Salt is the basic ingredient in everyone’s palette. Too much of it or too little of it just results in a bad taste and loss of appetite. It is something without which life would literally taste bland. Salt has an interesting history. It was in ancient times associated with religious significance and was used in performing various rituals and ceremonies. It was also considered potent in warding off evil spirits. Some sources have indicated that salt became a principal trade commodity and was the prime cause of the prosperity for cities like Venice. It has also been noted by some that salt was given to Roman soldiers for guarding the salt routes as their ‘salarium argentum’ which gave rise to the English term ‘salary’. Use of salt as a preservative for food in an age where food storage, refrigeration and preservation were major issues, made it an even more coveted commodity.
The indispensability of salt was noted early by the French who are known to have levied the first ‘salt tax’ in the thirteenth century. It was a major revenue-raiser. The tax was called ‘gabelle’. China too has the history of imposing salt tax and it is known to have continued in doing so until the 20th century. It was as late as 1930s, which saw the rise of private industries competing with government’s salt monopoly that led to its abolition.
Salt plays a major role in Indian history too. When the British imposed their colonial hegemony over the Indians, they made sure that everything was under their control. Salt taxes were imposed and the production and sale of salt was taken over. Orissa, which was the leading producer of salt, saw stringent regulations and its production and sale was scrutinized by the British in keeping with the colonial interests.
Mahatma Gandhi’s decision to make their own salt was thus a step towards ‘Poorna Swaraj’ or ‘Complete Independence’. It was a step initially laughed upon, even by the colonial power. They saw the move as paltry and insignificant. Little did they realize that it was a crucial step towards independence.
Colonial crumble –
Mahatma makes salt –
Birth of a Nation..!
I recently read about Salar de Uyuni, world’s largest salt flat. It is located in Bolivia and apart from housing an immense amount of sodium, it contains more than 50% of world lithium. It is primarily a desert but instead of sand, it has white salt covering it. Legend has it that the giant mountains Tunupa, Kusku and Kusina that surround the vast salt lakes were once people. Tunupa was betrayed by her husband Kusku who was caught cheating with Kusina. Tunupa was a lactating mother whose cries caused the formation of these salt flats.
Betrayed Tunupa cries
Tears of salt trickle, mix with milk –
A vast flat mirrors
Immense expanse above – feast
on the spectacle….
Salt has a rich history which can feed one’s mind and imagination. Not just for taste, but for wisdom too,
Pass me a little more Salt Please..!
Linking it to Haiku Horizons – Salt