Tamarind and history

Arun Jain

Arun Jain has been working with Customs and Central Excise since March, 1992 and is presently posted as Superintendent of Customs at Ahmedabad. He is a post draduate in Physics (specialized in Electronics) and also did his Masters in Business Administration, both from Gujarat University.

He has been writing small anecdotes in a Facebook Group called Anand Sabha and has come forward with similar writings to be disseminated by the readers of this esteemed and widely read E-Magazine under inourdays.org also.

I would like to recount my travel with a self proclaimed Historian named Ralph Martin in a train journey in 2012. I was travelling in Agra Superfast Express from Ahmedabad to Agra.

Martin introduced himself as an offspring to a Tamil Mother and an American father.

Although born and brought up in US, his interpretations on different civilizations impressed upon me. He had a vast storehouse of historical knowledge. His arguments were apt and always supported with both biological and historical evidence.

He connected the human nature with the civilizations which evolved it. His conclusions on Indian males and females especially in the matriarchal society in the south or patriarchal society in the major northern part of the country found its roots in Aryan and Dravidian cult.

I abhorred History throughout my academic life but after these articulate conversations, I repented as to why I was not fascinated by this field. Maybe the way of teaching in my prime days failed to instill the interest the way Martin preached me.

He talked on a lot of issues ranging from addressing Jesus as Jeus, certain version of the Koran (all insightful and healthy, of course), Dravidian Civilization, etc but the one which I found worth sharing was the connection of Tamarind with Arab countries.

I reproduce his say hereafter.

The Tamarind (imli in Indian households), as everybody knows, forms an essential ingredient in making of any south Indian delicacies. It was way back some 300-400 years ago, that South West part of our country saw a lot of migration towards Gulf countries.

The Indian spices formed the biggest trade between the South West India and the Gulf. Also the population in south was fascinated with the easy money and the richness that prevailed in thr Gulf nations.

Arabs were in fact fascinated by this particular spice, which attracted them come to India. In fact, it was more of a barter system of bringing the whole lot of dry fruits and dates. In return taking away spices from the Southern part of the country. They were in so much fascination by this derivatives of imli, that they in fact named it tamar-e-hind i.e. Dates of India, thus known as tamarind.

Arabs refer to tamar as ripe – sun-dried dates in Gulf countries.


Interesting account; beautifully put. The title itself (being my favourite fruit/veg) captivated my attention. I share the same initial abhorrence and gradual liking and passion for History. Loved it!

Trade in the old days brought about cultural contact and change. Not so much today, as people already know about other places.

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