Parineeti Picks Pomegranates In Punjab
Image Credit: Parineeti Chopra

"Eat a pomegranate and visit a bath; your youth will haste back." 

‐ Ancient Egyptian proverb.

The Chopra sisters are well-known foodies. Priyanka Chopra was once referred to as "Piggy Chops," apparently a nickname given to her by Abhishek Bachchan because of how much she loved food and how much she could put away at the dinner table. Parineeti has also routinely spoken about her love for all things gastronomic. We recall one tribute show to Yash Chopra, where she and other Yash Raj heroines walked the ramp in Manish Malhotra outfits. There, she recalled fondly how much she loved gorging on yummy parathas with the late great director.

Recently, Parineeti took to Instagram to showcase a bunch of fruits with a caption that read "When in Punjab." A freshly opened pomegranate with its bright red seeds and a sack of guavas were in one picture, while another showed a fruit mandi with bright and plump oranges. Indeed, when in Punjab, definitely gorge on these beautiful fruits. But did you know the significance of the beautiful pomegranate, with its jewel-like red seeds, in art and literature? The fruit has a long and beautiful history of being depicted in works of art; we are certain you have spotted the intricate pomegranate tree motifs in Mughal architecture. Indeed, one of the most famous legends of Mughal history involved Anarkali, named so for her exquisite beauty and grace.

The origin of the fruit is thought to be located in Persia, but it was soon grown in the Mediterranean area as well as in Arabia, Afghanistan, India, and China, where it was dubbed the "Chinese apple." The genus assigned to pomegranates (Punica) originated from the Roman name for the old city of Carthage, located in the northern region of Africa. Pomegranates were thought to have originated in Africa by the Romans, but their native range extends from north-east Turkey to Afghanistan. Additionally, the pomegranate was named Malum granatum in classical Latin, meaning "grainy apple."

A prominent feature in Islamic myth and literature, the Quran in fact mentions that pomegranates are growing in the Garden of Paradise and are recognized by God as one of his excellent creations. Ancient Iranian Christianity proposes that the pomegranate was the real forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, rather than an apple. Moreover, non-Christian Iranian traditions observe Yalda Night, where people gather on the winter solstice and eat pomegranate fruit as a way to commemorate the success of light over darkness. The wandering Israelites had a great regard for the pomegranate and yearned to come back to the promised land that was "home to fig trees, pomegranates, and olive yards." The "Song of Songs" poet mentions the pomegranate no fewer than six times, comparing his beloved to a garden of pomegranates with cheeks that look like a pomegranate that has been cut open. No surprise then that it also features prominently in Jewish figurative art.  

In Greek mythology, the pomegranate was referred to as the "fruit of the dead," as it was said to have originated from the blood of Dionysus, the god of wine. It was also a major part of the story between Hades and Persephone. Hades, the God of the Underworld, utilized pomegranate seeds to deceive Persephone into going back to the Underworld for a few months of each year. In addition to representing death, the pomegranate also symbolized fertility in ancient Greece and Rome. It had a close connection to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, as well as Hera, the Greek goddess of marriage and childbirth. In ancient Rome, brides-to-be wore wreaths crafted from pomegranate leaves, and pomegranate juice was employed to treat infertility.

Closer home in Asia, the Buddha is often depicted as holding a pomegranate in his hand in Chinese depictions. In Turkey, one of the possible origins of the fruit, a bride determined how many children she would have by smashing a pomegranate to the ground and counting how many seeds were expelled! In fact, only recently Azerbaijan celebrated its very popular pomegranate festival. That’s how storied its presence in Central Asia is.

The fruit was probably brought into India by the Mughals, and since then it has seamlessly integrated into Indian tastes and is a beloved fruit. But the fruit is not all myth and history. In the past, different societies were aware of the health advantages of the pomegranate and employed it in treatments for digestive problems, skin problems, and intestinal worms, among others. Modern-day research has revealed that pomegranates might contribute towards preventing serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

So, if you, like Parineeti, also enjoy a good pomegranate, now you know not only its rich history but also just how healthy it can be for you!