Mahua: A Potential Heritage Alcohol From India
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If I ask you about heritage alcohol of the country which is unique to India and widely consumed, you would probably say kaju feni or toddy. But how about we tell you about a national treasure of India i.e. Mahua? Mahua is a flower-based distilled spirit version that has been made for ages by the tribal people of Central India, especially Chhattisgarh. This spirit is made by sun-dried nectar-rich flowers of Mahua trees which are specifically found in central India and nowhere else. It is perhaps the only distilled spirit made from sweet flowers. 

Local tribes indulge in the highly laborious process to bring you the perfect drink of Mahua. This is also known to have medicinal value and brings an earthy and homely charm. It is actually a part of the local culture of the tribes who consume it at local gatherings and ceremonies. Mahua is a pungent, potent drink that is usually brewed in unorganized, small-scale backyard stills. The tribal people first dry the mahua flowers for 7 to 8 days in the sun and put them into a pot of water for fermentation. The distilled version comes colourless and cloudy. Then it is tested for its quality. This distilled spirit appropriately stands up to its title of heritage drink. 

Mahua is an indomitable part of tribal culture due to many reasons. It is one of the essential sources of income for those residing in highly rural and backward pockets of India’s central forest belt. It is used by forest-dwelling tribal communities to make a variety of products ranging from jams to syrups and medicinal extracts which generates a pretty good income and livelihood.   

                                        Image credits: The Hindu business line

As per a report published in The Print, the Agriculture and Processed Foods Export Development Authority shipped a consignment of dehydrated mahua flowers from Chhattisgarh’s Korba district to Paris in 2021, introducing it as India’s most famous kacchi sharab on a global level. Moreover, Madhya Pradesh declared mahua a heritage liquor. Maharashtra first amended the Bombay Mahua Flower Rules while making the collection, sale, and transport of mahua flowers legal. The Tribal Co-operative Marketing Development Federation, a Ministry of Tribal Affairs-run co-operative tied up with IIT-Delhi to produce Mahua Nutra which is a health beverage made by blending unfermented mahua flowers with pomegranate and guava juices in Jharkhand, and launched mahua cookies combined with millet flour in Madhya Pradesh. 

From being seen as something dangerous to becoming a brand, mahua has travelled a long way. We can say without any doubt that government policy on mahua has completely changed now as it has crossed many obstacles from dealing with an outright ban to a celebration of India’s country liquor.  

                                     Image credits: Desmondji_agaveindia/Instagram

One vision that changed Mahua’s face is of Desmond Nazareth who has been working on this for years. Founder and managing director of Desmondji_Agave India left no stone unturned in sourcing mahua flowers and acquiring a license to sell which is an actual country liquor. While talking to Forbes India, Nazareth said “It took a good four years for the state in which I had my distillery, Andhra Pradesh, to give me permission to make mahua. Eventually, I was able to convince the authorities there that every international spirit started as a country spirit in some country’. DJ Mahua is his distillery’s creation and has recently gained much popularity. Nazareth wants to make Mahua India’s national spirit and we know this isn’t far!