Traditional honey harvesting by the Kattunayakan in the Nilgiri mountains – Tamil Nadu

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Text and photo credits: Story by Shruti by courtesy Accord team, Gudalur,  | Read the full blog here >>

Listening to K. Chandran’s story, we ended up with muddled emotions. The story is about his grandfather and his love for honey. It is about the ancient beliefs of honey harvesting still followed by him and his people. It is about protecting every small branch of a tree so that the tree is big and strong and the bees can prosper. It is about faith, it is about conservation and it is about injustice.

Chandran is a Kattunayakan from Therapakolly. There is an old mango tree close to his house with so many hives that one could spend more than half a day standing under the tree and counting the hives. That wasn’t always the case though. The tree, once upon a time, did not house a single hive. His grandfather, Kemban Mestri, just like Chandran, just like all of his tribe was a honey gatherer and wanted bees to build their homes on that tree. He placed a ‘stone’ under the tree and together with the elders in the village, prayed to their gods to bring the bees to the tree. As ‘faith’ would have it, their prayers were answered. The first year, there were five hives; the second year, fifteen more; the third year, thirty more! Their numbers kept growing year after year. Today there are around 150 hives on the tree. We don’t know who he prayed to or how he prayed, but we know that the bees are happy on that tree. […]

KN people offering puja before starting to harvestEven those harvesting honey from his village have rules to follow. Chandran’s great uncle was a revered man in Therapakolly. He remained single and lived mostly in the forest with wild animals. He raised a wild dog pup and together, they would hunt deer in the forest. When he died, he was buried close to the mango tree. The Kattunayakans in Therapakolly offer prayer at the grave seeking his permission to harvest honey. It is believed that animals like tiger, bear, deer etc will follow them to their homes if he (Chandran doesn’t know his name) has not been worshiped.

The Kattunayakans are full of stories and beliefs like these. Some of them include practices which ensure that the tree is conserved and more bees come in the subsequent years. […]

We were happy and awed by Chandran’s story-the magic of faith, the relationship of his people with the tree and their common sense-like conservation values. And now, enter the forest department! Not surprisingly, the huge tree with its numerous hives caught their eye. The Therpakolly people are not allowed to collect honey from their tree anymore. The tree, as the department puts it, is now a property of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.  […]

Source: a bitter-sweet story of honey | At the Edge of Existence
Address : http://cultureandconservation.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/a-bitter-story-of-sweet-honey-2/
Date Visited: Thu Aug 01 2013 13:00:11 GMT+0200 (CEST)

About

Through their lifestyles, cultural practices and spiritual belief systems, intentionally or otherwise, indigenous communities in the Nilgiris as across the world have resulted in a harmonious balance and stability through centuries. The influx of immigrants began about a 100 years ago, and has intensified considerably in the last few decades. These indigenous groups are now a small minority, with their culture, values and beliefs apparently disappearing as they merge into the mainstream. But can ‘culture’ evolved over thousands of years, really disappear in just a few generations?

The blog seeks to answer the above question through stories that are reflective of indigenous cultural knowledge, practices and beliefs that have had or continue to have relevance for conservation.

Source: At the Edge of Existence | Indigenous Cultures and Conservation
Address : http://cultureandconservation.wordpress.com/
Date Visited: Thu Aug 01 2013 13:25:07 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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