Sanskrit Naranga becomes European oranges

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By Niranjan Shah
My dear Nikita and Sanjna:

According to the December 1999 issue of Hinduism Today,  “Orange suffered an identity crisis, having no name in European languages until orange, the fruit, arrived from Asia. The ancestor of  the modern orange grew wild in North India and eventually came by boats to Europe. India has two Sanskrit names for this fruit, naranga and    santara. Naranga became naranj in Arabic, then the English altered it to orange, Santara got modified to the Portuguese cintra  hence citrus and  related  words.” The Sanskrit word was borrowed into European languages through Persian narang, Armenian narinj, Arabic naranj, Spanish naranja and Portuguese laranja, Latin arangia, Italian arancia or arancio, and Old French  oreng, in that chronological order. The name of the color is derived from the fruit, first appearing in this sense in 1542.

Orange, the round-shaped, orange colored fruit, immensely rich in vitamins and minerals, is one of the favorite fruits of the world. Orange, the delectable pulpy fruit, belongs to the genus citrus, the other famous members of which include the lemon, lime and grapefruit. The scientific name of the sweet variety of orange is citrus sinensis, while the bitter variety is called citrus aurantium. The name of the fruit is presumably derived from the Sanskrit Naranga, which after moving through different languages such as Persian, Armenian, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, Italian and French, ultimately become orange in English.  Different varieties were grown in both north and south regions of India, which dates back almost 7000 years. The fruit was mainly used in various dishes, for the excellent  flavor that it imparts. Many historians are of the opinion that  it was grown in the orchards of China from the beginning of the first century millennium.

Among the Europeans, Romans were the first to taste this juicy fruit. It reached the Roman Empire around the first century BC. The credit for introducing this fruit to the Roman Empire goes to the Persian traders, who had trade relations with India. It became quite popular among the nobility and military classes of the empire. The Romans developed the first orchard of oranges in North Africa, in around the first century AD. The oranges grown in North Africa were mainly supplied across the Mediterranean. However, the 6th century witnessed the decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Islamic Caliphate. North Africa came under the domination of the Islamic Caliphate in the 7th century, which led to the closure of trade routes to Mediterranean countries. The Islamic rulers instead started trade routes towards the Middle East and thus, oranges reached the Middle East countries. But, a revival of the orange trade to Europe took place in the 11th century. However, the sweet variety of oranges reached Europe in the 16th century BC, by Portuguese traders.

The Spanish explorers arrived in South America in the 15th century AD, and probably initiated orange cultivation in Cananeia, an island off the Sao Paulo coast, in around the 16th century. Today, the South American country, Brazil, is the leading producer of oranges, Sao Paulo being the main  center of production. Brazil  accounts for almost half of the world’s total production of oranges.

Today, oranges are of the most sought-after fruits of the world, not only for its great taste but also for its nutritional value. It is a rich source of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, folic acid, vitamin B6, flavonoids, pectin and dietary fiber. Besides, it also contains a significant amount of minerals like potassium, scalcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, etc. Orange does not contain harmful cholesterol and fats. It can be of immense help in many ailments like high blood pressure, hardening of arteries, constipation, heart disease and stomach ulcer. Besides, it contains antioxidants, which are effective in protecting the body from harmful free radicals. So, the regular consumption of this nutritious fruit will definitely help you to remain healthy and fit.

— Grandpa’s blessing

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