Kiln-baked pottery, vegetables, dried fish, herbs… trading activities here take place without a break, even throughout the night, till everything is sold out. The maattachantha (barter market) in Chendamangalam near here is unique as it combines pre-coinage traditions with the present, quietly and inconspicuously.

The event, a two-day-long annual fair convened at the heart of the Muziris heritage tourism centre on the eve of the Vishu festival, draws crowds, with a visit to the spot making a crucial part of the the tourists' itinerary in the State. Located down the valley of historically significant Kottayil Kovilakam, Chendamangalam village is fast becoming a major tourist spot of central Kerala.

For the people living here maattachantha is part of a tradition which draws its lineage from the subsistence economy with bartering as the mainstay. Though named after a system where people traded everything in exchange for whatever goods they needed, the exchanges here have been monetised gradually.

However, the goods displayed here may still bring to mind the tradition when this land was believed to be an important trade centre of the erstwhile princely states of Travancore and Kochi. The passage of time has not erased the subsistence culture of the indigenous articles, varying from terracotta structures to equipment for toddy tapping.

The first day of the event is known as cheriya maattam (smaller exchange) while the second day is called valiya maattam (bigger exchange). “I am quite thrilled to see the kind of articles displayed here and I would like to pick at least two or three things on my return from here'', says Eric, a tourist from Italy. He is also excited to see the enthusiasm with which the local people participate in the event.

Like last year, the conduct of the activities at the maattapadam (market place) is carried out by the Chendamangalam gram panchayat, in association with the State tourism department. And this year, as the organisers claim, the event was organised with a six-day-long Muziris festival, in an effort to revive the rich cultural heritage.

Keywords: Human efforts

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