With the vivid pink flesh, slick black seeds and thick green skin, the simple sweet watermelon has been embraced by people from all walks of life for centuries. A very large number of watermelon varieties are grown in India. They have very exotic names like Noorjehani, Anarkali, Sharbat – e Anar, etc. Some varieties are named after the towns near which they are grown – Faizabadi, Jaunpuri and Farukhabadi – all of them along the bank of the Ganga and the Yamuna.
The Watermelon of Maant subdivision and Musk melon of Mahavan subdivision of Mathura used to be very popular among the Brajwasis till a decade back. The sweet, tender and delicious melons thrived under the favorable cultural conditions with the less polluted, sweet water flowing in Yamuna. The melons were quite famous in the Western Uttar Pradesh, which was transported to different districts. The Water melon of Maant was offered to the deities of the temples in Vrindavan.
The watermelons and melons were cultivated along the bank of the river Yamuna in Braj. Melons have been the traditional summer fruit of Braj. People from not only the Mathura district, but from the neighboring districts used to visit the wholesale market of Maant to buy the melons. But, it has become the story of the past. The trend has reversed on these days. The farmers go to other districts to buy water melons. The production of the melons has sharply fallen down in a decade.
The melons are sensitive fruit to grow. The sewage and chemical enriched water coming from Delhi in Yamuna has affected the production of the melons. The farmers say that the water melon plant die after the sprout grow a little. The melons which are grown these days are in no comparison with the melons of the past.
Bacchu Singh, a local farmer said, “We work hard to cultivate the watermelon on the flood plain of Yamuna. But the plant dies after the sprout grows a little, due to the chemical flowing in the river.”
“The climate change may have also effected the production of the watermelon. Before Braj experienced dry and hotter summer comparing to these days. The more hot air means the sweeter melon. Everyone was attracted to these sweet melons,” said Bacchu Singh.
These days the farmers are either producing the high breed water melons or vegetables on the Yamuna bank. They are not as sweet as the melons of Maant. Some melons are tasteless. These days the watermelons are brought from Punjab and other neighboring districts.