Friday 18 October 2013

The Gulla with a GI tag

Vaishnavas or Madhwas are not expected to eat brinjal, which is one of the many prohibited items in their menu. However, a renowned Madhwa saint has a close and abiding connection with a local variety of brinjal and, infact, its origin can be traced to him.
This brinjal is still used in the matha of this Madhwa saint which bears his name. It is also used in the Paryaya celebrations which are conducted in Udupi when one of the eight seers of the Astha Mathas formally takes over the management of the Sri Krishna Matha in Udupi.
This is perhaps the only brinjal which has a lore going back to five hundred years and it has a religious connection. 
The origin of  this brinjal, called the Mattu Gulla, goes back to the time of Vadiraja Theertha, the preceptor of the Sode Matha and a renowned Madhwa saint.
Vadiraja (1480-1600) was a disciple of  Vyasa Raja (1447-1539) and he is ranked among the foremost Madhwa saints of all times. He was a devotee of  Hayagreeva or Hayavadhana and he prayed to him every day.
Vadiraja used to offer Hayagreeva, a sweet dish, everyday to Hayavadhana which used to come in the form of a horse and partake the Prasada. The horse kept its hoofs on the shoulders of Vadiraja and ate the Hayagreeva. Some people, who became envious of this, poisoned the Hayagreeva.
That day, the idol of Krishna at Udupi turned blue and the people who poisoned the Hayagreeva were shocked. They sought the pardon of Vadiraja who in turn gave them some seeds and asked them to plant them in the fields.
Vadiraja asked them to bring the Gulla to the temple at Udupi. He assured the that the blue tinge in the idol of Krishna would vanish as soon as the offering was placed before God. It happened as he forecast and since then Gulla is being used in the Sri Krishna Matha in Udupi.
The people, by then, began planting the seeds in the fields and this came to be known as Vadiraja Gulla. Since this was mainly grown in and around the village of Mattu, it was called Mattu Gulla. This tiny village is on the shore of the Arabian Sea.
Another version of the origin of this eggplant is that Vadiraja gave a fistful of mud to the people of Mattu and asked them to plant it in their fields. The mud transformed into seeds and it grew as Gulla. He offered the Gulla to the idol of Hayagreeva which then regained its original colour. However, a tinge of blue remained in the neck of the idol. This idol with the blue tinge can still be seen in the Sode Matha.
Even today, the first yield of Gulla is offered to Lord Krishna.
Mattu Gulla was in the news in 2011 when it received the Geographical Indicator (GI) patent. The Gulla is now grown in Mattu, Kopla, Innaje, Katpadi and Kaipunjalu in Udupi district and it has become an inseparable ingredient in Naivaedya offered to Krishna.
Gulla is classified as a secondary crop and it is grown in 250 acres. The Gulla cultivation starts after the paddy is harvested. This means Gulla is planted during November and December and the harvesting is in January. It is available till May.
Today, farmers growing Gulla have banded themselves into the Mattu Gulla Growers Association. Over a hundred families depend on Mattu Gulla farming as parallel and commercial crop.
By the way, the earliest reference to brinjal is in Ramayana, Jain and Buddhist texts. The Sanskrit text, Kashyapiyakrishisukti, an eighth century work on agriculture by Kashyapa, also has reference on brinjal. A copy of this work is in Adyar Library, Chennai. 
This book says white brinjal is poisonous.
Another textual reference is in Dharmasindhu, a work in Sanskrit written in 1758 by Kashinath Upadyaya.
Coming back to Mattu village, Gulla here is grown in 32 hectares and the production is 22 tonnes per hectare land. The annual production of Gulla in Mattu alone is 710 tonnes.
A similar variety of brinjal but without spines is the Perampalli gulla. Perampalli is also a small village near Udupi.

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