The Kani Experience
The performance starts with an invocation to their patron saint, Agasthiyar Muni and the souls of their ancestors. The Kaanis trace their extensive knowledge of medicinal plants to this saint, who is credited as the founder of Siddha, the alternative system of medicine. The Kaani believe that their knowledge of “arogya pacha” is a gift given to them to survive in the forest. Sung in a dialectic combination of Tamil and Malayalam, these songs will ward off evil spirits and heal the sick. Because of the Kaani’s close to earth lives, many Kaani stories and songs also tell, in poetic and mystical ways, of life-spirit-energy migrating between humans, plants, animals, and other elements of nature, such as the earth and rivers.
Visit a Tribal Settlement
Meet the “Kani Kara” (Kani Tribals) in the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger reserve, part of the Agasthyamalai Bioshere Reserve, which extends across Kerala and Tamilnadu. The Kanis maintain an old world lifestyle by choice, they travel to the villages and cities, but return to their frugal lives in their mud walled houses. They grow their own food like Jackfruit, Mango, Tapioca, Passion fruit, Coconut, and Pepper. They also earn some money by collecting and selling forest produce primarily honey, herbs.
The Kanis know their mountains and also have intricate knowledge of various medicinal herbs and plants. The story goes that the Kanis would eat a herb which gave them the ability to survive without food or water for days. Scientists investigated and developed the compound drug named Jeevani known for its immunity-enhancing, liver-protective, and anti-fatigue properties.
Many different varieties of insects, birds, small animals – wild boar, Hares, Leopards, Elephants, Tigers inhabit the reserve. You may see some of the smaller animals on your visit.
While at the resettlement, partake in a humble meal of tapioca cooked in front your eyes, with some fresh tender coconut water and the fruit of the season. Hear the stories of Venu Kanni and his experiences in the wild and the lives of their families. Watch him climb up a tree nimble and quick and bring down some fresh coconut water.