K. Thirumagal lyrically brought alive traditional kitchen implements our ancestors regularly used

Decades ago, the woman of the house would wake up at dawn, sweep the front yard with a seemaaru, get the veragaduppu started and settle down beside it for another long day in the kitchen. She would get ready the chattis and paanais she would need, pluck the vegetables and use a moram to clean grains. The paruppu would go into the bubbling water and she would use a mathu to mash it into a creamy mass. Rice would be served with a wooden spatula. The vethala paaku would round off the meal.

This was the imagery K. Thirumagal conjured up with her crisp talk on ‘Household Things of Coimbatore Region’. The lecture was organised by The Vanavarayar Foundation as part of Coimbatore Vizha. Dr. Thirumagal works in the Tamil Department of Palaniandavar College, Palani.

She spoke about implements used at home and in the fields — a mud oven with two burners, the palm leaf fan, the ulakkai used to pound and powder grain, the ammikal, aataankal and the aruvaal. She mentioned the vaaipooti that was tied around a newborn calf’s mouth to prevent it from eating mud. She explained the Sundachatti, into which went the day’s leftover kozhambus. The chatti would simmer in a corner of the still-warm mud oven, gathering taste over the night.

Apparently, parents would never include the oven, muram and seemaru as part of a daughter’s wedding gift as they were auspicious and should never leave home.

Thirumagal was at her best when she described the woman using a muram. “How many things our women used it for! Depending on which angle they held it, it would bring the husk to the fore, move the small grains to the back, and segregate the grains and stones. One particular angle was called ‘vettukal’.

She also showed images of old wooden containers. The selavupetti stored mustard, pepper and cumin and the pettis used to store thiruneeru (vibhuti) and salt. Apparently, none of these would spoil because of the wood. Then, there was the sandhaga maram, used to press out delicate string hoppers for the groom when he visits the bride’s home after marriage.

Why all the focus on food, one might wonder. “That’s because food is very important to us. And we used implements that did their jobs so efficiently,” said Thirumagal.

The lecture evoked a wave of nostalgia in the audience. One thought about the ulakkai and rusting oodhu kuzhal lying unloved in a corner and the coffee crusher dumped in the attic. And then, Dhoooran Velusamy from Kaalivedampatti near Palladam rose up to give hope. “We can’t say these traditions have died. They will be alive somewhere, in a village, in a house. They will continue to thrive.”

Exhibition

The Vanavarayar Foundation displayed some traditional utensils and implements. These were provided by D. Senthilvel Raja and S.K. Nanda Kumar of Zamin Palace, Ramapattnam Zamin, the Foundation, and ‘Om Sakthi’ Venugopal. An old marine compass, soda maker, water holder, an edaikal (weighing stone), kanjivadi (strainer), a catapult, coconut grater, a jewellery box, an echil kaalangi (spittoon) and a twin-barrelled suraikuduvai (made of bottlegourd)