Betel Nut uses

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Betel Nut uses

As well as being used as a mild narcotic throughout south-east Asia and the western Pacific region,

Areca catechu referred to as betel nut or areca nut (supari in Hindi) has a strong religious significance especially in the southern and eastern parts of India and Nepal, a small Hindu kingdom to the north of India. According to Trilok and Indira Malupuria in 'Sacred and Useful Plants and Trees of Nepal' (1978), the betel nut is used to personify the image of Laksmi, the Goddess of wealth and Ganesha, the God of wisdom. As betel leaves (leaves of the vine, Piper betel) are a must in the observance of sacred worship, so the betel nut is equally important. As well as being regarded as a pious fruit it is used as an aphrodisiac, a medicant for urinary disorders, a tonic for nervous complaints and an astringent. In sanskrit it is called pongiphalam. The tree is cultivated in eastern Nepal, Assam and coastal areas of south India.

No Hindu rituals can be performed without the betel nut, being especially important in the nuptial ceremonies of the Newars, an ethnic group confined to Nepal. Before the marriage several gifts of fruits, sweets and betel nuts are sent to the parents of the bride by the groom's parents. During the actual marriage betel nut is used extensively and then after the marriage when the bride first reaches the groom's house, she distributes betel nuts to all the family members including the groom.

In Sunwar and Jirals (other Nepalese ethnic groups) betel nuts are distributed by the groom as an invitation after the marriage for the males to attend a feast.


Contributed by:

John Dowe
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Reproduced from Palms & Cycads No. 22, Jan-Mar 1989.


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