Food - Drink
Why India's Mahua Liquor Was Banned During British Rule
BY CHRIS SANDS
Mahua, a flower-based distilled liquor from India, has begun to blossom commercially, and the brand Desmondji aims to establish an international market for the traditional spirit. Its possible newfound success would be a remarkable story, given mahua's long and troubled history that was marred and stifled by colonialism.
Making mahua liquor has been a part of the Adivasi people's culture from time immemorial, but during the British Raj, or British rule of India, the liquor was labeled as a danger to public order and made illegal. However, the empire's true motive was economic, since colonial occupiers wanted to sell their own liquor in India.
Even the gathering of manhua flowers was restricted by the British, and though India won independence in 1947, lasting bans and excessive taxing on mahua have led the Adivasi to take a more covert approach to production. In 2020, Desmondji could only sell their mahua in two Indian states, but things may look up in the future.