Thursday, September 28, 2023



Attaining Age

Girls Coming of Age

The occasion of a girl attaining puberty is a big event. Non-Brahmins  celebrate the event as a sort of matrimonial advertisement  by inviting relations and friends. On the day of attaining puberty the girl is given a bath by the closest  kith and kin and then isolated for about a week, during which period she is given rich food. A piece of saffron and flowers from her hair is placed under the title of the roof of the house at an auspicious moment. On the ninth day, the saffron and flowers are taken out and some milk is sprinkled on them. They are then buried  and the girl is released from seclusion. She is given another bath, dressed like a bride and welcomed in to  the main  portions of the house, with 'arathi' to ward off evil spirits and evil eyes. A grand feast follows and the participants present gifts to the girl.

Between puberty and marriage, the girl  wears 'santhupottu' or lamp black  paste on her fore-head  and applies collyrium to her eye-lids. In leisured  classes, she should  not see or be seen by men  outside her immediate circle. There are restrictions on the types of flowers and ornaments she can use to adorn herself. But these days social convention and taboos are being broken by the new generation of educated strata of society who wants to have an uninhabited  free life without the restrictions of tradition. 

Boy Steps into Adulthood 

The Chettiars of Chettinad  perform the Karthigai for boys and the Thiruvathirai for  girls. Customs demands that each youth should participate in this ceremony before marriage and during teen-age.

The ceremony can be held only in the month of Karthigai on the day when Karthigai is the ruling star. Girls can have their ceremony in the month of Margazhi on the day when Thiruvathirai is the ruling star. The Jews are said to have a similar ceremony for their boys. There is the day of 'Bar Mitz Vah', the traditional  Jewish ritual of passage to adult responsibilities.

The paternal  and maternal  relations of the boy or the girl attend the ceremony and congratulate him or her. He or she is smartly dressed. A shawl is put around the boy and he is required a skull cap or turban. On a horse back, he rides to the temple. On the same day, there will be ceremonies for several other boys from the caste in each house of the village, stopping very briefly in front of each house of the caste, to be blessed by the elders and greeted by admiring  friends by offering arathi to ward off evil eyes.

A marriage can be contracted only after the Karthigai ritual has been gone through. It is an occasion to advertise eligible boys. Parents of eligible girls take due to notice and start negotiations.

Since the ritual marks the transaction from boyhood to manhood, the youth gets a status in the event of the death. Those who have not gone through the Karthigai ritual are treated as children, and their dead bodies are not cremated according to the status usually given to a man on his death.