Coir in India: History of Technology

Reference work entry

Coir, a natural fibre used extensively to make brush, spin yarn, twist rope, and weave carpets, is obtained from coconut. The coconut tree (Cocus nucifera) grows in many tropical countries but chiefly in India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Within India it grows best on the southwest coast of Malabar, especially in the state of Kerala. Europeans and Arabs used to refer to it as the Indian Nut. One of the earliest references to its production in Kerala appears in a temple inscription of tenth century, which refers to the fruit as tengai and lists it as a major source of revenue to the temple. Tenmeans the south, probably indicating its arrival from South Sea Islands and/or Sri Lanka by the sea. While there is inscriptional evidence of coconut groves from this period, really large‐scale cultivation – turning almost the whole region into a vast coconut grove – begins from the sixteenth century. For the people of Kerala, the coconut tree is what the reindeer is to the Eskimos;...

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