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Hygiene, tradition on their plate

Konda Reddi tribe still collects siali leaves to keep their food tradition alive

September 27, 2022 09:15 pm | Updated October 04, 2022 07:40 am IST - MUNTHA MAAMIDI (ASR DISTRICT)


Konda Reddi tribal women stitching siali leaves to make plates at Muntha Maamidi village in Alluri Sitarama Raju district of Andhra Pradesh.

Konda Reddi tribal women stitching siali leaves to make plates at Muntha Maamidi village in Alluri Sitarama Raju district of Andhra Pradesh. | Photo Credit:

For Chadala Ratnamma of the Konda Reddi tribe, a visit to the forest is a must. Such visits of a woman belonging to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) are deeply rooted in their tradition in serving food.

In Muntha Maamidi tribal hamlet in the Maredumilli forest cover, she goes to the forest every week or fortnight only to collect siali leaf ( Bauhinia vahlii), which is locally known as Addakulu. The siali is a creeper with large leaves that grow around the trees, mostly the sal tree. The siali leaves are dried before being stitched into plates with grass stem.

The leaf continues to be an integral part of the food tradition of the Konda Reddi tribal people in Alluri Sitarama Raju district of Andhra Pradesh.

The case of women here is almost similar to Ms. Ratnamma as every family in the hamlet has been practising their traditional method of serving food in siali leaves.  

Hygiene

“We believe in hygiene in using the single-use siali leaves to serve food. Compared to multi-use steel plates, the leaf-tradition still appears good to maintain better hygiene,” observes Ms. Ratnamma.

In the mud-walled houses of the Konda Reddi tribe, every family stores a bunch of siali leaves to meet their requirement for daily use both for family members as well as guests. 

Mark of respect

“We strictly ensure that our parents are served the food only in the siali leaves as a gesture of ‘respect’ when they visit their ‘daughter’s family. We consider disrespect to the guests if they are served the food in plates (including steel) that are already used,” said another woman, Chadala Singamma. 

“Any other invited or uninvited guest deserves the same treatment while serving food,” adds Ms. Singamma. Many women collect siali leaves after their day’s work is done in the forest.

In their everyday life, couples together go to the forest to attend to the farm fields as part of ‘shifting cultivation. After the day’s work, the women form into small groups to collect leaves in the forest and it is their responsibility to stitch and store the plates.

Unexplored

“Our village has never explored the commercial viability and demand for siali leaves in the market. To date, the leaf is a part of our food tradition. We do not have plans to go for a huge collection of the leaves and market them,” adds Ms. Singamma. 

In the Agency tracts of Godavari and northern Andhra regions, siali leaves are a major source of income for the other tribal people who have even developed a robust market network dominated by middlemen. 

In her 40s, Ms. Singamma, mother of three, treks all the hills surrounding her hamlet and could locate every minor forest produce in the hills. “In recent years, some families are using both siali leaves and steel plates. However, none of us give up the leaves,” says Ms. Ratnamma.

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