History of Makhana

Madhubani - The Motherland of Makhana

Makhana or Fox nut which is also known as the superfood, has made inroads in the domestic and international markets. Today, famous for its many health benefits, nutrition, aiding in weight loss and usage for cooking, Makhana’s presence dates back to more than 200 years ago.

The origin of cultivation of Makhana took place at Madhubani, a popular Mithilanchal region of Bihar. It is here that Makhana was cultivated with the traditional methods by a poor community of farmers. From Madhubani, Makhana seeds and Makhana Pops have extended to other parts of the Country. Historically, in the Eighteenth Century, under the kingship of King Darbhanga, Makhana was cultivated in Darbhanga and Madhubani districts. In those times, farmers used to get a profit of Rs 3 per acre for the cultivation of Makhana.

Makhana seeds and Makhana pops are native to Madhubani and contribute 40% to the total production of Makhana in the state of Bihar. More than 3500 MT of makhana is traded annually in Madhubani and it is expected to increase exponentially with every passing year.

Makhana has reached to countries like Pakistan, Canada, China, Malaysia, Bangladesh etc. However, Largely the cultivation of Makhana takes place in Madhubani only. Due to the huge rise in demand of Makhana seeds and Makhana flakes in domestic and global arenas, Government of India is encouraging companies to brand and package Makhanas to attract untapped markets. Government is backing the farmers of Madhubani and Darbhanga districts so that they can are a better livelihood from the cultivation of Makhana. 

Greek History of Makhana

Though Makhana finds its roots in the heart of India, it is also found in other foreign cultures. Not limited to India, Makhana or Fox nut has been mythological associated in Greece. This wonder nut has many names in different countries. In India, it is called Phool Makhana, Western countries call it Fox Nut and Lotus seeds. Another interesting name of Makhana is Euryale Ferox. The name goes back to centuries back in Greek Mythology. It has derived its name from mythical Greek Gorgon that are a terrifying female in Greek History.
In Greek, Gorgon means Terrible or dreadful. This term is commonly used in Greek Mythology for three sisters who had head hair of venous snakes like Medusa. 

GI tag for Makhana

It is here in this Mithilanchal region of Bihar, Makhana has started getting distributed to rest of the world from Madhubani. Also called as the black diamond, received the Geographical Indication Tag which will give a huge boost to exports of Makhana to other parts of the country. Stringent tests of quality are done before any produce of a region gets the GI tag. Also, the produce has to be be originated from that particular state before it is awarded with GI tag status by Government of India. It is a proud moment for the state as now Makhana officially an exclusive produce of Mithilanchal region of Bihar.

Bihar: Frontrunner in Makhana Cultivation

Makhana or Lotus seed is cultivated in the marshy lands of India. Bihar alone accounts for 90% of the Makhana Cultivation. The roots of Makhana cultivation in India go deep in this State. Madhubani being the birth land of this aquatic crop. 

 Traditionally North Bihar has been involved with cultivation of Makhana for consumption for many reasons. Primary used for cooking purposes, Makhana comes as an economical option with health benefits. The Hindu community is Bihar use Makhana for Festivals and religious purposes. Muslim community too uses Makhana for  breaking their fasts called Roza during Ramzan.

 In Koshi Mithila regions, Makhana is used for marriage ceremonies too. Garlands of Makhanas are made and offered to Gods and Goddesses.

 Also cultivated for its medicinal usage, Bihar is producing Makhana and distributing it to rest f the country for making Ayurvedic Medicines. It is said to alleviate the problems of Vatta and Pitta.

 Apart from Madhubani, traditionally District Darbhanga is also one of the oldest regions of Bihar producing large amount of Makhana. Agriculture has been the primary source of livelihood in this district. Darbhanga is known to be one of the most backward districts of India. Darbhanga district has major regions producing Makhana namely, Beroul, Benipur, Keoti, Manigachi, Darbhanga, Sadar, Singhwara, Baheri, Alinagar.

 Gullobara bazaar in Darbhanga district is a major trading centre approximately 2000 MT of makhana is traded annually. The fishermen community known as Mallah is very poor and backward and use extremely traditional means of collection of seeds that effect their health as well. They collect the seeds from the bottom of the water beds which is very cumbersome. 

 Apart from Darbhanga and Madhubani districts, Katihar and Purnia are upcoming districts for Makhana markets in Bihar.  3000 MT of makhana is traded annually in the district of Katihar and about 3500 MT in Purnia. Katihar town and Kada Gola are the two important markets in district Katihar and Purnia has clusters like Harda, Sapni, Khushkibagh, Belauri and Gulabbaghare for Makhana production

Government’s Initiatives

Looking at the poor health standards and time consuming methods of the farmers of Makhana, Government is supporting Madhubani and Darbhanga farmers with new technology and provision of credits. With GI tags and steep increase in global demand of Makhana seeds and Makhana, Government has expansive plans for Bihar.

High yield variety called the Swarna vaidehi has been provided by ICAR to the farmers for higher quality Makhana Production.

Traditional methods of farming are being replaced by modern and mechanised process of cultivation. Aqua farming is being encouraged as it is a more sustainable and healthier option. It lessens the cultivation time and also provide high quality production of Makhana seeds and Makhana.