CHENNAI: The Authoor betel leaf, known as vetrilai in Tamil, is rooting for the Geographical Indication (GI) tag. A formal application has been filed by the Authoor Vattara Vetrilai Viyabarigal Sangam and the move has been facilitated by NABARD's Madurai Agribusiness Incubation Forum.
In Tamil Nadu, Authoor and nearby areas of Thoothukudi district are famous for betel vine cultivation with an area of 200 hectares. The Tamirabharani river is the source of irrigation for cultivation of Authoor vetrilai. The majority of people from Authoor and nearby areas depend on betel vine cultivation and allied sectors for their livelihood.
From weddings to housewarmings, temple festivals to other auspicious occasions, betel leaves are a must. The betel leaves of the Tamirabarani basin are known across India for their pungency and spiciness.
Authoor vetrilai has some special morphological and biochemical characters like unique flavour and aroma because of geographical features, traditional cultural practices, specific genotypes, special soil characters and peculiar climatic features of the area of production, the GI application says.
Submitting proof of origin and historical records, the Sangam claimed Authoor betel leaves were popular from the time of Marco Polo, who arrived in India around 1292-94. In his book “The travels of Marco Polo (The Venetian)”, he mentioned the use of betel leaves by people in the city of Kael. The distance between Authoor village and Kael is 10 km. Hence the people of Kael must have been using betel leaves cultivated in Authoor, it said.
According to the book “Varalatril vetrilai” written by M.Chandra Murthy, published by the Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu, in 1977, “There was a 25-year-old inscription of Maravarman Vikrama Chola Pandian in the Authoor Somanathaswamy temple, Thiruchendur taluk, Tirunelveli district where it stated that betel leaves are also included in the food provided to 15 shiva brahmanas on each no moon day given by Mangalakaludaiyar Ayyanar.” Therefore, it is clear that the Authoor vetrilai has been used by people belonging to Authoor and other villages, added the Sangam.