NimbuMirchi, almost everyone has seen a nimbu and seven chilies tied together on a thread and hung on their vehicles, their houses, their shops etcetera etcetera.
But, have you ever wondered what might be the actual reason behind this practice? How did this tradition gain such popularity?
Like every interesting story, there are two sides to this story, a mythological one and a reasonable one:-
Mythological Story: – It is believed that this combination of NimbuMirchi wards off Alakshmi, who is considered inauspicious. Alakshmi is the sister of Lakshmi and is associated with misery and poverty. It is said that she likes sour and spicy things. So, when she would visit someone’s house the nimbumirchi would satisfy her hunger and she would go away. Like most superstitions, I think this also provides a relief and keeps your mind clear of any negative thoughts as somehow you believe that you have already done a remedy for the problem.
Now, for the actual story,
In earlier times, when the only mode of transportation was either bullock carts or by foot, and people travelled through jungles to reach other villages, they used to carry some lemons and a few chilies with them, along with some water.
The journey was usually very long and lasted for a few days, which sometimes resulted in dehydration. Now, here is where the lemon-chilly combo comes in handy. Lemon, when mixed with water gives us lemonade, which is quite refreshing and hydrating.
As for the chilies, they played a big part in determining whether a snake bite was poisonous or not. When people walked through the jungles infested with snakes, they would sometimes get bitten in the dark and to determine if the snake was venomous or not, they would eat a chilly. If the snake bite was in fact poisonous, then they would not feel the taste of chilly as the nerves of their tongue would be numbed by the venom. But if the snake was non-poisonous, then the traveler would immediately feel the burn of the chilly in the mouth.
Thus, lemon and chilly basically served as a mobile first-aid kit of the old times and it became such a common part of their journeys, that they started attaching it to their bullock carts and outside their houses in case they forgot them. This practice was then carried on and on and soon people forgot its original purpose and started following it blindly, resulting in today’s infamous nimbu-mirchitotka!