The school kids in Kerala often joke - had the noted English physicist Isaac Newton born in the Indian state, a jackfruit and not an apple would have fallen on his head. As the world celebrates international jackfruit day, Kerala takes pride in its official state fruit. Though people often complain that this gigantic tropical fruit is smelly and difficult to handle, it is appreciated for its incredible nutritional qualities. The jackfruit has become an integral part of the culture and cuisine of Kerala that it has even become part of many popular sayings here.
Sakthan Thampuran's feast
The story of Sakthan Thampuran, the ruler of the erstwhile kingdom of Cochin, serving a feast with jackfruit, when the fruit wasn't available anywhere in his kingdom is quite famous. The ruler bid adieu to the world on 26 September 1805, the 12th day of the Malayalam month of Kanni. Sakhtan Thampuram who was suffering from illness refused to eat, complaining that the food tasted bland. It was during that time that two of his heir apparently visited the king to enquire about his health. Distressed to know that their king wasn't eating anything, the youngsters promised to bring him his favorite dish the next day itself. Sakthan Thampuran, who was an intelligent ruler decided to test the youngsters' ability.
It was the Malayalam month of Kanni when the jackfruits weren't in season. The ruler, realizing this, said he wanted to have some boiled jackfruit with kanji (rice porridge) for breakfast. The youngsters were determined to keep their promise and send their servants to every nook and corner of the kingdom to bring jackfruit for their king. However, they failed, as not even a single fruit was seen on the trees anywhere.
The next morning, when Sakhtan Thampuran arrived for his breakfast, he enquired whether his jackfruit dish was ready. Embarrassed, the youngsters meekly said that it wasn't the season of jackfruits. Sakthan Thampuran, meanwhile, summoned his chief of the navy and said, “Tomorrow, a special feast with jackfruit has to be arranged for some dignitaries. From upperi (stir fry) to erissery (jackfruit cooked in coconut paste), everything dish has to be made with jackfruit. The jackfruits required for the feast have to be brought in tonight.”
The legend says that hundreds of people from different parts of the kingdom thronged the front yard of the royal household, that night, with jack fruits in their hands. Kottarathil Sankunni, in his Aithihyamala, notes that jackfruits were stacked in front of the palace like a huge mountain.
It was last year that a Malayalam movie was released in which jackfruit played significant role. 'Kuttan Pillayude Sivarathri' directed by Jean Markose narrates the story of head constable Kuttan Pillai who loves jackfruit more than anything. He has even named his house as 'Planchottil' (in the shade of the jackfruit tree). The head constable adores the huge jackfruit tree that stands in his back yard. He serves delicious jackfruit dishes to his relatives who come to attend the famous Sivarathri festival in the nearby temple. However, Kuttan Pillai's son-in-law intends to cut down the former’s favourite tree for timber to be used in his brand new house. Quite unexpectedly, one day, a heavy jackfruit from that tree falls on Kuttan Pillai’s head, killing him instantly. The movie amazingly portrays how Pillai's jackfruit tree survives the vile intentions of his greedy relatives.
The song 'Chakka puzhukku varatty erissery' sung by Sayonara Philip has become the chakka anthem of Kerala and was appreciated for its catchy lyrics and peppy tune.