Enterprising farmer revives Rakthashali

Enterprising:P.N. Chandrasekharan with the Rakthashali paddy variety he cultivates at Pantharangadi, near Chemmad, in Malappuram district

Enterprising:P.N. Chandrasekharan with the Rakthashali paddy variety he cultivates at Pantharangadi, near Chemmad, in Malappuram district  

An enterprising paddy farmer at Pantharangadi near Chemmad in the district has revived Rakthashali, one of the rarest red rice varieties with high medicinal value and believed to be extinct in this part of the world. P.N. Chandrasekharan, who also runs a rice mill, claims that the Rakthashali rice seed he developed is available in none of the markets in the country.

Rakthashali, also called Chennellu, is widely mentioned in puranas and ancient texts of Ayurveda as having properties potent enough to cure many ailments, including cancer. Ayurveda says this variety of rice, dating its use back to more than 3,000 years, is good for the Tridoshas, such as Vatha, Pitha, and Kafa.

Dileep Kumar, a senior Ayurveda doctor belonging to the family of physicians who used to treat the rulers of the Kilimanoor Palace, told The Hindu that Rakthashali was a rice variety with the most nutrient and herbal value. “Its herbal properties are yet to be documented properly. It is one of the rarest rice varieties,” Dr. Kumar said.

Dr. Kumar said he had not seen Rakthashali since 1993 when a senior scientist showed him that red rice variety in Jaipur. But he said he was yet to see the Rakthashali available with Mr. Chandrasekharan.

Mr. Chandrasekharan said he had been working on Rakthashali for the past five years. He said he got a few seeds of this paddy from an Adivasi family living inside the jungles of Wayanad. His experiments with the seed yielded results, and in five years Mr. Chandrasekharan has grown Rakthashali in five acres of land. He has not given it to anyone outside. “I believe it is not yet time to give it to people,” he said.

He has sought the help of agronomists and scientists, including those at Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala.

The unavailability of Rakthashali rice has made Ayurveda practitioners to prescribe Njavara rice variety for various ailments. There are sections of people who falsely propagate Njavara as having the properties of Rakthashali.

“True that Njavara has medicinal values. But Rakthashali, which is not available, has three times more medicinal effect than Njavara,” said a doctor at Arya Vaidya Sala.

There are many myths about the origin of Rakthashali in different cultures, including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Indian. “But the myths apart, history says Rakthashali was the most preferred rice of yesteryear kings and aristocrats,” said Mr. Chandrasekharan.

This white-tipped rice with red bran is believed to have properties to slow down the process of ageing. Studies say that it is rich in antioxidants, calcium, zinc, iron, and other minerals. Ayurveda says it can correct the imbalance of Tridoshas.

Mr. Chandrasekharan was the first farmer to cultivate Basmati rice in Kerala. He ended all misconceptions that good quality Basmati rice could not be cultivated outside the foothills of the Himalayas when he successfully produced Basmati some years ago. He had then set up a mill that could exclusively process Basmati — another first in the State.

New birth to one of the rarest red rice varieties believed to be extinct.

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