The mahua ( Madhuca longifolia ) season is a short one, lasting two to three months. At the beginning of summer, these tall trees which are found across central India, drop their precious flowers.
Collection of the light yellow flowers is a festive occasion and entire families here in Chhattisgarh, including small children, can be seen at work – picking the flowers off the forest floor. “This is hard work,” says Bhupinder. “We collect
in the early morning and again in the evening.” From Chanagaon in Dhamtari district, he has come with his parents to help and it’s a festive atmosphere with so many people around.
During the season,
fragrance perfumes the area. Travelling from Dharamjaigarh in Raigarh district to Raipur, Chhattisgarh’s capital, below hundreds of
trees, villagers are busy collecting the flowers. They will be dried and stored and used to make flour, liquor and more.
is the most important item we collect from the forest. It is used as food at the time of starvation. If one needs money, they can sell some
,” says Gangaram Painkra, a social activist and tribal leader from Ambikapur. He is referring to the dependence on the flowers to get people through lean times when wage work is not available.
'Mahua is the most important item we collect from the forest. It is used as food at the time of starvation. If one needs money, they can sell some'
“Tribal people enjoy liquor made from these flowers and it is an essential part of our worship rituals,” says Gangaram.
Long hours picking it off the ground is not without its problems and, “We get pain in our back, legs, hands, knees and waists,” points out Bhupinder.
The Chhattisgarh governments have fixed a minimum support price for the mahua flower at Rs. 30 a kilogram, or Rs. 3,000 for a quintal of the dried flower.Besides the central Indian states of Chhattisgarh, mahua can also be found in Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and even as far as Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.