Monday, 24 August 2009

Kewra Water

English Name: Screw Pine flower extract

Common Name (Hindi): Kewra water

  • ‘Kewra water’ is extract distilled from the Pandanus flower, used to flavor drinks and desserts in Indian cuisine.
  • Kewra plant / Screw Pine (Pandanus odoratissimus) belongs to family Pandanaceae (screw pine family). It is native to southern Asia.
  • Some of the local names of kewra in other Indian Languages are: Assamese - Keteki; Bengali and Gujarati - Ketaky; Malayalam - Kaitha, Thaazha; Punjabi - Keora; Telegu - Mogil;
  • Kewra/Ketaki is a densely branched shrub. It is rarely erect and is generally found along the coast of India and the Andaman Islands. Both male and female flowers are produced on different plants. The ancient Hindus called male plants as ‘ketaki-viphala’ or ‘dhuli pushpika’. The female plants were known as ‘sawarana ketaki’.
  • The male flowers are fragrant and white in color. These flowers are used for extraction of ‘Kewra attar’ and ‘Kewra water’ and ‘Kewra oil’.
  • Kewra attar’ is one of the most popular perfumes extracted and used in India since ancient times. It is used for scenting clothes, cosmetics, soaps, hair oils, tobacco and agarbati. ‘Kewra water’ is used for flavoring various foods, sweets syrups and soft drinks. The use of Kewra water is very common on festival occasion, weddings and other social functions in North India. The ‘Kewra oil’ is considered as stimulant and antispasmodic and is useful in rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The tender leaves of Ketaki are eaten raw or cooked with condiments. In the Philippines the leaves are cooked with rice for imparting the smell of new rice. Its leaves are also used to flavor ice creams
  • All the parts of the plant are having tremendous medicinal value. The anthers of male flowers are given in earache, headache and diseases of blood. The juice of the flowers is quite useful in rheumatic arthritis.

Ketaki - A cursed flower

The Ketaki flower is mentioned in the Brahma’s story as the cursed flower. Kewra, also known as Ketaki is a forbidden flower cursed by Lord Shiva for bearing a false witness of Lord Brahma. According to a legend, Lord Vishnu was lying on the serpent couch in the sea of eternity. Lord Brahma, while passing by felt insulted when Lord Vishnu neither rose nor greeted him. Both flew into rage over the question of supremacy and this led to a fight. Horrified Devas rushed to Lord Shiva for aid. On the request of Devas, Lord Shiva proceeded to the battlefield and in the midst of battle; Lord Shiva assumed the form of a huge pillar of light. Both Brahma and Vishnu were awestruck by the cosmic pillar of light. Vishnu had to admit the defeat because he was unable to explore the limits of the mighty pillar of light whereas Brahma on his journey upwards came across Ketaki flower wafting down slowly.

Inquiring from the flower from where she had come from, Ketaki replied that she had been placed at the top of huge pillar of light.

Although Brahma was unable to find the uppermost limits of the cosmic pillar, he decided to take the flower back to Vishnu to bear witness that Brahma had reached the top of the pillar. Brahma gloated over the defeated Vishnu. This infuriated Shiva. Brahma was punished for telling lie and the creator was banned from being worshipped. Similarly, Ketaki was also cursed that she would never again be used in worship of Shiva. Thus, Ketaki is debarred forever from being offered in worship.

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