Revival of the Environment Friendly Pattal

In the world of packs, packaging, and plastic, the ‘Pattal’ (leaf plates) are ready for another humble beginning, it’s the rebirth and revival of these simple yet traditional and ancient plates.

It’s time to move back to the basics.

Pattal, a plate of leaves used for community meals in Himachal Pradesh

Pattal has come a full circle, as they have come a long way, a way full of hurdles but ultimately emerged victorious in the chaotic world created by plastic and paper plates.

The lavish feast called ‘Dham’ served on joyous occasions – marriages, childbirth, and religious festivals have been a constant companion of the Pattals. In a way, pattal has been symbolic with dham for ages. Though the dham remained the same, pattals went through various phases of bad to worst, giving way to the mighty plastic, which continues to exist despite being discarded. In the hills of Himachal dham is a common occurrence. This is somewhat similar to eating food on a clean banana leaf in the Southern part of our country. But here in Himachal due to the abundance of Taur, Tremal, and sal trees, leaf-plates are made from these trees.

Eating dham at celebrations has been a tradition in Himachal, simple yet mouth-watering dham comprising of Madhra made of lentils and curd, sweet rice or Meetha and various dals have always treated my taste-buds . But over the years one realised that despite of same ingredients used from the past recipes, dham did not taste the same, but it took us years to realise that the platter that mattered was missing.

Pattals disappeared from the scene, giving way to the steel plates, which further lost their shine to paper plates and finally plastic dominating all the festivities and fervour and making all believe that plastic is fantastic.

Pattal was reduced to a second class status with expansion of urbanisation.

When the world was upgrading to the easy and yet complicated ways of plastic, pattals were still prevalent in Himachal and providing employment to many, but soon the plastic made its way to the hills too. It penetrated so deep into our daily lives and household, that even the special occasions like dham were not spared and poor simple, and basic pattal had to make an exit.

Denied it’s due for long, pattals are back with a bang with upgraded and upscaled version, providing employment to many in the rural sector with coming of small scale industries. But we have realised their significance only when the western world took to these eco-friendly and economical products and revamping and repackaging them under their stamp. Whether it’s yoga, earthen pots, bamboo, or pattals all have been only valued when the outside world accepted them and we ignored these environment-friendly basic products, it’s more of a lost and found story.

Carefully planning the revival and survival of the pattal back to our culinary services will not only promote eco-friendly ways to promote zero waste practices but will be a true example of ‘ vocal for local’ as well as promoting the native culture, products, and revitalising them.

Anjali, with a masters in English is a teacher on a sabbatical, loves travelling and spending time in the lap of nature, observing its bounties and being thankful to the hills.

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