India honeycombed

The cave paintings at Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh that date back to circa 6000 BC indicate that honey has been popular in India since then, especially in rural India. A lot of it is consumed during the monsoon. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 51,000 tonnes of honey are produced in India annually. Beekeeping is an important part of rural development programmes of both the government and of NGOs.

Historically, 3 kinds of honey were commonly recognised: maksika from the common honeybee (Apis cerana indica), bhramara from the large black rock bee (Apis dorsata) and ksaudra from the dwarf ksaudra bee (Apis florea). As long ago as Rigvedic times, the Rbhu brothers are credited with having built artificial hives of reed and straw, in which sections from a natural hive were fixed. A year later, 4 of the sections were removed. In later times, hives kept in logs or pots in a horizontal position, 4-legged stools, or in a hole deep in wells - a proced still used in Kaskmir. To extract the honey, the bees smoked out and a few combs removed. The Mahabhara has references to bee gardens, apiary keepers and polle yielding plants, suggesting some degree of commercialis_a tion by then.

Honey was collected both in north and south India forest dwellers for sale or barter. The Mahavarnsa tells story of 3 brothers, 2 of whom collected honey for sale the third.

In ancient India, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas drank liquc made from honey, which was popular among tribals The Kuruvar tribe of Tamil Nadu made liquor from hone. and matured it in bamboo cylinders. Honey was also usc in a wide variety of beverages and sweets. Aristobolus Kassandrelia, who accompanied Alexander to India, me tioned cakes o 'f sesamum and honey. In many villages north India, the cakes are popular even now, particular during Holi.

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