Marigold - history
OriginsMarigold plants originate from Central America, probably in Mexico. Today, they are naturalised in the tropics and subtropics of the Old and New Worlds. They are cultivated in India and Pakistan as a medicinal, flavouring, dye and ornamental plant.
|Marigolds are among the flowers depicted in this Ragamalas painting from the 1760's.|
HistoryMarigolds were first discovered by the Portuguese in Central America in the 16th century. They introduced these flowers to Europe and India. Marigolds are now widely cultivated in the sub-continent. In Delhi, which is one of the centres of the flower trade in India, flowers are brought in from all over the country. A major centre of marigold production is the Calcutta region.
Marigolds were well known and valued by ancient people in South Asia. Their golden colour was considered to resemble the colour of the Arya, or honourable people. It was used to demarcate special spaces like pavilions and to line sacred fire-pits or kunds in which ceremonies were performed.
The bright orange and red colours of marigolds are seen everywhere in daily life of the Indian sub-continent. They are mainly decorative plants and the flowers are used in all kinds of ceremonies including weddings. They are made into garlands and are offered to the gods and honoured guests, or used to decorate the biers of the dead. They stud cowdung balls which are used to decorate rice-powder drawings. In folk-art of eastern India they are dried and powdered to produce a yellow colour used to decorate village homes. Essential oils are also extracted from marigolds for perfumery.