Toddy Tappers of British Era Madras, 1900 Postcard

Toddy Tappers of British Era Madras, 1900 Postcard

Old 1900 postcard of toddy tappers of British era Madras (Chennai). Who would imagine that Chennai once had plenty of palm trees that were a rich source of toddy juice. Where the toddy wallahs or tappers of Madras depended on them for their livelihood. This would be an unusual scene today. Shown are the tappers of Madras in 1900 carrying palmyra toddy in mud pots hung from support sticks.

Because of urbanization, these trees have almost disappeared from Chennai except for a few sporadic ones. Palmyra trees once grew extensively in Tamil Nadu, especially in the rural areas. But now these too are on the road to extinction as nobody seems to want them. Thus toddy sale is almost unheard of now in the city. But perhaps an exception to a few minor pockets in the fringes.

In the old thriving days Adyar, Nungambakkam, Tondiarpet, etc were once good sources for this drink. Now the tapping is done more in rural Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The drink is sweet and delicate, it ferments within hours of its tapping. Classified under alcoholic beverage, a state government license is required for dispensing toddy. The palmyra tree also produces a fruit called Nungu in Tamil or Ice Apple in English. It is delicious and tastes like the meat of the tender coconut. And one of the by-products of toddy is the greatly valued palm jaggery.

Read more Needed: Resurrection of the great palmyra.

Did you know- the tree is also common in parts of Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and Micronesia.

From the collection- 1964 M. Suriyamoorthy Charcoal On Paper Nude (#3)., Wellington Lines Bombay – Old Postcard 1916., First Train In India Bombay to Thane – Old Print 1853., British India Era Postman – Old Stereo Photo 1902