An announcement, on the back side of a Kannada Newspaper clipping (brought during my visit to native place in January-February 2009) drew my attention. It is about Panolibailu Shri Kallurti Daivasthana (Sajipa Mooda, Bantwal Taluk,and Dakshina Kannada) not holding the periodical ‘Agelu and Kola’ as the day is intervening with the Nandavara Jatra Mahotsava, to be held between 9th and 14th February 2009. The word ‘Panolibailu’has been preying on my mind. It is inciting me to knowhow a name of a tree (in Tulu) is instrumental in giving a name to the village linguistically and culturally.Seized with a desire to educate myself and others, this article is written as a compendium on ‘Panoli’ vis-a-vis Taari/Taali Tree, another palm tree variety.
Popular Palms in Tulunadu
Coconut Palm is the most popular and commonly found palm tree in Karavali followed by Palmyra (Tāri in Tulu; TāLe in Kannada) or Toddy Palm. The latter is traditionally used for the manufacture of toddy, neera, and a special variety of flat, round, pan-cake shaped jaggery which is acclaimed for its alleged medicinal values.
TĀRI or PALMYRA PALM
Tāri/Tāli (Borassus flabellifer; Palmyra; Palmyra ತಾರಿ/ತಾಳಿ) Tree is a plant of the Palmae family, having an unbranched trunk, crowned by large pinnacle or palmate leaves, resembling a fan. Webster English Dictionary defines a Palm tree as “any of tropical and sub-tropical trees with tall branchless trunk and bunch of large (hand-like) leaves.” Palmetto is a small palm tree with fan shaped leaves.
The genus of Palmyra Palm has six species, native to tropical regions of Asia, Africa and New Guinea, capable growing up to 30 m height. Leaves are fan-shaped, 2-3 m in length. Densely clustered spikes bear small flowers, which grow into large brown roundish fruits.
Similar to Coconut palm tree, the palmyra palm tree is considered as another ‘Kalpavriksha’, mainly for its economic uses. It is also called a ‘Trinaraja’ ( King of grass).
They are also cultivated for its economical uses. Borassus flabellifer is an Indian species of Palmyra as against the African species: Borassus aettiopum. So it is a native tree of India and not Africa as is inferred by editors of Hobson-Jobson Dictionary (p.664) based on their references available at that time.
On seeing the cultivated Palm trees from Ganga Valley to Delta in Bengal, the Portuguese exclaimed: ‘par excellence, palmeira’ (quoted in Hobson-Jobson Dictionary).
In ancient India, Palmyra leaf blades were traditionally used as paper, like papyrus in Egypt. Matured leaves were selected according size, shape and texture and then preserved by boiling in salt water mixed with turmeric powder. These leaves are then dried, polished with pumice stone and cut to proper size. A hole is cut in one corner. The writing is done with stylus and then leaves are tied up as sheaves (bundles). Old manuscripts of scriptures and literature are written in such Talegari/Taada Patra (Olai chuvadi in Tamil). Besides, these leaves are used for thatching and weaving (mats, baskets, brooms, fans, hats, umbrellas, and capes, i.e. short cloaks, used as rain ware by farmers during monsoon cultivation).
Panini, the Sanskrit Grammarian (ca.400 BC), wrote his book using Taala Patra (Palm tree leaves). Likewise, Hindu, Buddhist and Jain scriptures are written on Taala Patra. The Greek too knew about Palm tree leaf writing through Megasthanese.
The black timber of Palmyra is hard, heavy and durable. It is highly valuable for construction, such as roof rafters and laths for houses, pilings for wharf. In Cambodia, it is used for making canoes. Leaf-stalks are used for fencing and for basket making when split.
Indian Names of Palmyra
Tulu: Taarimara, Pongu (Kernel found inside the seed when sprouted).
Kannada: Taalimara, Taatinungumara. Malayalam: Karimpana, Nongu (Kernel), Pana, Talam. Marathi: Tad, Talat-mad, Tamar.
Hindi: Tar, Tad, Tar-ka-jhar. Gujarathi: Tad. Oriya: talo, Tando, Trinorajo. Bengali: Tal, Talgach. Tamil: Panai, Karumpanei. Nonku (Kernel). Telugu: Taadi-chettu, Taati-chettu, Tooti. Assam: Tal.
Foreign Names of Palmyra
English: Palmyra Palm, Brab tree, toddy palm. French: Roenier. German: Palmyra-Palmira. Dutch: Jagerboom.Portuguese: Palmeira brava, panguera. Italian: Palma di Palmira. Burmese: Tan-bin. Khmer: Thnaot. Lao (Vietnam): Tan. Indonesia: Lontar, Tal (Java), Siwalan (Sumatra), Tala (Sulawesi). Malaysia: Lontar, Tah, Tai. Sinhalese: Tal Gaha, Kelengu (kernel of seedling).
Diffusion of Palm tree to South East Asian countries is due to Indian Trade routes.When Buddhism spread to Burma, Thailand, Combodia (Angkor) and Viet Nam, Palm tree reached these places from South India and Ceylon.In Cambodia, it is a national symbol. Angkor Temple is surrounded by palm trees. It is also a cultural symbol in South Sulavesi Province of Indonesia. Thailand landscape is enriched by palm trees as national prestige.
In some civilizations, a leaf of this tree was carried as a symbol of victory.
There are place names having a bearing on Taal and Tad/Tadi, For example: Taalipadi, Talipat (Remember this place where Ramaraya of Vijayanagara Empire fought a ruinous battle with Bahamani kings), Tadiwala Lane (in Pune City), and so on. (We expect that readers would give feedback about such names in their areas).
There is one more species of palm tree less common in occurrence but similar in looks to the Palmyra but with larger fronds: It is known as ‘Panoli’ in Tulu language and Fan Palm in English. (Corypha umbraculifera in botanical nomenclature). The place name ‘Panoli-bail’ in rural Bantwal Taluk, is named after this particular variety of Palm. It is called as ಶ್ರೀತಾಳಿ (Shritāli), ಪನೆ/ಹನೆಮರ (Pane/Hane tree) or ಪಣೆಳು (Brahmin Tulu), Tāliput/Tālipot or Pān (Tamil), Pāna (Malayalam), Pane (Kodava), Hane (Kannada), Shirtal (Konkani).
These trees are planted in gardens as landscaping. In coastal belts (plains, hills and fields), we see them majestically standing to ones delight. Even a lonely tree, standing stately on a hill, is also a wonderful sight.
It is a monocarpic flowering tree. It flowers only once in its life time (of around 70 to 80 years) in contrast to other annually flowering trees of the family, having longer life span. Cluster of flowers, on top of tree, are the longest of all plants in the world. It dies gradually after flowers ripen to yield thousands of (round yellow-green)seeds (3-4 cm dia.), say within three months to one year. One has to be lucky to see this rare and spectacular sight of flowered Panoli. A rare event of sighting the flowered species was reported from an area just behind the City Sub-Jail, Mangalore, by Fr. Leo D’ Souza, former Principal and Rector of St. Aloysius College, Mangalore (Deccan Herald, 16th October, 2008.)
Panolibailu is famous for Kalkuda and Kallurti (the sculptor &his sister) Divine Spirits. The Deities, having legendary powers, are worshipped devotedly in Panolibailu Daivasthanaand in other villages of Tulu Nadu. Devotees do Sevas (votive offerings)of ‘agelu’ (Rice food offered with chicken curry) and Kola (periodical ceremony of invocation of deities through priest-mediums /impersonators) by paying prescribed fees.
In Tamil Nadu, the tree is an official tree, respected as ‘Karpaha Veruksham’ (Celestial Tree). Panaiveriamman (named after ‘Panai’, the Palm tree) is related to fertility. The Deity is called ‘Taalavasini’ (The Goddess having Taala, i.e. Palm Tree, as her abode).
‘Taal Gach ek paye daariye’ is a nursery rhyme in Sahaja Path, written by Rabindranath Tagore in Bengali. During Laxmi Pooja, white kernel of ripe palm is offered. Similarly, brooms made of palm leaves are considered auspicious things during Laxmi Poojan in Deepavali festival (Writer’s observation in Maharashtra).
Corresponding names of Panoli in other languages are: Bajarbattu (Hindi), Shritala (Telugu), Talipot (Marathi), Kudaippana (Tamil), Kudaappana (Kuda = Umbrella + pana = palm in Malayalam), Talipot (Sri Lanka), Pe-Pen (Burmese), Talipot (Malay), San Xing Xing Ye Ye Zi (Chinese), Palmier Talipot (French), Talipot palm (German), Talipot (English), Grote waaier Palm(Dutch), Palmeira Das Bermudas (Portuguese), Palma Talipot, Talipote (Spanish), and Palma Corifa (Italian).
Origin of the term Panoli
‘Pane’ in Tulu means ‘raised and levelled platform, or lofty place’. It appears that the term Panoli (pan + oli) represents a tree with lofty, large fronds (leaves). The ‘panoli’ also means an umbrella or parasol made out of fronds of the palm tree. (Tulu Lexicon, p. 2904 / 1924).
Besides Panoli-bailu in Tulu Nadu, we have come across similar place names in other places in India:
Panoli in Taluk Parnar, Dist. Ahmednagar, Maharashtra.
Panoli Village and Railway Station, Bharuch District, Gujarat.
Palms in Water Management:
In South India, these trees were traditionally played important role in water management. Traditionally, people thought that being tall, roots go vertically deep into the ground, thereby raising the water-table all along its path, even though scientists may not agree with the hypothesis. Since the process is natural and balance of consumption is well maintained, rivers remained perennial. One could find all the traditional ponds or lakes our ancestors dug had palmyra all around like a hedge or fence. The writer witnessed several ponds in coastal line, dug for manually watering the coconut and casuarina trees (in the absence water pumps then), are surrounded by palmyra palm. Alas, such ponds and palm trees are dwindling!
The traditional farmers in Tulu Nadu employed split tree trunk pipes (Taari Dambe) as canal for irrigating or draining out excess water. A Paper by V.S. Ramachandran, K. Swarupanandan and C. Renuka describe the water pipes made of palmyra tree trunk is being used in Palakkad District of Kerala for irrigation, a traditional water engineering system. (Ref: Propel Steps: Eco Preservation: Palmyra Palm Trees – The Paper is hidden in it).
Palmyra based Foods & Beverages:
· Sugar sap removed from the tree is called toddy and is used for drinking, making jaggery and alcohol.
· Toddy has medicinal value as laxative. All other parts have also medicinal values.
· Kernel of nursery trees ('Pongu' in Tulu; 'Thavanai' in Tamil) is eaten raw as a delicious food. Somewhere it is cooked as a vegetable or roasted.
· Raw or tender palm fruit (Tulu: Taari Bonda or 'Irolu') is jelly-like and is eaten after drinking the water inside it. When summer comes, it is a cool and good refresher.
· Ripe fruit (Taari Parundu) is eaten raw or roasted. During scarcity of food (as we have faced in our childhood), it was a main eatable to children. Present generation, especially urban, is not aware of this fact as the trend is forgotten. Girls eat fleshy pulp scraping by teeth so hard that fibres become white as hair of an old woman. They braid the fibres and cut jokes with their youngsters by calling and saying them to go after the old woman (i.e. eaten fruit).
Paddy fields and ponds/lakes, which are lined with palm trees, are disappearing rapidly with industrialization and urbanization. We have noticed palm trees abounding in city suburbs but now the place is taken over by high rise modern buildings. Farmer and eco-friendly palm family trees need protection and preservation, considering their many uses. This article is intended for creating an environmental awareness. “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”- Aristotle