Villages are the backbone of India and agriculture is the backbone of villages. Both these “backbones” have shrunk tremendously over a period of time and with them lost are – manual work and healthy lifestyle. A few decades back, before the advent of modern technology, even the hardest task was done by humans. For example, with the introduction of tractors in farm, labours and cows became unemployed. Now, even an unemployed youth will hesitate to work with mud, as it has become a “status problem”. A number of Ancient household tools of South Indians are now exhibits in museum.
As a result of “machine-ising” everything, human effort has reduced even for daily needs. This has made our body less flexible and led to a number of diseases. Now, people are looking to “work out” for daily work instead of doing physical exercises separately. There is an air of awareness about traditional methods of grinding flour, spices and other household works.
Food and manual work
Any work, done manually, will consume a number of calories. In the past, food was chosen according to physical needs. When the calorie intake and calorie expenditure gets tallied, obesity was unknown. When we started assigning even simple works to machines, human effort reduced and hence the excess of calories remained with us causing trouble. Let us have a look into a few simple kitchen tools which were once a main occupant in every south Indian kitchen.
Ammikkal was used predominantly in all south Indian homes to grind spices, before the advent of electric mixer with metal blades. Ammikkal is composed of a square or rectangular base with a heavy cylinder shaped movable part.
Everything is made up of stone with a rough finish. The ingredients to be ground is placed on the base and the movable cylinder is rotated over. The materials get crushed and the resultant is a fine paste.
Ammikkal is mainly used to get paste out of leaves for medicine or spices for chutney. This tool also gave a good exercise to ankle and elbow while operating the movable part. The food thus prepared was healthy and tasty with a “not-so-finely ground” substances which retain their nutrient value.
Idly and Dosai are the two breakfast dishes that rule the menu chart of south Indians. To prepare batter for idly and dosai, a wet grinder is required. Before electric wet grinders occupied the kitchen, stone grinders called Aatural or aatukkal (Tamil-Malayalam) or Rubbu Rolu (Telugu) was used. It is mostly similar to Ammikkal, the only difference is that – Aatural has a ditch at the center and the movable part rotates inside. It contains a handle for rotating the stone inside the base. Small grains are poured inside and crushed with measured quantity of water to produce batter, mainly for idly and dosa.
Thirigai is used for grinding and making dhal. It contains a fixed base with movable top, both attached via a metal rod. There is a handle for rotating the movable part manually. Whole grains are poured inside, and when the tool moves, they get crushed and the broken grains fall apart.
Ural and Ulakkai are two separate parts of a grinding tool, mainly used to crush ginger, cardamom, areca nut, betel leaves etc. It is smaller in size when compared to other grinding stones and latest versions are made up of metal. Surprisingly, this tool continues to exist even in modern kitchens – thanks to its compact size and ability to grind very small substances.
All these tools made food delicious and retained the nature of ingredients. They served as a means of physical exercising equipment and kept most of the bone and joint diseases at bay. Now these tools have become a specimen at museums.