The Purple Elixir – Maddh Thopp

Published on: 11/01/2019

The purple liquid

Photo title: The Purple Liquid


Photographer: Shonali Madapa

According to the Hindu calendar, Kakkada is the period from mid-July to mid-August. On the 18th day of this month in Coorg, the colour purple takes on a whole different hue. Falling approximately on the 2nd or 3rd of August each year, this is the day when the locals pick the leaves of a plant called Maddh Thopp (Justicea Wynaadensis), soak them overnight and then boil the leaves and stem with water to extract the juice.


The plant is found extensively in some regions of the Western Ghats, from Wynaad, to Coorg, South Canara and the eastern Nilgiris. The leaves and stems are supposed to have eighteen different medicinal properties. Limited scientific research on the plant shows the presence of large amounts of polyphenols and flavonoids. These are supposed to impart the plant with anti-oxidant, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties as well as lowering cholesterol levels.


People in Coorg use the extracted juice to make a payasam and a puttu; both rice-based preparations, cooked with a lot of grated coconut, jaggery, ghee and flavoured with cardamom. The traditional belief is that it keeps you healthy all year around, with some families eating it every day from the start of Kakkada.

Maddh Puttu

Photo title: Maddh Puttu


Photographer: Shonali Madapa

Having never bothered to find out more about this allegedly miraculous plant before, I fortunately find myself in Coorg on this day. My aunt invites me to lunch and I watch with anticipation as she cooks these special dishes. The green leaves on soaking and boiling yield a gorgeously deep purple liquid, with an aromatic fragrance and a taste that I can only describe as a bit like liquorice. She then makes the payasam, mixing the liquid into pre-soaked rice, adding the rest of the ingredients and cooking it on a slow flame, constantly stirring it until the rice is cooked thoroughly.


For the puttu, the ingredients are first blended together to ensure a smooth paste. This is cooked on a slow fire and mixed carefully, so the mixture doesn’t stick to the pan or form lumps. It takes a good forty minutes or so for the paste to be cooked thoroughly. She then pours it into a dish and allows it to cool and set.


A mouth-watering lunch of chicken biryani, wild mango curry, crisp mutton cutlets and a fried vegetable made with green banana, is followed by the delicious payasam and puttu. The joke in Coorg is that if you are served fried green banana, you have overstayed your welcome. Thankfully, I know this is not so in my aunt’s case. She is well known for her legendary hospitality.


Replete with good food, great company and my annual fix of the magical medicinal ingredient in place, I leave feeling gratified that I have learnt a little bit more about another novel custom of the people in Coorg. So, if you ever happen to find yourself in these parts around the first week of August, be nice to a local. You might just get to sample some of this delicious stuff yourself.

the people option 4 1 of 1

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.Quis ipsum

the people option 2 1 of 1

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, maecenas accusman lacus vel facilisis


Shonali Madapa

Shonali Madapa has over 22 years of experience in the field of design and branding. She runs Lumos Design, out of Bangalore, India and has worked with large corporates, startups and social enterprises. She graduated from MS University, Baroda and has done a Post Experience Program in Graphic Design, from the Royal College of Art, London. Travel photography and writing are her passions, leading her to explore new worlds, cultures and cuisines. In the process, she collates and documents cultural patterns, ways of life and manages to find incredible beauty in the mundane.

coffee spice more option 1 1 of 1


the people option 3 1 of 1


Coorg Home Filters

GSC 6158

Mountain Dweller: The Blue-capped Rock Thrush


The Spice Route: How spices changed the world


Treasures Hidden in Plain Sight

DSC 0951b


10685477 803891233006240 6938362231288327194 n

The Virajpet Clock Tower


A Coorg Bride’s Trousseau


The World of Warblers


What’s Cooking: A Day with the Chef

DSC 8539

Barbet Battleground


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Vazhachundum Thoran


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Mezze Platter


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Grilled Pork Ribs


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Pazham Puzhungiyathu


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Peppercorn chocolate mousse


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Kabsah Laham Bis


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Vazhakanda Thoran


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Banana Bajji


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Pazham pori


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Joojeh – e – Koobideh


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Vegetable Kurma


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Idiyappam


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Appam


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Kadamputtu


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Pandi Curry


From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Kerala Fish Curry


Nalknad Palace – off the beaten track in Coorg

1 (2)

Mother Goddess Kaveri

Red-whiskered Bulbul

(Not) The Garden Variety Bulbul

3. Pandi Curry

Pandi Curry – the Emperor of Kodava Cuisine

GSC 5425

Under the veil of rain and darkness

 MG 0010

Kodava Brides – keepers of tradition

Coffee Museum

Designing the Sidapur Coffee and Culture Museum

JTR1 DSC 0095

Special Ingredients of Kodava Cuisine

The purple liquid

The Purple Elixir – Maddh Thopp


Chikka Veerarajendra of Coorg and his Thirteen Wives

DSC 2068

Kodava Cuisine – Festive Food of Coorg

2 Duotone Geometric patterns kadaga

Kodava Jewellery – Design Deconstructed

Bitter orange Wikimedia Commons

Kodava Cuisine – Seasonal Food of Coorg

IMG 5851

The Architecture of Ainmanes: Form follows Function


Kodava Ainmanes – the heart of the Kodava Clan

Lingarajendra shown engaged in hunting a drawing by Thippajappa of Shimoga

Shikar with Raja Lingarajendra

Wikipedia commonsWatercolor guest house of the Raja of Coorg by John Johnson

A Guest House for the British


A Photographer’s Guide to Coorg – 2

Orange-County-Article-A-Photographers-Guide-to-Coorg-by-Prathap-Photography-004 a

A Photographer’s Guide to Coorg

Malabar Gliding Frog evolveback 1

The Enchanted Woods!

312959-1345036410 sourced from web

Princess Victoria Gowramma of Coorg – 2

Veerarajendra Gowramma in London - 1852

Princess Victoria Gowramma of Coorg


Of Clouds and Waterfalls


The Mesmerizing Monsoon of Coorg