1. H. H. Mohrmen’s article, ‘Much Ado about the Khasi Mandarin,’ explores Meghalaya’s extensive history of orange cultivation.
2. The focus is on the southern part of the state, with Mohrmen’s connection to Nongtalang village, known for its longstanding orange orchard.
3. The article challenges the idea that the export of oranges from Meghalaya is a recent occurrence, shedding light on its deep-rooted historical significance.
Shillong, Jan 15: The insightful article ‘Much Ado about the Khasi Mandarin’ by H. H. Mohrmen delves into the rich history of oranges cultivation in Meghalaya, particularly in the southern part of the state.
Mohrmen’s connection to Nongtalang, a village with a longstanding orange orchard, provides a unique perspective on the export of oranges from Meghalaya, debunking the notion that it is a recent phenomenon.
Historical Trade and Agriculture
Mohrmen draws attention to historical cross-border trade, citing examples of orange transportation from Nongtalang to Bangladesh, highlighting the deep-rooted history of orange cultivation in Meghalaya.
Referring to colonial officer PRT Gurdon’s work ‘The Khasis,’ the article uncovers references to the thriving orange trade that predates British involvement in the region. Oranges from the Khasi Hills were renowned for their excellence, known as the Chhatak or Sylhet orange in Calcutta, indicating an extensive trade network.
Indigenous Roots of Oranges
Gurdon’s mention of oranges and lemons from Garhwal, Sikkim, and Khasia (Khasi Hills) being carried by Arab traders into Syria unveils the global impact of Meghalaya’s oranges.
The article establishes that Meghalaya, specifically Nokrek in Garo Hills, is the origin of all citrus species in the world, emphasizing the state’s vital contribution to global biodiversity.
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Genetic Insights and Domestication
The genetic origins of citrus species, as explored in a 2021 paper by Muhammad Junaid Rao, Hao Zuo, and Qiang Xu, suggest that citron and pummelo likely originated in the triangle region of northwestern Yunnan, northeastern India (Nokrek), and northern Myanmar. The Mandarins are believed to have originated in Mangshan, South China.
This genetic diversity aligns with ancient migrations into the subcontinent, indicating the movement of proto-Khasi-Jaintia populations from southern China.
Indigenous Farming Practices
The article sheds light on the continuity of agricultural practices among the Khasis, as described in Gurdon’s work.
Traditional tools, farming methods, and crop varieties mentioned in ‘The Khasis’ persist today, aligning with global initiatives like the FAO’s White/Wiphala Paper on Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems.
Meghalaya’s 2023 State Organic and Natural Farming Policy and India’s 2022 Guidelines of the National Mission on Natural Farming reflect a shift towards sustainable and climate-resilient agricultural practices.
Global Dispersal and Cultural Significance
The global dispersion of oranges from Meghalaya is connected to historical migrations and trade networks. Garo and Khasi narratives on the domestication of citrus species provide insight into the exchange of agricultural knowledge and crops between communities.
The cultural and genetic contributions of Meghalaya’s oranges resonate globally, influencing diets and traditions in regions like the Middle East.
Meghalaya’s oranges are not just a fruit; they represent a rich tapestry of history, genetics, and sustainable agriculture. From ancient trade routes to contemporary global biodiversity, the oranges of Meghalaya continue to be a significant cultural and agricultural legacy.
The state’s proactive policies and global recognition through the Geographical Indication tag reinforce the importance of preserving and celebrating Meghalaya’s gift to the world.