It’s not all about the destination, it’s also the journey, interesting incidents, unexpected places and things that we see or do and the fun that one discovers as one travels towards the destination that makes travel a wholesome experience.
A short drive from Bangalore towards Mandya turned out to be one such fun and interesting trip, to a bunch of us. A plan to just drive off the highway leaving behind the chaos of traffic and to explore the interiors of the villages around Mandya was very rewarding. The busy baya colony in the lush green sugar cane fields, a calm and traffic-less village road and a dim but constant machine-in-work sound at a distance! What could it be?
Off the vehicle, we jump, walk a bit on the mud path in the middle of the sugarcane fields, and find a shed! Some smoke at regular intervals, a couple of men at work and a few pairs of eyes curiously looking at us and probably wondering what we may be up to, there. We inch a bit closer walking on the bagasse strewn all along the mud path, overjoyed to see the ‘Aale mane’ (jaggery making unit), in full action. It was a fun find for us! Already drooling over the sight of fresh and hot jaggery in front of us, we sheepishly requested for some, just to taste.
Mandya, also known as ‘sakkare naadu’ (sugar city), and it’s sugar factories are major contributors to the economy. Ages ago the cottage industries of jaggery thrived here. In the recent past, however, one does not get to see these small units in much action. Hence when we happened to come across this small but reasonably busy aale mane, we were happy! Typically located amidst the sugarcane fields, these units have evolved and have adopted newer technologies to extract fresh sugarcane juice and to process them. But the traditional jaggery making process still remains the same in these small units and it’s very interesting to stand by and watch the activities.
Freshly cut sugarcanes are fed into the machines to extract the juice, which flows towards the huge cauldrons for further processing. The bagasse automatically is shredded, processed and dried simultaneously even as the juice is extracted. The juice is boiled, purified with additives and then transferred to a flat surface to cool it down for preparing bigger chunks of jaggery or poured into moulds to give them the shape desired. Once the liquid cools and sets into the moulds, they are removed and stored to be sent for retailing.
A short video of the process which shows us how the process is carried out was shot in this place. It would be interesting to watch it here in the context of above mentioned details.
Not many of these aale mane has survived in the recent times. Volatile price of jaggery in the market and the labour-intense industry has turned less attractive to entrepreneurs into venture into this business.
But for us, a visit to aale mane always ends up on a sweet note…with the taste of warm & freshly-made jaggery melting in the mouth!!