact the love for mangoes was the only legacy that flowed in the Mughal dynasty. Legend has it that Babur was initially reluctant to face Rana Sanga of Mewar. It was the love for mangoes that convinced him not only to face Rana Sanga but to also lay the foundation of his empire in India. While on the run from India to Kabul, Humayun ensured a good supply of mangoes through an already well-established courier system. Akbar built the an orchard called Lakhi Bagh near Darbhanga in Bihar, where he planted a hundred thousand mango trees. Grafting of mangoes was experimented there as Totapuri and Rataul variants were born. Abul Fazl in  Ain-i-Akbari (1590) wrote, “There are green, yellow, red, variegated, sweet and subacid mangoes. The flower that opens in spring resembles that of the vine, has a good smell and looks very curious.” Shah Jahan established a sort of courier system for mangoes to reach Delhi from the coasts of Mazgaon. Jahangir and Shah Jahan awarded their khansamahs for unique creations like Aam PannaAam ka Lauz and Aam Ka Meetha Pulao. Nur Jahan used mangoes and roses in her legendary wines. For all his frugality and orthodoxy, it seems mangoes were the one pleasure that Aurangzeb could not forgo. His romance with Hirabai is also connected to the mango– when he first saw Hirabai, she was plucking mangoes at an orchard in Burhanpur. Mango retained much of its superiority even during Bahadur Shah Zafar’s time. He had a mango orchard known as Hayat Baksh in the Red Fort. A mango named after a Mughal queen and another created exclusively for a Nawab are two of India’s most expensive varieties of mangoes- Noorjahan from Madhya Pradesh and Kohitur from West Bengal. A cross between the now-extinct Kalopahar and another unrecorded variant, Kohitur is believed to have been created for Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah in the 18th century by a horticulturalist Hakim Ada Mohammadi. The Sheherwali Jains became patrons of the Kohitur and today this variety faces near extinction. 

Kangra valley miniature painting featuring mango trees
Kangra valley miniature depicting women shooting arrows at mangoes

Mango diplomacy

Who would’ve guessed that the ‘king of fruits’ has helped in sweetening ties among countries and kingdoms over centuries? Mango diplomacy is a term coined to describe a gesture of friendship and goodwill expressed through mangoes presented as gifts by political leaders to each other. The tale of mango diplomacy dates back to the Mughal era. Aurangzeb used mangoes as both currency and a form of diplomacy as he offered mangoes to Shah Abbas of Persia to placate the king after he had proclaimed himself Emperor. Gifting mango baskets in summer was a ritualistic practice; it sealed a relationship between the giver and receiver and was not just an exchange of valuable items. Taking a cue from the Mughals, the Portuguese sent generous amounts of Alphonso mangoes to the Marathas on the Konkan coast and the Muslim kingdoms in the Deccan as diplomatic gifts.

Also read: Snacking in Kolkata

Mangoes continue to be a tool of diplomacy in post-colonial South Asia. When the US President George Bush visited New Delhi in India in 2006, he expressed his desire to try Indian mangoes. There was a ban on Indian mango exports to the US for almost two decades. Erstwhile Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered mangoes to the US President and Bush said, “The US is looking forward to eating Indian mangoes,” inspiring a deal for export of Alphonso and Kesari mangoes. In March 2021, in what is known as Dhaka’s mango diplomacy move, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent over 2,600 kg of Haribhanga mangoes when Bangladesh became concerned over India’s decision to cease vaccine exports. PM Modi’s first international visit since the Covid-19 outbreak was to Dhaka in March of that year.

Kohitur mango
Kohitur mango- one of the most expensive varieties

The mango is also a literary device in literature and poetry representing unspoken thoughts and feelings. From Kalidasa comparing a maiden’s lips to the tender leaves of a mango tree and Mirza Ghalib composing odes to the mango’s ‘sweeter-than-sugarcane’ taste to Rabindranath Tagore composing hymns praising the aamer monjori (mango flowers)— the mango has always played a stellar role in subcontinental literature, history, politics. In the heat and dust of the months it remains one great enduring metaphor of the subcontinent’s scorching summer.

Here are a few handpicked sweet and savory recipes made with mangoes. 

Raw mango fritters (Aamer chop)


Potato, boiled and mashed- 3

Raw mango, grated- 1

Garlic cloves- 5

Green chilli- 2

Ginger -1 inch

Turmeric powder-1 tsp

Whole red chilli- 1

Cumin seeds- 1 tsp

Coriander seeds- 1 tsp

Oil for frying

Salt and Sugar to taste

Gram flour- 1 cup

Baking soda -1/2 tsp

Red chilli powder- 1 tsp


Make a paste of garlic, green chilli and ginger. Dry roast whole red chilli, cumin and coriander seeds. Grind into a coarse powder.

In hot oil add the paste of garlic, ginger and green chillies. Add the grated mangoes. Fry well. Add the mashed potato. Add turmeric powder. Add salt and the ground masala powder. Add sugar according to taste. Once all the ingredients are mixed, take off the heat and spread on a plate to cool. Grease the palms and shape the mixture into flat round discs.

Make a thick batter of gram flour, salt, baking soda and red chilli powder. Heat oil for frying. Dip each potato disc into the batter and deep fry till golden brown and crisp.

An ideal summer evening tea time snack, serve with a spicy condiment.

Alleppey Fish Curry


Calcutta Bhetki steaks- 6

Raw mango, cut into thin strips- 1

Coconut milk- 1 cup

Onions, small sized- 8

Ginger, chopped- 1 tsp

Green chillies, chopped- 2

Red chilli powder- 1 tsp

Turmeric powder- 1 tsp

Cornflour slurry – 2 tbsp

Curry leaves- 10

Salt and sugar to taste

Oil as required


Marinate the Calcutta Bhetki steaks with salt for ten minutes. In oil add the curry leaves, small onions, chopped ginger and green chillies. Fry until soft and translucent. Add raw mango pieces, red chilli powder and turmeric powder. Stir for a while. Add the fish steaks. Fry for a while over low heat. Turn the fish carefully till both the sides are light brown. Add the coconut milk. Let it simmer for 5 min. Adjust salt and sugar as needed. Add cornflour slurry for the glaze and the texture. Cover over low heat till done. An ideal summer lunch main course that can be served with plain rice.

Alleppey fish curry
Alleppey fish curry

Mango Kalakand


Milk, full cream- 2 litres

Mango Puree- 1 cup

Vinegar- 2 tsp

Saffron- ½ tsp

Ghee- 3tbsp

Almond slivers- 1 tbsp

Pistachios, chopped- 1 tsp


Boil the full cream milk. Divide in two parts.

Add vinegar to one part and let the milk curdle over low heat. Once done, strain and wash the chenna with cold water very well. Wash the chenna several times.

Add saffron to the other part and keep reducing over low heat till half. Add the chenna and the mango puree once the milk has reduced. Add ghee and keep stirring till the mixture dries up and comes off the sides to the middle. Do this over low heat.

mango kalakand recipe
Mango kalakand

Spread ghee to a high edged tray and spread the mixture. Smoothen with a spatula. Top with pistachios and almonds. Put in a refrigerator for at least three hours, cut into pieces and serve.

An ideal dessert to end a meal on a hot summer afternoon.

Images courtesy: Ranjini Guha, Pixabay, Pinterest


  3. Indo Islamic Culture Twitter Handle
Ranjini Guha is an Associate Prof in History, food writer and author with research interests in food history and gender history. Her book Foodscapes, Lockdown and Dinner Diaries is an interesting chronicle of days of complete Lockdown with recipes, food history and nostalgia. She is also an avid traveller and travels solo.

Weekly Newsletter

Enjoy our flagship newsletter as a digest delivered once a week.

By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement and Privacy Policy & Cookie Statement.

Read More

Subscribe to get newsletter and to save your bookmark