June 2019

Pol Gaha: The Coconut Tree
June 2019

The coconut tree, known as ‘pol gaha' in Sinhala, is frequently sighted swaying to the breeze as you travel around Sri Lanka. The significance of the coconut tree is enormous; all of its parts are used by the islanders in a variety of ways.

Pol Gediya

The grated white kernel of the coconut - ‘pol gediya' is used to make pol sambol. The milk from the grated coconut is a vital ingredient in traditional dishes such as milk rice and curries, while the water inside the fruit is a great drink. In mature coconuts, the white and spongy Coconut Apple is known as ‘pelapi', grown inside the nut. It makes for a delicious treat. Coconut oil is made using dried kernel, called koppara, which is cut, crushed, and ground to extract the oil. It is used in cooking, as well as for herbal treatments. Punnakku, which is fed to cattle, is produced by the residue of the crushed koppara. It is also exported to produce oil.

The dried shell can be used to maintain the fire in a hearth. Incense powder sprinkled over the residue charcoal produces an aromatic smoke, which is believed to ward off evil and to bring good luck. Artisans also create handmade ornaments, jewellery and a range of items with the hard shells.

Pol Lella

The coconut is covered by a husk - pol lella with thin fibres. These husks are placed in water for several months to extract the fibre. Coir, as it is known, is used to make brooms, ropes, brushes, carpets, and string for fishing nets.

Pol Kanda and Mula

The trunk of the tree is used to make furniture and build roofs. The coconut roots are used to make dye, and have medicinal properties too.

Pol Mala

The coconut flower is considered as a symbol of prosperity and is used as a decoration during special functions.

The sap of the flower is used to make vinegar, jaggery, toddy, and spirits.

Pol Bada

The crown of the coconut tree, where the fronds, flowers, and fruits grow, contains a soft centre of the tree: pol bada. It is tender and milky in taste and can be eaten fresh or even cooked.

Pol Athu

Dry and woven coconut fronds are used for thatching the roofs. The spine of the leaf, known as the ekel is used to make ekel-brooms. Young coconut leaves (known as gokkola) are used to create beautiful and natural decorations for pirith sermons, thovil (healing rituals), and weddings.