Of all the thousands of species of seed-bearing plants on earth, Circassian seeds are certainly one of the most beautiful. The naturally-shiny, bright red seeds are used for necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rosaries throughout the Old and New World tropics. They have a remarkably uniform weight, each seed weighing about four grains. It takes about four seeds to make one gram, and approximately 109 of them to make an ounce.
A large uruli, a heavybottomed vessel, is placed near the entrance to the sanctum of the temple and it is filled with bright red “manjadikuru” seeds. It is believed that the devotee who places his hands in the uruli and ploughs through the seeds three times is cured of all diseases and attains prosperity.
The lucky red seeds or Manjadikuru are placed in Krishna temples in the state of Kerala. The origin of this practice lies in folklore of the temple of Guruvayur. According to the story, a peasant woman who lived in the northern province of Kerala was an ardent devotee of Krishna and aspired to someday visit Guruvayur temple. It was customary to bring offerings to the temple, but she was too poor to afford any gifts. She knew of an old tree that shed beautiful shiny red seeds, so she gathered a pouchful of them. Leaving the safety of her home and loved ones, she set out on her quest to reach Guruvayur. It was a long, perilous journey on foot during which she had to traverse rivers and deep forests.
Four days later she arrived in Guruvayur. Apparently it was the first day of the month, and the local ruler or Naaduvazhi would visit the temple on the first of every month. To display his devotion, he would donate an elephant every month as an offering to Krishna. Officers of the Naaduvazhi cleared people away from the path to make room for the ruler and his elephant. During the procession the women was knocked to the ground, spilling her precious pouch of red seeds on the ground. Immediately the elephant went beserk and began to run wild. People ran for their lives as the mad elephant began to destroy everything in its path.
Unable to control the elephant, the Naaduvazhi prayed to Krishna for a solution to this dangerous dilemma. Suddenly a voice was heard from within the temple: “Where is my Manjadikuru? Where is my devotee, who you have insulted and hurt? Where is my gift that she lovingly put together?”
As the story goes, the people apologized to the woman and gathered up her seeds that were scattered on the ground. With her pouch full of seeds she was escorted into the sanctum of the temple. After submission of her offering, the elephant returned to normal. In memory of her offering, even to this day, a large urn of shiny red seeds is kept within the temple.
These lovely seeds are often collected by children. One of the games that uses these Red Lucky Seeds is Mancala played by all alike. Mancala is an ancient family of board games, and there are numerous variants. Mancala is one of the world’s oldest games, originally from Africa.