This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Adivasi Lives Matter. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Food Is Medicine For The Pulaiyar Tribe Of Tamil Nadu

More from Adivasi Lives Matter

Written by Satish and translated from Tamil by S. Thanaraj

The Adivasis and tribals of India have immense knowledge about the benefits of each plant, shrub and tree the forest surrounding them has. Using this knowledge, we make sure the food we consume adds more health to our life. The Pulaiyar tribe in Tamil Nadu does this too.

The Pulaiyars live in the Western Ghat hill ranges in the Udumalaipettai area of Tirupur district. They are a forest-dwelling tribal community, spread across six forest villages. The reality of these villages is quite grim. In their villages, roads, electricity, and other fundamental amenities are yet nowhere to be seen. People usually have to walk 40 kilometres towards Udumalaipettai to buy even the basic necessities. In this condition, where medicines are not easily available and healthcare is far away, the green leafy vegetables they eat daily with their food help them stay healthy and keep them from diseases.

Pottikkirai (Black Night Shade)

This is a green leaf considered as one of the nutrient-dense vegetables, with many nutritional values. It is collected by the Pulaiyar women in the mornings and evenings. It is cooked by boiling in water, adding salt and cooked with pearl onion and pepper and seasoned in oil. The peapods are also cooked as broth.

Poosanikeerai (Pumpkin Leaves)

Tender pumpkin leaves are washed in water and chopped into small pieces and eaten. Besides, it is also added to the broth. These leaves have been known to have many health benefits, with healthy amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and iron in them. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are also said to fight cancer.

Kudanlangeerai (Gherkins Leaves)

Tender leaves of Kudalangeerai are cut into small pieces and added to onion and pepper and cooked in oil. They are known to be high in nutrients and good for health.

Kuppaikkeerai (Amaranthus Viridis)

Kuppaikkeerai, also known as amaranth, is widely grown in soil heaps and wastelands. It is considered to provide calcium, protein, iron and vitamins B and C and is thus helpful to boost immunity. They also act as skin cleansing agents and are used to help reduce eczema, psoriasis and rashes.

Ponnanganni (Golden Lettuce)

This is grown in plains in a moist environment and is consumed as a leafy vegetable regularly. It has significant health benefits and provides energy, protein, fat, minerals, and calcium.

Murungaik Keerai (Drumstick Leaves)

Every part of the Moringa oleifera or the miracle tree is useful food for the community. Highly nutritious leaves and young peapods are used as food. They help the functioning of respiratory system, liver and heal skin and digestive problems, among others.

Kaduguk Keerai (Green Mustard Cabbage)

This is a vitamin- and mineral-rich green leafy vegetable and is consumed regularly.  It is grown in the home garden and is cooked along with lentils. Loaded with calcium, magnesium, folic acid and vitamin K, consuming this contributes greatly to bone health.

As far as the Pulaiyar tribe is concerned, ‘food is medicine,’ is our way of living. Almost every dish we prepare has green leafy vegetables in it. Pulaiyars are well aware of the nutrient values of each and every green they consume and they don’t consume them for mere taste, but also for the value that it adds to their lives.

About the author: Satishkumar lives in the Udmalpet mountain range, in the Tirrupur district of Tamil Nadu. He is a farmer by profession and grows, ragi, beans, maize and groundnuts. In his free time, he likes to edit videos and takes care of household chores. He wants to advocate for basic amenities for his community and also wants to preserve important traditions from his community.

You must be to comment.
  1. M Srinivasu

    பொட்டிக்கிராய்( இரவு நிழல்) வேறு பெயர்கள் கொல்லிமலையில் மணத்தக்காளி & குன்னி கீரை வயிற்றுப் புண்ணை ஆற்ற வல்லது

More from Adivasi Lives Matter

Similar Posts

By Khumtia Debbarma | Adivasi Awaaz Creator

By Khumtia Debbarma | Adivasi Awaaz Creator

By Khumtia Debbarma | Adivasi Awaaz Creator

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below