Mantharai Leaves

Mantharai plant is a medicinal plant which is used to treat various diseases, and these leaves produce good aroma, especially when the famous snacks items like Onion Pakodas, Vadas, Bajiis and Bondas are packed with these leaves. Curd rice packed with these leaves, produces world class taste, when it is being served hot! It is also believed that the word Mantharai was derived from the famous wicked character in Ramayana, the hunchback, Mantharai!

Before 30 to 40 years ago, the practice of using Mantharai leaves for offering the food items as Holy Prasad to God was followed extensively all over India, and during those times these Mantharai leaves are used to serve food in hotels, during marriage functions, religious festivals, and family parties etc. But at present, in place of Mantharai leaves, plastic bags are being used. But even now, it is still being used by some people.

During 1980’s, Next to Banana leaves Mantharai leaves occupies a major portion in family households and also in business establishments and hotel industries.

As per an ancient Tamil proverb, “மந்தாரை உள்ள வரை நொந்தாரைக் காண முடியாது”, which means that No human being is weak until they tastes their food with the excellent mantharai leaves!

Nowadays in some places, the Leaves from this plant are collected and made into serving plates and cups. To make a Mantharai leaf, few small leaves would be stitched together using wooden thin sticks. When I visited the famous Mantralayam Raghavendra Temple on 1987, during noon, I was served with tasty hot food in Mantharai leaves. During 1980’s, Most of the hotels in Chennai used to pack the tiffin and variety rice items only in Mantharai leaves. Mantharai leaves when it is packed with hot food items, it immediately enhances the overall flavour of the dish.

Usually curd rice, sambar rice and tiffin items are served on Mantharai leaves. Mantharai leaves are naturally waterproof, environment friendly, user friendly and healthy. It is widely used as a food serving plate throughout India. In addition, mantharai leaves are convenient to use while providing food to a larger number of people. It can also be used to pack foods, and especially the most favourite South Indian tiffin item KANCHIPURAM IDLI, if served in Mantharai leaves it would increase the taste of the Idli. It is also available in some country’s drug stores (Nattu Marundhu Kadai), shops near Temples, and also in a few online organic stores. We must have to always store Mantharai leaves in a dry place, and also it must be kept in a neat and hygienic condition.

But nowadays these leaves are almost forgotten by the so-called modern people, since they have practiced eating food items only in plates, by considering themselves as Westeners! Young unemployed people can grow Mantharai plants in their gardens, and by the way of doing that, they can again introduce the system of packing food items in Mantharai leaves!


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