Borassus (Palmyra Palm) is a genus of six species of fan palms, native to tropical regions of Africa, Asia and New Guinea. They are tall palms, capable of growing up to 30 m high (98 ft). The leaves are long, fan-shaped, 2 to 3 m in length. The flowers are small, in densely clustered spikes, followed by large, brown, roundish fruits.
Palmyra palms are economically useful, and widely cultivated in tropical regions. The palmyra palm has long been one of the most important trees of Cambodia and India, where it has over 800 uses. The leaves are used for thatching, mats, baskets,fans, hats, umbrellas, and as writing material. In Cambodia, the tree is a national flora symbol/emblem that is seen growing around Angkor Wat. The sugar palm can live over 100 years.
In ancient Indonesia and ancient India, the leaves were used as paper to write on, as a kind of papyrus. In India, leaves of suitable size, shape and texture, and sufficient maturity are chosen. They are then preserved by boiling in salt water with turmeric powder. The leaves are then dried; when they are dry enough, the faces of the leaves are polished with pumice stone. Then they are cut in the proper size. A hole is cut out in one corner. Each leaf will have four pages. The writing is done with a stylus. The writing is of a very cursive and interconnected style. The leaves are then tied up as sheaves.
“According to Tamil culture, Palmyra palm trees played an important role in water management in the ancient times. The ancestors had a planned vision for the future water needs of the generations that followed, but most importantly a well balanced ecosystem was maintained.
Unlike other trees, Palmyra palm’s roots go vertically into the ground, which in turn brought the ground water to various levels along the path. It irrigated the land, played a significant role in the circulation of water in the aquifers, river beds and rivers. Since the process is natural and balance of consumption was well maintained. Rivers remained perennial those times and these trees had its own significance. That is why these trees are considered as “celestial trees” You could find all the traditional ponds or lakes they had dug with Palmyra palms around like a fence.”
The stalks are used to make fences and to make a strong, wiry fiber suitable for cordage and brushes. The black timber is hard, heavy, and durable and is highly valued for construction, such as for wharf pilings. The tree also yields many types of food. The young plants are cooked as a vegetable or roasted and pounded to make meal. The fruits are eaten roasted or raw, and the young, jellylike seeds are also eaten. A sugary sap, called toddy, can be obtained from the young inflorescence, either male or female ones. toddy is (called “kallu” in Telugu. The toddy is fermented to make a beverage called arrack, or it is concentrated to a crude sugar called jaggery/palm sugar. It is called Gula Jawa (Javanese sugar) in Indonesia and is widely used in the Javanese cuisine. The roots can be dried to form Odiyal, a hard chewable snack. In addition, the tree sap is taken as a laxative, and medicinal values have been ascribed to other parts of the plant.
In Tamil culture
The Palmyra tree is the official tree of Tamil Nadu. In Tamil culture, it is called karpaha,”Nungu” “celestial tree”, and is highly respected because all its parts can be used. The recently germinated seeds have formed fleshy sprouts below the surface which can be boiled and eaten as a fibrous, nutritious food. The germinated seed’s hard shell is also cut open to take out the crunchy kernel which tastes like a water chestnut but is sweeter. The ripe fibrous outer layer of the fruits is edible after boiling or roasting. When the fruit is tender, the kernel inside the hard shell is an edible jelly that is refreshing and rich in minerals. When the crown of the tree from which the leaves sprout is cut we get an edible cake. In ancient times, dried palm leaves were used to write manuscripts.
Palakkad District of Kerala State is popularly known as land of Palmyra trees.Palmyra trees are known as the Icon of this district and has got vast cultural, heritage & literary association. Many novels, stories and poems revolve around these trees. The path-breaking Malayalam novel written by the Indian writer O. V. Vijayan, ‘Khasakkinte Itihasam’ mentions Palmyra trees in various angles. Many people, especially in eastern Palakkad live on earnings by tapping Pamyra Toddy, which are sold in outlets controlled by Co-op Societies.The district authorities are taking the very action to preserve these trees & maintain Palakkad’s Identity.
A Traditional Irrigation System Using Palmyra Palm (Borassus flabellifer) in Kerala, India
The multipurpose palmyra palm, is still very important in village culture in India. This paper describes a hitherto undocumented traditional water engineering system prevalent in the Palakkad District of Kerala, India, involving the palmyra palm. (Read more…)