500 years after: A culture still melding with the local

KOCHI: It is believed that when Vasco da Gama came to trade in spices to Calicut in 1498, he purchased them from Gujarati traders in Kerala.[WRONG INFORMATION] 
Though they have kept their traditional rituals alive, Gujaratis in Kerala have blended themselves with the place and its people.

When you go to Mattancherry, known as 'Little Gujarat', you will find the Gujarati school, 'mithai' shops, apparel shops and women wearing saree draped in Gujju style.

Though these families have their roots in Gujarat, they speak and understand Malayalam just as much as any Keralite. There are umpteen similarities among both cultures. Falguni Niraj Vyas, an art teacher at the Gujarati school finds the traditional form of dance, 'kaikotti kali', performed during Onam, similar to the 'Garbha' that Gujaratis perform during Navaratri.

The same can be seen in different kinds of food also. "The besan ladoo also known as 'maa ladoo' famous in Kerala which is similar to the 'mohanthal', a square-shaped sweet made from besan by Gujaratis. 'Chakri' from Gujarat is similar to 'murukku' familiar to Keralites. Even 'doodh pak' is close approximation of the 'ada payasam' from Kerala," says Falguni.

With 786 families living in and around Mattancherry, they are the largest among the non-malayalee community in Kochi. However, they have adapted to Kerala and its culture. "It is mandatory to prepare Kerala lunch on Sundays by each family here in Kochi. We make the spicy sambar, white rice and even 'semiya payasam', which is similar to Gujju style 'Kheer'," said Chetan Shah, a Kochi-based Gujarati.

Nevertheless, their forms of worship in temples are slightly different from the Malayalee culture. "We find the daily rituals of 'Archana' and 'pushpanjali' done at temples in Kerala intriguing. We had once asked our 'pandit' to include it in our daily prayer routine," said Chetan Shah.