Onam brings with it a host of nostalgic memories of the Kerala of yesteryear. There are a number of symbols the Malayali associates with the land and its history. ‘Olakkuda,’ a traditional palm leaf umbrella, is one of them.
Rarely do we see a person holding an olakkuda these days, except in a play or during Onam celebrations. That’s the reason one would be wonderstruck when Sudhakaran from Perumanna says that he sold as many as 35 olakkuda in a single day.
Sudhakaran has been making olakkuda and putting them up for sale for the last five years. Before him, his mother used to do the same for decades. His olakkuda is in great demand, especially during Onam when fancy stores and agencies that rent out drama costume are on the look out for it.
Sudhakaran’s olakkuda plays a major role in perfecting the looks of Mahabali in many an Onam celebration in Kozhikode, its suburbs, and the rural belt of the district.
Sudhakaran makes around three olakkuda a day using palm leaves. They are of two types, ‘thoppikkuda’ that fits on the head like a big hat, and ‘kalkkuda’ that resembles an umbrella. Thoppikkuda costs Rs.200 and kalkkuda Rs.100.
Sudhakaran has set up a stall at the IRDP-JGSY-Kudumbasree exhibition-cum-sale at the Kandamkulam jubilee hall, where he has put up many other products as well for sale. There is the traditional ‘palathoppi,’ a cap made using areca leaves, a quintessential part of the traditional farmer of the State. Then there is the ‘mulankutti,’ used to make ‘puttu,’ an indigenous steam cake of Kerala. ‘Uri,’ a traditional hanging device made of coir in which pots are kept so that the contents are protected from insects and pets, is also among Sudhakaran’s products.