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Antique Coconut Scraper

In our modern competitive life style we are in a constant race to be the most successful person in life. We want everything to be done quickly since we are always in a hurry. We acquire more and more time saving and comfort giving gadgets which are only functional and devoid of any art and fun. In our day to day life we have no time for the finer aspects of life such as aesthetics, fine arts and culture. If you want to see the art we have to go to art exhibitions and museums. Thus we lead a segmented life with separate time for work and separate time for fine arts. In the olden days our ancestors lived a life where art was a part of daily life. For those people work and art went together and life and creativity were inseparable. Daily tasks were not mundane and routine but coupled with the aesthetics and fine arts. They lived life in its fullness rather than compartmentalized. Their articles of day to day use were artistic and at the same time functional. Here I am presenting you an antique coconut grater that is a common household item but with lots of art and functionality .This item will give you a glimpse of the lifestyle they lead and how they converted a regular and routine task into art, beauty and fun.

About the antique Coconut scraper
The antique coconut scraper shown in the picture is beautifully carved out of a single block of wood.
Full view of antique coconut scraper from YK’s Collection

It has two main aspects. A wooden seating arrangement with one side ending with a bowl scooped out of the same wood. The wooden seating arrangement looks like a raised platform resembling a long and slightly raised stool.

Antique coconut scraper peeta with wood carvings from YK’s collection

The pedestal for the raised platform is also carved out of the same single wood. This device is called peetha in Sanskrit or peeta locally in India. To this peeta, an iron rod in the shape of a serpent with raised hood is attached. The hood part is the actual scraper and is positioned in such a way that the coconut scrapings fall in the wooden bowl located directly underneath.

Antique Coconut Scraper showing the iron rod coming out of circular carvings and two parrots on either side

The scraper is in the shape of a circular disk with serrated edges. The robust wooden plank is full of carvings and resembles a wooden sculpture.

Antique Coconut Scraper resembling the shape of a serpent with raised hood

There are two circular carvings and one half circular carvings on the peeta. The snake like scraper iron rod emerges from a circular carving giving an idea of raised hood coming out of coiled serpent.There are two beautifully carved parrots on either side of the peeta at a location where peeta starts taking the shape of the bowl. There is another pair of parrots sculptured at the top end of the wooden bowl.

Antique coconut scraper showing two beautifully carved parrots on the top of the bowl
How to grate the coconut
To grate the coconut first it must be broken into two equal parts. For breaking the coconut, hit the coconut at the mid-section ( around the equator ) on a sharp edge of a flat stone or a heavy metal edge like that of a cleaver. With a little practice you will get the correct hit pressure to break the coconut to open up into two equal parts.
Full Coconut and broken coconut in two equal parts

To grate the coconut the operator sits on the peeta and by holding one section of the coconut from the hard shell side in her hand, places the meat side of the coconut on the grater disk and gives rotating motions on the grater disk.

Antique coconut grater sitting position on the peeta

 The grating process takes out the fresh white coconut meat directly from the brown hard coconut shell using the sharp metal teeth of the  grater.

Antique coconut scraper showing positioning of the coconut with grater disk

 The gratings of the coconut directly fall into the built in wooden bowl .The brown shell protects the hands, but care must be taken not to come in contact with the sharp teeth of the metal blade. The constant and rhythmic pressure movements of the wrist will give uniform gratings.

Antique coconut scraper showing grating movements with gratings falling into bowl below

The coconut gratings are used to extract coconut milk, prepare sweets, make chutneys and curries and used as dressings on many preparations. The wooden coconut grater can be carried and used anywhere in the house or garden. The rotating movement of the wrist makes the joints lubricated and gives good exercise to the hand.

How I collected the antique coconut scraper and the cultural background of the place and the people

 I have collected this beautiful coconut grater from an antique shop in Karakudi ,the main city of Chetinadu and is estimated to be more than 150 years old. Chettinadu is the land of Nattukottai Chettiars a prosperous business community. They are known as Nattukottai chettiars because of their huge houses resembling palaces (natu-native, kottai-palace in Tamil language). Chettinadu is a region in Tamil Nadu state, India. These houses are regal and huge covering two streets. The entrance to the house will be in one street and the rear end will be in another street.The houses in Chettinad are mostly large with three to four courtyards and these are aligned in a straight line giving full view of the entrance door and the exit door.
A model Chettinad house

They invariably have high ceiling with elaborate carvings. The main attraction in a Chettinad house is the front door which is always carved elaborately depicting Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Another striking feature of a Chettinad house is the pillared corridors surrounding the courtyards and these corridors lead to the rooms inside. The courtyards are open to the sky and provide plenty of light and air. The flooring is made with Italian marble or the locally available Athangudi tiles but invariably with brightly colored and intricate patterns. Chettinadu food is so famous and most of the good restaurants include Chettinadu chicken in their menu card.

The coconut scraper from Cettinadu brings before us a bygone era of gracious living and represents a slice of chettiars’ rich cultural heritage, remarkable taste for good food , regal lifestyle, art and architecture.

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