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Enchanting Kerala

The woman who gave birth to a forest

Muthukulam, a small hamlet in the Karthikapally Taluk of Alappuzha District has a small forest of its own, spreading over five acres of land. One would be fascinated to see the lush greenery and the amazing ecosystem sheltered by this forest. More than this, the entire forest with its trees, shrubs and creepers were planted and nurtured single-handedly by an old woman - Kollakkayil Devaki Amma and her family.

Kollakkayil Devaki Amma is not an expert in environmental science or any related subjects; nor has she attended any seminars on global warming or environmental pollution. But one thing she knows very well is that only trees can save this dying planet from its approaching doom. She learned this valuable lesson from her life partner Gopalakrishna Pillai. A teacher by profession, Gopalakrishna Pillai never forgot to bring a seed of any tree, whenever he returned home after his journeys. Even after his demise, Gopalakrishna Pillai's family continued nurturing trees and plants in their privately owned property at Muthukulam.

Today this blessed land with its variety of plants like teak, mahogany, tamarind, mango trees, bamboo and pines, has become the focus of nature enthusiasts and botanists. Around two hundred species of trees along with various unknown shrubs together constitute this manmade forest. It is said that if it rains not a single drop will reach the earth straight as the forest so deep and thick. If it is the serenity that attracts tourists and nature enthusiasts here, botanists who visit here are drawn by the presence of a wide variety of rare and special plants grown by Devaki Amma and family.

For those who are fond of Indian myths, legends and epics the forest nurtured by Devaki Amma would be very interesting. Krishnanaal, which has its leaves in the shape of cone, is the most significant among them. It is believed that Lord Krishna in his childhood used the leaves of this tree to have butter by shaping the leaf into a cone. Kayamboo tree, the colour of which is often compared by the poets with that of Lord Krishna is also part of this forest. Even now people believe that Kayamboo tree is just a poetic imagination. Lakshmi Tharu (Simarouba glauca), Chinese Orange (Citrus microcarpa), Njaval (Syzygium cumini), Nagapoomaram and Ankolam (Alangium salvifolium Wang)are other major plants in Devaki Amma's forest.

Recognition came her way in the year 2002 when Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India selected her for the Indira Gandhi Vrikshamithra award. In a time when deforestation and pollution are progressively uprooting the greenery of the planet, let us set Devaki Amma and her family as a model worth emulating.

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