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Plaintain / Banana


Botanical Name Musa paradisiaca Linn.
Common NamePlantain / Banana, Kela (Hindi), Vaazhai (Tamil), Kadali (Sanskrit)

Distribution

Throughout India

Plantain tree (Kolabau) decorated like a bride


Religious association

The plantain is considered to be an incarnation of Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth. The fruits are offered as Naivedhyam (food offerings) to Hindu Gods during various ceremonies / poojas. The fruit is also associated with Bala Ganapathi.

On the third day (mahasaptami) of Durga Puja in West Bengal, a plantain tree is taken to a nearby water body, cleaned and decorated like a newly-wed bride. The tree is draped in a cloth along with nine types of leaves (referred to as nabapatrika). The plantain tree is considered to be the bride of Lord Ganesha and is called ‘Kolabau’ or the banana bride. The kolabau is brought back in a procession to the pooja pandal and is placed near Lord Ganesha’s idol.

The trunk (with flowers) is erected during the religious and social ceremonies at entrances, as they are believed to be auspicious. In Hindu weddings, there is a pre-wedding ceremony where the bride’s family worships a full-grown plantain tree before tying it at the entrance. This ceremony is especially common in south Indian Hindu weddings and is called pandhakaal.

Uses

All parts of the plant are useful in one way or the other. The fruit may be eaten raw or as a cooked vegetable. The fruit taken regularly prevents night blindness and purifies the blood. Other parts of the banana plant are consumed besides the fruit. The heart of the growing stem is eaten. The flower is also eaten as a boiled vegetable. The cooked flower can cure dysentery and piles.

Banana leaves are not edible, but can be used for wrapping food items. In most south Indian weddings, the food is served on banana leaves. So is the traditional Paarsi Bhonu. The leaves and the stem are also used as cattle feed in some areas. The fibre obtained from the plant is used for making ropes, mats, coarse paper and paper pulp.

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