Poomathai Ponnamma is a well known character in Kerala folklore. Her story is symbolic of the exploitation and cruelties that lower castes, especially lower caste women, faced from the feudal upper castes.
Poomathai, a Dalit woman, could sing beatifully. The story goes that her feudal lord hears her song one night and develops lust. But she refuses his sexual advances. He threatens her with consequences, but brave Poomathai ignores all, though she gets banned from work. But later on the feudal lord bribes Ayiththira, a friend of Poomathai, to spread a lie that she was engaged in prostitution. The community punishes her by sentencing her to death. But as she gets burned as a punishment, Ayiththira confesses that she lied and everyone understands she was not guilty.
The Njattippattu — a form of folk song that is sung while planting paddy sapling in the field — is performed by Madhavi, Prabhavathi and Meenakshi. They hail from Naduvannur Panchayath in Kozhikode district. Madhavi, the lead singer, learned the song while she worked in the paddy fields for decades since she was young.
Listen to Madhavi explain the story and sing the song