Mahua tree is a found largely in Central India region, covering states like Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Odisha, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh etc. Its botanical name is Mahua Longifolia. It is found in abundance in whole rural cover of Central India. Mahua tree is counted among semi-evergreen foliage. During flowering period, it is having less leaves. While visiting the popular national parks like Pench national park, Kanha tiger reserve, Bandhavgarh, Panna national park, Satpura tiger reserve etc., we can easily find this tree in local villages as well as in forest area. Its trees have average height of 20 meters. Their leaves usually falls with end of winters i.e. around February month and new leaves begins to come with red color in initial stage and turns into green color, very soon. At the same time, flower also begins to emerge. Leaves have average length between 13 to 26 cms. Being a local tree, its plantation doesn’t need any special care and success ratio is also very high. If we will spend some days in Central India, in rural area and do the interaction with local people about Mahua tree, we will realize that it is one of the most important tree for them thus you can easily find this tree in vicinity and people avoids cutting this tree.
It is normal practice in India that if they find any tree/ plant/ river or animal, very beneficial to society, they associate it with Hindu God and thus that tree / plant / river / animal automatically becomes sacred for the society and its conservation is ensured. River Ganges, Narmada, Cow, Tulsi plant, Peeple tree etc are the living examples of this ideology. Mahua tree is also an integral part of rural society thus it is a sacred tree in rural cover of Central India. It provides mainly flower and fruit to society. Both have their own importance and usage. Fruit is mainly used for oil extraction which is used in skin creams, soap, detergents etc. Second most important product is Mahua flower which is mainly availed in March-April month and widely collected by villagers. This fruit is used in making local alcoholic drink. When this flower is dried up, it turns dark brown in color and can be stored for 1-2 year. As per requirement, these dried flowers are mixed with flour and sweet dishes were prepared on local festivals. These dried fruits are often mixed with water and other things to make a nutritional drink for cattles in villages. In case of drought like situation, when there is nothing left to eat, these stored Mahua flowers were used for survival, by local villagers. Wood of Mahua tree is also of superior quality and have long lasting quality. These are the most practical usages. There are many more usages which are not popular in common people like usage of bark in medicines, usage of leaves etc.
Season of Feb – Mar – Apr is the period when Mahua tree flowering emerges and falls. This is the time when we will notice transition in climatic condition. In this time, winter season is ending and summer season will have its beginning. This change in climatic condition & temperature induces flowers on Mahua tree and they gradually starts growing. With their growth, their distinctive fragrance spreads in the atmosphere.
Mahua flower falls in months of March & April. It is the time when temperature starts rising, indicating the beginning of Summer season. As flower is very useful in life of local people thus they collect each and every flower. Normally we can notice fall of flowers in day & night hours but frequency of fall is much more in early morning hours (before sunrise). Villagers usually, clears the ground area, falling under the tree, in evening hours so that they can conveniently pick the dropped flowers in early morning hours. As it is very useful thus at local level, their is often seen the competition among villagers to collect as much as possible. Villagers usually wake up early around 4:00 AM and go out to collect the dropped flowers. They repeat this routine for 15-20 days as with in this period, all flowers falls down completely. Once collected, it is washed and dried up under direct sunlight so that moisture will get evapourated and get dried and juicy with change in dark orange color.
Mahua flower have high nutritional value and oil content. Due to high oil content, Mahua tree is also called “Indian Butter Tree”. Their are many different usage of this oil. Dried flower is used time to time, during festival periods in making various sweet dishes. Due to its high nutritional value, farmers also feed this dried Mahua flower to their cattles. When fresh fruits are collected, villagers also make alcoholic drink which is used to celebrate the harvesting of wheat crop in Central India region.