Starting from the western coast along the border from Goa downwards via Mangalore all the way to Kerala, this is the season for Kokum.

Traditional south Indian drinks to help you survive the summers
Features Culture Saturday, April 23, 2016 - 19:02

The dreaded summers are finally here! News reports on the number of people suffering from sunstroke have been trickling in from different parts of the country. Below the Vindhyas, it gets worse! Being closer to the equator doesn’t help. A news video that has become popular is of a woman frying an omelette on a stone in some remote place in Telangana.

You can watch it here:

It might not have been this bad a few decades ago, but changing weather patterns, increasing pollution and depletion of the ozone layer have all added to the existing torture. Who is responsible for this? No one else can be blamed except all of us. We lack any civic sense of responsibility towards nature and the environment we live in. Our greed has converted all urban spaces into concrete jungles. Thousands of trees have been chopped down and land occupied by real estate mafia. So while we are heading towards an ecological disaster, we can only pray and hope that we create awareness and act upon this. It is never too late to change ones food and lifestyle habits. To make more room for an organic lifestyle that does less damage to nature among many other things.

However, if you happen to be in South India at this time of the year, you are fortunate to find natural remedies to help beat the heat. The heat is only going to intensify in the next few months and one might as well be ready to combat it. Across the southern states, there are foods that are meant for summers. Since time immemorial, south Indian homes have had seasonal kitchen remedies to beat the heat. Let us take a look at some of the easiest ones you can get.

Starting from the western coast along the border from Goa downwards via Mangalore all the way to Kerala, this is the season for Kokum! The dried Kokum fruit is used as a souring agent in food in many of the cuisines here instead of Tamarind. Kokum also contains antioxidants and helps in digestion. Summer is a time for Sol Kadi. A beverage made from Kokum extract mixed with coconut milk and seasoned with roasted cumin, green chilies and fresh coriander. The coconut milk mixes with the Kokum extract to give it a bright pink colour! Sol Kadi is usually had after a meal but nothing will stop you from having it at any time of the day. A shade darker in its pinkness is another drink in the interior parts of Karnataka. Ragi is a staple diet for many of the farmer communities in interior Karkataka. This variety of millets is made into a wide range of foods like Ragi Idli, Ragi Dosa and Ragi Rotti. A popular coolant made in summers is Ragi Ambali. A mix of Ragi powder and cooled buttermilk, the drink is seasoned with raw onion cut into small pieces.


From Karnataka to Kerala! What can be better than tender coconut water to keep you cool during these summers! High in its medicinal qualities, coconut water is one of the safest drinks to consume. However, if you are bored of the regular affair, you can always try and have it in a different way. Coconut milk flavoured with mild spices or fruits makes for a refreshing drink.

In Tamil Nadu, the traditional drink for summers has always been ‘Paanakam’. The season’s fresh Jaggery dissolved in cold water and mildly flavoured with cardamom powder. Jaggery is supposed to keep the body heat levels down. In recent times, a drink that has become popular, as a summer drink is the ‘Madurai Jigarthanda’.

A local variety of the famous ‘Falooda’, this drink has liberal doses of wild Basil seeds known as Sabja seeds. These seeds bloat when put in any liquid. They are extremely healthy and have a cooling effect in the summers. In addition to these two, are the famous large bright coloured coconuts from Pollachi. The water from these tastes extra sweet.

In Andhra Pradesh, traces of summer coolant drinks have been found from as early as the twelfth century. Several manuals document foods meant for summers. A popular drink along coastal Andhra is ‘Menthi Majjiga’. Buttermilk flavoured with roasted fenugreek seed powder, green chillies, ginger and tempered with sautéed mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves. This can be drunk directly or had with rice. It acts as a coolant.

In parts of coastal Andhra, there is documented evidence of homes from the fifteenth century that made large clay pots and served any visiting guests in the summers. While this was popular in Andhra region, the Telangana region had its own local summer drink. ‘Pachchi Pulusu’ was Telangana’s own answer to beat the intense summers. In fact, it is as ancient as the region itself and should ideally be made their State drink! Raw Tamarind water flavoured with roasted green chilli and ginger paste, raw onion cubes and seasoned with sautéed mustard seeds, coriander leaves and curry leaves. A small spoon of jaggery powder gives it a bittersweet taste. This is also either drunk or had with rice. The crunchy raw onions soak the juice and the drink tastes better a few hours after making this.

The city of Hyderabad has its own local Faloodas and Rooh-Afzahs for the summer. Last but not the least, reducing intake of tea and coffee and drinking a lot of water are the best solutions for beating the summers. So if you are someone who isn’t in favor of any aerated beverages, get in touch with your nearest South Indian friend and ask them for any of these traditional drinks. Enjoy the summers like any of the other seasons India has. Stay safe and healthy!

Photographs: Krishnamurty, G Sai Prakash, Sumathy

(Veejay Sai is an award-winning writer, editor and a culture critic. He writes extensively on Indian performing arts, cultural history, food and philosophy. He lives in New Delhi and can be reached at

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