Turmeric in IndiaThe turmeric spice was a major part in Indian culinary dating back to 3000 B.C. Turmeric was cultivated in India. The turmeric plant requires hot climate with light soil. The hot and humid climate of India suits the growth of tropical turmeric plant. In Sanskrit, turmeric is known as “Haridra”. Turmeric was not only used in Indian delicacies but was also used extensively in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian medical system of preventive health care.
Turmeric was not known to the western world until the medieval period. In 13th century, the Arabian traders introduced turmeric to Europe. Turmeric was then known as “Indian Saffron”.
Today, it is impossible to imagine an Indian delicacy without the turmeric spice. The rhizome or root of turmeric plant is used to make turmeric spice. The rhizome is boiled and then let to dry. The rough skins are removed and grounded to make a fine rich yellow turmeric powder.
Turmeric is natural preservative. When added to Indian delicacies such as curry and rice, it gives a rich color and slight flavor to food. Turmeric combines well with spices such as chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin, and cinnamon.
The dried turmeric root is considered as symbol of purity, prosperity, and fertility. Turmeric is used in Indian rites and rituals. Turmeric mixed in water is poured on the idols of Gods and Goddesses in the temples as a part of ritual ablution, ‘Abhishekam’. The dried turmeric roots in betel leaves are given to women during ceremonies as they are considered fertile and bring good luck.
According to old Indian custom, the threshold of the houses is applied with turmeric water. The turmeric prevents many insects, ants, and termites from entering the houses.
No ceremony is complete without vermilion paste, a mixture of turmeric with camphor. The application of vermilion paste on forehead is known as ‘Tilak’. Indian women wear vermilion bindi, which means round dot in Sanskrit, on their forehead. The married woman has to apply ‘sindur,’ a vermilion paste on the hair parted in the front part of the head.
Turmeric plays an important role in wedding ceremonies. Before wedding, turmeric paste is applied over the bride’s face and arms. In Tamil wedding ceremony, the wedding saree worn by the bride is dipped and dyed in turmeric powder. Also, the dried turmeric root is tied around thread colored yellow with turmeric powder and this thread is called “Tali.” The groom marries the bride by tying the thread around bride’s neck as a symbol of marriage. The bride must wear this turmeric-dyed thread “Tali” as a mark of Sumangali (married woman). When the wedding ritual is performed, turmeric mixed with rice is poured over the heads of groom and bride. In Punjabi weddings, turmeric is used as a part of bridal decoration. The palm of the bride is applied with turmeric powder as a mark of change in her status from unmarried to married status.
Like mentioned above, Ayurveda is a preventive medical system practiced in ancient Indian. Ayurveda means “knowledge of life”. According to Ayurveda, turmeric is ‘spice of life’. Turmeric has many beneficial properties such as anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and anti-bacterial. Turmeric is extremely good for skin and also helps in digestion. Turmeric also helps in treating, jaundice, liver disease, urinary tract disease, sore throat, and cold. The beneficial properties of turmeric are now being recognized by the western researchers.
Turmeric is a strong dyeing agent. The cloths worn during rituals in Indian ceremonies are dyed with turmeric. Yellow color is considered as sacred and auspicious color in India. The cloths dyed in turmeric are considered pure.