Palmyrah A blessing to Jaffna

Jaffna is a penisula at the nothern tip of the island Srilanka,it is a land well known for Tamil heritage and culture.Jaffna has been luckly bestowed with the fine vegetation of palmyrah.Palmyrah stands as an eternal as well as miraculous treasure to this land.It is a monocotyledonous ,dioecious tree having the scientific name Borassus flabellifer .It can grow up to 30m high and have robust trunks,fanned shaped leaves,spherical fruits with 1- 3 seeds.

A typical Jaffna palmyrah with robust trunks and fan shaped leaves.

Nearly 95% of palm trees in Srilanka grown in nothern province and they are highly abundant in mankumban,vadukodai,Sankanai and in small island like Nainatevu,Nedunthevu,punkuduthevu .They need zero effort to grow and bestowed with the power to withstand weired weather patterns .palmarah has been nicked named as "Katpakatharu" as it is utilized from it's top to bottom.This tree has been strongly bonded with the socioeconomic lives of the Jaffna people.

Lands bestowed with fine lush palmyrah forests.

The trunks of a fairly old tree is hard,strong and durable, generally used for roofing.The tender green leaves of palmyrah are good food for black cattles. Dried leaves are being used for diverse purposes,they are periodically chopped off and used for roofing for huts and screening fence .They play a major role in weaving authentic handicrafts of Jaffna , fans,umbrellas,baskets and customary kitchen utensils.In the ancient time before paper came in to use ,dried pressed palmyrah leaves were used as writing materiel.The palm leaf stalks are used in making ropes.

A hand weaved wall hanger made with palmyrah leaves

A snap at the exhibition held at Jaffna Central College

Customary kitchen utensils made with palmyrah leaves.

Manual fan which occupied a prominent place in almost all the houses of Jaffna before electric Fan Took ItS place.

Handicrafts made with palmyrah leaves

Mr.Perampalam posing for a portrait wearing the hat made with palmyrah leaves.He said "we used to wear them in our school days, they can make you feel cool and chill even on sunny days,but they have been replaced by the cloth caps and have become as products in show cases"with the nostalgic face.

The bunch of palm fruit is used in many ways in food.palm fruit in early stage is known as "nungu" .It contains healthy aromatic juice and jelly like sustance in it's holes.The ripened frUit on the other hand used to make 'panankai paniyaram' and 'pannatu'special delecacies of jaffna.They both have good demand among foreigners.
Fruits of palmyrah
"Nungu"- tender fruit of palm which contains nature's purest sap,often credicted as a fine healthy authentic beverage of Jaffna. Image source - google
"Pannankai panniyaram" most popular indigenous foods of Jaffna

She is an eighty years old lady residing in Vaddukodai - a land well known for palmyrah,said "You know even we used it's fruits to rinse our cloths at the time of crisis" with the lights in her eyes showing gratitude to the tree she loves from her childhood.

The seeds when planted ,sprout roots ,which are highly rich in calcium and few of them are allowed to grow while most of the roots pulled out and boiled .They are known as "panam kilangu" and if they are sundried in the intension of keeping them for long they will be called as "pulukodIal"

Yams of palmyrah which are rich in calcium
Some people used to have these yams with pepper and salt while some prefers to have flakes of coconut along with them.
Sun dried palm yams known as "pulukodiyal"

"0diyal kool " made with palmyrah yam flour is the most delicious outstanding dish from Tamil authentic cuisine.They used to serve it on the hand made bowls from palmyra leaves as it adds more essence of jaffna heritage to this dish.

Image source- facebook

When the seeds are ready to germinate they will begin to store starch for the new plant yet to come,resulting in formation of oval shaped spongy white ball called "pooran" or "thakan".it has a very pleasing taste as it is a fresh product of nature and meantime it is rich in nutritions.Typical Jaffna villagers have the habbit of having them after roasting them in fire.
"Takan"- oval shaped white spongy balls with most pleasing taste

More than all of this "palmyrah toddy"is famous all around the will be sweet when quiet fresh.but bitter when fermentation sets in.The spathes of palmyrah exhibit themselves in January and toddy drawer commences his operation on January ,after several procedures sap begins to exude in the earthen pot ,called muddi ,allowed for fermentation and toddy is obtained.The toddy before fermentation called "karupanny",if intended to make jaggery ,the sweetened toddy ,poured into the basket made of palmyrah leaf after being boiled up to the consistency of a syrup,where it's cooled and partially crystallised and those crystals are known as plam jaggery and considered as healthy ,better natural sugar.If the syrup is lighter in consistency it is called panni.

Jaggery made by crystalizing processed sweet toddy.

Female headed families are one of the tragic plight of Jaffna resulted due to internal war,their plights are inconsolable ,but Jaffna people would be contented to some what extent as they have been blessed with a natural resource which could provide them a livlihood , cope in their struggle for suvival and minimise the risk of searching jobs out of their native land.women from female oriented society have been given vocational trainings to make handicrafts from palmyrah leaves and they could able to run their families through the income earned through this jobs.( image source - google )

Karthikai Thiruvillah - a traditional festival of Hindus.Making bon fire is the most popular celebratory custom they follow on this day. In Hindu Temples in Jaffna they used to make this bon fire with palmyrah leaves known as "Sokka pannai".It's really fascinating to know how our ancestors have bonded their most proudest possession "Palmyrah",not only in their socio economic life but also in their spiritual life.( captured when the palmyrah leaves were arranged to make a bon fire)

Plamyrah development centres and palmyrah research centres have been established all around the Jaffna to protect palmyrah and revive cottage industries related to plamyrah,there are seperate centres for marketing ,food production,cottage industry,plantation devolopment and extension etc.

A palmyrah development centre near Jaffna town.
He is a vendor at Jaffna town, selling handicrafts made with palmyra .He is engaging in this business for more than four years.
There was internal war within the country for more than thirty years,caused imMenSe loss of lives and properties .Some political scientist say,these head less palmyras around the borders of Jaffn,mullaitevu and Kilinochi ( major spots where armed conflicts were at the peak )stands as sole evidence to the havocs of war while most of the other evidences had been wiped off in the name of rehabilitation.

Image source- Google

The jaffna people often used to say nothing in palmyra will be a wastage,the question still fascinates me is whether Jaffna has bestowed with a tree that is useful from it's top to bottom or the people of Jaffna have managed to get ultimate use from the treasure abundant in their region. What ever it may be palmyras are the most proudest possesion of Jaffna and we should give our hands protect our "Katapakatharu" as it has contributes a lot for our survival .
Let's save our palmyrah

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