Karthumbi umbrellas: Tribal women in Kerala’s Palakkad shine as PM Modi highlights their unique initiative

Launched in 2016, the 'Karthumbi' initiative aimed to provide a sustainable livelihood for tribal folk, especially in Palakkad.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jun 30, 2024 | 3:53 PM Updated Jun 30, 2024 | 5:30 PM

Karthumbi umbrellas

An innovative initiative by tribal women in the Palakkad district of Kerala received a significant boost after it found mention in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popular “Mann Ki Baat” programme on Sunday, 30 June.

The prime minister, in his program, spotlighted the success of these women who manufacture and market their unique umbrellas under the brand “Karthumbi,” an endeavour led by the tribal voluntary outfit Thambu.

In his speech, Prime Minister Modi highlighted the cultural significance of umbrellas in Kerala.

Also Read: Kerala library’s ‘Padam Pootha Kaalam’ initiative ushered in a spring of knowledge

Prime minister’s speech

He stated, “My dear countrymen, monsoon is spreading its hues rapidly in different parts of the country. And during this rainy season, the thing that has started being searched for in every home is the ‘umbrella’.”

“Today in ‘Mann Ki Baat’, I want to tell you about a special kind of umbrella. These umbrellas are made in our Kerala,” the prime minister said.

He elaborated on the uniqueness of the Karthumbi umbrellas, crafted in Attappady, saying, “These colourful umbrellas are strikingly splendid. And the special fact is that these umbrellas are made by our tribal sisters of Kerala. Today the demand for these umbrellas is rising across the country. They are also being sold online,” he said.

“These umbrellas are made under the supervision of ‘Vattalakki Cooperative Farming Society’. This society is led by our woman power. Under the leadership of women, the tribal community of Attappady has displayed a wonderful example of entrepreneurship,” Modi said.

Following the mention by the prime minister, Union Minister George Kurian urged people to buy Karthumbi umbrellas.

After watching “Mann Ki Baat” at a resident’s house in Kanakkary, his home village in the Kottayam district, Kurian said Modi’s reference to the Karthumbi Umbrella showed his special interest towards the southern state.

“The Karthumbi Umbrellas are made by our tribal sisters of Attappady. I think all people should buy one umbrella to help our tribal sisters,” he told reporters.

Also Read: Kerala turns environmental threat to economic opportunity

‘Karthumbi’ initiative 

Launched in 2016, the Karthumbi initiative aimed to provide a sustainable livelihood for tribal folk, particularly the Muduga, Irula, and Kurumba tribes of Palakkad.

The women collectively craft the handy and easy-to-carry umbrellas in community halls within their settlements. Tribal youths assist with local marketing, generating additional income and fostering community involvement.

The prime minister’s mention has brought the empowered tribal women into the mainstream spotlight, showcasing their potential and talent.

The women behind Karthumbi are hopeful that this recognition will lead to a surge in demand, with the initiative’s success exceeding their expectations.

In addition to umbrellas, the Vattalakki Cooperative Farming Society has also established a bamboo-handicraft unit and is preparing to open a retail outlet and a traditional cafe.

Their goal is not only to sell their products but also to introduce their tradition and culture to the world.

“Today Karthumbi umbrellas have completed their journey from a small village in Kerala to multinational companies. What could be a better example than this of being vocal for local?” the prime minister remarked.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)

(South First is now on WhatsApp and Telegram)