Sitaphal’s Contested Past and Sweet Eternity

The fruit associated with a Hindu goddess isn’t South Asian at all. Or is it?

GettyImages-2141409578 Sitaphal
Custard apples sold in Mumbai, India (Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Ayesha Le Breton


June 13, 2024


7 min

For Syed Sameel, when he thinks of sitaphal, he remembers his late grandmother. “We used to have sitaphal trees in our garden,” said Sameel, who lives in Karachi. “My dadi was the one who planted them.” He has even written a poem dedicated to the sweet, creamy fruit, which he recently shared on X: “And now all these days begin without you, When all I really want is you to scold me, And feed me a sitaphal, a fruit from our mythology.” 

Legend has it that sitaphal derives its name from Sita, who had to join her husband Ram in exile for 14 years in the Hindu epic the Ramayana, which people wrote from the seventh century B.C. to the third century. When she was starving, Ram shot an arrow into the ground, and a sitaphal appeared. The other story goes that Sita’s tears sprouted sitaphal trees when they hit the ground. Researchers, meanwhile, have long claimed the fruit isn’t from the subcontinent. So what’s the real story?

Join today to read the full story.


Already a subscriber? Log in