IT’S that time of the year when the Chandigarh air fills up with an intoxicating sweet fragrance, first signs, or rather scent of the onset of the mango season. They’ve been standing tall, braving the vagaries of time, much before Chandigarh, Mohali or Panchkula came into existence. In their place was a vast mango grove, axed to clear the land for cities. So old and of heritage value are the mango trees of the city that some of them are estimated to be around 100-150 years of age. In fact, according to the Heritage Trees Report prepared by the NGO Yuvsatta, the village of Burail (now sectors Sectors 32, 33, 44, 45 and 51) was known for its mango orchards, and the country’s largest mango tree existed in the heart of this village. “The tree was destroyed by lightning. It was spread over 6 kanals and had a 25 feet wide trunk,” shares Pramod Sharma of Yuvsatta.
Fascinating, isn’t it? Where a 100-year-old mango tree at the Chandigarh Golf Club (CGC) has been a ‘hit’ pride of the golf course, the cluster of mango trees in SD College Sector 32 are aged more than 100 years. From the ancient Guru Gorakh Nath Temple in Sector 38, the grand old mango trees near the
Gurdwara Bagh Shaheedan Sahib in Sector 44, campus of Panjab University, Government Hospital 32, ITI, PGI campus, High Court to the century old trees in PWD B&R Office and Vatika School for Deaf and Dumb in Sector 19 – the report catalogues all the mango spots in the city.
Chandigarh is dotted with magnificent mango groves. CITCO Chandigarh rounds up the official number – that of the 4km long Mango Belt the Purv Marg of the city, separating the Industrial Area from the residential areas- – at 5,000. The addition of official orchard in Rajinder Park Sector 1, brings the number to roughly 6,000. However, if one were to count the residential groves, and the private farms encircling the city (those in Kishangarh, for instance), then, says Rahul Mahajan of the Fieldman Group (a farm and environment society) the number is approximately 10,000. Between Ambala and Ropar alone there were 200 varieties of mango at one time, informs Sharma while Mahajan laments how lack of maintenance and neglect have resulted in loss of mango trees in this belt, in Pinjore, in and around the city. Which brings us to another concern – with the mango tree in flowering phase, how much did untimely rain in the last two days damage the fruiting process? According to Mahajan and Hasim, the contractor at Purv Marg mango belt, fruit will be affected to some extent. On the other hand, horticulture experts like HS Johl and tree lovers like Rajnish Wattas, say the trees are doing fine. It’s high velocity winds at 90km/hour that are damaging.
The king among fruits, mango also goes by the name Spring Tree, Cuckoo’s Joy and Cupid’s Favourite. Where its drupe is excellent for pickles, its seed is source of flour and timber is used for floor boards, tea chests etc. Mangifera indica from the family Anacardiaceae, mango is an evergreen tree native to India whose famous Indian varieties are Duseheri, Chausa, Langra, Safeda, Kalm, Alphonso and Amrapali. In fact, Chandigarh was part of erstwhile Ambala District, which gets its name from Amb-Wala – land of mangoes!