3 Paan


Paan, from the word pan in Hindi پان and some other related languages, हिन्दी : पान ), is a South and South East Asian tradition which consists of chewing Betel leaf ("Piper betle") combined with the areca nut. There are many regional variations.

Paan is chewed as a palate cleanser and a breath freshener. It is also commonly offered to guests and visitors as a sign of hospitality and as "ice breaker" to start conversation. It also has a symbolic value at ceremonies and cultural events in South and Southeast Asia. Paan makers may use mukhwas or tobacco as an ingredient in their paan fillings. Although most types of paan contain areca nuts as a filling, some do not. Other types include what is called sweet paan, where sugar, candied fruit and fennel seeds are used.

"Paan" is often mistakenly translated in the English language as "Betel nut", a misnomer, for the betel vine has no nuts. This name originated with the fact that the betel leaf is chewed along with the areca nut, the seed of the tropical palm "Areca catechu". "Supari" or "adakka" is the term for the nut in many Indic languages.

Although "paan" is generally used to refer to the leaves of the betel vine, the common use of this word refers mostly to the chewing mixture wrapped in the leaves.


Paan is available in many different forms and flavours. The most commonly found include:
*"Tobacco (tambaku paan)": Betel leaf filled with powdered tobacco with spices.
*"Betel nut (paan supari, paan masala or sada paan)": Betel leaf filled with a mixture consisting of a coarsely ground or chopped betel nuts and other spices.
*"Sweet" (meetha paan)": Betel leaf with neither tobacco nor areca nuts. The filling is made up primarily of coconut, fruit preserves, and various spices. It is also often served with a maraschino cherry.
*"Trento" (olarno paan)": It is said that it tastes like betel but has a minty after taste. Eaten along with fresh potatoes, it is served in most Indian restaurants. There are a variety of betel leaves grown in different parts of India and Bangladesh; the method of preparation also differs from region to region. The delicately flavoured paan from Bengal is known as "Desi Mahoba". "Maghai" and "Jagannath" are the main paans of Benaras. Paan prepared from small and fragile leaves from south India is known as "Chigrlayele". The thicker black paan leaves, the "ambadi" and "Kariyele", are more popular and are chewed with tobacco.


Chewing the mixture of areca nut and betel leaf is a tradition, custom or ritual which dates back thousands of years from South Asia to the Pacific. It constitutes an important and popular cultural activity in many Asian and Oceanic countries, including Myanmar, Cambodia, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. It is not known how and when the areca nut and the betel leaf were married together as one drug. Archaeological evidence from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines suggests that they have been used in tandem for four thousand years or more. [ [http://www.epistola.com/sfowler/scholar/scholar-betel.html Archaeological evidence from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.] ]

Paan is a ubiquitous sight in many parts of South and Southeast Asia, It is known as beeda (in Tamil), veeda (in Marathi), vettila (in Malayalam) and sireh (in Bahasa Melayu). In urban areas, chewing paan is generally considered a nuisance because some chewers spit the paan out in public areas. The red stain generated by the combination of ingredients when chewed are known to make a colorful stain on the ground. This is becoming an unwanted eyesore in cities like Mumbai, although most see it as an integral part to Indian culture.

According to traditional Ayurvedic medicine, chewing areca nut and betel leaf is a good remedy against bad breath (halitosis). [Naveen Pattnaik, "The Tree of Life"]


In Bangladesh paan is chewed all over the country by all classes of people. Paan is offered to the guests and festivals irrespective of all religion. A mixture called Dhakai pan khili is famous in Bangladesh and the Indian subcontinent.The sweet pan of the Khasia tribe is famous for its special quality.Paan is also used in Hindu puja and weeding festival and to visit relatives. It has become a rituals and tradition and culture of Bangladesh society. Adult women gathered with pandani cite web
last =
first = Banglapedia
date = 2006-09-27
url = http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/P_0052.htm
title = Pan
format =
accessdate = 2008-04-06
] along with friends and relatives in leisure time.


In the Indian Subcontinent the chewing of betel and areca nut dates back to the pre-Vedic Harappan empire. [http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_883_2004-12-17.html] Formerly in India and Sri Lanka it was a custom of the royalty to chew Areca nut and betel leaf. Kings had special attendants carrying a box with the ingredients for a good chewing session. There was also a custom to chew Areca nut and betel leaf among lovers because of its breath-freshening and relaxant properties. Hence there was a sexual symbolism attached to the chewing of the nut and the leaf. The areca nut represented the male and the betel leaf the female principle. Considered an auspicious ingredient in Hinduism, the Areca nut is still used along with betel leaf in religious ceremonies and also while honoring individuals in most of Southern Asia.

The skilled paan maker is known in North India as a paanwala. Many people believe that their paanwala is the best, considering it an art that takes practice and expert touch.

Paan eating was taken to its zenith of cultural refinement in the pre-partition era in North India, mainly Lucknow, where paan eating became an elaborate cultural custom, and was seen as a ritual of the utmost sophistication. The traditional way of paan making, storing and serving is interesting. The leaves are stored wrapped in a moist, red colored cloth called 'shaal-baaf', inside a metal casket called 'PaanDaani'. The PaanDaani has several lidded compartments, each for storing a different filling or spice. To serve, a leaf is removed from the wrapping cloth, de-veined, and kattha and lime paste is generously applied on its surface. This is topped with tiny pieces of betel nuts, cardamom saffron, (un)/roasted coconut pieces/powder, cloves, tobacco etc, according to the eater's personal preferences. The leaf is then folded in a special manner into a triangle, called 'Gilouree' and is ready to be eaten. On special occasions, the gilouree is wrapped in delicate silver leaf (vark). To serve, a silver pin is inserted to prevent the gilouree from unfolding, and placed inside a domed casket called 'Khaas-daan'. Alternatively, the gilouree is sometimes held together by a paper or foil folded into a funnel with the gilouree's pointed end inserted inside it. Voracious paan eaters do not swallow; instead, they chew it, enjoying its flavours, and then spit it into a spittoon.Fact|date=October 2007


"Kun-ya" is the word for paan in Myanmar, formerly Burma, and has a very long tradition. Both men and women loved it and every household, right up to the 1960s, used to have a special lacquerware box for paan called "kun-it" which would be offered to any visitor together with cheroots to smoke and green tea to take. The leaves are kept inside the bottom of the box which looks rather like a small hat box but with a top tray for small tins, silver in well-to-do homes, of various other ingredients such as the betel nuts, slaked lime, cutch, aniseed and a nut cutter. The sweet form ("acho") is popular with the young but grownups tend to prefer it with cardamom, cloves and tobacco. Spittoons therefore are still ubiquitous, and signs saying "No paan-spitting" are commonplace as it makes a messy red splodge on floors and walls; many people display betel-stained teeth from the habit. Paan stalls and kiosks used to be run mainly by people of Indian origin in towns and cities. Smokers who want to kick the habit would also use betel nut to wean themselves off tobacco.

Taungoo in Lower Burma is where the best areca palms are grown indicated by the popular expression "like a betel lover taken to Taungoo". Other parts of the country contribute to the best paan according to another saying "Dada-Oo for the leaves, Ngamyagyi for the tobacco, Taungoo for the nuts, Sagaing for the slaked lime, Pyay for the cutch". "Kun, hsay, lahpet" (paan, tobacco and pickled tea) are deemed essential items to offer monks and elders particularly in the old days. Young maidens traditionally carry ornamental betel boxes on a stand called "kundaung" and gilded flowers ("pandaung") in a shinbyu (novitiation) procession. Burmese history also mentions an ancient custom of a condemned enemy asking for 'a paan and a drink of water' before being executed.


In Vietnam the areca nut and the betel leaf are such important symbols of love and marriage that in Vietnamese the phrase "matters of betel and areca" ("chuyện trầu cau") is synonymous with marriage. Areca nut chewing starts the talk between the groom's parents and the bride's parents about the young couple's marriage. Therefore the leaves and juices are used ceremonially in Vietnamese weddings. The folk tale explaining the origin of this Vietnamese tradition is a good illustration of the fact that the combination of areca nut and the betel leaf is ideal to the point that they are practically inseparable, like an idealized married couple. [http://www.vietspring.org/legend/traucau.html]

Colonial prejudice

The adding of tobacco leaf (the most harmful and addictive component) to the paan mixture is a relatively recent introduction, for tobacco was introduced from the American Continent in colonial times, a mere few centuries compared to the millenia that the tradition exists in South and Southeast Asia.

The muddling between the areca nut and the betel leaf, by calling the nut "betel nut", is restricted to the colonial languages, like English, French, Dutch and German. This lack of accuracy is likely a legacy of the colonial era in which chewing the mixture was restricted to "the natives". [ [http://chestofbooks.com/animals/misc/Edward-Hamilton-Aitken/Concerning-Animals-and-Other-Matters/The-Betel-Nut.html "Concerning Animals And Other Matters", by E. H. Aitken] ] In the languages of the places where the Areca nut is traditionally chewed there is a clear and separate term for the areca nut and another for the betel leaf. This clear distinction is important in societies where both the areca nut and the betel leaf have a ceremonial and even sacred value. Furthermore, there is commonly a specific verb for the activity of chewing both of them together.

There was a certain amount of prejudice among the European colonial powers against the tradition of chewing of Areca nut and betel. Unlike the quick adoption of tobacco by Europeans in the American colonies, chewing areca nut and betel was an addictive habit not adopted by the colonizers of South and Southeast Asia. Officers freshly posted in the East India or Indochina colonies, whether British, French or Dutch, regarded the red-stained mouths of pan-chewers with dread, as something too foreign and weird for them. This abhorrence is not only evident in the writings of authors of the Victorian era, but in more recent writers like George Orwell, Somerset Maugham and V.S. Naipaul. Often this spirit expresses itself in mockery and ridicule, like in the Broadway musical South Pacific tune "There Is Nothing Like a Dame," with the line "Bloody Mary's chewing betel nuts... and she don't use Pepsodent."


*India Profile, " [http://www.indiaprofile.com/religion-culture/paanchewing.htm Tradition of Chewing Paan] "
*" [http://www.paan.com/types_paan.htm Types of Paan] "
*Chander Kanta Gariyali, " [http://chennaionline.com/columns/DownMemoryLane/diary124.asp The Chewing of Betel leaf - Part II] "

ee also

*Areca nut
*Betel container

External links

* [http://www.paan.com Mumbai's Best Paan Official website of Mucchad Paanwala]
* [http://www.erowid.org/plants/betel/betel.shtml Erowid information on Betel nuts]

* [http://www.indiaprofile.com/religion-culture/paanchewing.htm The Tradition of Chewing Paan]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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