Kerala Njattuvela

Agronature is committed to the conservation of sustainable, resilient agricultural heritage of Kerala. The agricultural heritage of Kerala is intimately linked to harnessing the bio-dynamism of nature. Following the lunar calendar, and using vedic or sidereal astrology, the 27 nakshatras or stars assigned to the months constitute the traditional Kerala agricultural calendar.

The origin of the word Njattuvela is said to be from Njazhar vela or the hour/ hora of the Sun, which further transformed to Njattuvela; a month here is 13.5 days long, and becomes 27 months comprising the Njattuvela.

The primary crop of Kerala being rice is said to be fixed between the 15 njattuvelas of Aswathi to Swati, or 7 and half months of the Gregorian calendar. There are many adages in relation to these 15 njattuvelas, which can be used as resources to learn agricultural heritage of the land, historical resources on climate, topography etc. ‘ The seed sown during Ashwati and the mango brined during Bharani or in a Bharani ( clay jar) would not rot’, says one proverb.

The king of Njattuvelas remains Thiruvathira Njattuvela, it was during this time that traditionally black pepper was planted. Intermittent rains along with the harsh sun distinguishes Thiruvathira Njattuvela from the rest. Ayurvedic Vaidyars or traditional healers were known to collect the rainwater of Thiruvathira Njattuvela to prepare medicinal concoctions. This Njattuvela is etched in the historical memory of Kerala due to its close connection with the European conquest of Kerala, the story also narrates the grandiosity and hospitality of Kerala.

The story of Zamorin and Thiruvathira Njattuvela.

An interesting historical anecdote from the annals of the Zamorin’s court captures the sentiment every Malayali feels about Thiruvathira Njattuvela.

As the Portugese landed on the coast of Kozhikode, Kerala, and visited the Zamorin’s court, they were greeted by a resplendent and welcoming nobility. During this time the Portugese were given the permission or rather they coerced the Zamorin into giving them the knowledge of exporting and planting pepper saplings to other territories. Zamorin’s minister, Mangattachan, vexed by this move raised his concerns with Zamorin. To this the Zamorin replied, “ they (the Portugese), can take the pepper saplings but not our Thiruvathira Njattuvela”. The mythology of Thiruvathira nakshatra is associated with the Rudra form of Shiva, here he is imagined as the howling one manifested as the thunderstorms, the one that cries intensely. Rudra’s tears fall as the rains,and his intense anger scorches. The earth receives this resplendence, and she transforms it into a crop that closely resembles little black tear drops, black pepper. Rudraksha, is most associated with the tears of Rudra, but in the Kerala context, a poetic license warrants that black pepper also be seen similarly.