Thursday, 25 February 2016

Traditional methods of taking care of Pregnant Woman

Taking care of a pregnant woman is a very important and crucial task those days. Since delivery is taken care at home, the period prior to delivery also has the same importance as postnatal period. My periamma worked as a trained staff conducting delivery at home. She shared her experience with me. Also she has to take care of her younger sisters, after her mother’s demise.  Her services were extended to the next generation as well, even though the delivery was conducted at Hospital. I am also one among those who enjoyed her pre and post natal care.

Usually, the next of Seemandham the pregnant woman travels to her mother’s home and stay there till 3rd month after delivery. This is traditionally followed allowing the pregnant woman to enjoy the warmth of her mother. Nowadays, if the pregnant woman happens to be in other country, Parents travel all the way to the daughter’s place and conduct all the rituals, stay with them for few months and follow our traditional way of parenting during pregnancy. 

Jeera kashayam (Cumin) is most important and it is provided to the pregnant woman to reduce the warmth of the body.  This is provided from the 9th month of pregnancy.  This is preferably consumed during the morning before breakfast.

1 Tea spoon of Sombu and Jeeragam (Fennel & Cumin seeds) should be roasted till golden brown and pour 1 & ½ cup water. Boil till it comes half cup.  Add panakalkandu (optional) and filter the water. Then add 1 teaspoon of butter to the syrup. The syrup is ready to be consumed.
When the pregnant woman experience pain, this kashaayam is given. If the pain settles down, it is believed to be false pain. If the pain gets severe, then it is time to make preparations to take her to the hospital.

Kodhi kanchi is also prepared and consumed from the 5th month of pregnancy. Wash the rice and add water to cook. Then place it on the stove and let it boil. When the water starts boiling and observes the light while color of rice, take ½ cup of water and add 1 Teaspoon of butter and consume when it is warm. This is also consumed to reduce the heat that develops during pregnancy.  
And during pregnancy, the woman experiences back pain. Elders advice to apply oil in the hip and pour hot water in bearable heat during the evening. This enables the bones to relax and increase flexibility that enables for easy delivery.

Usually, no new dresses or things that are required for the child are purchased before the baby is born. A used dress of an infant in our family is safely kept and used when the new baby is born.  Mine was also kept safely by my Mom and used after 20 years.  It is believed that the newly born infant also grows with health and wealth as of the grown one. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Namakaranam / Punnyavachanam

After delivery, on the 11th or 21st day Punnyavachanam will be conducted. Usually after the postnatal period of the mother the function is performed to purify the House religiously. On this day, mother and the child has to take oil bath in the morning, before the Pandit come to conduct the function. The mother should not see the child and the husband with empty stomach after taking bath. Hence, a small pinch of salt and few strands of rice are provided after taking bath. The same day, the child will be given a name and this occasion is called as “Namakaranam”. In some occasions, due to various reasons the Punnyavachanam is conducted first and the Namakaranam is carried out on a later period. In some families, they do this Namakaranam during the 3rd or 5th month of the child. Both Mom and Child are eligible to go to Temple after the Punnyavachanam function.

New dresses are bought for the child, mother and father by the maternal grandmother and grandfather.  Sweets are prepared, friends and relatives are invited to attend the function and bless the infant. Paruppu thengai, Vethalai Pakku, Flowers, Fruits are also presented on the occasion.  Traditionally, the expenses incurred for Food on that day are born by the Child’s father. My mom accepted a small amount to satisfy my husband.  After performing the Pooja, the Pandit asks the Infant’s father and mother to utter the name on the right ear of the child. This is how the infant is officially named. Our ancestors have a belief of naming the child with the name of their grandfathers/grandmothers. However, since some of the family members do not want to utter the name of elders in front of them as a matter of respect, they started giving an alias name to the child. This alias name is usually used in the home.  The name officially announced by the Pandit in the function is called as Sharma name and used while performing religious functions or while doing Archanai in the temple. However, this Sharma name comes into effect after Upanayanam for male child. Few families have the habit of giving three names for the child. In my family, we have 4 girls with the same name since it is the name of my maternal grandmother. This goes well with my paternal grandmother’s name too.

The same day, the infant will be placed in a well decorated cradle and relatives used to sing songs. This function is usually conducted in the evening. Avoid using lot of flowers to decorate. The infant may not be able to bear strong odor of flowers. Nowadays, we started conducting this function in the morning itself at the end of Punnyavachanam and Namakaranam. The cradle is made of wood and usually not available in all houses. Some people used to preserve the cradles used by the elders in their family and allow their friends and relatives to use the same. This wooden cradle is used formally on this day and we are free to use the new ones available on stores.

In a plate, paddy is spreaded and the child's uncle used to write the name on the paddy. This is kept beneath the cradle. From this day onwards, we used to place Dhristhi pottu on the forehead and cheeks for the child. 

Paternal Aunty of the child buys Velli Kaappu (Kolusu/Thandai), Thanga Kaappu (golden Bangles) for the child. Aympon kaappu (5 metals) is also bought for the child. In turn, the child’s Aunty is gifted with a saree or some gift.  A small piece of the umbilical cord (thoppul kodi) is also preserved and kept inside the Thayathu and Tied in the black rope around the child’s waist along with Nai kasu preferably made of Seppu (Copper). This is applicable for both male and female babies. Additionally, for female babies Arasa Ilai is also tied. For male babies Thambi Thozhan is added. These are also available in Jewellery shops.

We prepare Sundal (preferably Black Channa) on this day and distribute to the relatives. A small bunch of sundal is tied in a plastic cover and kept on the corner of the cradle. Kaapparisi is also prepared and distributed to the invitees. 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

After Seemantham and Delivery - Formalities

After the completion of the Seemantham function, the next day is considered to be an apt day for the woman to leave her spouse’s house and go to her Mom’s house for delivery. Even though the next calendar day is not that great, usually this day is considered suitable to start. Nowadays, since women also balance their career along with their house hold responsibilities, they do not start immediately after the next day of Seemantham. Hence an auspicious day is chosen to start from her MIL’s Home.
Before the pregnant woman leaves home she has to perform Namaskaran to the cooking stove. She should dip her hand with oil (if not fully slightly rub oil) and place a mark on the wall near the cooking stove. We believe that cooking stove is goddess Lakshmi. Hence it is a formal way of saying that she will leave her home for delivery and come back to take care of her responsibilities in her spouse’s house as a mother.

The pregnant woman while travelling has to carry some cooked food that includes salt. Usually a small portion of curd rice or idly is preferred. Believe this is required since, our grandpas and grandmas have to travel long hours to reach their home. This food would be useful while travelling. However, even though the mothers’ house is in the next street, this ritual is followed.
The pregnant woman should carry a small bunch of Veppaillai (Neem leaf) while traveling. This is usually followed, whenever the pregnant woman goes out of her house. This is also a must when she travels for delivery.

Most importantly, her husband should not come forward to send off when she leaves to her mom’s home for delivery.

After delivery, an auspicious day during the 3rd or 5th month (odd) is selected by elders, when she is coming back to her MIL’s home. If the Pregnant woman starts from her Mil’s house during the odd month, then travelling back also should be odd month and the same with even month as well.

Whoever is accompanying the infant and the mother while returning back to her MIL’s house after delivery should be honored with a small gift that is usually a Saree. This is considered as an honor to the Sampandhi for safely taking care of the mother and child during and after delivery.

I will share about the detailing of how to take care of a pregnant woman before delivery and the infant mother after delivery shortly. 

Sunday, 7 February 2016


Amavasai/No moon day is considered to be the most auspicious day to perform rituals to our ancestors. On the day of Amavasai, we should take head bath (not oil bath) early in the morning. Kolam is not drawn on the entrance until the ritual of offering Tharpanam is completed. Children/elders  who have parents should not take head bath. None of the gents are allowed to shave beard. We should not cut nails/hair on that day.

This time Amavasai happening on Monday during the Tamil month of “Thai” adds more value to the auspiciousness. This day occurring tomorrow happens once in 32 years called as Mahodhaya Amavasai. My neighbor who is a senior Pandit explained me the significance of the day. Tomorrow (8-Feb-2016) is a Monday (Somavaram) combined with Thiruvonam Nakshatram and Vyathipaadham. People who have to perform Tharpanam used to go to river bank to perform this ritual. Tomorrow, by early morning during sunrise Tharpanam has to be performed once. After that once again usual Tharpanam is also performed.

Gents who have to perform Tharpanam should complete the ritual first preferably with the guidance of their Guru (Pandit of their family). This is to ensure that we offer at least a small value of fund to our Guru. After performing the Tharpanam, gents have to perform their regular Pooja whatever they usually do at home and Sandhiya vandanam. Female members will lit the lamp and draw Kolam as soon as the ritual is completed. Male members who have lost their father become eligible for doing Tharpanam. His spouse also has to undergo fasting on this day. Usually, as part of fasting, people skip breakfast. They consume lunch directly that is prepared without onion and garlic. Dinner was also skipped by most of the people. However, nowadays due to the work culture and health issues, we consume some simple food like idly, Oats Poridge, Upma or Dosa. The dinner is also prepared without onion and garlic.

In my grand fathers home, they prepare Paysam, Vadai, Thayir Pachadi, sambar, Rasam, Plaintain curry, (is a must on the day of Amavasai) and koottu. This heavy lunch fill their tummy thus enable them avoid the dinner.

Tomorrow being Thai Amavasai, Paruppu Payasam is prepared on the day and offered to god. Raw rice with black ellu (Ajwain seeds) is offered to the crow before we consume food. Refer my Pongal Festival Post for the list of vegetables that should not be used on this day.

Children are not allowed to undergo fasting on this day. Especially, those who have parents must ensure to have a small portion of Rice for dinner.

My perimma is here with me for few days. I heard that her grandma taught her a kolam that is drawn on the Pooja room on the no moon day. This Includes the pictorial representation of a Snake, Crab and a Sangu and they offer milk to god on the day. By offering the snake crab and milk, the belief is that their family members do not get to see the reptiles that ensure their safety.

My perimma was working in a small village where there is frequent roaming of Snakes. But by following the above ritual, she had never seen a snake nor disturbed. However, her companions at work while walking to work or coming back frequently get to see the reptiles.

On this Thai Amavasai that occurs on Monday, it is believed that offering to needy people, brings in loads of goodness to our family.

I was also advised to go to the nearest temple and round the Arasamaram ( Peepal tree) early in the morning. 

Monday, 1 February 2016


Though lot of formalities of Seemantham are taken care by Pandit (Sasthrigal), the family members also have to be prepared with the rituals that are followed in their families.

Seemantham is performed on the 8th month of pregnancy (Tamil month).

After Valaikaappu function is completed in the morning, the pregnant woman along with her husband will be dressed up with traditional wear for the next occasion Seemantham.

The pregnant woman and the lady (thunai manai), who accompanied for Valaikaappu, will be offered with some food. I had idly brought from my uncle’s home. In my sister’s family, they give Pongal and Vadaam to the both ladies.

First ritual is the Uthagashanthi performed by the priests. They chant Mantras and make the water in the Kalasam sacred. The pregnant woman has to change the saree and be prepared for Abishekam with the sacred water in the kalasam that was kept in the Pooja. Husband has the privilege to pour the water on her wife. Songs are also sung at that time. Since the Pregnant woman used to wear her Koorrai pudavai at the time of the function, she has to change the saree before Abishekam. Upon completion of Abishekam, the saree that was worn during Abishekam will be offered to a Sumangali lady. Manai Palakai decorated with Kolam is required during Abishekam. 

The ritual of squeezing drop of a mixture (explained below) is also performed by her spouse. The mixture will be tied at the end of the saree and squeezed into the nose of the pregnant woman. It is very small drop that won’t harm the woman while inhaling in. This ritual will not be seen by all the invitees of the function. Usually, a saree will be used to hide the event. This function is mentioned as Mookku pizhidhal. While doing this the woman should not sneeze. It is also believed that the delivery will be safe if Saree used for this ritual (usually the saree worn during Marriage) is worn for a while when the delivery pain starts.  

People who belong to Yajur Vedam will mix alam mottu and milk and blend it in stone mortar. People following Rig Vedam use Arukampul (Bermuda grass) and milk to prepare this mixture. This ritual is done by girl Children who is yet to attain puberty (kanya pengal). While blending the mixture the girls used to tell “Aambala petha Pombala Petha”.

Elders used to follow an interesting ritual during this function. Sprouted green moong dhall, Appam and Kozhukattai will be prepared and put together in a cover and tied in the Saree (Madi kattuvadhu) of the pregnant woman. Again odd number of Appam and Kozhukattai should be placed in the cover. A small child will be asked to pick any one from the bunch of Appam and Kozhukattai. If the child picks an Appam, it is believed that a girl baby is expected and a boy if Kozhukattaiis picked.

While the pregnant woman eats her lunch in the afternoon, she has to feed a small portion of Dhall rice mixed with Ghee to a small child. Elders usually prefer a male baby to accept the feed.

Achutham Thelithal is also an important ritual followed in the function. Milk and honey mixed together in a small vessel will be sprinkled gently on the lower hip of the pregnant woman using flowers. Flowers dipped in the mixture will be sprinkled by elderly ladies.  The pregnant woman has to bend down to enable the elders to perform this ritual.

In the evening, elders conduct a function called Poochoottal. Sister in law of the pregnant woman offer flowers to the pregnant woman, gift a saree or something as per her wish. Songs are also an important part of this function. At the end of the function Aarthi is taken.

One more interesting procedure that is followed during the function is that, sis-in-law of the pregnant woman utters the below stanza in the ears.

" Manaa Panaa Kettukko, Vayittru pillai Kettukko, Sakkarai kuttiye Seekkiram vaa"