20091106

Secular lotuses


Harmony Blooms Here


A Muslim village in Malappuram district supplies lotuses to all the major Hindu temples of Kerala

K A Shaji
Thirunavaya


Edakkulam village, like the rest of Malappuram district, is predominantly Muslim with about 60 families of the faith living there. At first sight, the only extraordinary feature here is its vast stretches of wetlands. Look closer into the water and you notice lotuses, hundreds and thousands of them. But even more unusual than this abundance of lotuses is where they finally end up.

Since a time villagers can’t even remember, these flowers, tended to by Muslims, have been supplied to every major Hindu temple of note in Kerala like the Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple, Thrissur Paramekkavu Temple, Kozhikode Tali Temple and Kadampuzha Bhagavathy Temple.

“We grow high quality lotus varieties and supply them at affordable rates to temples where they are used for Hindu rituals. Even a few Karnataka temples now depend on us for their daily requirement,’’ says 56-year-old Abdurahman, an orthodox Muslim who has been cultivating and trading lotuses for over a quarter century. “In the open market, the price of a lotus is between Rs 5 and Rs 7. But we supply them at Rs 1.50, that too without disruption. In dry seasons when the flowers are scarce, we buy from distant places like Nagarkoil in Tamil Nadu to sell them to temples.’’

Abdurahman and six other rich Muslim families in the village own the wetlands. Young members of the 50 other Muslim families in the locality work as labourers and transport the flowers to the temples. “We supply 10,000 flowers on an average every day to various temples. Now there is greater demand from outside Kerala, especially places like Bangalore,’’ says Muhammad Musthafa, another farmer in the village. The Guruvayur temple alone requires 400 flowers every day. “Temple authorities in and outside Kerala appreciate our work. We have never faced any discrimination from members of other religions,’’ he says. Neither have any hardline Muslim outfits objected to them supplying flowers to Hindu temples.

The returns of the business are moderate but regular. Says Abdurahman, “There is no market fluctuation like other farm products. We have a steady income. After all, we are doing this business for the Almighty.” PK Hamza, who drives the vehicle carrying flowers to Guruvayur temple every day, says, “The returns are low while comparing with other means of agriculture. But the goodwill it has created among our Hindu brethren is enormous.’’

No one really knows when this Muslim village started supplying flowers to Hindu temples. The ancient Navamukunda Temple is nearby and it is speculated that temple priests of yore told Muslims around to start cultivating lotus plants. Nowadays, Abdurahman says, seeing their success, traditional paddy farmers in nearby areas are opting to tend lotus in village ponds. “It is indeed a role model for others to emulate. We are very proud of being part of such a tradition," he adds.

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