Kumkum flower: Tacchippu Chettippu.

One evening Amma sang a new song “Chettippu Picchippu… ” wherein flower garlands were offered to Little Krishna. At that very instant i saw some ashram women by Kalari with trays full of this very flower, Chettippu, and little stars of Nandyarvattam, making garlands for worship. Hearing Amma’s words they looked up with wonder!

Kerala’s landscape is incomplete without the bright red bunches of Tacchippu, though they are grown in gardens elsewhere also.

The moment you call it Tacchippu, any Malayali around will repeat after you and immediately add another word, like this: ‘Tacchippu- Chettippu’. You look up questioningly. Did my tongue slip? He or she will say with an accommodative voice, “Both correct. It is called by both names.”

I often wonder: Is this flower always called by both names? Together? The mouth feels full when we say both the words. The rhythm when said together leaves an appealing playful sweetness in our mouths.

With immense nostalgia they say, “Oh, it is Devi’s favorite. There is not a temple without Chettippu, ie Tacchippu.”  “Chetti Mandara Tulasi Picchaka mala chaarti..” They hum the popular line.

Surely it must be most blessed of flowers. For one thing the color is that of Kumkum or vermillion that is applied to Devi’s Forehead. Each bunch offers many florets and devotees do archana with these florets, offering one for each Name. The long slender stalks make it easy to plait garlands. A garland with red and yellow florets makes it look like kumkuma-arisina (vermillion -turmeric) offering. ‘Devi will be easily pleased with this very auspicious offering; She will fulfill your wish,’ devotees say with a tear droplet in eyes. Chettis are available round the year; they grow easily without fuss. Each bunch represents past present and future, as it has in it florets of yesterday and tomorrow as well as today!  And they last many days -on the plant and even after being removed. 

Amritapuri has many bushes blooming them in different colors. The most abundant one is the peach colored one. The bush by the cowshed has hundreds of bunches, a few at the end of each twig. They go on glowing pleasantly, day and night. Little sun-birds, bees, ants and many friendly insects hover around these bushes all day, since in Amma’s ashram, flowers are safe on plants, and the natural cycle of providing for each other is promoted.

— by Sandhya