Devasom boards in Kerala ban usage of Arali flowers in temples

The ban will be applicable to temples administered by the Travancore Devaswom Board and the Malabar Devaswom Board.
Devasom boards in Kerala ban usage of Arali flowers in temples
wikimediacommons/Elayabharathi Saravanan

It isn’t uncommon to find few pinkish petals of arali or oleander in prasadam -  flowers, tulsi leaves and sandalwood paste - often given in a sliver of banana leaf or payasam or kheer offered to the deities and later offered to devotees (naivedyam). It wouldn’t be so anymore. Kerala’s two main temple boards, the Travancore Devaswom Board and the Malabar Devaswom Board, which oversee the majority of the state’s temples, have banned the usage of Oleander flowers, commonly known as Arali, in prasadam and naivedyam, as a safety measure against accidental poisoning.

The move comes after a 24-year-old woman from Alappuzha died allegedly after unintentionally consuming the Arali flower and its leaves. News about a cow and its calf dying after consuming the leaves of the plant in Pathanamthitta also reported recently.

Travancore Devaswom Board President PS Prasanth, speaking to TNM about the new rules pertaining to the use of Arali flowers said, “The board met on Thursday, May 9, and decided to implement the ban after worries about the flowers' hazardous contents, which could endanger both humans and animals, surfaced.”

While using Arali flowers for prasadam and naivedhya is prohibited, it can be utilised for puja, he said. He suggested that devotees should offer other flowers instead, such as Tulsi, Rose, Thechi (Ixora), etc. “But it’s fine if there are Arali plants thriving on temple compounds,” he said.

"The decision was made in order to prevent Arali flowers from temples possibly harming devotees in any way. It will be applicable to all 1255 temples that are within the board's jurisdiction, he clarified. 

The Malabar Devaswom Board has also made the decision not to utilise Arali flowers in temples. While the temples in southern part of Kerala come under the Travancore Devaswom board, the ones in South Malabar and North Malabar come under the Malabar Devaswom Board. 

Speaking to TNM, the Commissioner of the Malabar Devaswom Board, Beena C said, “Following the Travancore Devaswom Board’s directive, we had an online board meeting on Thursday and decided to forgo using Arali flowers in temples, with the safety of the devotees being taken into consideration. That being said, using other flowers for naivedhya and prasadam is acceptable.”

It will be applied to over the 1400 temples that fall under the board’s jurisdiction, she clarified. 

Surya Surendran, a nurse by profession from Alappuzha, a district in Kerala, had collapsed at the Nedumbassery airport in Kerala and died on Monday, April 29 due to a heart attack as she had accidentally eaten an Arali flower and its leaves, before leaving for the airport and vomited continuously on her way to the airport. A postmortem done at the Alappuzha Medical College Hospital revealed that the cause of her death was the consumption of Arali flower and leaf. Parts of Arali plants are poisonous due to the presence of cardiac glycosides such as oleandrin, nerin, digitoxigenin, and olinerin.

A four-year old cow and a four-month old calf had also died from poison after consuming oleander leaves in Adoor, a municipality in the district of Pathanamthitta in Kerala. The oleander plants, cut down by neighbouring households, were given to the animals along with fodder. After symptoms of indigestion, medicines were given, but the calf died. Similarly, an injection was administered from the veterinary hospital, but the cow also died after showing discomfort.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute