KOCHI: Vetiver or ‘Ramacham’ in local parlance is closely related to the ethnic lives of Keralites. It was used as a water purifier and fan in royal households since time immemorial. Traditional kerala homesteads used to put vetiver plants in drinking water wells and ponds to purify water and to make it cool. However Vetiver was pushed to nothingness by the onslaught of modern technologies.
Now efforts are being taken to popularise the grass technology in agriculture and soil conservation. Governer of Kerala, Mr. R L Bhatia opined that this medicinal plant with low maintenance cost was ideal for improving water quality and retaining moisture content of the soil by preventing water run off. He was speaking on the occasion of the inauguration of a national workshop on vetiver system organized by the India Vetiver Network. Many foreign delegates are participating in the three-day workshop.
Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company (KDHP), one of the country’s large tea producers, has long adopted this amazing technology in their tea estates. While replanting the tea gardens, they put up vetiver hedges in place of the customary stone embankments to conserve soil and moisture. It is estimated to reduce the expenditure of soil and water conservation work to over 30 per cent and could be a super money saver on waste water treatment and soil conservation. The root system of vetiver is stronger than many trees and is said to have the ability to absorb even poisonous heavy metal traces in water.
The R& D wing of KDHP, under the leadership of P. Haridas, Deputy General Manager, has been conducting trials on vetiver for the last one and a half decades. “We learnt from these farmers that they have been successfully growing vetiver against soil erosion for centuries. It reduced rainfall runoff by as much as 70%, recharged groundwater and improved ephemeral stream flow.” Surprisingly villages that use vetiver have much higher water levels in their wells due to better ground water replenation Recent studies prompted the World Bank to launch The Vetiver Network (TVN), which has been disseminating vetiver technology to the world with a missionary zeal. Kerala is all set to go back to its roots by reviving the long lost vetiver technology.
Kochi: Welcome to Thani Illam, a home stay with a difference. Located at Thottuva, near Perumbavoor, here tourists have to stick to the customary traits and rituals followed by the hosts, Mr. T. S. Parameswaran, and his wife S. Saradammal, both retired State Government employees. Eco-friendly to the core, this award winning home stay was the winner of the Kerala Government’s most innovative project in the year 2002. It also forms part of the ambitious Gruhastali project of the Department of Tourism for the preservation and popularization of heritage buildings.
Guests are not served non-vegetarian food or alcohol and smoking is not allowed at Thani Illam. Some of the rooms of this breathtaking home stay include rooms that were transferred from ancestral homes of the yore, which dates back to 500 years or more. This room constructed on top of the garage as a separate unit was transplanted from the couple’s grand parent’s ancestral house at Kottayam. It was reassembled without losing the original charm and this fully wooden room is named the Kulappura,” says Parameswaram.
Thani Illam was originally the ancestral home of the legendary novelist and film director, Mr. Malayattoor Ramakrishnan. The present owners purchased it in 1994 and refurbished without spoiling its original charm and traditional flavor. The rooms have wooden ceiling and cement floor which makes it cool and comfortable even during sweltering summer days. Some rooms have terracotta tiles and enchanting high wooden ceilings which makes them breezy. However, bathrooms have all the modern fittings and amenities for the convenience of the foreign tourist and to comply with international tourism norms.
The traditional gate or the ‘Padippura’ with tiled roof welcomes the guests to this elegant home where time stands still. The couple has set apart two rooms for tourists. This home has been the venue for most of the creations of the eminent poet including the famous book ‘Verukal’.
The English guests are served traditional Kerala delicacies like hot boiled bananas and other vegetarian dishes- a rare experience for many. Apart from all these, Keralite dresses are also provided to the guests to go in line with the rustic theme of this nondescript village. The wardrobe is a modified ‘pathayam’, which was originally used to store grains. Tourists can also pick up the nuances of Kerala cooking if they have a penchant for it. If you are looking for a tranquil vacation, no other place can beat the charisma of Thani Illam set amidst stunning nature spectacles and lush greenery. Many foreigners throng this enchanting home to relax and unwind beating a retreat from the maddening pace of the city life.
Children below 12 are offered free stay and meals and if all these were not enough, for the guests who stay for more than a week, the Sunday fare comes totally free! Guests are only happy to go with the rules of this elegant home stay. No rooms are air conditioned as the wooden ceiling ensures natural cooling at all times.
The guests get to experience a stunning slice of Indian culture by way of classical dance, ayurvedic treatment or yoga sessions from local folks. And going by the feedbacks of the tourists, this trend is here to stay as most of the guests look for pure ethnic fare rather than the cookie cutter, commercial packages that are available all over the world.