|Madurai Malli, the jasmine flower, is well-known for its alluring fragrance. The flower takes its name from its place of origin in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. Tamil women proudly adorn their hair with the beautiful Madurai Malli. Its scent combines uniquely with the fragrance of hair oil and other hair products.
Known botanically as Jasminium, the traditional jasmine flower is cultivated primarily in Madurai and in other districts of Tamil Nadu, such as Virudhunagar, Theni, Dindugal, and Sivaganga.
The shape of Madurai Malli buds varies from round to oblong, with short to medium corolla tubes and three to four whorls of petals. The characteristics of the Madurai Malli are a deep fragrance, thick petals, long petioles, and buds that open at night. The buds withhold their scent during the day and when the sunlight fades away, they release their perfume to float on the air – hence their romantic appeal.
PLACE OF ORIGIN
While the jasmine flower is available all over Tamil Nadu, the most cherished variety is the one cultivated in the sands of Madurai.
The city of Madurai is an ancient city with one of the greatest histories in the Indian sub-continent. The city is about 2,500 years old, and it was ruled by the famous Pandya kings. Madurai is located on the banks of the river Vaigai, and is the site of the famous Meenakshi temple.
The city is also called Malligai Managar, which means “jasmine city.” In Madurai and its surrounding taluks of Perungudi, Nilakottai, Uthappanaickanur, and Ammainaickanur, jasmine farms gear up for a season that lasts from February to November. One harvest is processed every ten days, which includes the entire process of irrigating, fertilizing, and picking the buds.
The jasmine flowers are of cultural importance in India, especially in South India. Plants are cultivated in private homes in gardens or in pots. The flowers are used in the home for decorating idols or as a hair adornment by girls and women. In the Chandhan Yatra festival of Lord Jagannath, the deity is bathed with jasmine flower water.
Vendors are commonly found selling the garlands of jasmine flowers in the streets of Tamil Nadu. The Madurai Malli are used during marriages, religious ceremony, functions, and festivals. They can be found around entrances to the temples, at public sites, and in business areas.
The flowers are offered for sale chiefly during the evenings, since that is the time when the buds begin releasing their fragrance.
The most popular variety of Madurai Malli is Gundu Malli (Jasminium sambac). It has extra thick petals. It is greenish white when harvested and turns to milky white after a few hours. The flower will last 24 hours after picking without discoloration.
The fragrance of jasmine flowers grown in Madurai is superior to others because of the heavy presence of the aromatic alkaloids jamone and alpha terpineol in the soil. The lateritic and red soils of Madurai district are rich in sulphur, which is the precursor of these alkaloids.
A few other varieties are:
Jasminum grandiflorum – In India, its leaves are used as Ayurvedic herbs. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant in warm temperate and subtropical regions.
Jasminum multiflorum – Known as winter jasmine, Indian jasmine, downy jasmine, and star jasmine. It is also called Magha Mallika in Sanskrit, since it flowers in the winter month of Magha in the Indian Hindu Calendar.
Polianthes tuberosa – Similar to jasmine, the tuberose is used for making perfumes.
All varieties of jasmine plants give a good yield of flowers. During first year of production, jasmine farmers harvest up to 750 kg of jasmine flowers by per acre. The yield rises each year; in the second year, the plant may yield 2,000 kg of jasmine buds per acre, in the third year the yield is around 2,500 kg per acre, and in the third year, the yield is around 3,500 kg per acre. A field may produce for up to 15 years.
During times of more than adequate rainfall, the buds appear faster than normal, resulting in a surplus supply of flowers to the market, and lower selling prices – much to the joy of the consumer.
The popular Madurai Malli is the first flower in Tamil Nadu to be provided with the Geographical Indications (GI) Mark. A private organization, in collaboration with the University of Agriculture in Madurai and the Madurai Malli Farmers Association, requested that the Registrar of Trade Marks and GI in Chennai provide Madurai Malli with the Geographical Indications tag. The approval was granted on January 16, 2013.
The flower market of Madurai stays crowded and busy due to the persistent demand for this flower. The Malli is sent from Madurai to other parts of the state early in the morning. The flowers are then tied into garlands or strands and kept for sale.
Madurai Malli is also exported out of the country to locations such as London, France, Malaysia, and Dubai. The flowers are packed in styrofoam and gel ice mats to retain freshness during transit.
The extract of jasmine and tuberose sourced from Tamil Nadu is used for the manufacture of the perfumes. Hence, perfume manufacturers also make up a significant portion of the market for the flowers.