A Mini Punjab in Tamilnadu….

Workers from Punjab at Akal farm in Vallanthai village. Photo: S. James

Workers from Punjab at Akal farm in Vallanthai village. Photo: S. James..The Hindu

Hard working farmers from Punjab are greening dry tracts in the interiors of Ramnad district.

Ropar in Punjab or Ramnad in Tamil Nadu, it no longer makes a difference to Jaspal, Harpal, Gagandeep and Rajendra Singh. Wearing colourful turbans, long white shirts and pyjamas they are out in the fields doing what they love — tilling the land.

“If you love nature and understand the interconnectedness of life, you can do farming anywhere,” says the youngest in the group, Jaspal, in chaste Punjabi.

The sun shines bright in Vallandhai village in Kamuthi taluk of Ramnad district. The farmers, with smiles on their sun-tanned faces, move around pulling out bunches of groundnuts. A lady in salwar-suit walks into the fields with a thermos of chilled lassi (butter milk) and the men take a break.

The group of Punjabis have beautifully blended into the sun-blistered landscape of one of the driest districts in south Tamil Nadu and shown the locals how a farmer’s faith and hard work can yield amazing results.

Till about a decade ago the land here was covered with thorny bushes (kaattu karuvelam) and abandoned by the locals. Today, a big iron gate welcomes you into the area now called the ‘Akal Farm’ that boasts of lush green orchards and sustainable green farms. It has not only become the talking point in the district but also a model example of cultivation showcased to tourists, agriculturists and visitors.

With apt knowledge, experience and some experimentation, about two-dozen farmers from Moga and Sangrur districts in Punjab are now successfully growing mangoes, water melons, papaya, guava, cucumber, pumpkin, amla, carrot, ladies finger, oranges, sapota and custard apple. “We are gradually acquiring more land and increasing our farm produce,” says the soft-spoken Darshan Singh, one of the two group leaders-cum-supervisor who can speak a smattering of Tamil and was invited by the District Collector last month to address local administration staff and farmers from the region.


Workers from Punjab at Akal farm in Vallanthai village. Photo: S. James

“It was my first attempt at public speaking and I felt humbled,” says Darshan Singh, “to share tips because I know every farmer anywhere shares a special relationship with the real food.” “I managed to convey my points as I was asked to motivate the people who had rejected the same land for farming,” he adds.

Sab rab di meherbani hain (everything is God’s grace),” says Darshan Singh, who feels the yield is not yet as high as desired. But we all are happy to have turned the infertile and fallow lands into lush green orchards and fields, he adds.

It all began when Darshan Singh and his friend, Manmohan Singh, left behind their families and chose to travel more than 3,000 kms to this backward belt seven years ago. They followed the suggestion of a retired agriculture officer to explore cultivation in the arid lands of south Tamil Nadu.

“We migrated for farming beyond our home State lured by the cheap land that was in short supply back home,” says Sarabjeet Singh, another senior member in the group. “We were discouraged by the locals who were always grudging against the long dry spells. But we did not mind experimenting because the land was being sold at a throwaway price – Rs.10,000 per acre,” he adds.

The friends pooled in money and jointly bought 300 acres. They also took a house on rent in nearby Virudhunagar and travelled everyday to the hamlet. It took three years to clear the land, dig two dozen borewells, instal drip irrigation and make it ready for plantation.

“We toiled round-the-clock as cleaners, gardeners, farmers, night guards…initially the locals were hostile to us,” says Darshan Singh, “but everybody’s hard work and patience is bearing fruits now.”

“The results took time but we did not lose hope,” asserts Sarabjeet Singh.

Life has taken a new turn inside this mini-Punjab in Vallandhai. The Akal farm now encompasses 600 acres and also has a neatly fenced campus with small cottages, dormitory, a common kitchen, dining area and meditation room. “We no longer feel we live outside Punjab,” says Darshan Singh.

The farmers and their families celebrate Lohri, holi, baisakhi, rakhi, teej and diwali. The women cook the daily dal-chawal and roti-subzi together and even feed the visitors. They also join in pongal and Tamil new year celebrations with their local friends. “The villagers have become friendly now,” says Darshan Singh.

In fact with the Punjabi farmers setting a trend, some local farmers have joined them as workers in the Akal Farm. Some have even returned to them offering to buy the green fields at a higher rate.

A retired Village Administration Officer, Syed Segana, has been with them for the past six years helping in administrative work and translations. “I am trying to teach them Tamil,” he smiles, “but our friendship is beyond language, food and boundaries now.” “Nature and greenery binds us together and it does not matter where we belong to and where we stay and work,” he adds.

Workers from Punjab at Akal farm in Vallanthai village. Photo: S. James

The Akal Farm yields

Amla and guava on 40 acres each, mixed dry fruits like cashew nuts and almonds on five acres, papaya on 10 acres. The farmers have planted 5,000 mango trees on 80 acres besides coconut and timber-value trees on 10 acres each and an assortment of other fruits and vegetables. They also cultivate inter-crop and this season harvested 15 tonnes of pumpkin, five tonnes of cucumber and 20 tonnes of water melon on a daily basis.

Source…..Soma Basu in http://www.thehindu.com



” Taste of TamilNadu…” …See this Mouthwatering FoodMap of TamilNadu !!!

Priya Bala of Folomojo.com hits the road!

Few things unite a country as diverse as India as food.

And so Priya Bala decided to help us with a food map of Tamil Nadu.


Let’s go!

Vadacurry in Chennai

We start our culinary adventure in Chennai, a city famous for its idli shops and military messes, besides kotthu (kotthu parota) and thengai-manga-pattani sundal which is an essential part of an outing to Marina Beach.

But there’s one dish that features in a typical Chennai saying ‘Gamalakdi giri giri Saidapettai vada curry’ and also become the title of a recent movie.

That’s vadacurry. No long culinary history backs this popular breakfast dish.

It could well be that an eatery wondering what to do with the left over masal vadai thought this one up.

Crumbled bits of masal vadai are dropped into a tasty gravy that’s got a big hit of garam masala.

You eat it with idli or set dosai and feel utterly content.

Idli in Kanchipuram

In the silk-weaving town that gives this item its name, it’s known as koil idli.

That’s because Kanchipuram idli originates from the Sri Varadaraja Perumal Koil, or temple, there.

Spiked with whole pepper, cumin, curry leaves, dried ginger and asafoetida, the traditional way is to steam the idlis in mandharai leaves.

Besides the temple kitchen, vegetarian eateries in Kanchipuram like Kanaga Vilas and Sri Krishna Vilas make their own versions of this idli, each claiming it to be the real thing.

Makkan Peda in Arcot

There’s no chance that you’ll pass through Arcot in Vellore District and not hear about its famous sweet, the makkan peda.

The story goes that it was the likes of the Nawab of Arcot who first dined on these syrup-soaked sweets.

They were later taken up by the sweet-makers of the town.

One of the most popular makers of this sweet is the Arcot Chettiyar Sweet Stall that’s well over 150 years old.

The makkan peda looks like a gulab jamun but tastes nothing like it.

A rich dough casing of maida and khoya holds a mixture dried fruits and nuts inside.

These little balls are deep-fried and then soaked in syrup to become the treat that is makkan peda.

Biryani in Ambur

Ambur is a nondescript town on the Chennai-Bangalore highway and most people would never have heard of it, but for the fact that the word ‘biryani’ has become attached to it.

Food history has it that one Muslim family in the area started making and selling biryanis in the late 19th century.

It grew to be a bigger family business, giving way to Rahamaniya and, now, Star, Ambur’s best biryani maker.

Lots of imitators have sprung up since, but the mutton biryani at Star in Ambur is something special.

Chocolates in Ooty

Perhaps it’s the weather that makes Ooty, set high in the Nilgiris range, ideal for chocolate-making.

Despite the popularity of the locally produced chocolates, the business is still a cottage industry.

Dark, milk, white, fruit- and nut-studded, it’s a huge choice. Tourists never leave without a box of Ooty chocolates.

Coconut buns in Coimbatore

The affluent textile city of Coimbatore has a profusion of very good bakeries.

They sell an array of goodies, but none is more famous than the coconut bun.

Decades ago, a slice of sweet, warm coconut bun and a glass of tea is what the textile mill workers turned to for a pick-me-up.

Now, everyone in Coimbatore enjoys this teatime treat.

KR Bakes is an old bakery that has quite a reputation for its coconut buns.

Degree kaapi in Kumbakonam

The true coffee aficionado in TN will look askance at instant coffee and even the pricey, foam-topped cuppa from Starbucks.

It’s got to be filter coffee, brewed in the double filter the traditional way, combined with frothy milk and served sweetened in a dabara-tumbler set.

Nowhere is the coffee better than in Thanjavur district and the town of Kumbakonam rightfully stakes a claim for the best.

The ‘degree’ apparently refers to the creaminess of the milk, measured by a lactometer.

Highways across the state are dotted with ‘Kumbakonam degree kaapi’ stalls, but the real thing is in the temple town.

Murukku in Manapparai

Manapparai is a small town, nestling in a fertile patch on the Madurai-Trichy highway.

Whether you drive through or travel by bus, there’ll be no escaping the murukku vendors of Manapparai.

The place is famous for its crunchy, lightly spiced murukku, a perfect any-time snack.

What makes it special? The water of Manapparai, say the locals.

Thalappakatti Biriyani Dindigul

Like all good things, this dish has spawned imitations aplenty.

In fact, the makers of the original Dindigul Thalappakatti biriyani have been fighting tough legal battles to protect their brand name.

The story goes that a certain Nagasamy Naidu, who started the business in the 1950s, always wore a ‘thalapa’ or turban; hence the name of the biryani.

It is made from a particular type of seeraga samba rice and the meat of goats from the big markets in Paramathi and Kannivadi.

Jigarthanda in Madurai

The signature drink of the city that revolves around the Meenakshi temple is jigarthanda and does just that — cooling the very being in the scorching temperatures that prevail there.

It is believed the Muslim settlers carrying Mughal culinary inspirations brought this sweet, cold drink to Madurai.

Jigarthanda stalls abound in the bustling city, particularly around the temple, and the best, everyone agrees, is at Famous Jigarthanda.

These milky drinks contain almond tree resin — now more commonly substituted with China grass jelly– thickened milk, nannari sherbet and a dollop of ice cream.

‘Special’ versions can have a serving of basundi topping things off.

Ennai Parota in Virudhunagar

Madurai is the parota capital of the region.

But about 50 km south is Virudhunagar, which takes the parota to another, artery-clogging level that makes it the popular dish it is.

The parotas which are shaped from coils of dough, already soaked in oil, are then fried in a shallow tava, till crisp and flaky.

Waiting crowds at the Burma Kadai then tear or crumble the ennai parota, pour over a river of gravy and tuck in, not forgetting to burp afterwards.

Kara Sev in Sattur

Also in Virudhunagar district is the dusty town of Sattur, which finds itself on the food map of the region, thanks to a delightful, spicy snack it produces by the ton.

Sattur is famous for its kara sev, crisp-fried strands made of gram flour and rice flour, seasoned with chilli and garlic.

The Shanmuga Nadar Mittai Kadai here has been making kara sev for a century and more.

It’s the perfect thing to munch on with a cup of hot tea.

Palgova in Srivilliputhur

The sacred birthplace of Sri Andal is also known for its milk sweet, palgova.

Made by painstakingly stirring fresh milk and sugar over wood-fed fires, it is rich and creamy and a must-buy for those who visit this part of Tamil Nadu.

North Indian sweet-making techniques seem to have been brought here by locals who travelled or people like the Singhs who run the Sri Venkateswara Vilas Lala Sweet Stall and originally hail from Rajasthan.

Kadalai mittai in Kovilpatti

Kovilpatti in the southernmost part of Tamil Nadu is best known for an everyday sweet, kadalai mittai or peanut candy.

It’s so unique to the region that makers have now applied for a GI (Geographical Identification) tag.

It’s available here in shops with names like KS Kadalai Mittai and VVR Kadalai Mittai.

The secret, they claim, is the quality of the peanuts they use and the mixture of jaggery syrups.

Nutritionists give this sweet the thumbs-up, saying a small slab of Kadalai Mittai is packed with nutrition and energy and makes the perfect snack.

Halwa in Tirunelveli

They say it is the water of the perennial Thamiraparani that makes the halwa of Tirunelveli so good.

For the locals, it is no occasional treat.

It is an everyday experience — a dollop of hot halwa, straight out of the karhai, glistening with ghee being plopped on to a leaf, to be eaten piping hot, perhaps with a side of kara sev providing a foil to the sweet richness. Iruttukadai or the dark shop, where the halwa is made only after dusk, is said to make the best halwa.

Macaroons in Thoothukudi

A bustling port and fishing harbour is not where you’ll expect a dainty baked delicacy. But there it is — the macaroon of Thoothukudi.

The long-established bakeries here specialise in making these light-as-air confections which use egg whites, sugar and cashewnuts.

The macaroon-makers of Thoothukudi send their products to other cities, but say they can never be made elsewhere and taste the same.

CREDITS….Lead photograph (used for representational purposes only): Jagadeesh Nv/Reuters

Photographs courtesy: Folomojo.com



Photos That are Worth Thousand Words…. India Photos …


This is a scene from the ghost town of Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu by Nempu Guru.

And this is the sunrise as seen from Varanasi’s Assi Ghat also by Guru.

Atanu Banerjee shares with us this photograph of a fisherman at work in Digha, West Bengal

And Pradipto Chakrabarty sends us this stunning view from the picturesque village of Sarahan in Himachal Pradesh.

And this view of Chandrakhani Pass in Manali has been sent to us by Shyam Chavan.

Chavan also sends us this picture of Parashar Lake in Himachal Pradesh

And Pankaj Kumar witnesses the cleanliness of Meghalaya’s rivers. This picture has been shot at Dauki.

This is a picture of the frozen Lake Tsongmo in Gangtok by Ashish Kawale.

And we come back to Tamil Nadu with this picture of the Kasimedu fishing harbour in Chennai by Jaimurugan.



” அவ்வையாரின் விநாயகர் அகவல் …”


Avaiyar (meaning a very Old mother) was one of the very great women poets of ancient Tamil Nadu.(In telugu even today mother is called Avva) Apart from being a great poet, she played a very great role in the politics of those days, by making the great kings obey her.There are many references to her being a great Devotee of Lord Subrahmanya. Her well known work is AthiChoodi, which was written foer easy learning by Tamil Children. It is interesting to note that even today, Athichoodi shows the simple path to live well, for all children. Vinayagar Agaval is another one of her great works. Agaval means blank poetry and it is a song addressed to Lord Ganapathy . He is addressed as Vinayagar (he who removes obstacles) or Pillayar in Tamil. This prayer is an extremely popular one in Tamil Nadu. It clearly brings out the mastery of Avvaiyar in the Yoga, thathric practices and Saivism, possibly derived from the contribution of Sidhas in Tamil Nadu and the Tamil Nadu Saivism

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