Coconut - history
OriginsThe coconut is the most familiar palm of the tropics, yet until recently its origin was hotly disputed. It is now thought to come from the western Pacific and spread via human activity and ocean currents to most of the topics. Today it is a domesticated plant and has become an essential resource for food, shelter, fuel and tools. South Asia is no exception, and coconuts feature in everyday life, particularly in south India.
|Toddy men collecting toddy from coconut palms.|
HistoryCoconut palms feature in Indian writings dating back more than 2,000 years.
The coconut is featured in early Sanskrit writings dating from the 4th century BC. The palms are also frequently mentioned in early Tamil literature dating from between the 1st century AD to the 4th century AD.
Coconuts feature in the Hindu epic stories the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and in the Puranas. It seems to have been adopted quite late into Aryan rituals, and northern India may have become familiar with the nut long after it was used in the coastal south.
Today, India is the third largest producer of coconuts in the world, with the state of Kerala leading the production followed by the other southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Coconut plays an important role in Indian ritual and features in Indian mythology, for it resembles a human head with three marks on its shell like eyes and a mouth, and fibre like hair. It was known as sriphala or the fruit of the gods and cutting the tree was abhorred.