Aslam, 25 years-old belongs to one of the 30 Muslim families in the village of Thirunavaya, on the banks of the Bharatapuzha River shares a deep bond with Kerala’s Hindu temples.
He moves through the vast expanse of Valiyaparappur Lake in Malappuram, gently plucks a lotus and collects more flowers, all meant for different temples in Kerala.
Very few devotees are aware of the fact that the lotus blooms in Aslam’s farm used in all major temples across the state including Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple, Paramekkavu Bhagavathi Temple, Sabarimala, Kodungalloor Bhagavathy Temple, Thriprayar Sri Rama Temple and Parshinikkaadavu Muthappan Temple.
“We have been doing it for over a hundred years,” says Mustafa Chakkaliparambil, who owns a 40-acre farm on the Valiyaparappur Lake. Mustafa supplies as a minimum 7,000 lotuses a day to temples in Guruvayur and Kodungallur.
The village collects and distributes around 20,000 blooms daily.
“The Muslim families of Thirunavaya have maintained a good relationship with all temples,” says Unni Varrier of Kadambuzha Bhagavathy Temple Devaswom.
However lotus farming is becoming increasingly difficult for farmers like Hassan Valiyaparappur.
“Water hyacinths pose a major issue. Also, water levels have been receding over the years. Sometimes it is difficult to continue farming, especially with nil government aid,” he says.