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Kallikai: The Magical Secret from the Paliyars

When everyone says Kallikai, there is only one thing that comes to mind the Kallikai is poisonous. But that's not it. The Kallikai I'm talking about is non-toxic. It is found in dry places without water such as dense stone areas or large rocky edges or where there is no water. The Paliyar tribal people claim that this Kallikai plant is a treasure left by their ancestors. Vellaiyammal, a member of the Paliyar tribe, told me that this Kallikai has many medicinal properties. Let's have a detailed look at its benefits, how to cook it and its medicinal properties. This plant known as Kallikai is mostly eaten by the people of the Paliyar tribe who live in the lower mountain and high mountain region of Kodaikanal. These Paliyar tribes have a distinct diet of their own even today. This Kallikai is one of the foods in their diet. We cannot eat Kallikai whenever we want. This Kallikai is more abundant during the months of Panguni, Chitrai, Vaikasi, and these people of the Paliyar tribe eat it more and more with their food. Also, this Kallikai is mostly found in dense forest areas. In these early months, people go into the forest to pick this Kallikai or there are those who go to take basan or go to take honey, and if they found it will take it with them. If not, there are those who go into the forest to pick this Kallikai. And this Kallikai is mostly seen in the forest of the Paliyar tribal people in their forest deities Palichiamman Temple and also in Perumboothanachi Temple Mandutheivam Temple or Kallathunachi Temple where there are more.

The Plant: Kallikai

Most of the time, no women go to pick the Kallikai because the gods of the Paliyar people are seen more and more in the forest. Only men are plucking it, otherwise, elderly grandmothers pluck it and Paliyar women have a restriction. It means that no woman should pluck the Kallikai or go near it during menstruation. Marimuthu's grandfather says that if someone touches it that year, there will be no growth in the Kallikai plant, and it will die. Once get it from the forest then need to clean Kallikai with water. After that, all the skins on it are removed and only this Kallikai is boiled separately with salt. Need to be boiled separately because it is a bit bitter. After proper boiling, the water should be drained. Heat sesame oil in a hot pan and add some mustard seeds and then add some onion and wild tomato or (small tomato) and add some Narangikai (Kattu Palli) etc. But only Narangikai is ground and added. After that, they add boiled Kallikai and add some salt and boil it. Along with this turkey Berry, bamboo shoots, etc are also cooked with this Kallikai. Otherwise, there is also cooking only Kallikai. These people say that Kallikai contains more iron content. These people say that if we eat Kallikai once a year, we will be free of any diseases that year. They also say that it can be used as a medicine for anaemia in women. This is why we give so much importance to this Kallikai.

We are not just protecting this Kallikai we are protecting everything like plants, trees, stones, rocks, rivers and waterfalls that our forefathers taught us. Because all these are said to be used as food and medicine at different times and places. They say that we do not tell or show plants with high medicinal properties to outsiders. These people regretfully say that we have lost our herbal plants and some medicinal plants. They say that they are protecting only some medicinal plants available in forests. We will protect this forest which helps humans in every way.

This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.

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