Covid-19 and lockdowns have significantly reduced footfall in temples, resulting in a steep drop in the coconut-breaking at various shrine places across India.
It is an age-old ritual to break coconuts at temples to appease gods and goddesses. However, the relentless onslaught of the Covid-19 and lockdowns have significantly reduced footfall in temples, resulting in a steep drop in the coconut-breaking vazhipadu (offerings) in many Kerala temples, including the Sabarimala Hill shrine.
During the pre-Covid era, coconut-breaking vazhipadu at Thiruvananthapuram’s Pazhavangadi Ganapati Temple would average 75,000 nuts per day, rising to one lakh on special occasions. It has now dropped by one-third. On the eve of World Coconut Day on September 2, temple management stated that on Sundays, the decline was nearly 60%.
The total value chain that was based on coconut offerings at temples has been impacted. Local vendors or a small business entity near the temple normally sell coconuts to devotees, who break it at the shrine and take only a small piece as prasadam, leaving the rest behind. The temple sells the broken coconut to copra-makers for a profit.
Pilgrims are subject to restrictions
Mr. P Vinodkumar, the Chairman of the Consortium of Coconut Producing Companies in Palakkad, says, ‘approximately two crore pilgrims visit Sabarimala temple during the Mandalam season, buy and bring an average of five coconuts as an offering. This number has drastically dropped as a result of the temple’s closure last year and subsequent restrictions on darshan.’
During the peak pilgrimage season in December, raw nut prices typically skyrocket, reaching ₹ 50 per kg in 2019. However, prices are now hovering around ₹ 30 per kg. The pandemic has also had an impact on tender coconut sales. Tender coconuts account for 15% of the annual production of 21,207 million nuts. Tender nut sales have suffered as a result of the lockdown.
The World Coconut Day 2021 theme is ‘Building a safe, resilient, and sustainable coconut farming community amid the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns and beyond.’
India leads the world in coconut production and productivity, with 2.19 million hectares under cultivation and productivity of 9,687 nuts per hectare.