How important is the name of a place? Extremely – is the unanimous answer. A name is the first impression, overall identity and the string that connects the emotions to a place. Historically, names of places have been significant in establishing their identity, legacy and what they signify. Names tell the story of a place, what it has been through and what it has survived; who ruled over the place and what people live there. So, when we hear about a state that has several places named after mangoes, it makes us want to sit up and think what exactly must be the reason and the circumstances. Is there a story behind Odisha having multiple places named after mangoes? Let us try to find out. 

Odisha has been a state that has had a very large percentage of tribal population, whose mode of living was always primary, dependent upon the local produce. Now, the most widely grown product in the interior of Odisha is mango. The state is one of the largest producers of the King of fruits and it eats mangoes in a variety of ways. As we have discussed, the name of a place is more often than not reflective of its history, culture and tradition, what the place associates itself with. For these parts of Odisha, producing, consuming and cooking mangoes is a massive part of the legacy of the place. Hence, dozens of villages are named after mangoes.

In Odiya, the local language of the state, mango is called Amba. So, a host of villages either have names beginning with the word amba or ending with it. According to the records, not just 10-12 villages, more than 40 villages have names that have the word amba in them. Some of these villages are Hatiamba, Ambapada, Mantriamba, Machiamba, Kankadamba, Ambaguda, Jadamba etc and this is the story of just one district, Malkangiri! Even in neighbouring districts like Koraput and Nabarangapura, which are equally involved in the production of mangoes, many villages like Ambadola and Doliamba are named with the prefix and suffix of mangoes.This is the influence that mangoes have on the state of Odisha and its culture.

Mangoes are eaten in a variety of ways including pickle | Pexels

To understand how important mangoes are to the area, we need to understand how it is consumed. After all, there are several places which produce certain fruits or crops but they do not name hordes of villages after the name of the produce. Well, for Odisha, mango is more than just a summer fruit. The people of these areas use every single part of a mango. Right from the pulp to the skin to the seed – no part of a mango is wasted, whether it be raw mangoes or the ripe ones. The tribals of the area make pickles, aam papad and kernel powder from mangoes and because of the wide availability of the food item, it is what they fall back upon in case of food shortage or scarcity. So, mangoes are a part of their life and lifestyle.

Like we said in the beginning, a name should define, demonstrate and designate a place. It should be reflective of its people and what they stand for. Odisha having several villages named after mangoes, is a reflection of how important the fruit is and how it has helped sustain lives and livelihoods in the state.