Mangalore: Going Back to the Roots of Toddy Tapping

May 5, 2009

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Development makes way for changes far beyond the wildest imagination of human beings.  Villages, change, cities transform into hubs of education, health, Information Technology and so on. Change is inevitable.  Along with this change traditional occupations are slowly disappearing in many parts of the country in this era of globalization.  The country’s landscape has undergone drastic change as development has made way for newer occupations sidelining the traditional ones. 

Dakshina Kannada too has undergone drastic changes in the last few decades in spheres of life. Toddy tapping which once occupied a special place among traditional occupations giving a distinct tinge to our unique culture and heritage, is slowly but sadly on the verge of fading into oblivion.  Low pay and down turn in the toddy tapping industry have seen young generation turning away from this perilous work. But not everything is lost.  As it is generally said there is always a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel.  


Kemmayya, a small village in Puttur not long ago boasted of nearly 600 toddy tapping families. These families eked out a living by tapping toddy from palm and coconut trees at a time when toddy was an integral part of the unique culture of this coastal land.  However, the lure of the city and apathy towards this traditional occupation drew youngsters away from homes towards other professions. Younger generation did not take to this occupation due to general aversion to the manual labour involved in the job.


26 year old Diwakar hailing from Kemmayya too treaded the same path and did a welding course and even worked as a welder for six years.  Despite Diwakar doing what everyone from his community was doing i. e. taking up a job rather than sticking on to the traditional family occupation, happiness eluded him.  He was missing the traditional occupation and the rustic feeling he had grown up with during his childhood. His heart was rooted in continuing the family’s traditional occupation of toddy tapping from coconut palms and when the opportunity came for him to opt for continuing the traditional occupation he did not let it go awry. He responded to the inner voice of his heart and made a grand come back to take toddy tapping as his occupation much to the delight of his family. Surprisingly he is able to have a middle class lifestyle from the income he derives from this traditional occupation. 

Diwakar is not alone in responding to the inner voice of his heart.  He has inspired other youngsters from his village to go back to their roots and continue doing what they best enjoy doing and have a respectable earning to lead a rather comfortable middle class lifestyle.  In the village in Kemmayya now there are about 8 youngsters who are attracted to this traditional family occupation and have made a grand and profitable come back much to the envy of their neighbors and the village folks, many of whom still look down upon this traditional occupation. “We knew if we did not continue this profession it would have slowly vanished.  Though our parents did not want us to continue we were determined to make a good living out of toddy tapping”, says Diwakar speaking on behalf of his friends.  


It is an encouraging trend that having made a come back these youngsters are reaping rich dividends for their hard work and have started enjoying their new economic power that comes from their traditional family occupation.   “I work for only 4 to 6 hours a day and I am my own master.  I earn a decent earning of 15,000 to 20,000 a month. It has improved our economic status to a great extent.  I am happy that more youngsters are encouraged by our success and are coming back to take up this occupation.  Working for other entails working for 10 to 12 hours and the returns are meagre”, Diwakar opines.  

Toddy tapping is the traditional occupation of the Billavas.  Remember the good old days when toddy known for its sweet-sour taste, was a common drink.  “Shendi shops” (toddy shops) were as ubiquitous as the “arrack shops” in all parts of the district.   Modernity made way for new opportunities for the youngsters and the unappealing and strenuous (?) occupation of toddy tapping found no takers. Fortunately, now it is back to the pavilion as the youngsters are enjoying the occupation and the financial freedom that comes with it. 

Toddy known as “kali” or “Kallu” in local parlance is obtained from Palm or Coconut trees is common in the coastal areas. Coconut toddy is obtained by tapping the young fluorescent flowers of the coconut palm.  Toddy tapping involves the strenuous job climbing coconut tress twice a day, which was one of the reasons the youngsters did not fancy the job.  Tapping involves various processes of stimulating trees to exude juice and in coconut trees it is obtained from the inflorescence before it is fully developed by beating with a fine stone or the polished leg of a wild boar.  The work begins with gentle uniform beating all over the surface of the spathe twice a day, morning and evening.  After beating for 10 to 15 days the tip of the spathe is cut off to enable the juice to trickle down.  An earthen pot is hung from the spathe to collect the juice and the mouth is sealed with clay mud.   

In the two acre family land Diwakar has planted many coconut trees. On an average he climbs 16 to 20 trees daily twice, to collect the toddy and also for tapping the palm.  Apart from his own trees he takes trees of others on contract paying them Rs 100 per tree.   A tree yields about 8 to 10 liters of toddy daily.  Each liter fetches Rs 12 in the market, quite a reward for all the hard work that goes with it.  Toddy is also tapped from palm trees, adopting similar method to get the juice that becomes alcoholic on fermentation.  The sugary syrup is also used for making jaggery.  



While the youngsters are making merry and the parents are also happy for them there is only one hitch.  Parents of young marriageable girls are not impressed by their success and these young boys have tough time finding suitable proposals.  Though these youngsters are able to have a fairly decent lifestyle it has failed to bring that semblance of respect for the traditional occupation.   “We are leading a normal happy-go life with all modern facilities at home. But it has not impressed many families in our own village.  Not finding proposals will not deter us”, Diwakar states while his friends echo similar sentiments.   

Brave words indeed! One has to admire and appreciate the fortitude of these youngsters to continue this family occupation and make it an enjoyable and profitable occupation against all odds.   Let us hope the girls of marriageable age recognize this distinctive trait among these brave hearts and succeed in influencing the thought process of their parents.   

There is hardly any help forthcoming from the government for these youngsters who are unwavering in their decision to continue what they have started having earlier swayed by the general trend of taking other professions.  Their courage e and perseverance is indeed estimable.  Let these young and energetic youth inspire others of their ilk. 

by Florine Roche - Mangalore<br>Pics by Dayananda Kukkaje
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Comment on this article

  • Pranam Shetty, USA

    Mon, Sep 24 2018

    Interestingly in US the drink Kombachu is catching on for its health benefits and trastes very similar to kali although Kombachu is primarily made from tea.

  • Sujith, Mangalore

    Sun, Mar 13 2011

    Fading culture!!
    i think they can sell it like other cold drinks !! plzz help this fading culture! its better then other cold drinks!! bec its healthily too

  • Ronald Peter Almeida, Brahmavar

    Tue, Jul 28 2009

    A good article that helps culture to survive in these days of technological global degeneration. Quality of food and drink are no more as important to Mangloreans as it used to be. Frozen fish, poultry farm chicken and adultrated tody has become the order of the day. Good tody is better and healthier than hard liquor. It even tastes like a good white wine, the ideal combination for sea food.

  • Narendra , Bayar

    Wed, May 20 2009

    Good Article & Good Pictures too !!!, Thank you Florine Roche

  • Jane , Bajpe/ M''lore

    Mon, May 11 2009

    Informative article and pictures. Seems the plastic containers are not maintained and this may contaminate the toddy. Need to make the toddy tappers aware of this.

  • Stephan, mulki/abudhabi

    Mon, May 11 2009

    Mr.nelson rodrigues/canada.for you information,there is not a word in "kallu angadi"in kannada that is "SHENDI ANGADI" for toddy shop and "SHARABU ANGADI" for "arrack shop".

  • rajesh kumar, vamanjoor\ksa

    Fri, May 08 2009

    Thanks for the info. on Toddy. For your information Victor, In Karnataka, India, palm wine is usually available at toddy shops (known as "Kallu Angadi" in Kannada or "Liquor Shop" in English). In Tamil Nadu, this beverage is currently banned, though the legality fluctuates with politics. In the absence of legal toddy, moonshine distillers of arrack often sell methanol-contaminated alcohol, which can have lethal consequences

  • Joachim Fernandes, US

    Sat, May 09 2009

    There are larger issues involved. Many traditional industries in India are dying because no research is done to find new uses for traditional products and no marketing is done to promote traditional products.

  • Walter, Bantwal/Sharjah

    Fri, May 08 2009

    Very good pictures and a very good coverage, brings back the past memories of having Toddy with friends with Tarle/bangda as Chakkne,Keep up the good work Daiji!

  • Arun D''souza, Pangla

    Fri, May 08 2009

    Good Article & very nice mouth watering photos of "KALI", It reminded me of sipping f KALI  in Pangala.

  • Don Frank, Mangalore, UAE

    Fri, May 08 2009

    A very interesting article. It has brought sweet memories of our childhood days. We used to enjoy the natural toddy (kali in tulu, sur in konkani and shendi in kannada). There were some toddy shops selling this stuff and were very popular. Toddy was used to make idlies, dosas etc and the taste was superb. But things have changed a lot. this traditional drink has disappeared. It is very sad. Those days toddy tapping was providing employment to thousands of people. Now it is no more profitable. Yet some effort is being made by some individuals which is really good.

  • Victor Castelino, Moodubelle/Dubai

    Fri, May 08 2009

    My late mother used to make "SUR" ( toddy) by mixing coconut water, sugar and yeast and keeping it to ferment for a day and then mix with idli mixture. You can also add "chirmuli" ( puffed rice) while grinding the rice with black gram. All this "cocktail" make the idlies soft. "....., idli and raw salad make the dish very tasty.  I still relish the sweet toddy I had 60 years back!

  • Lydia Lobo, Kadri

    Thu, May 07 2009

    Nelson, Wine is different from Toddy. Toddy is the sap of palm or coconut flowers collected in earthen pots like how sap of rubber tree is collected. Toddy is directly used, it is very sweet and less alchololic before sunrise. To make wine, the mixture must be fermiented for certain number of days.

    I must thank Victor Castelino for his source of supplying ''Kali'' in the Gulf. Our friends resorted to YEAST to make idlis there. They were even thinking about smuggling a bottle of toddy and freezing it like ice cubes for using in Idlis. Victor has solved their problem.

  • Nelson Rodrigues, Canada

    Thu, May 07 2009

    Thanks for the info. on Toddy. For your information Victor, In Karnataka, India, palm wine is usually available at toddy shops (known as "Kallu Angadi" in Kannada or "Liquor Shop" in English). In Tamil Nadu, this beverage is currently banned, though the legality fluctuates with politics. In the absence of legal toddy, moonshine distillers of arrack often sell methanol-contaminated alcohol, which can have lethal consequences.

    To discourage this practice, authorities have pushed for inexpensive "Indian Made Foreign Liquor" (IMFL), much to the dismay of toddy tappers. The above info. is available on: Victor Castelino, for your info. ,Fenny is classified as a ''country liquor'', and therefore not sold outside the State of Goa. Therefore, you may never get it at your liquour retail store in DXB.


    Wed, May 06 2009


  • Marwin, Belle- U.A.E

    Fri, May 08 2009

    Very nice article. keep it up Daijiiworld.....

  • s.shetty, Udupi/Sharjah

    Wed, May 06 2009

    Very nice artcle. I remembered my college days during which we used to visit kodavoor on malpe road to taste fresh kali in the morning. Thanks to my collegemate Water D''silva who used to to take me to the spot on his bycycle.Old memories refreshed again. thanks daiji for this wonderful article.

  • S. Shetty,

    Wed, May 06 2009

    Very nice artcle. I remembered my college days during which we used to visit kodavoor on malpe road to taste fresh kali in the morning. Thanks to my collegemate Water D''silva who used to to take me to the spot on his bycycle.Old memories refreshed again. thanks daiji for this wonderful article.

  • Simon Francis Lasrado, sullia/Bangalore

    Wed, May 06 2009

    Nice narration..thanks to daijiworld and Kukkaje for the photography. Whah..kalittha kathe kendth enna banji thumbund.I never miss kali when I go to Kodman for holidays.

  • Paul, Bela

    Wed, May 06 2009

    All looks good in the pictures but in reality one cannot expect genuine stuff in the toddy shop!!

  • Victor Castelino, Moodubelle/Dubai

    Wed, May 06 2009

    I have not missed "KALI" even living in Dubai. I have a regular supply of Toddy from "Barracuda" (Um-al-quain) and regularly use it to make "idlies" and enjoy a glass of it now and then. Unfortunately, it comes from Sri Lanka bottled like "Kingfisher" and not from Mr Malya''s breweries. Can Mallam, instead of going after IPL and cheer leaders do something about this ancient tradition to revive?

  • Charan Varghese, Mangalore/ Bangalore

    Tue, May 05 2009

    Great article Florine! If you remember i participated on a radio talk show on call centers... Edward do you remember

  • A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.

    Wed, May 06 2009

    It is an interesting article, and I would like to comment about the positive attitude of the young generation in undertaking a dangerious profession to have a dececent family life. There are several other jobs to create wealth, but the young generation has an aversion for sweat and stain in their body. As long as there are human beings, any kind of job to produce food items like meat, fish, grains, vegetables, fruits etc will be in great demand.

    But the young generation won''t like to engage in any of those enterprises. For our future, we will have to change our mindset about "job" as a whole, and get engaged in any job which will bring prosperity. On the other hand, we must avoid certain professions which can bring a lot of money, but will be detrimental to the consumers.

  • Mark D Souza, Mangalore / Dubai

    Fri, May 08 2009

    Excellent work! Florine Roche and Dayananda Kukkaje. Thank you very much for taking pains to help us get into a mood of nostalgia. Please present more documentories on our South Canara Culture and tradition.We really feel like ordering some Toddy straightaway.

  • Roy Vijay D'' Silva, Cordel / Dubai

    Tue, May 05 2009

    Kali''t Kali, Baithurli''dha Silverna Kali. Itthe mathra awul gadang ejji.

  • Clement Cardoza, Bola, Duba

    Tue, May 05 2009

    Thanks Daiji Team, for giving us such informative articles, especially those related to our customs and culture. Keep up the good work.

  • Martha Daruwalla (Pais), Pangala / Mumbai

    Tue, May 05 2009

    A very good article. Thank you Ms. Roche & Mr. Kukkaje for highlighting it. This is the first time I hv seen this on net. And Mr. Diwakar, pls keep the good work rolling, otherwise it will vanish out of this Universe one day.I hv sweet memories of "Kali" / "Sur" which we used to buy without fail for making loads of sannas for all our church feasts, and we as children drinking all of it before it is used for sannas. Even today, at my native place, this is the trend. But we do not get pure Kali these days, due to scarcity, & it is been diluted and sold. Diwakar, Jai ho...Hope to get pure "Kali" because of you one day in our "Kali" market.

  • Edward, Mangalore / Bangalore

    Tue, May 05 2009

    Hello Daiji, Its a great feeling when you bring out information on our fading culture. While keral has boasted and gained from thier culture, we have done nothing about it. I will be greatful if you could give me the contact details of these great fellows. I normally get my friends from Bangalore to show them around our city. I ensure that I take them to places where they can see the real Mangalore or DK. Like Yakshagana, Kola and many other forms. So please do me this favor. Thanks & Regards Edward

  • lokesh, vellakovil, tamil nadu

    Fri, May 08 2009

    Good article. always follow your heart

  • Christopher Lobo, Kulshekar/ Bahrain

    Tue, May 05 2009

    Baari yedde article.... thood kali paryere mansaand..

  • Francis, Moodabidri/Dubai

    Tue, May 05 2009

    Good Article. Bale kali pard pili nalipuga :)

  • nelson, valencia/kuwait

    Tue, May 05 2009

    Hi Diwakar, can you send me some toddy please. Its like ages I have not drank any. I remember when I was schooling my aunty used to send me to get toddy from Nandigudda on occasions where sannas (idly) were to be prepared at home. That was the time when I became a hero, got a rented bicycle and off I went to get a litre or two and on the way back gulped a sip or two. Hail those days.

  • Mohan H Naik, Mangaluru

    Tue, May 05 2009

    I have enjoyed the real toddy called NEERA in Kannada, during my childhood, along with my dad, who use to offer me a sip early morning, when we were on vacation at our Village. Later during college days also out of craze tasted KALLU.Now no chance getting such a wonderful drink. Now its time for king fisher strong.May be recession get back our dear toddy.

  • Alwin Dsouza, Udupi

    Tue, May 05 2009

    Etteda Kali parpene panda ‘Sankapasana’ parthe Lekka Apundu pandd panper yenklena hiriyer. (Worst Quality)

  • mufazzal, mangalore/muscat

    Tue, May 05 2009

    Good Article & Good Pictures too !!!, Thank you Florine Roche and Dayananda Kukkaje.

  • John Vas, Kulshekar/Dubai

    Tue, May 05 2009

    Very informative article. I really miss the taste when we used to drink in 1960''s toddy from our own coconut trees. Presently we are not able to get that kind of toddy anywhere. Idl''S prepared from toddy 60, 70''s very very tasty.

  • Anil Pinto, Bannur ,Puttur/Dubai

    Tue, May 05 2009

    Divakaranne namaskaara...I know your hair style is changed...

  • Ashwini, Kundapura

    Tue, May 05 2009

    Nice coverage, Mein Talli Mein Talli Mein Talli Hogaeeeeee.............

  • Lydia Lobo, Kadri

    Tue, May 05 2009

    The place where I grew up had toddy-tappers as our neighbours. They made jaggery out of toddy and were living like royals all summer. Sad that thier monsoon days were very bad. Illiteracy made them mismanage their earning else they would have save for a rainy day. We have seen industries like beedi-rollers, that are well organised with provident fund, etc.

    Toddy tappers too must form an organization, arrange training for new youth, have separate people for different kind of work, etc. They must adopt adequate safety measures - I''ve witnessed death by falling from palm trees. With proper guidance they can earn respect in society, people will not look down at their trade. Toddy tapping is anytime better than cancerous beedi-rolling.

  • Ray, Mangalore

    Tue, May 05 2009

    Good Article & Good Pictures too !!!, Thank you Florine Roche and Dayananda Kukkaje.

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Title: Mangalore: Going Back to the Roots of Toddy Tapping

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