Aslam’s lotuses adorn Brahma, Vishnu & Mahesh 

Balanced on a battered canoe, Aslam gently plucks a lotus that is just beginning to bloom and carefully places it on a pile. He moves through the vast expanse of Valiyaparappur lake in north Kerala’s Malappuram district, collecting more flowers, all meant for different temples across the state.The 25-five-year old belongs to one of the 30 Muslim families in Thirunavaya village, on the banks of the picturesque Bharata river, which share deep ties with Kerala’s Hindu temples.Thirunavaya itself is home to three revered temples ofVishnu, Brahma and Shiva.

It is known to very few devotees that the lotus blooms used in all major temples across the state, including Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple, Sabarimala, Kodungalloor Bhagavathy Temple, Paramekkavu Bhagavathi Temple, Thriprayar Sri Rama Temple and Parshinik kaadavu Muthappan Temple, are all farmed by these families. “We have been doing it for over a hundred years,” says Musthafa Chakkaliparambil, who has a 40-acre farm on the Valiyaparappur lake. He supplies at least 7,000 lotuses a day to temples in Guruvayur and Kodungallur. On an average, the village collects and distributes around 20,000 blooms every day . “Our business has thrived only because of the blessings of the deities and the revenue from temples,“ says Abdul Rahman Karakkadan, who supplies flowers to Guruvayur and Paramekkavu, Thrissur, from his 85-acre farm.

The flowers are handed over to members of the Warrier community , who handle floral decorations in temples.

“The Muslim families of Thirunavaya have maintained a good relationship with all temples,“ says Unni Varrier of Kadambuzha Bhagavathy Temple Devaswom. But lotus farming is becoming increasingly difficult for farmers like Hassan Valiyaparappur . “Water hyacinths pose a major issue. Also, water levels in the lakes have been receding over the years. Sometimes it is difficult to continue farming, especially with nil government aid,“ he says.

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June 2015
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