GI tag sought for Kumbakonam Vetrilai, Thovalai Manikka Malai

Farm varsity applied for Kumbakkonam betel leave while artisans’ association filed the plea for the garland

Geographical Indications Registry in Chennai has received applications seeking GI tag for two famous products from Tamil Nadu — Kumbakonam Vetrilai and Thovalai Manikka Malai.

The application for Kumbakonam Vetrilai was filed by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore while the application for Thovalai Manikka Malai was given by the Thovalai Manikkamaalai Kaivinai Kalaingargal Nalasangam, Kanniyakumari.

P. Sanjai Gandhi, IP Attorney and Advocate, Nodal Officer, Geographical Indication Registration of Products, Government of Tamil Nadu, who submitted both the applications, said the Kumbakonam betel leaves were heart shaped and grown in the Cauvery delta region by small and marginal farmers. It is particularly grown in Ayyampettai, Rajagiri, Pandaravadai and Swamimalai in Thanjavur district.

On an average, about 60-80 lakh betel leaves were harvested annually from a one-hectare plot. A betel leaf cultivator spends ₹10,000 to ₹50,000 to grow these leaves on a one-acre land. Harvested leaves are washed, cleaned, and graded according to their size and quality. They were traditionally packed in bamboo baskets but now there are several options such as plantain leaves and cloth bags.

Thovalai Manikka Malai is a special type of garland that is made only in Thovalai, a small village in Kanniyakumari. The flowers used in this particular garland are positioned in a way that when folded they look like a gem. The flowers are generally arranged in five rows, but at times for other decorations, 20 rows are used. The height ranges from one foot to 24 feet and above. Chamba fibre, nochi leaves, oleander and rose flowers are the key materials used for making this garland. Thovalai is famous for its abundance of flowers and most of flowers are procured locally.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping came to Mamallapuram in 2019 and saw these garlands, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Thovalai Manikka Malai as one of the Tamil cultural arts to him. The garland was used for decoration during a wedding ceremony at the house of industrialist Mukesh Ambani. A group of women from Thovalai went to Mumbai for the decoration work. According to details provided in the GI application, Palani Pandaram invented the technique of Manikka Malai.

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