Winter Melon or Ash gourd is one of the best vegetable as well as a medicine. It is packed with phyto-nutrients and medicinal values. It is used for weight gain therapy, to improve intelligence and so on. In Indian system of medicine, it is hailed as the best among all the fruit-yielding creeper plants. It is called Kushmanda in Sanskrit. It is also used in spiritual practices in some parts of India.
Botanical name: Benincasa cerifera or Benincasa hispida.
Vernacular names, Sanskrit synonyms
English names: Winter melon, White gourd, Ash gourd
Hindi name: Petha, Rukasaa, Bhatuvaa,
Telugu name: Boodida Gummadi, Gummadi
Bengali name: Kumada
Marathi name: Kohala
Tamil name: Pusinikkai
Malayalam name: Kumbalam
Kannada name: Boodu Kumbala Kai / Kayi
Parsi name: Vaduba
Arabian name: Mahadab
Kushmanda – The seed does not have hotness (Ku Nasti Ushma Andeshu Beejeshy yasya sa – Amarakosha)
Pushpaphala – fruits and flowers are present in the creeper vine at the same time.
Valliphala – fruit yielding creeper.
Distribution, classical categorization
Distribution: It is cultivated in almost all parts of India.
Classical categorization: All text books have categorized it under Phala varga (group of fruits)
Rasa (Taste): Madhura (sweet)
Guna (qualities): Laghu (light to digest), Snigdha (unctuous, oily)
Vipaka (taste conversion after digestion): Madhura (sweet)
Veerya (potency): Sheeta (cold)
Effect on Tridosha: Balances Pitta, Vata
Prabhava (special effect): Medhya – improves intelligence
Ash gourd benefits
Mutraghatahara – helps in easy passing of urine
Pramehashamanam – useful in diabetes, urinary tract disorders
Mutrakruchrahara – Useful in dysuria
Ashmarichedana – Useful in urinary calculi. Helps to break into pieces
Vinmutra glapanam – helps to increase the bulk of urine and faeces
Trushartishamanam – relieves thirst and related pain
Jeernangapushtidam – nourishes the worn out body parts. Helps to improve body mass. Helps to gain weight.
Vrushyam – Aphrodisiac
Arochakahara – relieves anorexia
Balya – improves strength and immunity
Bruhmana – helps to gain weight, provides nutrition
Pittasranut – useful in bleeding disorders due to Pitta imbalance, such as menorrhagia, bleeding per rectum, nasal bleeding etc.
Vatanut – balances Vata
Bastishuddhikara – cleanses bladder
Chetorogahrut – relieves excessive tiredness
The unripe winter melon helps to balance Pitta.
Mid-ripe winter melon is coolant and increases Kapha.
Old winter melon (Fully ripe), is not so coolant, sweet, alkaline, easy to digest and improves digestion strength.
Ash gourd seed oil has similar effects to those of the fruit.
Part used, Dosage
Part used: Fruit, seed, seed oil
Fruit – It is used as vegetable.
Seed powder – 3 – 6 grams
Seed oil – 5 ml
Spiritual practice with ash gourd:
To symbolize evil power destruction, camphor is lit on the ash gourd fruit and after Arati (circular rotation to the Diety, symbolizing zero-ness (ego-less), ash gourd is usually shattered into pieces by pounding it on to the ground.
This ritual is done on many festivals, usually during inauguration of new buildings, new business, during Lakshmi Pooja etc.
In obese people, it should be used for a limited period, in minimal dose.
It increases Kapha, hence it is not ideal to use this in winter and whenever someone has cold, asthma or bronchitis.
However, it is very useful in post tuberculosis recuperation period. It improves weight.
If it is sweet, it is not ideal during indigestion.
Ayurvedic medicine with Ash gourd as ingredient:
Kushmanda Rasayana – Useful in bleeding disorders, to improve body weight and to relieve emaciation.
Sri Gopal Taila – useful to improve strength of nerves and muscles
Use in Worship
In Hindu custom, during festivals or inauguration of office, Pooja of vehicles etc, it is a common practice to break ash gourd in front of office or vehicle. It is a symbolic sacrifice to avoid bad incidents in future.
Amla Navami (Awla navami) is the 9th day of Karthika Month of Hindu calendar. It is between October – november. It is the same month in which Deepavali – festival of light is celebrated.
During this day, Amla tree is worshipped along with friends and family. This festival is also known as Akshaya Navami. It is more celebrated in mid and northen part of India.
This worship is conducted to seek blessings to beget children and family peace.
This is the date in which God Sri Krishna stopped all the childhood activities. This date is when the Dwapara Yug started. This is the date in which God Vishnu killed a demon called Kushmandaka. For this reason, during this festival, Kushmanda (Ash gourd) is distributed for free to all. Amla itself is considered as God Vishnu. Hence, worship is offered to this tree.