Mangoes are represented in religious themes of South Asia's diverse communities, whether Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim or Christian. The leaves adorn entrances to new homes to signify good fortune. Their use is particularly widespread in Hindu rituals of divine blessing, called pujas. A 'purnakumbha' or clay pot filled with water is topped with fresh mango leaves and a coconut. The pot signifies mother earth, water is the life-giver, mango leaves denote vibrant life, and the coconut represents divine consciousness. The whole object symbolizes Lakshmi the goddess of fortune.
There are famous Hindu temples in the Indian states of Orissa and Tamil Nadu where legend states that Shiva appeared as Linga (the phallic form of Shiva) under a mango tree.
Mango is also a rich part of Buddhist folklore. It features in the Jataka tales and frequently appears in Buddhist art. The Great Miracle of Sravasti, which is today on the border between India and Nepal, took place when Buddha converted people by miraculously reproducing himself in various forms in front of a mango tree. Buddha also caused a mango tree to sprout instantly from a seed to convince non-believers. A mango grove was said to be his favourite place to rest and meditate and he was presented with one by the courtesan Amrapali, who became a disciple. Ancient Indian paradises, like later Islamic ones, reflected ideal gardens. These were full of fruit trees, sweet-scented flowers and water. They would have mango groves to provide shade and fruit. Sanskrit drama usually contained a garden scene, with symbolic trees and flowers.
The fruit of the mango tree represented love and fertility. The creation of orchards was a passion of the Muslim conquerors who came from the Persian and Afghanistan region. This was the one element of life in Central Asia that they truly missed, and they lavished time and attention on recreating this earthly paradise. The mango tree became a favored plant, its shade defying the violence of summer heat.