Show me an Indian who has never seen or used a coconut. The sriphal or 'God-fruit' is an integral part of Hindu religious rituals. The Rishis of ancient times were wise dudes. That is why they insisted upon including in Poojas the only fruit of which every part can be utilized.
When I was a kid, baby creams, lotions and moisturizers had not really arrived in India. The Sunday morning ritual included an oil bath. We’d sit in front of mom or grandma who would then proceed to massage pure coconut oil into our arms, legs and hair. This would be followed by a ‘head bath’ with plenty of hot water, and boiled decoction of shikakai and reetha. The oil left a lovely sheen on the hair and skin which could then withstand the rigors of the Indian sun without drying or shriveling. In the holidays we played all the afternoon, running outdoors, climbing trees, and mom was worry-free knowing the coconut oil would take care of a few scratched knees.
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Then there were the coconuts that were bought for adding to food. These are fresh nuts with the tough shell still on. In many coastal communities fresh coconut shavings are used as a base for curries and as garnish. Towards central part of India dried coconut is more often used. We children always looked forward to the breaking of these nuts as there was incidental bounty to be had in the form of coconut water. This poured out when the coconut shell broke open and was collected in a bowl kept underneath. The firm white flesh would then be scraped with a special scraper. The resulting scraped mass when squeezed between the palms gave the much prized coconut milk. This milk is a connoisseurs’ delight, with smooth rich texture and a mild sweetness. Added to curries, it nicely balances the heat of green chillies. My favorite is Solkadhi, a delicious cooling drink made along the west coast of India with oodles of coconut milk and flavored with sour kokum fruit.
Nowadays the coconut plays an even more important role in protecting the skin and hair, what with pollution, smoke, diesel fumes and dust getting to every child and adult who steps out into the street. While coconut oil is a bit… well... oily, I am a big fan of coconut milk. As the official scraper-of-coconut at home I usually end up coming in close contact with fresh coconut shavings. These nuts are so bursting with richness that you will find its cream sticking to the scraper too. Massaging one’s arms, legs and face with these fat rich coconut scrapings makes the skin supple and gives it long lasting softness. And people wonder how I manage to look ten years younger! Now you know my secret
This blogpost is submitted for "The Goodness Of Coconut Contest, brought to you by Parachute Advansed body lotion" and Womensweb