Through the valleys …

Through the valleys of Attapadi
Elephants in search of arrack!

Dr. T.M Idicula
General Promotional Secretary

Ever seen an elephant getting drunk? There may be many reasons for a man to get addicted to alcohol and become a drunkard, the peer influence being one of the main reasons. But why elephants? Listen to an interesting story from Attapadi.

The majority of the tribal people in Attappadi use arrack (country liquor) and for quite a number of them, it is their main food! Non-tribal people, the local settlers are no exception. It is a common knowledge, that because of excess demand of this stuff, many venture to produce it in their vicinity, against all governmental rules. It is the most profitable and thriving non-licensed cottage industry! This illicit distilling goes on secretly in hilly terrains not easily accessible to the excise officials. “Koda”, a basic ingredient to prepare arracks is usually stored in the homes of these illicit distillers.
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The Attapadi elephants, in their nocturnal visits in search of food and water, probably tumbled upon this Koda (Serendipity!)accidentally. No wonder they fell in love with it. The local people believe that the recent rendezvous of the elephants in Attapadi is because of their interest in their newly discovered “koda”! Like drunkards waiting for the night, to visit their favourite bars, these pachyderms also wait for the nights to have their share of this ready (Attapadi) made local bliss. And like their homosapien counter part, they also started to behave abnormally. The recent phenomenon of the local elephants exhibiting destructive tendencies could not be explained otherwise. People who have been staying here for many years, vouch that they have never before witnessed elephants destroying houses during their nocturnal tours to feed on sugar canes or other cultivated items. For the last few months at least thirty houses have been ransacked in the villages of Sholayoor, Keerippathy , Moolakada, Vattalakki, Kalkandy, Agaly etc., in Attapadi and now Keralites have a genuine reason for going on a bandh to call attention of our ruling lords to the elephant menace! The only difference is it is almost becoming a daily affair. The usual drama of compensation being promised to the victims saves the local politicians from being assaulted by the mob who have lost their precious homes and crops. The usual modus operandi of these “koda” addicts is to reach a village as a group, come straight to small houses and just swap away the roofs in one stretch, put their probing trunk through the opened roofs and get whatever ready made stuff is available and if they are lucky get a peg or two of “koda”. But their constant nocturnal visits have become a nightmare for the local people at Attappadi. Now tell me who is to be blamed?

Here is a joke going around in Attapadi that it is better to train these mammoth citizens of the local forests to identify illicit distillers and they are sure to do a neat job than our excise officials. Veteran distillers who care a hoot for the police raids are now scared to death that storing “koda” in their vicinity is inviting disaster! They will continue to be scared …till of course they learn the art of bribing our forest kings!.

Strange Rituals….. Wedding
Attappadi is inhabited by three ethnic tribal groups viz., Irulas, Kurumbas and Mudgas. Their weddings include many rituals and ceremonies. Wedding is very common even at the age of 12 or 13. The wedding is usually conducted in the groom’s house. The groom has to give dowry to the bride’s father. They give a grand feast on the wedding day. Vegetable food is a must. Family relationships are not given much priority. The son even marries the second wife of his father. Polygamy is prevalent among them.

Delivery

The woman before her delivery is kept in a specially made separate hut near her house. When the pain starts, a mid wife who has mastery over sorcery, accompanies her. After delivery the women and the baby are declared unclean for six months. She leads a peaceful life without doing any household works for three months. Husband does all the works at that time (probably regretting making her pregnant!).

Death

When a person dies, couriers travel through out the village annoucing the death news.. Chanting the name of the dead person, the relatives and the neighbors sprinkle coriander mixed water on the dead body. The dead body , completely covered with a white cloth is then placed in a bamboo cot. A coin (nettikkasu) is pasted on the forehead. The people who come for the burial service set right all the problems that they had with the man and thus he is expected to be completely freed for his eternal journey. A whole day is spent dancing and singing (sapparayattam), thanking god for keeping the man so far. In that dance they show symbols that God gave and God took. We cannot see Adivasi people crying when somebody dies. When the father dies, the first born in the family shaves his head and when the mother dies the second son shaves his head. If there are no males in the family girls are supposed to do so.

Irula tribe leads in literacy and in education comparing other tribal groups. They are very interested to learn more. Tribal Mission strives hard to shed light to their darkened lives. As a result of the ministry among the tribals many have turned their hearts for the glory of God. We request all of yours valuable prayers for this ministry.