pure honey

The Auspiciousness of Pure Honey in Indian Culture

pure honey

One of the life’s greatest pleasures is exchanging gifts. Mahatma Gandhi has aptly put it – “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” Almost every culture around the world has traditions and etiquette related to receiving and giving gifts.

The gift-giving tradition is deep-rooted in the Indian culture. It isn’t necessarily about the object itself, but more about the emotion and sentiment behind it. Giving a customized gift is one way of expressing love, gratitude, appreciation and recognizing a significant event. Although the culture and practices vary around the country, the spirit of love and sharing remains constant.

With that said, there are always questions about what could be the right gift. With so many choices, how does one choose the right gift that expresses the sentiment and is useful too?

We might just have the answer for you. One of the gifts that fit the bill of expressing love and goodwill, and might we say, adds extra sweetness to the whole process is Organic Honey. It’s healthy, delicious and most importantly, it is considered one of the most auspicious elements of the Indian culture. Here are a few explanations to that:

  1. It is one of the five ingredients of Panchamrita (also known as Amrit) that is used during Puja by Hindus. As per our Indian mythology, all the ingredients of panchamritahave special benefits and honey is used for its antibacterial properties.
  2. The Quran mentions about honey that it is a ‘healing for humankind’.  The powerful healing attributes of honey have long been used to promote health and healing.  Both the Holy Quran and Hadiths (Prophetic traditions) refer to honey as a healer of disease.
  • Pure Honey is representative of the Sikh meaning for Amrit or nectar. It is sugar water that is used during the Khalsa initiation ceremony.
  1. There is a legend that says that just before the Buddha’s enlightenment, a young woman named Sujàtà offered him a bowl of milk rice and honey, a meal that gave him the strength for his last struggle. This is one of the reasons why Buddhists have long considered honey to be a particularly auspicious food.
  2. In the Holy Bible, honey denotes delight because it is sweet, and everything sweet in the natural world corresponds to what is delightful and pleasant in the spiritual world.
  3. The Rig Veda and Atharva Veda are full of description about yajnas and the method of purifying idols with the golden nectar. The Rigveda boasts of Bhramri devi-or the goddess of golden bees. It is believed that when the Goddess poured nectar on the dried and decaying roots of ‘ash tree’, the tree came back to life. Hence, before performing any puja, pure honey is used for purifying idols.

gifting honey

It’s safe to say that honey is one of the many elements that unites all our varied Indian cultures. It is strengthening, boosts immunity, great for the skin and adds sweetness to everything. Organic Honey holds an important place in the Indian culture and is considered to be auspicious across the land for various religious and spiritual purposes, which makes it an ideal gifting option.

There are tons of ways you can get creative with this. There are a lot of customized Honey gift sets that you can give. Under The Mango Tree has some amazing Healthy Honey Gift Sets for all occasions. This Diwali, show your loved ones you care by gifting them one of the most auspicious elements of our Indian culture.

utmt gifting honey

Gift the Goodness of Honey

utmt gifting honey

The practice of gifting honey seems to be as old as man. It has been a traditional gift for many occasions. Bees and honey have been around for as long as we can find records. One of the oldest is a painting in spider cave, near Valencia, Spain dated between 6,000 and 8,000 years old. What they did with this golden treasure and how they used it has disappeared with them. However, there have been records that provide clues to the use of honey as a gift tradition. The question then is, where did we get this custom to give honey on special occasions?

As far back as 30 B.C., in ancient Egypt, honey was used in the households as a sweetening agent. It was highly valued and was often paid as a tribute or as payment. By the 7th century B.C. Greeks were gifting honey to the Gods and to the departed spirits as a sacrificial offering. Fast forward to the 11th century, German peasants followed the path of the Egyptians in gifting honey to the feudal lords as payment.

The exchange of gifts is a key aspect of many cultures worldwide. What you give is just as important as how and when you give it. The giving of gifts is a language of symbols, and giving honey is like sweet poetry. Thoughtful gifts go a long way. They mark the thing you’ll be remembered by.

Honey is one of the many ways to ease the burden and sweeten this gift-giving process. Flavoured honey is among the easiest and most delicious herbal treats. Not only is it a unique gift, it is healthy — both for your body and mind. Honeybees are found all over the world and so are the delicacies that include their sweet honey: Spanish tapas, French sauces, British biscuits and Turkish cakes. Honey is a globally recognized and treasured resource that enriches many different cultures through their recipes and cultural traditions. This festive season, when considering what to give your loved ones, friends, neighbours or coworkers—think about giving the gift of honey.

The honey manufactured by Under The Mango Tree’s farmers is organic and pure. We have various gifting options that suit all kinds of occasions — be it corporate, birthdays or anniversaries. In addition, 10% of your purchase directly impacts the livelihood of farmers in rural India through our Bees for Poverty Reduction Initiative.

 

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Quote from the Director-General, FAO of the United Nations

Truly inspirational Quote by José Graziano da Silva, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“Pollination services are an ‘agricultural input’ that ensure the production of crops. All farmers, especially family farmers and smallholders around the world, benefit from these services. Improving pollinator density and diversity has a direct positive impact on crop yields, consequently promoting food and nutrition security. Hence, enhancing pollinator services is important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as for helping family farmers’ adaptation to climate change.”

You would be happy to know that UTMT has so far reached out to 3500 farmers in 129 villages in 13 of the poorest districts in India in Gujarat, Maharashtra and MP.

Picture Credits: Martin Kunz clicked in Dandwal village of Dharampur, Gujarat.

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A proud moment for UTMT

Sujana Krishnamoorthy Executive Director, UTMT,  made a presentation on UTMT’s work on 29th April, 2016  in New Delhi at a South Asia conference on “Managing and Valuing Ecosystem services” organised by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), GoI, SANDEE (South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics) and GIZ.

The aim of this conference is to disseminate and create awareness amongst policy makers, managers, researchers, and conservation NGOs about the results obtained in TEEB India Initiative (TII), as well as similar research made on demonstrating the economic value of ecosystems and biodiversity in India and the South Asian region.

Courtesy GIZ

Image Courtesy GIZ

Image Courtesy - GIZ

Image Courtesy – GIZ

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Social Story – When our Respected Donors Trust Us all the more

We recently hosted on field in Nashik, Mr. Jehangir and Mr. Dinsoo, Trustees from our longtime funders Dr & Mrs S H M Modi Hormus House Benevolence Trust Fund. The Trust has been supporting beekeepers in Peth block of Nashik, Maharashtra for two years, where yields of mango, cashew, drumstick, French bean, bottle gourd have improved greatly since the intervention.

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Senior Master Trainer Tukaramji demonstrates the working of a honey extractor to a curious Mr Dinsoo and Mr Jehangir

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Learning from Senior Master Trainer Ravi about how bees live in a beebox
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Ravi explains the mobile based monitoring app specially developed for tracking beebox health
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Leafing through colourful scrapbooks developed by a beekeeper Mr. Mangesh Gagurde, where he shares his own experiences keeping bees
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Honey Papaya Face Pack

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We are all familiar with the goodness of honey on the skin. We are also aware of the amazing amount of Vitamin A that papaya brings with it. A combination of these two can help radiate a natural shine from your skin, thereby making it soft and supple. Here’s how you make a quick Honey-Papaya Face Pack.

You will Need:

  1. A piece of ripe papaya
  2. 1 tbsp of UTMT Honey

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Method:

Mash the papaya and add in one tablespoon of honey to it.  Apply it on the face and keep for 20 minutes, rinse it off and you will be able to notice the glow.  You can also add turmeric to this face pack.

 

 

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Social Story of Success

Trained by UTMT in early 2015, in tailoring beekeeping inputs – swarm bags and beeveils – Premilaben’s Self Help Group (SHG) in Nanapada village of Dang, Gujarat, bustles with activity. The SHG forms part of UTMT’s beekeeping “ecosystem” in the predominantly tribal Dang district, where a NABARD supported project for women beekeepers is in progress.
The group has made 200 inputs so far, earning an income of Rs. 20,000 from the activity. The inputs will be distributed to new beekeepers as part of the programme – swarm bags are used when transferring swarms of bees into a beebox and bee veils protect the face and neck from bees.
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Hoshangabad Tales

With great pride we would like to share a beautiful and detailed experience of the newest member to out UTMT family – our intern Olivia. She describes her overall experience on her trip to Hoshangabad and tells us how awestruck she was on meeting our Master Trainer Hemraj and his family. Olivia was amazed to see Hemraj’s dedication toward Bee keeping. Here’s what she has to say –

ROAD TO HOSHANGABAD

The road to Hoshangabad began at the break of dawn, yet the crowded streets suggested a later time of day. Our cab darted and weaved through seas of people though there was seemingly nowhere to go, as most shops had yet to open. I was glad to leave the bustle of the city for the wider, and comparatively bare streets of the highway.

My relief soon gave way to fear, however, as our driver was determined to play chicken with oncoming traffic like a schoolboy from Grease. I’ve learned in India that it does little to worry, so I turned my attention to the enthralling sights just out my open window. As we drove, I wove my fingers through the air, bouncing them to the beat of the Bollywood music playing from the car’s radio until a panicked look from the cab driver reminded me to keep clear of the window. As if to remind me yet again of the perils of not remaining in the confines of the secure car, we whizzed past a small herd of cattle making their way down the highway without a care in the world.

Hemraj's family in the village of Padav.
Hemraj’s family in the village of Padav.

The four hour journey went on similarly as we passed goats, buffalo, cattle, monkeys, and several caravans of camels draped in colorful cloths and even more colorful people. Stopping only for the occasional chai, we arrived in a small village that seemed to have more livestock than people. Though honking is as common in India as the chirps of birds or the hum of insects, transport in the village was mainly comprised of bicycles and motorbikes and our loud car honks brought eyes from every direction. The gazes of the villagers were not unkind, merely curious and excited as our car struggled over the narrow dirt roads.

Our arrival at the home of Hemraj, Under the Mango Tree’s Master Trainer in beekeeping for the Hoshangabad area, was well met as his family gathered round to greet us. His home was painted entirely blue inside and the shade reminded me of the fabled homes in Santorini, Greece or the Blue City of Morocco; as we sat on woven beds, his children and other family members studied us from the corner of the room.

Hemraj proudly displays his bag of pollen from the Himalayas.
Hemraj proudly displays his bag of pollen from the Himalayas.

Though my Hindi is limited, it was easy to understand when Hemraj spoke of his successes in beekeeping as his eyes sparkled and he seemed to sit taller in a more comfortable and commanding position. He was eager to show us a bag of pollen collected from a region near the Himalayan Mountains, which he intended to feed his bees with. He spoke of his bees much like a father would speak of the accomplishments of his own children. After my colleagues had collected the necessary information and provided new resources for the upkeep of the bees (training videos, a cellphone for ease of contact, pollen for the bees, etc.), we made our way over to Hemraj’s bee boxes which were kept just a few hundred feet from the house.

Of the farmers Under the Mango Tree supports in Madhya Pradesh, Hemraj has the most bee boxes. He currently has five, though he recently sold two boxes to other farmers and has located a natural colony near his home. Hemraj’s bee boxes were afforded every care and protection from the gabled canopy that covered each box to the individual thatched roofs, which provided shade from the sweltering heat. As he removed the layers of protection, bees began to venture out through the slit in the box that was left uncovered by the mud used to keep them cool. Hemraj worked with skilled and confident fingers as he pulled out sheets from the box to reveal the sticky honeycomb within. The bees seemed unperturbed, no doubt due to the artful manner in which Hemraj handled them.

Hemraj with his bees.
Hemraj with his bees.

We left Hemraj’s bees to visit those of another farmer whom Hemraj often assists in his beekeeping. As I learned more and more about Hemraj, it became clear that though he has only been keeping bees for a few short years, the results have been more than increased yields in his other crops or honey for the market; he is depended on and sought after for advice and as such has become a more prominent member of his community. Before leaving to visit his neighbor’s bee box, Hemraj changed into a clean shirt, as he would leave from our next destination to serve as a priest in a nearby wedding. While Hemraj and others inspected the status of the final bee box, I attempted to speak with children in the nearby field. Our language was limited, but it did not stop us from understanding one another as one boy brought me leaves to feed the goats I’d been trying to pet or as I signaled that I wanted to take a picture of them in the field.

Boy plays in field by bee box.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Boy plays in field by bee box.

We left the way we came, though our path was blocked by some skittish cows that had stopped short on account of a massive, dead python made bigger due to some recent meal it had consumed. We forged our own path through the brush, avoiding the traffic jam caused by the behemoth snake and dropped Hemraj and his cousin off to preside over a wedding. The journey home was as lush and exhilarating as the road to Hoshangabad had been filled with sightings of Komodo Dragons and, of course, more monkeys.

Though our time in Hoshangabad was far shorter than the trip there, the experience was one which I will never forget.

You can check Olivia’s original post here – https://soliviagant.wordpress.com/2015/06/24/road-to-hoshangabad/

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The Impacts of UTMT’s Work

 

 

Believe it or not, the importance of bees stretches beyond their ability to produce honey.  As India faces desertification and the size of its arable land decreases, bees play an increasingly important role in keeping crop yields high for the most vulnerable farmers in rural regions.  Bees are natural which facilitate cross-pollination.  Under The Mango Tree strives to develop more productive rural livelihoods as a result of…

improving household income by creating a marketable surplus of agri-horticultural* produce and providing direct market access for the sale of honey

increasing agricultural productivity by 30-50% through increased bee pollination

generating rural employment opportunities through associated beekeeping activities like developing bee flora nurseries, training in carpentry, tailoring and comb function (CF) mills.

Beekeeping is a low-cost activity that only requires thirty minutes of work per week.  It is also an inclusive activity in which everyone in the farmer’s family can participate.  The children observe and are fascinated by the bees’ unique behaviors over time through multiple seasons.  The effects of beekeeping on crop yields are also impressive, with farming seeing up to a 50% increase in the output of major crops.  As a result, the farmers increase their annual income by 25%.  The women of the villages also gain employment from sewing nets and packaging honey for sales in the market.

In the words of farmer Shankar Baraf, a resident of Nani Kosbadi village, the bees create “magic” on the farms.  On his farm, where he grows adad, he increased his yield by about two-fold from 75-80kg of the crop to a record 140kg.  In addition to increasing his income to Rs. 11,000 from Rs. 8,000, he also has more free time to spend with his family, letting the bees do their “magic” instead.

Larger crop yields are a huge incentive for farmers to maintain their bee boxes; however, they are not the only reason.  Farmers like Raghu Devram Padhvi extract honey from the hives in the boxes to sell at his local market.  His honey sales have provided a fund to pay for medical and health requirements for his family.

As the farmers become experts in beekeeping, UTMT provides them with further training to promote them as Master Trainers.  Our Master Trainers began like other farmers using bees to increase crop yield, but over time, they have gained full understanding of the methods of successful beekeeping.  Not only do they teach other farmers in neighboring villages and districts, they also gained the confidence to fulfill the role of a leader.  Their enthusiasm and expertise are the foundation of our work at the local level.

The farmers of India are finding revolutionary ways to farm with the help of organizations like ours.  Under The Mango Tree is a leading social enterprise for rural livelihood development and we hope to set a model for any other organizations that are focused on improving the lives of Indian farmers.

utmt team giving snack to Casa Montessori kids

The Rich & Unique History of Honey

Honey is a natural sweetener that has been used since ancient times.  The earliest evidence of honey hunting was found on a wall painting in a cave in Valencia, Spain.  It depicts a human figure hanging on the side of a tree with a bucket, bees in the surrounding and a hive in the tree.  Archeologists suggest that it was painted over 8,000 years ago.  Likewise, the oldest honey remains were found in Georgia in a clay vessel that dates back to approximately 4,700 to 5,500 years ago.

 

 

Even though the evidence proves that honey existed 8,000 years ago, the usage of honey in cultural contexts proceeds the prove of existence.  For example, in India, honey was documented in both Vedas and Ayurveda texts demonstrating their natural healing properties that were used for spiritual and therapeutic purposes.  Because it is a natural ingredient that is rich in nutrients, many still use honey to cure sicknesses.  It is often consumed along with medicines, teas, and dried fruits.

In Hinduism, honey is known as one of the five magical and medicinal potions of immortality that is used for deities in the Madhu abhisheka ritual.  In Buddhism, honey symbolizes peace, a time when the Buddha left his palace to live in the wilderness.  It has been said that a monkey offered him honey in an act of kindness.  In Islam, the Qur’an states in a Surah called an-Nahl (the Bee) that honey is highly recommended for healing purposes because it is nutritious and healthy.  Every region and religion has their own interpretation of the usages of honey, but agreeably, it is a healthy ingredient that has the power to heal.

 

 

 

Throughout history, honey has been consumed, traded, gifted, bathed in, and fixed wounds.  It had a large variety of usages for its nutrients and its sweetness.  In ancient Egypt, the honeycomb was even preserved and buried in the tombs of the pharaohs so that honey will be present in their afterlives.

It is a global ingredient that exists in all parts of the world and has unique histories depending on the region and culture.  It has profound significance and importance in healing that it is the perfect gift to show care and to wish a friend, family, or colleague well.  The uniqueness in the variety of flavors depends on the region in which the bees pollinated, which means no two honeys taste exactly the same!  Honey has exciting flavors and a rich history that it is considered as one of the oldest and most sacred ingredients.