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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In simple terms, Karela is the original name from the Gujarati language that refers to a very bitter fruit called the bitter gourd,or bitter-melon.

In the literary sense, this term is found in the second Jungle Book, specifically in Mowgli's "Song Against People".

In this song, Mowgli basically puts a spell on the tribes-people by chanting the verse:

I will reap your fields before you at the hands of a host;
Ye shall glean behind my reapers, for the bread that is lost,
      And the deer shall be your oxen
          By a headland untilled,
      For the Karela, the bitter Karela,
          Shall leaf where ye build!

I have untied against you the club-footed vines,
I have sent in the Jungle to swamp out your lines.
      The trees--the trees are on you!
          The house-beams shall fall,
      And the Karela, the bitter Karela,
          Shall cover you all!

In these last two stanzas we see that the Karela is not a very appetizing fruit, nor its vines are desirable to have around. That is basically what a Karelais, and what its contextual meaning is as well. In modern terms, Karela is also a fruit used in alternative medicine to treat diabetes.