On an Adivasi Trail

For centuries, the Kadar, Muthuvar and Malayar folk have traversed these mountains and crossed the streams and rivers. In the British times, when the forests were opened up for plantations in the Valparai plateau, the Kadar people were referred to as the Kings of the Forests.

Even today, they venture far away from their homes for gathering food/medicine/fibre, for bathing, for worship, for flowers and leaves to decorate a wedding pandal. This is unimaginable for most of us who live in houses or apartments with little or no land around us. And have to buy most of the things we need for a living.

Many forest products are seasonal, and the native people know what time of the year to make that journey in to the forest to gather it, with the right tools and precautions, honey being the best example. Same is true for fruits like Njaval and Nellikkai or wild tubers and greens. Fish are never over-harvested from streams and rivers. Mats are woven from bamboo, screw-pine and river grass. One needs no vitamin supplements and risks no deficiencies, when the diet is made up of tubers rich in minerals, greens full of potassium and vitamin K, and nutritious millets and native vegetables.

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