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by Dr Elsa Lycias Joel
2017-02-27 10:14:53
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Rev. Godson Samuel born in Kanyakumar is also hell bent on promoting awareness about palmyrah palms, the foods people get from it in plenty and other benefits. Also he witnessed that many of the household things were made in palmyra palm. The life of Nadar community in the areas of northern Thirnelveli, Ramnad districts and throughout Tamilnadu once revolved around these trees that missionary Ringeltaube called the cultivation of Palmyra palms as the “whole employment and means of subsistence". With people getting access to education , the fabled eight hundred and one uses of this tree doesn't mean anything to the nadars of Kanyakumari district who make up 80% of the total population which is indeed good news in more than eight thousand ways. Rev. Godson works his way towards reviving the palmyra palm industries and has equipped himself as an artist cum activist to protect and preserve these trees.

The ivory like tender leaf was the first attractive non edible product of Palmyra, he said. The leaf got his attention since childhood because a neighbor gave him “kolukkattai” (a sweet rice cake) wrapped in it. The special flavour the leaf added to the cake was noticeable. Moreover, the color and shape of it remained as it were while in a tree unlike banana or other leaves which turn dark and soft on steaming.

towering_flourishing_400Palmyra leaves were used as writing materials to record ancient literature not just in India but also in Nepal, Tibet, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and parts of Central Asia. Till date palm leaf manuscripts survive. No wonder this fan tree was eulogized by a Tamil proverb "The Palmyra lives a thousand years and lasts another thousand years when it dies". This fascinating fact helped him to create his own palm leaf autograph book when he was a 12th standard student. Sadly enough, nobody couldn't write anything on this with the pens they had. Rev. Godson remembers with gratitude and pride the compliments and words of encouragement he received from his dear friends for his novel initiative.

As a student of Scott Christian college, Nagercoil he channelized his time and energy to meet artisans living in kanyakumary district. He realized that the palmyra industry was dying a slow death in spite of a handful of people actively using the palmyra palm leaves to make their life out of it in certain parts of the District. It was this time he felt that giving sustainable, timely and suitable opportunities will help them earn a living out of these trees.  Thus was born Godson’s creations, a cottage industry which showcases visiting cards, wedding invitations and folders made of woven palm leaves. Unfortunately, the curtain came down on this wonderful endeavor with no applause.

cresent_tailed_angels_400At United Theological College Bangalore, Rev. Godson prompted like-minded people whose initiatives paid off to sustain the Palmyra industry in various ways based on his thesis titled "Exploring the economics of palmyra for sustainable development”. UTC, Bangalore encouraged display of Palmyra art works in the library and also took to using Palmyra leaves for communication purposes. As a theologian, Rev. Godson correlates The Bible and this tree citing Jesus' triumphal entry to Jerusalem where people welcomed him with palm leaves and waving of palm branches on Palm Sundays also because the palm branch is a symbol of victory, triumph, peace and eternal life originating in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean world.

As part of his extensive study titled “exploring the religious and Ritual Significance of Palmyra Palm in Tamil Nadu" he concluded there is oneness of Christianity, Hinduism and Islam in Palm.

Now, Palmyra worker’s development society, is his work place involving himself in people’s movement and self-help groups to address the plight of the palmyra climbers.  He strives hard to put this industry back to its feet by nudging the state and Central Government for aid. One of his noble initiative that deserves a word of praise is distributing palmyra seeds across the country to propagate the palm.

at_workOrdained by the Methodist Church of India, Rev. Godson is more than equipped to carry on his mission with vigour.  He exhibited his artistic skills through exhibitions in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Cambodia, Calcutta, Chennai Mumbai and Pune since 2011 on various topics and themes. In 2015 he conducted an Exhibition in collaboration with the Methodist Church in India to raise funds for the Chennai flood victims.

He studied the problems faced by communities of Rsayani and Raigad District, Maharashtra  that thrive on products of this palm working out solutions for them as to how they can market their products efficiently. A nation once connected with palm leaf manuscripts should identify its oneness with the symbol of palmyra palm and not ignore cottage industries that make and sell Palmyra products.  A solo Motorbike with a titled “Palmyra Quest Ride"  from Mumbai to Kanyakumari via Andhra following the coastal roads was undertaken by Rev. godson with an objective to identify places were palm products are manufactured,  meet  palm leaf artisans, palmyra Climbers and particular communities that make a living out of this palm. Documentation of problems is in the process to be presented to certain concerned department.

For Rev. Godson Palmyra palm is a Christological figure which help him to cross borders and break barriers,  especially when Asian and African theology will not be complete without including the plight of the climbing communities. Where there is palm I feel at home says Rev. Godson. He strongly believes that Palmyra Mission should be a mission of every Pastor. Without considering it, a Christian priest cannot talk about salvation because Jesus travelled through Bethany (House of Dates) on his way to cross.





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