Downtown

300 years and still going strong

The shop is getting new customers after the rains Photo: S. Chandrasekar   | Photo Credit: S. Chandrasekar

The shelves at this shop are stacked with fresh leaves, buds and roots taken from various medicinal herbs and trees. It is a tiny shop, barely 160 sq.ft., and built with lime and mortar, it retains an old-world charm. It is believed to be around for 300 years.

It used to be called Pachilai Mooligai Kadai until 50 years ago, when it was renamed as Kanchi C. Balasubramanian Herbal Shop. And then, its thatched roof was replaced by an asbestos roof. The shop has been handed down to two brothers, B. Shanmugha Sundaram and B. Karthikeyan, by their maternal ancestors. The brothers (seventh generation descendants) take care of it now.

According to Shanmughan, “Those days, our ancestors were selling these herbs under a tree and there used to be numerous cashewnut trees around.”

He shows a list that carries names of over 200 herbs. “The list is not exhaustive; in fact, we sell over 1,000 fresh herbs,” he adds.

Prior orders need to be placed for herbs such as auri, seenthil kodi, oru-ithazh thamarai, siriyananagai,

vishnugranthi and amman

pacha arisi.

“Decades ago, herbs were part of everyday diet and helped people maintain good health. In those days, people used to prepare tea from Ven Thamarai. Similarly, people made tea with hibiscus flowers. But nowadays, they are just seen as medicines and only a few include them in their diet.”

Now, following the torrential rain and floods, the shop is receiving new customers as well.

“Ten years ago, we used to go to Porur, Kundrathur, Poonamallee and Kattupakkam and get our herbs. Adyar was once rich in vegetation and we used to get nochi, pungai, puli ilai, nonailai, aamanakku andkuppameni from there. Now, owing to urbanisation, it is difficult to spot them in these localities. Also, one of the destinations for the herbs used to the Omandurar Estate. Now, we were forced to extend our search to Kelambakkam, Vandalur and Thiruthani.” The shop, which also supplies herbs to temples for performing homams, is located at Bhararthi Salai, Triplicane. For details, call 9884963820.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 3:23:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/herbal-shop-300-years-and-still-going-strong/article8008423.ece

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