Friday, January 4, 2008

Jasmine (Jasminum): Flowers for beauty and for money

You are spending a night in some remote village. It is well past midnight. Suddenly you are awake and become aware of an exotic fragrance that wafts in through the open windows. It lingers. The smell is said to arouse erotic feelings.

There is, in all probability jasmine plants in the vicinity.

The jasmine buds start the slow process of opening during the last quarter of the night. That is when they are plucked. These flowers which are usually white (there are a few yellow varieties also) are rushed to many destinations, sometimes airlifted, for use in temple rituals, marriage functions, for decorative purposes, and for women to wear on their hair.

It is big business.

There are about 200 species in this shrub/vine. It is believed be a native of India but spread to many parts of the world millenniums back. Today it is cultivated extensively for the flowers. They are also used in jasmine tea (supposed to prevent certain cancers) and in manufacturing high quality perfumes and other cosmetics. Jasmine scented incense sticks are popular.

It is said that in certain herbal practice, the jasmine flowers are considered effective in calming the nerves and as antidote for snakebites. The leaves could be, it is claimed, used to treat some eye problems.

Jasmine is a money earner. It is easy to cultivate and is relatively trouble free to maintain. Usually stem cuttings are used. Depending on the type it can be planted in pots or on the ground. They grow well in ordinary soil. Sunlight is a must. It can also be inter-planted with other crops.

Again depending on the species the plant can grow from a couple feet height to about 8 feet tall shrub. The larger ones can also be used for hedges. The vines may grow up to 15 feet.

The local names of jasmine include Yasmin, Melati, Sampaguita, Mallika, Chambeli, Mulla, and Malli.


Also see: Kerala Flowers?


Dinakar KR said...

More information on Jasmine in these links.

Guru said...

Very good posting Abraham. You are right about the fragrance carried through the breeze and its ability to attract the male attention, perhaps the reason why women started wearing it ages ago. Many poets including the great Narasimhaswamy (his compendium of poems under the name of 'Mysore Mallige') and Kannadasan (despite his cine fame was a good poet and his lines 'malargalile aval malligai' in a song in 'Pavamannippu' film in 1960 I guess) recognised Jasmine's part in attracting lovers. Also, it is considered to be a Kusum ( a flower) worthy of worshipping God for Hindus. The great Thyagaraja one of the Carnatic Music Trinities, in a lyric places Jasmin along with Tulasi and Bilva
('tulasi bilva mallika..., Kedara Gaula ragam, when rendered in vilamba kala -slow pace, produces a reverential mood). A superb flower indeed, and thanks for your equally superb posting.

Guru said...

I should have said' Mysoru Mallige', apologies to my favourite poet.

Gardenia said...

Thanks for this really informative and evocative post - the jasmine flower is woven into the memories of most Indians, and now I have learnt of its amazing healing properties!

Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you for the information, Dinakar. Was traveling and therefore the delayed response

Abraham Tharakan said...

Guru, 'malargalile aval malligai' - that is so beautiful, so expressive!
Thanks for the kind words.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you Gardenia. I'm glad you liked the post.

Sherin said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you Sherin. I am happy you like my blog. Please do keep on visiting the site.