While visiting the Meeru museum, you will come across the equipment of the toddy tapper. This is his story, and the history and culture surrounding Maldives coconut toddy and it’s tapper.
Raaveriya – The man who collects toddy.
Raa Valhi – The knife Used for cutting the flower bud by the palm sap collector.
Raa Bandhi – Traditional Maldivian toddy collecting pot which is used to put the produced “Raa”
Raa – Toddy
Who is this man in the image?
He is a Raaveriya (Toddy Tapper) on his way to a coconut tree. Carrying a ‘bandi’ made up of coconut shells which is tied up together with rope. Toddy tapping or ‘rukah erun’ is a skilled work passed down from generations to generations. It is also a symbol of Maldivian custom and tradition. It was the backbone of livelihood and has proven to be a staple part of Maldivian diet and an essential for electrolyte balance.
What is toddy tapper wearing?
A sarong which is tied up around the waist measuring the length of one’s entire leg up to the ankles when let loose. Clothing on the head serves as a protection against the heat and prevents debris from tangling onto ones hair.
How does he collect the sap?
A Raaveriya (Toddy Tapper) climbs the coconut tree to prepare the flower bud (‘ei’) for collecting sap. The tip of the flower bud is cut off using a knife (Raa Valhi) before it blossoms and toddy collecting pot is hung to collect the sap. When the coconut flower bud (‘Ei’) is set the coconut tree is referred to as a ‘raa ruh’. It is believed that the sap collected in the evening is sweeter and tastes better owing to the heat which makes the water evaporate leaving the sweet residue behind in its purest form. The collected toddy can be subjected to a complex process of heating and a form molding to produce ‘Dhiyaa Hakuru’ a golden honey-like-liquid referred to as Coconut Nectar in the western countries that all most all Maldivians enjoy eating with rice, and also used as a dessert and to make sweet snacks. The ‘Dhiyaa Hakuru’ is also further cooked, with the addition of Akiri (Coral), to produce a creamy fine White paste known as Karu Hakuru, a popular ingredient in baking cake. This Raiveriya and his ‘honey’ produce a couple of litres of toddy a day, most of which is converted to sugar and stored.
A Translation Of A Raivaru
“To watch thee sleep peaceful in mine arms,
Having drunk on loves’ cunning charms.
From pleasures most beautiful I myself woke
So I might again these desires in thee evoke”
The lifestyle was as such, that Maldivian men adored and enjoyed the work. The toddy toppers will go for toddy tapping and sing ‘Raivaru’, thus the name Raaveriya (toddy topper). The ‘Raivaru’ is a (short verse) is one of the forms of poetry which is very unique and it is found in the earliest Maldivian literature. This form of poetry used since ancient times to express desires, thoughts and emotions”. The Raivaru poems was used by toddy toppers to complement or even sung as a declaration of love to the Maldivian woman who goes to the beach to wash pans or to the jungle to collect firewood. It is said that the woman who responds to the Raivaru sung by Maldivian men will the one who accepts the proposal.
As it was, the true Maldivian island lifestyle, the families lived a wonderfully simple and happy life. There is a saying in Maldives, that all Maldivian communities in the old times were entirely dependent on the coconut palm.
The number of people with this particular skill set started deteriorating over the years and the tradition was on the brink of collapsing when tourism came to the Maldives opening up a doorway for locals to showcase their formidable skills and local products which became a souring sensation among the tourists visiting Maldives and opening up opportunities for trade and sources of income.