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BY- JAYA CHOUDHARY
Spices as a commodity may be trivial, but their value in the kitchen is immeasurable. It is difficult to go back to cooking without spices until they were found. Their origins can be traced to 5,000 years when the first traces of the spice trade were found. Many of the spices mentioned below are imported into Europe and the United States from far-flung locations such as Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America. Many of these spices are still known to be very useful in terms of both value and price today. According to today’s retail rates, here are five of the world’s most expensive spices.
The inner bark of the cinnamon tree, which is native to Sri Lanka but also cultivated in India and Indonesia, is used to make this spice. It’s one of the world’s oldest spices and is used to flavor sweets and beverages like coffee, tea, and even wine. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, it was considered one of the most valuable spices in the world. The spice comes in two forms: a stick and a powder. The ground powder has a better taste than the sticks and can be preserved for longer. Given that cinnamon costs about $6 a pound, it’s a good thing you don’t need a lot of it to make it work.
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This spice is native to Indonesia, but it can also grow in Zanzibar, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Clove trees can reach a height of 12 meters and have big leaves and flowers. The trees grow a small number of blossoms per year, which are hand-picked making it worth $10 a pound. The spice has modern healing properties and it lowers blood sugar levels and is one of the most essential components of most perfumes on the market. It’s also a common flavoring agent in cigarettes. The inclusion of a compound called Eugenol, which has a very strong fragrance, gives it its flavor.
Cardamom has a clear fragrance and a herbal, spicy, mint-like flavor that is commonly found in Northern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and India. Cardamom, also known as the Queen of Indian Spices, costs 60 euros per kilogram, or around $30 per pound. Brown cardamom has a smokier flavor than white cardamom and both are great for making tea, but green cardamom is especially the taste maker in desserts. Cardamom was once thought to be a herb and was used in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. It was thought to be a cure for tooth and gum diseases, throat disorders, and other ailments as well.
Since growing the seed pods for vanilla is labor-intensive, it is the second most expensive spice after saffron. It is highly regarded for its taste, despite its high cost. As a result, it’s commonly used in baking, perfumery, and aromatherapy in both industrial and domestic settings. Vanilla is famously grown in Madagascar and other Indian Ocean islands, despite its origins in Mexico.
Since vanilla beans are difficult to cultivate, there is a scarcity of them. Their vines can take up to four years to reach maturity, and their flowers only bloom once a year. Vanilla beans can cost upwards of $200 per pound. However, the cost of this fragrant spice is determined by where it was grown and how it is sold (extract, whole bean, or seeds).
ALSO READ: Saffron cultivation in India
Saffron is the most expensive Indian spice in the world, with a pound costing up to $5000. The spice was worth its weight in gold in the days of the Persians, Greeks, and Romans. It is known by many names on the Indian subcontinent: zafran (from Persian), kesar (from Hindi), Kong Posh (from Kashmiri), and kungumapoo (from Tamil). The very high rates of this spice are due to the high costs of harvesting. The saffron crocus blooms for two weeks once a year.
The spice has a sweet fragrance with notes of grass or hay, and it’s widely used in Persian, Indian, Arab, and European cuisines. The extremely flavorful spice is also used to season rice dishes. Saffron is now grown in countries other than India. When it comes to rising the spice, India’s biggest competitors are Spain, Greece, and Italy. It’s worth noting, though, that the finest saffron comes from Kashmir, India.
Diwali is arguably one of the most auspicious and celebrated holidays in South Asia. It is celebrated over the span of five days, where the third is considered most important and known as Diwali. During Diwali people come together to light, lamps, and diyas, savour sweet delicacies and pray to the lord. The day has various origin stories with the main them being the victory of good over evil. While the North celebrates the return of Lord Rama and Devi Sita to Ayodhya, the South rejoices in the victory of Lord Krishna and his consort Satyabhama over evil Narakasura.
Narakasura- The great mythical demon King
Naraka or Narakasur was the son of Bhudevi (Goddess Earth) and fathered either by the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu or Hiranyaksha. He grew to be a powerful demon king and became the legendary progenitor of all three dynasties of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa, and the founding ruler of the legendary Bhauma dynasty of Pragjyotisha.
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Narakasura was created, grew up to be strong and powerful but he was not satisfied with it, so he decided that he would worship Lord Brahma. He performed severe penance and was driven by the power of his penance; Lord Brahma appeared before him. Narakasura knew his mother loved him dearly so he asked Lord Brahma to grant him a boon that he would only die by the hands of his mother, Bhumidevi. Lord Brahma smile and ultimately granted him the boon.
Narakasura burst out laughing as Lord Brahma vanished. He thought no mother would kill their child so Lord Brahma had made him immortal. Drunk and maddened by his own power Narakasura brought all the kingdoms under his control and targeted Swargalok (Heaven). Even Indra (King of Gods) and demi-gods had to retreat in front of Narakasura. He kidnapped and took 16,000 women from the palaces as prisoners. Troubled by Naraksura's deeds the gods rushed to Lord Vishnu for a solution.
Lord Krishna and Devi Satyabhama were born to kill Narakasura
Lord Vishnu was born as Lord Krishna and Narakasura's mother Bhumidevi took the avatar of Krishna's wife Satyabhama. As Satyabhama, Bhumidevi was unaware of the knowledge of Naraksura being her son. Aditi the mother of all gods approached Satyabhama crying for help with bloodied ears as Narakasura had torn off the glowing earrings from the ears of Aditi.
Satyabhama was furious on gaining the knowledge of Narakasura's atrocities she asked Krishna to fight the demon king while she fights alongside him. Krishna agreed and they attacked the great fortress of Narakasura, riding his mount Garuda with his wife Satyabhama.
The furious battle unleashed. Krishna defeated Narakasura's general Mura and came to be known as Murari (the killer of Mura). Narakasura used several divine weapons against Krishna, but Krishna slew all those weapons effortlessly. The demon hurled a shakti towards Krishna, which mildly hurt Krishna and he fell unconscious. Upon this sight Satyabhama was enraged, she furiously pulled out a weapon of her own and hurled it at Narakasura's chest. Anxious Satyabhama turned to her fallen Lord, Krishna got up with a smile and he was completely fine. He was only playing his part. It was Satyabhama who was an incarnation of Bhoomidevi, whose hands were destined to slay Narakasura.
ALSO READ: Choosing Environment-Friendly Diwali
Lord Krishna and Goddess Satyabhama had put an end to the Narakasura's kingdom of evil. As Narakasura lay on his deathbed he realised that Satyabhama was no one but an avatar of his own mother. He requested a boon from his mother, for no one to mourn his death. Instead, he wished for people to celebrate it with light and colours. They freed the 16,000 women who later married Lord Krishna to restore them of their honour in society, retrieved Mother goddess's earrings. This day is celebrated as 'Naraka Chaturdashi' popularly known as Choti Diwali - the day before Diwali as the triumph of good over evil.
Keywords: Diwali festival, goddess Laxmi, demon king, Lord Krishna, Satyabhama, the festival of light, Naraksura, Narak Chaturdashi
For all the great inventions that we have at hand, it is amazing how we keep going back to the safety pin every single time to fix everything. Be it tears in our clothes, to fix our broken things, to clean our teeth and nails when toothpicks are unavailable, to accessorize our clothes, and of course, as an integral part of the Indian saree. Safety pins are a must-have in our homes. But how did they come about at all?
The safety pin was invented at a time when brooches existed. They were used by the Greeks and Romans quite extensively. A man named Walter Hunt picked up a piece of brass and coiled it into the safety pin we know today. He did it just to pay off his debt. He even sold the patent rights of this seemingly insignificant invention just so that his debtors would leave him alone.
Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement in the 70s. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Later, he even invented the sewing needles and a couple of other important inventions but never kept any of the patent rights.
When the punk rock tradition took over in the seventies, safety pins became a fashion rage. They were used as piercings and to patch clothes together. Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement. In some cultures, the safety pins have become symbols of good luck.
Keywords: Safety-pins, Punk Rock, Brass, Accessories, Walter Hunt
In South India, Deepavali marks the end of the monsoon and heralds the start of winter. The festival is usually observed in the weeks following heavy rain, and just before the first cold spell in the peninsula. The light and laughter that comes with the almost week-long celebration are certainly warm to the bones, but there is still a tradition that the South Indians follow to ease their transition from humidity to the cold.
Just before the main festival, the family bathes in sesame oil. This tradition is called 'yellu yennai snaana' in Kannada, or 'ennai kuliyal' in Tamil, which translates to 'sesame oil bath'. The eldest member of the family applies three drops of heated oil on each member's head. They must massage this oil into their hair and body. The oil is allowed to soak in for a while, anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour. After this, they must wash with warm water before sunrise.
Women applying oil to the heads of men Photo credit: Indians in Kuwait
In some parts of the peninsula, soap is not used to wash off the oil because it nullifies its effects. Some cultures who do not like the oil to remain in any way on their skin wash it off with shikakai and herbs, which is a paste that is traditionally used as a substitute for soap. Sometimes, the oil is heated with flowers and spices as well and is less sticky than in its pure form.
The purpose of this ritual is to cleanse the body, detoxify it, and produce heat in it. Sesame is a very heaty substance and tends to heat up the body. This heat, or 'usshna' in Kannada, prepares the body to face the sudden cold that comes to the peninsula immediately after Diwali. South India has no smooth transition weather-wise from monsoon to winter. There are a few days of stable, rainless weather, and suddenly the cold winds descend.
In many ways, the celebration of Diwali is centered around preparing for winter, considering the amount of heat and light the rituals consist of – lighting lamps, bursting crackers, and consuming warm treats. Those who practice these rituals earnestly find the shift in seasons and weather quite pleasant.
Keyboards: Sesame Oil Bath, Diwali Ritual, Traditional Sesame Oil Bath