I have tasted Turmeric grown in different parts of India, but am more familiar with the following five varieties which are grown mainly in Kerala, South India, where I am from. Most of them are yellow in color, but there are also white and black turmeric which are less popular and cultivated less. 

The first variety is  Curcuma aromatica or Kasturi Manjal which is known for its fine odor. It is used widely as a natural cosmetic to apply on the skin for beauty enhancement. The Kasturi Manjal is generally avoided in cooking because if its bitter taste. The powder made from the root of this Turmeric can be easily sourced from any herbal vendors in India and its color is very close to the common Turmeric used for cooking.

The second variety, is the popular one used in Curry Powder which is widely used for cooking purposes. The main ingredient in most of the curry powders is the Turmeric produced from the Curcumin longa variety and is prepared by boiling the roots in water and then drying them to make the powder.

The third one, which is close to the Manjal in color, but of round elongated shape, like a miniature form of an umbrella (Kuda means umbrella), it is used in ceremonies and rituals and is considered very sacred and people keep this at home as part of the divine images and worship it because of its divine energy.

The fourth variety Turmeric is known Kari Manjal or Black Turmeric which is a rare variety and the roots are slightly black in colour. Many Ayurvedic medicines are prepared by this variety of Turmeric..

The fifth category of Turmeric is known as Mara Manjal or Tree manjal which is a kind if vine and extremely useful in preparing some very special medicines. This variety of Turmeric is fast disappearing from Western Ghats.


1. Turmeric a natural Medicine  

The Kasturi Manjal powder has a fine odor and bright yellow color and is used almost as a medicine for beautiful and healthy skin. The word Kasturi comes from the medicine obtained from Deer Musk, which means a very fine odor. This variety of Turmeric is cultivated across many parts of the South India , mainly in Western Ghats. They are big in size compared to other slimmer edible ones. The Kasturi Manjal though smells great tastes bitter in cooking, and people generally avoid using it for cooking. Following are some of the common uses of Kasturi Manjal as an antibiotic and cosmetic that I am familiar with. There are many more to discover for me.

·       While growing up, it was a common scene for me to watch girls and women use pieces of Kasturi Manjal to make a paste and apply on the face for a bright shiny look.  Normally it Kasturi Manjal powder is mixed with yogurt or milk for a smooth feeling.

·       Paste of Kasturi Manjal and Mustard oil is a good choice for body massages.

·       In Kerala, once it was a common to have a piece of Turmeric and a grinding stone in bathrooms to make Turmeric paste to apply to body parts to remove undesired hair growth in the body during bath shower.

·       In most parts of India, it has been a general practice to give new born children a bath in Kasturi Manjal.

·       Most of the girls whom I have grew up with during my teenage years had used Kasturi Manjal paste to get rid of their acne and scars from the faces. Some girls also added Basil paste with Turmeric for quick relief from dirty acnes.

·       During my child hood most of us used green mung beans powder as soap particularly if we had any skin diseases. In most of the Panchakarma Ayurvedic treatments, Mung Beans powder mixed with Kasturi Manjal is used as soap.

2. Turmeric as Food

The most commonly used variety of Turmeric used for cooking is known as Curcuma longa Linn or Curry Manjal. The famous “curry powder”, a very common phrase used for a multitude of Indian dishes comes with Turmeric powder as the main ingredient. Turmeric powder is made from the turmeric root when the skinned roots are first boiled in hot water and then dry it when the roots become harder for few days. The dry roots are powdered to make turmeric powder. It is a very powerful ingredient to make the dishes colorful, tasty and healthy. There are many ways in which you use turmeric for cooking and making a variety of drinks .

ATINA FOODS has two products which exemplify Turmeric as Food, you can eat them both on a variety of dishes and they are really delicious!

Turmeric Sweet Herbal Jam is a delicious lightly sweet, earthy and balanced concoction of Turmeric root, ginger root, Tamarind, preserved in Jaggery unrefined cane sugar with whole pickled black peppercorns. Our favorite ways to eat this are on avacodos, and mixed in yogurt on rice, it is also nice on fish or chicken, mixed with mayonnaise as an aoli and even just on toast.

Turmeric Ginger Salt Pickle is a bright, raw, lacto ferment of the roots of both turmeric and ginger in salt - no vinegar and no water is added. Tastes excellent in opposition, on a rice bowl, on smoked meats, rice and beans, make a dressing out of it, anything to uplift a heavy meal.

Both are excellent sources of non extracted turmeric with ginger for help with pain and inflammation.

3. In rituals and ceremonies:

In India turmeric is not just a spice plant but it represents a whole system of living.  Turmeric has many representational qualities in the way of Hindu, Buddhist and many other communities worship their divinities. It is not only the easily accessible sacred medicine but also represents purity of the mind, fertility of the soil, healthy body and it also function as one of the sacred offering to the divinities along with rice, sandal wood, sacred ash, incense sticks, oil etc . In many Temples across India the image of the deities are washed everyday as part of the ritualistic ablution or “Abhishekam” and the left over from such purification is distributed to the devotees as sacred offering. In marriages Turmeric has a central role to play to purify the body and minds of the marrying couples.

4. Turmeric as a coloring dye for cloths:

For centuries Turmeric has been used as a coloring agent or dye for clothes.  For Hindus and Buddhists the colour yellow is scared as it represents the most purified state of existence of the divine spirits. The yellow colour rob worn by saintly men and women represents that they have achieved higher state of consciousness where everything is part of the one while. Every new function in any house hold begins with a yellow color cloth given to the priests. The children during their birth days are given turmeric dyed white clothes to go t the temple. The turmeric dyed clothes are worn by priests for conducting rituals and ceremonies.

5. Turmeric as sacred decorative material

In many part of rural India, people decorate house walls with various color pigments, turmeric is used mainly for yellow color. In many parts of South India, every morning women draw Kolam on the floor of Mother Earth. Kolam is a sacred design based on Spiritual believes related  to attract positive Spirits and to ward off evils also function as welcome sign to the guests who are coming to the house. The designs are meant to give prosperity not only to the house but to the entire neighbourhood including surrounding nature. . The designs are generally taken from many tantric design patterns and are drawn on the floor just outside the main gate of the house. The materials used for drawing the colorful drawings on the floor are mainly rice and turmeric powder.

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