Friday, 7 June 2013

Reintroducing Kovai’s Traditional Houseware

Dr Thirumagal addressing on traditional Kongu utensils

Sitting nearly for an hour, a woman of modern day Coimbatore does not have to make batter labouring hard at the Aattangal (Stone mortar). Nor does she need to crush the ingredients for Kulambu (curry) or Rasam (pepper water) manually on an Ammikal (Grinding stone), as she readily has an electric mixer-grinder, which can do it for her (If there is power supply at the time!).

With rapid development in science and technology replacing man’s physical activity by machines, people, who are just nearing forty, have myriad bodily complaints like back pains and joint pains. But, how was it, our ancestors could live disease-free even in their eighties or nineties?

“When you work at the Ammikal regularly crushing the ingredients for food, your muscles and bones get strengthened” says Professor Thirumagal.

Dr Thirumagal is a professor of Tamil in Arulmigu Palaniandavar Arts College for women, Palani. She was in the city to address in the exhibition “Kovai Vattara Puzhangu Porutkal (Traditional housewares of Coimbatore region) organized by The Vanavarayar Foundation as part of ‘Coimbatore Vizha 13’ recently. 

Addressing the gathering, Thirumagal pointed out that hard labour on earth in the absence of science and technology kept our ancestors disease-free even in their old age.

Displaying various traditional housewares in her slide show, she noted that all house hold items of the yesteryear Coimbatore were identified with the meaning of human life in the Kongu region.
“The Ammikal which our ancestors used to crush ingredients like pepper, garlic and cumin for making traditional dishes, was an object of reverence that sitting on it was considered to be a sacrilege” she said.

Also the broom, which is called Seemar in the Kongu dialect, would not be in the list of the bride’s Strithan ( Seethanam), as her  parents believed it would ‘sweep’ away their wealth !

When Thirumagal displayed the picture of a Virakaduppu (Oven functioning in firewood) it was a rare spectacle to the viewers, who are used to the modern day LPG or electric ovens.

“The Kottaduppu, a smaller oven, was of great use to the people of the then Coimbatore, as once they kept on it a Sundachatti containing Kuzhambu ( curry) the previous night, the light warmth of the oven would condense and convert it into a mouth-watering dish for the next morning”  recollected Thirumagal.

The little earthen utensil Sundachatti was named so, as it was used for condensing the curry.

Thirumagal also displayed some agricultural equipment like Kalappai (plough), Kadaparai (crowbars),Mammutti (shovels) and so on.

“The Savari Vandi (A bullock cart exclusively meant for journey in villages of Coimbatore) was, indeed a vehicle for luxury travels those days. Sitting on a cushion of hay, people would love to travel in it. The vehicle would also have a small ‘box-like’ section for keeping the footwear, as the inmates would like to sit bare-footed and relax during the journey

B. Meenakshi Sundaram

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