September 13, 2006


That’s a variety of jasmine that is my favourite…in fact, it’s probably the only thing I regret about cutting my hair short. Jasmine is SO intertwined with our life and culture….can you imagine a trip to the market without the smell of jasmine reaching out and pulling you gently to the flower-seller to buy a little? A “muzham” of jasmine given by a man to a woman has romantic/sexual overtones. A young man going to a courtesan’s house would wrap a little jasmine around his wrist.

 We use jasmine extensively to decorate our idols in our temples or homes; a little jasmine in a married woman’s plait, along with her “pottu” (bindi) signifies her status as a “kanya” or “grihiNi”. Widows cannot wear flowers in their hair, obviously….in fact, in earlier times, widows were shorn of their hair. Jasmine is woven into garlands, sometimes with several other flowers and herbs.

There are several types of jasmine, called “malli” in Tamizh and “mallige” in Kannada (the Mysore,or Mysuru, Mallige is supposed to be the best.) From the “nithyamalli” which climbs over pergolas in people’s homes and scents the night air, to the “gundu malli” with its ball-like flowers which are cultivated, to the flower I have snapped below, which is called, in Tamizh, “jaathi malli” (quite literally, “pedigree malli” or malli of the best quality), every day, the markets sell millions of these flowers…they sweeten our lives with their brief existence.

Sad that we don’t really have a good-quality jasmine scent in India…or at least, I don’t know of one…..

Here’s the Malli Poo! I can describe the flowers and show them to my readers, but alas, the divine smell of it stays in my nostrils alone. with your predeliction for scent...this is for you to see....if anyone develops software to waft smells across the Net, let me know!

<IMG height=333 alt=”IMG_0002 mallige” src=”http://static.flickr.com/84/242121229_2489ecf31e.jpg” width=500>