Stone (age) implements

S Balakrishnan *

Crispy dosas and fluffy idlis are indeed everyone’s favourite dishes. But do you know how much labour is involved in preparing them. It was especially more laborious in the years past when we did not have the electric-operated wet grinders & mixers but only granite stone implements.

Now these stone aids are almost museum objects whereas in the past they were an integral part of every household in South India. Looking back, they appear to be stone-age implements. They were four – for wet grinding, for making chutney/masala paste, for pounding, and for dry grinding.

The batter for idly and dosa is a combination of soaked para boiled rice and black gram (urad dhal). These two are ground separately in a short stone mortar (called aattu-k-kal in Tamil) that has a cavity in the centre; a short pestle (called kuzhavi in Tamil) is used to grind the paste.

The whole process would take an hour or so; if this itself was a boring task, washing the stone both before and after use was the most boring one. Just think of the days when we did not have the aid of fridge; the womenfolk had to grind it almost daily! Now they use the wet grinder and store the batter in the fridge for a week’s usage. What a great relief !

This boring chore is best done jointly by two women by gossiping/chatting. If the relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law (saas & bahu) is smooth, they happily carry out this task by chit-chatting; else, the neighborhood ladies alternate to assist in the less labourious task of pushing the paste into the cavity while the main task of grinding is taken care of by the lady of the house.

People who did not have a grinding stone of their own at home used the stone in neighbors’ houses. Some ladies took up this tedious task as a part-time job to secretly earn extra money without the husband’s knowledge. In some houses this grinding stone would be permanently fixed to the floor/sunk into the floor.

Some magnanimous house owners let out their house for rent with these stone implements installed–at least the wet grinder and masala grinder. This was a great relief for families like ours which frequently moved on transfers. These days, grinders with timer are also available so that the lady of the house can peacefully enjoy the TV serials while the grinder keeps grinding.

Persons caught eating in restaurants without money were made to grind the batter to recover the bill amount. This was a popular theme for jokes in the past. So, before entering an eatery, I used to double check if I had enough cash. Now, with the arrival of electric wet grinders, I wonder how the restaurants recover the bill amount!

Of course, one has so many options to pay in these days – by swiping cards, G pay, net banking, QR code, etc. So, instead of checking my money purse, I check if I have my smart phone. So smart of me !

The second must-have implement of the past was the stone for daily grinding of masala/chutney, though for bulk chutney preparation aattu-k-kal was preferred. As this was needed for repeated daily use, it was found in almost all the houses. Comparatively this is less heavy. The flat base stone is called ‘ammi-k-kal’ and the pestle-like stone is again called ‘kuzhavi’.

This kuzhavi has two ends to hold by both the hands to grind on the flat surface of the ammi. This ammi stone plays an important part in Hindu weddings where the groom places the delicate right foot of the bride on this stone and puts on a ring to her toe.

Hence the wedding halls mandatorily have this ‘ammi’ stone. Probably they will be charging for it as a hidden charge! Where a house owner owned a row of houses (called ‘colony’), common aattu-k-kal and ammi-k-kal were installed for use by tenants. The modern electric mixi/mixer has sidelined this ammi-k-kal.

The mortar & pestle is a pan-India implement used for pounding grains. While the pestle is usually made of wood with metal casings at the ends, the base is either made of wood or stone. The mortar is called ‘ural’ and the pestle is called ‘ulakkai’ in Tamil language. If someone is not reacting/replying, he/she is chided as ‘standing like a ulakkai’.

To avoid spilling while pounding, a detachable attachment is placed on the ural to increase its height. Miniature version of this mortar-pestle combination in metal is used by elders to pound betel nut for chewing betel (paan) leaf.

As I was roaming footloose in West Sikkim’s Geyzing in 1984, I saw two girls pounding something in the mortar. As I clicked, one hid her face behind the slender pestle while the other could not hide her charming giggle despite bending down. Then I realized the omnipresence of ural & ulakkai, the mortar & pestle.

The last of the foursome is the ‘yanthram’ (machine) or ‘thirugai’, used to break grains or dry grind to make powder. The top circular stone has a central hole into which the grain is fed in to the flat surface of the circular base for manual grinding. The top stone has a handle to rotate it.

We had such a small version which travelled with us from one town to another until my mother disposed it of. As a small boy, I loved helping (?) my mother grinding with this yanthram. I would have loved to showcase it as an antique piece in the drawing room!

Despite the changing times, there are some male chauvinists who keep repeating like a scratched gramophone record that hand-ground barter /masala with the aid of these heavy granite stone implements is always the best and that only gives soft idlis and crispy dosas and flavor to masala ! In that case let them grind the barter/masala themselves in the grinding stone.

They also claim that it is a good exercise for the womenfolk as if they don’t have enough chores at home ! On my part, I voluntarily undertake to clean the electric wet grinder, including its stone, because my wife would anyhow delegate that boring task to me. By doing this bit, I can consume any number of idlis/dosas without guilt conscience.

Getting these new stone equipments ready for usage involves a lengthy process. Rice bran/husk is repeatedly ground in the new equipments to remove the fine stone particles/dust caused by chiselling. When continuous usage makes the granite smooth, they are finely chiseled for reuse.

This is usually done by the Gypsy people. After such re-chiseling, the same process, as involved in preparing the new equipment, has to be undertaken for reuse.

Coimbatore city in Tamil Nadu is well known for manufacturing grinders of all sorts and sizes. These granite stone kitchen aids of the past still find a place in the toy kitchen sets made of wood and soft stone as a reminder of the past.

* S Balakrishnan wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is from Chennai and can be reached at krishnanbala2004(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)in
This article was webcasted on June 09 2023.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Students Murder Protest [Sep 26] #2 : Gallery
  • Violence in Manipur 2023 :: News Timeline
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2023 #4: Gallery
  • Murder is not a solution
  • The Power of Poppy - 4 :: Poem
  • Scholarship Program for IAS Coaching
  • Eeconomic activities in animal husbandry
  • Manipur violence: War for Chin-Kuki State
  • Condoning worse than committing crime
  • Downloadable Manipuri Calendar for 2024
  • Ban the Bandhs- for a prosperous Manipur
  • Lamyanba Hijam Irawat Day: Visionary Leader
  • Lal Bahadur Shastri - Some Highlights
  • UAVs in Manipur's ethnic clash
  • Guwahati INIFD at New York Fashion Week
  • Even your God will despise this
  • Time to probe Zale'n-gam, Khalistani link
  • The descent of Radha-Krishna #7: Download
  • Is ST reservation a real issue for Manipur crisis
  • World Bamboo Day @Patsoi #3 : Gallery
  • Aribam Kumar: Writer of the Year Award
  • Condemnation of murder of two students
  • The pain behind her silent tears :: Poem
  • Meeting of Interfaith Forum at Guwahati
  • Solidarity Demonstration @Seoul : Gallery
  • October Calendar for Year 2023 : Tools
  • Manipur crisis & popular sentiment
  • Solidarity Demonstration on Manipur at Korea
  • Traumatic experiences: Kuki-Meitei clash #2
  • Students reach out to Historical sites
  • ADBU MoUs with Taiwan Universities
  • Knowing the ground reality
  • The writing on the wall
  • 'Laangban Chara Tamba' #3: Gallery
  • Naorem Roshibina: Silver, 19th Asian Games
  • Sit-in at United Nations in Geneva
  • FRA imbroglio in Manipur
  • Who feels brunt of Inept leadership
  • Cancer Awareness at Education (S), Imphal
  • Condemn brutal murder of innocent student
  • Kongthong, Meghalaya: Best Tourism Village
  • Time for Imphal to set the agenda
  • A diversionary war tactic & a bigger question
  • Students Murder Protest [Sep 27] #1 : Gallery
  • Silent Prayer demanding Justice : Gallery
  • Candlelight Vigil demanding Justice
  • Demands Justice for Murdered Meitei
  • CMESS to Moirang College Relief Camp
  • A decade for youth to make India #2
  • Nagaland to get first 5-star properties
  • Murder most foul
  • Not the time for CM to waste on trailers
  • Students Murder Protest [Sep 26] #1 : Gallery
  • Demand Justice for Hemjit & Linthoingambi
  • Karkinos: Top Honours at Arogya Manthan
  • NEIMUN 2023: Youth Leadership Conference
  • Brucellosis : zoonotic bacterial disease
  • State presidents for Nagaland & Meghalaya
  • Fixing responsible for the murder
  • Need of the hour: Bilateral disarmament
  • Protesters & SF @Kwakta #2: Gallery
  • Marina by Night
  • Seminar at "Oriental Theological College"
  • Indo-Naga Talks (From 2012) :: Timeline
  • Vote for me or my wife
  • Sohra International Half Marathon
  • State failure vis-a-vis ethnic cleansing
  • The blockade on the road to peace
  • World Bamboo Day @Patsoi #1: Gallery
  • The Meitei Nupi :: Poem
  • Traumatic experiences: Kuki-Meitei clash #1
  • Tifo unveiled during NE United game
  • Sign languages as Career
  • Torbung on May 3: Where it all started
  • The danger of Zalengam dream
  • The descent of Radha-Krishna #6: Download
  • Conflict in Manipur: Summary of issues
  • Chronological report on Manipur violence #5
  • Get to know more about Canine Distemper
  • The Power of Poppy - 3 :: Poem
  • Why Is Manipur Burning ?
  • Condemns Biased UN Side Event
  • Inpui Baptist Church celebrated Decadal
  • When the public relations fail #2
  • A decade for youth to make India #1
  • Tell the story to the outside world
  • Misleading the House of Commons
  • 'Laangban Chara Tamba' #2: Gallery
  • Village Volunteers: Protectors of the Nation
  • World Bamboo Day Painting Comp. results
  • Voluntary Blood Donation Camp
  • Improved potato varieties suited to Manipur
  • Autumn hair care: Tips for healthier hair
  • Manipur cannot go on like this
  • Shifting the theatre of war to Geneva
  • 1958: Kuki Chiefs' Memo to Union HM
  • Never too early never too late
  • Celebrities' approaches to Mental Health
  • International Day of Peace
  • Litter box training for cats
  • Trek leaders training programme
  • An indifferent Delhi
  • A good move with bad intention
  • Protesters & AR @Pallel #2: Gallery
  • Before the inflection point in our society !
  • Whither Naga Peace? Spl session of Parl
  • Lumpy Skin Disease
  • In total chaos since May 3 evening
  • Clutching at straws by drowning man
  • Winter Relief @ Mayang Imphal : Gallery
  • World Bamboo Day at Chandigarh
  • Will leaders walk the talk to end TB at UN
  • When the public relations fail #1
  • Chronological report on Manipur violence #4
  • Reimpose AFSPA call
  • Lesson to be learnt from SAFF boys
  • Breaches of International Humanitarian Law
  • Do we have a Government!
  • 'Birthday boy' glows, critics wonder...
  • Two Murals from Two Corners
  • Sir, a birthday treat for us
  • 'Laangban Chara Tamba' #1: Gallery
  • Student Council: Pillars of Governance
  • World Ozone Day observed at Imphal
  • Col N Hemachandra: Brigadier in Army
  • The Power of Poppy - 2 :: Poem
  • Manipur Crisis: You can bring Delhi to Imphal
  • Manipuri Kokyet finds space in Parliament
  • Relief materials at Moirang, Thoubal
  • Armed Forces' role in Manipur under scrutiny
  • India elevated G20 as 'premier forum'
  • 'Solution first, peace later' slogan
  • Hoping against hope
  • Candle light vigil @ Kangla #2: Gallery
  • DMCC met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh
  • The existential crisis - The Reality
  • Seriousness of legal proceedings
  • Role of Governor in summoning Assembly #2
  • One-sided reports vis-a-vis Manipur crisis
  • Death of a Sub-inspector
  • Raja Dumbragi Jeevan Charitra : Download
  • Dr Marjit: Academic Award at Malaysia
  • Interreligious Appeal to end violence
  • Gurkha War & diaspora in Manipur #3
  • Manipur Special Youth Assembly Session
  • From new districts to separate State
  • Looking for ally, desperately
  • Protesters & SF @Kwakta #1: Gallery
  • An Open Letter to President Joe Biden
  • Elephants in a Seed
  • Switzerland of India become a love lost State
  • Restoration of mining affected areas
  • Why did Army invite EGI : CJI
  • EGI invited by Army for objective assessment!
  • Note on Kuki-Hmar Trouble [1960]
  • Sober Thoughts
  • Weaving Looms presented at Relief Camp
  • A compassionate relief & cash payment
  • Sisters and brothers :: Poem
  • Coming to the negotiating table
  • The way forward
  • Protesters & AR @Pallel #1: Gallery
  • Romi Meitei : Best director @Kazan film fest
  • Success of Rahmani30 in Manipur NEET-UG
  • Modi, Biren, Shah exposes tragic series
  • Bharat is older than India
  • Mega Health Camp & Skill Development
  • Demand for ST tag by Meiteis
  • Internationalising the Kuki-Meitei conflict
  • The descent of Radha-Krishna #5: Download
  • Creating Hope Through Action
  • Ningthoujam Binoy: National Teachers' Award
  • The Power of Poppy - 1 :: Poem
  • Role of Governor in summoning Assembly #1
  • Gurkha War & diaspora in Manipur #2
  • Darkest Era of Meiteis
  • Robert Memorial Internship Awarded
  • Churachandpur Meiteis at the crossroads
  • Chronological report on Manipur violence #3
  • Meeting of Meitei Club, Burari
  • G20 call to action in agriculture
  • Silent on the remains at CCpur
  • The resolution to unite all CSOs
  • Rebuttal: EGI Fact-finding Mission Report
  • S Tiken (Thang-Ta) Fellowhsip Award
  • Manipuri or Meitei ?
  • Relief Distribution at Wakhong Pukao
  • Human-centric globalisation : Taking G20
  • Cancer Screening at SP Office, Imphal
  • Doing a disservice to Kuki-Chin cause
  • Epidemic threat at relief centres
  • The Chothes of Manipur
  • Communalism; A Dangerous Ism
  • Condemns the incident at Chalwa
  • Unity - need of the hour
  • International Day of Police Cooperation
  • 5,000 Scholarships for 1st year undergrad
  • Classic case of victimising the victims
  • 11 years in service and raring to go
  • Relief Work - August 2023 : Gallery
  • Krishna Leela
  • Gurkha War & diaspora in Manipur #1
  • Cancer Awareness at Imphal East
  • Training on cultivation of mushroom
  • Illegal immigrants & Manipur violence
  • Missing fact in EGI's fact-finding report
  • Is govt inviting a 3rd Nupi Lal ?
  • The Chieftaindom of Kukis
  • The role of teachers in society
  • Condolence Message
  • Framework for the future of work
  • Understanding Manipur crisis in four days!
  • The case of 'Meitei media'
  • List of Kings of Manipur: 33 - 1984 AD
  • Chronological report on Manipur violence #2
  • Winter Relief Services commenced
  • Special Session of Parliament
  • Advantage of simultaneous election in India
  • Fake Finding Committee ?
  • Poisoning the mind of Kuki-Chin people
  • Remedies to reduce hair growth on upper lip
  • Rally against Narco-Terrorism #3 : Gallery
  • On ethnic Nationalism & exclusive domains
  • Candle light vigil @ Kangla #1: Gallery
  • Patriots' Day @ Kangla: Gallery
  • Protesters with Army [Aug 03] #3 : Gallery
  • Indigenous Wrestling @ Purul : Gallery
  • Patriots' Day @ Thangal Temple: Gallery
  • Maram folklore & Meitei connection
  • 'Remove Assam Rifles' [Aug 07] #2 : Gallery
  • Patriots' Day @ Hicham Yaicham : Gallery
  • Model of Spelling-bee Competition
  • HSLC 2023 :: Top 25 Rank Holders
  • HSLC 2023 :: Subject Topper
  • HSLC 2023 :: Full Result
  • HSLC 2023 :: Compartmental Result
  • HSLC 2023 :: Pass % : Govt Schools
  • HSLC 2023 :: Pass % : Private Schools
  • HSLC 2023 :: Pass % : Aided Schools
  • HSE 2023 Toppers :: Science
  • HSE 2023 Toppers :: Arts
  • HSE 2023 Toppers :: Commerce
  • From May 3, 1993 to the present
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline