Women sitting at the riverside and weaving coconut fronds is a normal scene for anybody who visit Urutty, near Vilangad in the district, during the summer season. For hundreds of women in the region, weaving coconut fronds is their traditional way to obtain revenue.
“Weaving coconut fronds is not an easy task for us. Our grandmother used to show her mettle by weaving 100 to 120 fronds in a day, said Leela Koolikkavu.
“Leela has been in the field for the last 25 years. Along with the natives of Urutty, residents of Aduppil colony (Paniya and Kurichya) also engage in the weaving of coconut fronds. They spend the morning hours roaming around the yards to collect coconut palms and by noon, commence their weaving work.
“While weaving, we make sure that we are using quality leaflets that were not squeezed together. Most people in the region use coconut fronds for roofing.
“Though it does not last long, majority of the people in Valayam still prefer our coconut fronds to thatch their roofs,” claimed Santha of Aduppil Colony. A beginner in the field can make only `100 per day, whereas an experienced person would make close to `850.
The quality that they offer attracts the office-bearers of the Kottiyur temple to their village to collect coconut fronds for erecting temporary inns on the sacred premises of the Akkare temple, where there are no permanent structures. Close to 7,000 coconut palm fronds are sold to Kottiyur temple every year.
Woven coconut fronds are also used in the festivals at Iringannur Temple and Valliyurkavu in Wayanad. During the other seasons, most women go for daily-wage works.
“For us, what matters is not the job but the financial gain,” said Shobha of Aduppil Colony.
“We are not ready to let the skill end up as a past memory. Hence, we train our children right from their childhood,” said 55-year-old Chiritha, a resident of Aduppil Colony.
“To appreciate the native knowledge that is now on the edge of extinction, we used to organise coconut frond-weaving competitions in the panchayat limit,” said Vanimel Grama Panchayat member K P Vasantha Kumari. Womenfolk here in Urutty confidently said, “with this work, we can manage our family without the support of our males during this summer season.”