Wayanad farmer creates Ashoka Chakra using tambo art

Johnson is cultivating as many as 46 varieties of rice seeds, including the aromatic varieties of Wayanad such as Gandhakasala, Jeerakasala and Mullan kaima, on his 20 cents of land that he hopes will inspire people to take up paddy farming

October 28, 2022 04:44 pm | Updated November 01, 2022 11:21 am IST - KALPETTA

Rice paddy art depicting Ashoka Chakra created by Johnson Oliappuram at Thrissilery in Kerala’s Wayanad district. Photo: Special Arrangement

Rice paddy art depicting Ashoka Chakra created by Johnson Oliappuram at Thrissilery in Kerala’s Wayanad district. Photo: Special Arrangement

Tourists and pilgrims on their way to the Thirunelly Sree Mahavishnu temple in Wayanad are flocking to a farm at Thrissilery to view the Ashoka Chakra created by Johnson Oliappuram, a progressive farmer. The 58-year-old farmer hopes his experiment will attract people to paddy cultivation.

The origin of tambo art or rice paddy art can be traced to Japan where people plant paddy of various varieties and hues to create the desired images.

For the past six years, Mr. Johnson has been creating different patterns and images on his 20 cents of land. His creations include pookalams (floral carpets) with varying hues of paddy varieties, a map of Kerala, diya (earthen lamp) with a flame and a heart image with butterflies and flowers.

“This year I have created the image of Ashoka Chakra by using four varieties of paddy seeds such as Nazar bath, Kala bath, Kaki sala and Ramlee that will ripen in shades that range from brown to golden, light brown to black, green to black and green to white and black, says Mr. Johnson, who won the State award for best organic farmer in 2020-21.

The art form on his farm beside the Thirunelly-Thrissilery road has attracted many and inspired them to collect the seeds of the rice varieties.

Model farmer

Mr. Johnson is cultivating 46 varieties of rice seeds, including the aromatic varieties of Wayanad such as Gandhakasala, Jeerakasala and Mullan kaima besides many other indigenous rice varieties, on his 2.8 acres of land using organic methods. Some of them have medicinal properties too. He sells the seeds of these varieties to the visitors at a nominal price as well.

“Rahul Gandhi, MP, also visited my farm recently to watch my paddy arts,” said Mr. Johnson, who is also the president of the Muthumari Areekkaara Padashekhara Samiti in Thirunelly grama panchayat.

Teacher turned farmer

Mr. Johnson is the president of the Thirunelly agri-producer company, an initiative of a group of organic farmers including tribal farmers, and as many as 100 famers are cultivating rice on nearly 110 acres of land under it .

Mr. Johnson, hailing from Manjapra, Ernakulam, was a teacher in Andhra Pradesh for 18 years. He quit his job and settled in Wayanad around 15 years ago with the aim of starting afresh as an environment-friendly farmer and educating tribal children.

He has also set up a trust named Unni Sadan Trust to educate tribal children and teaches as many as 13 tribal children in the area free of cost. Mr. Johnson is supported in his efforts by wife, Nancy, and two children.

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