April 2007

Senses are the subtle instincts that guide the living being throughout its entire life. Many have attempted to classify the senses of various living beings especially humans. Though Thirumoolar has classified the senses of human beings to be 10 (Article here), the widely accepted fact is the human are six-sensed beings. It is interesting to know that this classification of beings based on the numbers of senses they predominantly use, has been done way back by the Tamil people.

The classification of the senses and the specifying of beings that fall under this classification is found in the oldest surviving work on Tamil Grammar – The Thollkaappiyam. Thollkaappiyam is a combination of the words Thonmai (very old, ancient) + Kaappiyam (Literature). The name Thollkaappiyam stood because the actual time when this piece of literature was written is not known, some say it is over 2000 years old and some say it was written between 1st CE and 10th CE. Also some say that the name of the author, Thollkaappiyar, is a generic name derived from the name of the work, as the exact details of the person who wrote it is not known. And some strongly believe that Thollkaappiyar was a disciple of Agathiar, the first and foremost of Siddhars and Thollkaappiyar wrote his work based on Agathiar’s work Agathiam. However, Thollkaappiyam is a masterpiece and the oldest surviving work on literature on any language. Well, lets get back to the classification.

Thollkaappiyar, classifies the beings based on the senses they use predominantly, in the section called Marabiyal (Marabu – generally accepted practices since old days, culture, tradition. Iyal – Research work, Science). The poems in each called Suthirams (Formulae) describe about various aspects of grammar, habitat, etc. The song that we intend to read goes like this

“Ondru Arivadhuvae Uttru Arivadhuvae
Irandu Arivadhuvae Adhanodu Naavae

Mondru Arivadhuvae Avattrodu Mookae

Naangu Arivadhuvae Avattrodu Kannae

Aindhu Arivadhuvae Avattrodu Seviyae

Aaru Arivadhuvae Avattrodu Mananae

Naeridhin Unarrndhor Neripaduthinarae”

meaning, beings with one sense are those that have the sense of TOUCH. Beings with two senses are those that have the sense of TASTE along with the above. Beings with three senses, have sense of SMELL in addition. Beings with four senses, have sense of SIGHT, along with the above. Beings with five senses, have sense of HEARING, in addition. The beings with six senses, have a MIND, along with the above. The people who have realised this truth have classified and organised it appropriately

Ondru, Irandu, Moondru, Naangu, Aindhu, Aaru – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 respectively
Arivadhu – Know, feel, realise, sense
Uttru – Touch, come into contact

Athanodu – Along with some other thing (usually when the number of objects is two)
Avattrodu – Along with some other things (usually when the number of objects is more than two)

Naavu – Tongue, in this context, taste

Mooku – Nose (for sense Smell)

Kann – Eye (Sight)

Sevi – Ear (Hearing)
Manam – Mind
Naer Idhu – This truth (the above mentioned classification)

Unarrndhor – People who realised this truth
Neripaduthinarae – Classified and organised the truth

Thollkaappiyar, does not stop with this classification alone, he also gives examples of beings in each of these classifications. The poems go like below

“Pullum Maranum Ore Arivinavae
Piravum Ulavae Akkilai Pirappae”

meaning Grass (Pull) and Trees (Maram) have single sense, that is the sense of touch. Similar beings also form part of this branch.

“Nandhum Muralum Eer Arivinavae
Piravum Ulavae Akkilai Pirappae”

meaning Snails (Nandhu) and Oysters or Molluscs (Mural) have two senses,the sense of touch and taste. Similar beings also form part of this branch.

“Sidhalum Erumbum Moo Arivinavae

Piravum Ulavae Akkilai Pirappae”

meaning Termites (Sidhal) and Ants (Erumbu) have three senses, the sense of touch, taste and smell. Similar beings also form part of this branch.

“Nandum Thumbiyum Naangu Arivinavae

Piravum Ulavae Akkilai Pirappae”

meaning Crabs or Crustaceans (Nandu) and Dragonfly or Beetles (Thumbi) have four senses, the sense of touch, taste, smell and vision. Similar beings also form part of this branch.

“Maavum Maakkalum Aindhu Arivinavae

Piravum Ulavae Akkilai Pirappae”

meaning Horses, Elephants, Pigs (Maa) and Other similar animals and birds (Maakkal) have five senses, the sense of touch, taste, smell, vision and hearing. Similar beings also form part of this branch.

“Makkalthamae Aaru Arivu Uyirae
Piravum Ulavae Akkilai Pirappae”

meaning Only humans have six senses, the sense of touch, taste, smell, vision, hearing and mind. Similar beings also form part of this branch.

Truly amazing classification, though these classifications are based on the what the beings predominantly use for their survival. For eg though the ants have eyes, they predominantly use the three senses mentioned above. This proves that Thollkaappiyar is not only an expert in literature and grammar, but also a multi-faceted human having expertise in animal and plant life and other sciences too. It is no surprise that the Tamil Culture having an ancient history that spans over thousands of years to have made this classification and much more. His work in our hands is what we need to be proud of and we can proclaim it to the world for generations to come that our culture, tradition and civilisation has a long standing history that only a very few cultures have in this world. The pdf version of the Thollkaappiyam can be found here.

More to come, until then…


When we utter the term encyclopaedia, most English Encyclopaedia come readily into our thought; The Brittanica Encyclopaedia, Encarta Encyclopaedia etc are the ones that most of us remember, and most recently the online free encyclopaedia – The Wikipedia, is gaining its grounds among the people. Only a few of us know that an Encyclopaedia in Tamil Literature also exists. Earlier in Tamil Literature, dictionaries that are so organised, as the English counterparts, did not exist, however they existed in the form of a composition called Nigandu.

Later people started to realise the need of a Tamil Dictionary and started composing dictionaries. During those days, composing a dictionary is a herculean task, as they did not have the power of computers that could sort the entries at the touch of a button. But still there wasn’t a work that matched to that of an Encyclopaedia. And, nearly a century ago, a great man named, Mr. A. Singaraveloo Mudhaliyar, took the pains to compose the Encyclopaedia of Tamil Literature. He was a Tamil Pandit in the famous Pachaiappa’s College in Chennai. His mentor was Mr. C Gopalarayar, the Headmaster of the institution, who gave the encouragement and the material to start of the work.

Singaraveloo Mudhaliyar, started off the work just like that around the year 1890 AD and he named his work as “Puraana Naamaavali”. As the work progressed, he began to feel it to be hard and tough to continue as he had to go looking for many resources. But the resources and the material he had in had was not sufficient to continue with his work.

So he went to many places in search of information, indeed a lot. His money reserves were quite low being a Tamil Pandit in those days was not so lucrative, but people had high respect for teachers and professors. In spite of that he took the pains to gather information from all sources he had access.

The real pain was to collect those information and write then in the correct alphabetical order. It was the days of pre-computing civilisation, where all the work had to be done manually. Rearranging and organising those entries, is almost rewriting them again and again as new information is being obtained. We could feel the pain if we imagine the amount of work he would have done just to organise the entries as new information flows in.

These pains that Singaraveloo Mudhaliyar underwent resulted in one of the great masterpieces, “Abithana Chinthamani” (Puraana Naamaavali renamed). The initial edition was around 1050 pages. But this was not all and it seems Singaraveloo Mudhaliyar’s fate decided that the pains he underwent were not enough.

He went to many people, who were then wealthy in Madras (The then Chennai), with the manuscripts of his great work, Abithana Chinthamani. All admired and even praised his work but simply stated, without offering any help, that publishing this would cost more. Then he thought of publishing it as a periodical and printing leaflets about his work, but only a few subscribed. He got dejected and he felt sad that his work and efforts could be a failure.

But then the copies of his work reached the then Zamindar of Palavanatham and the President of the Madurai Tamizh Sangam, Mr. Pandithoraiswami Thevar. The Zamindar went to Chennai to meet Singaraveloo Mudhaliyar and gave instructions to the Madurai Tamizh Sangam Press to write a clean copy of it and ordered it to be printed in the printing press in Madras. And thus came into existence in 1910 AD, the 20 twenty years of hard work of Singaraveloo Mudhaliyar, Abithana Chintamani.

The book became popular and can be considered a de facto standard for Tamil Encyclopaedia. Even after that the author gathered many information. And on 1931 AD, he passed away and he left his additional work with his son, Sivaprakasa Mudhaliyar – a postmaster, who also took pains to publish the second edition with the help of a person named Thiruvarur Somasundar Desikar who worked in the Lexical Department of the Madras University, the position held by Singaraveloo Mudhaliyar before his death. The second edition of Abithana Chinthamani was published posthumously in the year 1934 AD and it contained 1634 pages of information. Now the work has been edited and now has about 2000 pages of information.

Had it not been for Singaraveloo Mudhaliyar, we would not have got the great work, the Encyclopaedia for Tamil Literature, Abithana Chintamani. Lets honour this great man and his work, and if possible we should buy a copy of his work in his honour.

More to come, until then…

Privacy, Confidentiality and Sensitive Information are very important things that all of us tend to be careful about in this Internet-enabled world. The information that are considered private and confidential quite personal to each individual, revealing them makes one feel insecure, ashamed etc. So what are the factors that are considered as privacy. Nowadays, the list goes like credit card numbers, mobile phone numbers, bank account numbers etc. The fact about privacy is not an awareness that was created recently. It dates back to the eighteenth century, where a poet named Ambalavana Kavirayar in his work, Arappaleeswara Sadhagam, has described about what to tell and what not to tell to the world. His work is in praise of Lord Shiva, called Arappaleeswarar, in a town called Seergazhi, and the place is called Sadhuragiri with the temple called Arappaleeswaram.

His literary work, the Arappaleeswara Sadhagam, consists of 100 songs that praise Lord Arappaleeswarar. Sadhagam is one of the 96 Prabandhams. It consists of 100 songs that either praises the Gods or describes about Love etc. This Arappaleeswara Sadhagam not only praises Lord Shiva, but also tells about good deeds, morals and characteristics of various things. And this is where Ambalavana Kavirayarar has sung about what to tell and what not to tell. The song goes like this

“Senmitha Varudamum Undaana Aththamum
Theedhil Gragachaaramum
Thindru Varum Oudathamum Maelanaa Desikan
Seppiya Maha Mandhiramum
Punmai Avamanamum Dhaanamum Paimpon Ani
Punaiyum Madavaar Kalaviyum
Pugazh Mayvum Maanamum Ivai Onbadhum Thamadhu
Pundhikkullae Vaipadhae
Dharmam Endru Urai Seivar Onnaar Karuthaiyum
Thann Piniyaiyum Pasiyaiyum
Thaan Seidha Paavamum Ivai Ellam Veru Oruvar
Thann Seviyil Vaipadhu Eyalbaam
Annmaruvu Kandanae Moondru Ulagum Eendra Umai
Anbanae Arumai Madhavael
Anu Dhinamum Manadhil Ninai Tharu Sadhuragiri Vala
Arappaleeswara Devanae”

meaning, The year of birth, The wealth acquired, Planetary positions when they are good in one’s zodiac chart, The medicines being taken, The mantra uttered by the Guru, The mean insults, The donations and benefactions, Intimacy with women, The dignity that brings fame – all these nine things should be kept within oneself as they are considered as private and should not be publicised to the world. The intentions of the enemies, The troubles one has, Hunger, The sins committed will usually be shared with someone else. Concluding with this moral, this stanza is completed with the praise of Lord Arappaleeswarar stating that his throat is dark as He ate the great poison obtained along with the divine potion called Amirdham, after churning the ocean of milk. And He is the consort of the Goddess Parvathi, who created all the three types of worlds. And this Lord Arappaleeswarar is being worshipped daily by the patron of the poet called Madhavael.

Senmitha – Being born
Varudam – Year
Undaana – Created, Acquired, Resulted
Aththamum – Wealth
Theedhil – Theedhu (Bad) + Ill (Negation), which means without being bad
Thindru Varum – Thindru (Eat) + Varum (Come, Continuing something)
Oudatham – Medicines
Maelana Desikan – Guru, Teacher
Seppiyya – Uttered, Said
Maha Mandhiram – The great or important mantra or advice
Punmai – Mean, Cheap, Misery
Avamaanam – Insult
Dhaanam – Donations
Paimpon Ani – Pure gold ornaments
Madavaar – Women
Kalavi – Intimacy
Ivai – These
Onbadhu – Nine
Thamadhu – Oneself
Pundhikkullae – In the mind
Vaipadhu – Keeping, holding
Dharmam – Good deed, Moral etiquette
Onnaar – Enemies
Karuthu – Intentions, Thoughts
Thann – Oneself
Pini – Troubles, Diseases etc
Pasi – Hunger
Paavam – Sin
Veru Oruvar – Other persons
Seviyil – Ears
Vaipadhu – Put, Tell, Hold, Keep
Iyalbu – Natural, Usually
Anmaruvu – Dark part
Kandam – Throat
Moondru Ulagam – Three Worlds
Eendra – Give birth, Create
Umai – Goddess Parvathi
Anbanae – Lover, Person showing Kindness
Madhavael – Patron of Ambalavana Kavirayar
Anu Dhinam – Every Day
Manadhil – Mind
Ninai – Think
Tharu – Giver, Tree
Sadhuragiri – Place in Seergaazhi
Arappaleeswara Devanae – Lord Arappaleeswarar

Some of the details like year of birth could not be hidden these days, but the actual intention to not reveal the year of birth was that the general characteristics of the person could be found if the year of birth is known. But the other things are considered private even today. Lets honour the great mind Ambalavana Kavirayar for his excellent work – The Arappaleeswara Sadhagam – and let his work be propagated for generations to come.

More to come, until then…

Vasuki, the name that has stood from the days of the legend till date. Vasuki refers to two identities, one is the five-headed snake that was used as a rope, tied around Mount Meru to churn the ocean of milk to get the Amirdham, the sacred potion that would give immortality. The other identity is the female icon who is eulogised as an epitome of chastity and the devotion to her husband has exalted her in the minds of the Tamil people and also considered virtuous. She is considered equal to Kannagi, Savithiri, Nalaayini and other women whose devotion to their husband exalted them in the minds of the people.

Devotion to the husband does not mean that the wife is a slave, and nobody in the legend and real life treat them that way. Devotion means the understanding, the belief and the faith they had in their spouse. This devotion also applies to men. And Lord Rama stands as an example of a devout husband by being an “Eka Pathini Viradhan” meaning, a devout husband to one and only wife.

Vasuki Ammaiyar was a devout wife of the great Thiruvalluvar, who wrote the 1330 couplets of the Thirukkural. Her exaltation was due to the fact of her devotion to her husband and the great respect she had in him. Also Thiruvalluvar had very great respect for her, on seeing her devotion and respect for him. He knew that she has the power to do anything because she was a “Pathiviradhai” – meaning a devout wife (Pathi means husband, Viradhai means woman devotee). When he went to ask her father to have Vasuki in marriage, he tested her by giving her a bag of sand and asked her to cook delicious food. She accepted and her undiverted thoughts made the sand into a great meal.

The reason that Vasuki is so exalted as a devout wife is a series of events that showed her power to the world because of the devotion she had. I am posting a few of them that I remember. These legends have been passed on for generations since Vasuki’s time.

Once was drawing water from the well that was in the backside of their house. And then Thiruvalluvar called for her. On hearing her husband calling, she left the rope that she was pulling and ran to address him. The pot that she was pulling out of the well while drawing the water, was in mid air. And when Vasuki ran to address her husband’s call, the pot did not fall into the water from mid-air. Instead it hung as Vasuki left it. It did not fall back into the well. People believe it is because of the devotion she had in her husband that all the things in the world came into her control without any question.

Another event in her life is that, Valluvar used to have his meal in the plantain leaf. One day, he told Vasuki that she should keep a bowl of water and a thorn nearby the plantain leaf, whenever she serves food for him. She did not question, why Valluvar asked her to do so. However after every meal, she noticed that Valluvar used neither the bowl of water nor the thorn. She was puzzled; however, she did not ask a question and start an argument, but thought that there could be some reason. And during her death, when she was was in her deathbed, Valluvar asked if she wanted him to do anything for her. She told that she was very much blessed to live a life with Valluvar, but she wanted to know the reason why he asked her to keep the bowl of water and thorn during every meal in spite of not using them. Valluvar replied that each grain of rice is a farmer’s effort and that should not go wasted. So while serving food if any grain of rice spilled out of the plaintain leaf into the sand, he could prick it with the thorn and then wash it in the bowl of water and then eat it. But Vasuki’s way of serving was so careful and more gentle that he did not have the need to use it. She was proud and happy when she died, that her husband had high regards and respect in her and she has fulfilled her part as a wife to the great man whom the world reveres.

There is one more incident that really proves her virtuousness. There was a Siddhar named Kongani Siddhar also called Konganavar. When Konganavar was meditating deeply as a penance, a stork that flew above dropped its excrement on him. He came out of his meditation in anger and furiously looked at the stork and the stork was burnt alive. This incident made him to take pride of the powers he obtained out of his penance. And one day, he went to Thiruvalluvar’s home to ask food. At that time, Thiruvalluvar was having his meal and Vasuki was serving him. She said that she will address Konganavar in a bit and asked him to wait. Konganavar could wait no long looked furiously at her. Nothing happened, Konganavar looked puzzled. Vasuki on seeing him puzzled uttered the following

“Kokku Endru Enninayo Konganavaa?”

meaning did you think that I am the same stork that you burnt earlier.

Kokku – Stork
Endru Enninayo – Think (Enni) that way (Endru)
Konganavaa – Kongani Siddhar.

Now, Konganavar was baffled even more. He was puzzled how Vasuki knew that he burnt a stork alive just by looking furiously at it. And then realised that it was Vasuki’s virtuousness that enabled her to visualise what had happened. He felt ashamed and apologised to Vasuki for her mistake and went away.

Vasuki’s virtuousness was the reason that Thiruvalluvar sang a complete Adhikaaram (Chapter) called Vaazhkai Thunai Nalam, meaning welfare of the spouse in which the following couplet appears.

“Dheivam Thozhaal Kozhunan Thozhudhezhuvaal
Peyena Peyyum Mazhai”

meaning, a woman who is devout to her husband need not worship any God. And she is comparable to the rains that pours when in great need, so virtuous and inevitable. There is even another interpretation, which means, The rains will pour when a wife, who is devout to her husband, orders the rains to do so. It symbolises that the even Nature will heed to the virtuous women.

Dheivam Thozhaal – Woman who does not worship God (Dheivam). Thozhudhal indicated worship
Kozhunan – Husband, Head of the family
Thozhudhu – Worship
Ezhuvaal – Raise after worship
Peyena – Order the rains to pour
Peyyum – The act of rains pouring
Mazhai – Rain

Vasuki and Thiruvalluvar’s virtuousness is an example for all of us on how to live a life that will bring happiness to all. The trust and the faith that the spouses have in each other exalts them in the way they live their life on the planet. Lets hail Vasuki for generations to come and let her serves as an example of a modest and virtuous woman for the generations to come

More to come, until then…

The Kumbeshwarar Temple, stands as a heart of the temple city Kumbakonam. The temple is over 1,300 years old. Built, patronised, renovated and maintained by various kings from the Pallava period, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Nayaks etc. The reason for Kumbakonam getting its name is because of the legend associated with the Kumbeshwarar Temple and The Mahamaham Tank.

The legend goes like this. There was a great deluge that was to destroy all life on this planet. So the Gods – Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma put the seed of life in a pot, called Kudam or the Kumbham, and left it afloat in the deluge waters. The Kumbham went adrift and finally hit at a place and stopped after deluge. The place it hit is called Thirukudandhai or Thiruvidandhai because the Pot of life stopped here. There Lord Shiva opened the pot of life and beings sprang back to life and hence the name of the Lord in this temple is Aadi Kumbeshwarar. Aadhi means beginning in Tamil (being the beginner of Life). Kumbeshwarar means Kumbam + Eashwar (Lord Shiva).

One of the main mega events that happen at Kumbeshwarar Temple is at the Mahamaham Pond called the MahaMaham. This event happens once every twelve years in which a huge crowd gathers and immerse themselves in the waters of the tank. It occurs during the day on which the Magam Natchathiram (Zodiac Star) falls in the month of Maasi (that occurs during mid-January to mid-February). It is believed that all the sacred waters conglomerate at the Mahamaham tank as the great deluge brought them all here and to remember the revival of life. It is celebrate every 12 years. During the festival the idols of Gods is brought in a palanquin through various streets of the city and then the holy rituals and sacred verses are enchanted and then the idols are immersed in the tank. It is believed that those who either bathe or sprinkle the water of the Mahamaham pond during the Mahamaham festival have their sins washed away. The festival was celebrated during 2004 and it will be celebrated again on 2016. Lets see if we could make it for the celebration that happens on 2016

The temple is huge and has 3 prakarams and has a Raja Gopuram that is 8 storeys high. Many people have sung in praise of this temple. A work similar to the Chitira Thaer in Saarangapani Temple could also be found inside this temple. The song was sung by Thirugnana Sambandhar. It is inside the temple, so photos are prohibited. Now lets see some pictures of this magnificient and prominent temple.
The 8-storeyed Raja Gopuram from inside

The Raja Gopuram, another view (Pradeep and Vijayendran in the snap)

The Raja Gopuram from inside (from the South)

Close up view of the Raja Gopuram

The gopuram at the second level entrance

Another Close-up view of the Raja Gopuram

Mangalam – The temple elephant with its mahout

Mangalam – The temple elephant blessing Vijayendran

Mangalam – The temple elephant with its mahout

The Mahamaham Tank full view
The Mahamaham Tank another view
The Mahamaham Tank another view
The Mahamaham Tank during the Mahamaham festival

The Mahamaham Tank

More to come, until then…

The Saarangapani Temple adorns the heart of the divine city Kumbakonam. Built around the time of the Pallavas and renovated and reconstructed and repaired by the Nayak Kings around the 15th century, is a masterpiece that stands 12 storeys and a staggering 150 ft high. The main gopuram has exquisite sculptures, that symbolises the creativity and the hard work of our ancestors. The temple is devoted to Lord Rama. The deities are named Saarangapani and Komalavalli Thaayar. Lets see the amazing and the wonderful pics of the great temple.

The main Raja Gopuram (Pradeep just getting into the view)

Close-up view from the front. The soaring 12-storey Gopuram is stupendous

The vertical view from the base of the Gopuram

Vertical View from the base of the Gopuram, with a flock of pigeons flying

View of the Gopuram, from inside the temple

Vertical View from the Base of the Gopuram inside the temple

Compare the height of the Gopuram – Yamanoor, Myself and Pradeep standing

Exquisite and artistic sculptures on the Gopuram

A close view of the sculptures of the Gopuram

Another close view of the sculptures of the Gopuram

The Chithira Thaer

View of the Gopuram from inside the Pragaram (View from North-West)

View of the Gopuram from inside the Someshwarar Temple

Another view of the Gopuram from inside the Someshwarar Temple

Photographs are allowed only outside the sanctum sanctorum. But the Manadapam in the sanctum sanctorum, is in the shape of a chariot driven by horses and elephants and it is so beautifully carved and a hall before the sanctum sanctorum, has a set of pillars, the sculptures of which are out of this world. A must see place!! More high resolution pics here

More to come, until then…

Bananas, the universal fruit that has its place in all auspicious occasions in our culture. This is the third of the Mukkani, called the Vaazhai Pazham. It is available throughout all the seasons in the year. However, the windy season that falls around July-August is when the plantain gets destroyed by winds and that might cause a bit of lag in the arrival of bananas to the market. Its availability througout the year has made it a fruit for all auspicious occasions. Be it a marriage, a celebration or a temple festival, the banana takes the first place among all the fruits. The occasions are celebrated at least with the banana if not the other fruits.

There are many varieties that are available such as the Poovan, Moreese, Rasthaali, Robusta, Sevvaazhai, Naadan, Karpoora Valli, Nendhran, Mondhampazham. Each of these varieties has a unique taste and aroma. Poovan is the most common variety. Nendhran is the one used to make chips when it is unripe. The Karpoora Valli has a very good taste. The Naadan is a variety where people also eat, besides the fruit, the inner side of the peeled skin that has soft layer. Apart from these varieties there are varieties that grow in the mountains, called the Malai Pazham. They also have a very good taste. Normally, the word Pazham, that literally means a fruit, is used to indicate a banana in the common sense. The other fruits are addressed with their respective names like Maampazham, Palaapazham and so on. Though there is a name Vaazhai that is also common, the word Pazham is used more often to indicate it.

The speciality of banana as plant is that all the parts of the plant are used by us – the whole plant, the leaf, the stem, the bark, the flower and the fruit. The parts of the plantain plant are being used by humans since the old ages. The whole plant is used in all auspicious occasions mostly marriage and temple festivals etc. It is used to indicate the prolonged existence of the family for a generations. People tie is at the entrance where the auspicious event occurs as an indication of successful chain of existence. As the term, “Vaazhai Adi Vaazhai”, which means, as the young sapling that grows beside the fully grown tree, the family would also sustain its chain the the plantain.

The plantain leaf is used a disposable plate after serving food items. People eat food being served and then they dispose it. This is the first known disposable, eco-friendly utility used by humans. Though there are others like the Paaku mattai and other leaves that are broad enough to hold food, the plantain is more common and being used widely. It is said that eating food served in has some medicinal value and keeps us young. There is even a record about a poet named Pisiraanthaiyaar, who was a dear friend of a great Chola King called Ko Perum Cholan, ate food being served only on a plantain leaf and his appearance remained young that he did not have a single grey hair till his death. Before food is being served, the plantain leaf if washed with water and then food is served. The plantain leaf is used in all occasions like marriage etc for serving food and they disposing off after the meal is over. It is the one of the hygenic ways of taking food. The plantain leaf is very fragile that it could tear off easily, and that is the reason it becomes very costly during windy season.

The stem of the plant called the Vaazhai Thandu, is also used as a recipe. The common recipe is the Kootu, Porial. It is more fibrous and good for health. People cut is across and then into small pieces and collect a fibrous thread that appears while cutting across and then they soak it either into the water in which the rice was washed called the Kazhani Thanni or simple plain water or in the water mixed with dilute curd, so that its colour does not become pale after chopping. It is recommended as a medicine for people who have kidney stones. The Vaazhai Thandu has the ability to dissolve kidney stones, and also alleviate the problem if it is worse. The juice extract is also recommended for these patients. It is also used as a medicine to stop severe diarrhoea. The fibrous thread that comes out when the stem is cut across is collected, dried out and used as a oil-wick for lamps

The bark is stripped of the plant, dried out and then torn vertically as strings that is used to make garlands that is used to decorate the Idols, Statues of Gods in temples. It is called the Vaazhai Naar. Even today it is used by many to make garlands.

The flower called the Vaazhai Poo, is also used as a recipe. People pull out a strong string like structure from each bud of the flower and then cut it across into small pieces and they put it either into the Kazhani Thanni or Plain Water or in the water mixed with dilute curd. The Vaazhai Poo is used as a cure to constipation and his a healthy diet.

There is also another way where the banana is consumed; it is taken as a medicine. That is called the Baspam, the ash after incinerating a thing. There are many baspams the famous one is the gold baspam, very rare and very hard to prepare but very potent. The gold baspam has very strict procedures for consuming, if not followed it could be fatal. But proper usage is more powerful and enables healthy living. The Vaazhai baspam, is very difficult to prepare that many researchers have failed to prepare it. Their attempt resulted in the banana being charred and not being converted into ash. But our siddhars had an easy way of converting the banana into ash that is very cheap and simple that it uses, just the bark of the neem tree and the cloth that is soaked in red soil called Semmann and some camphor to burn it. That ash is consumed to live a healthy life. There is even a medical preparation with the banana that reduces body heat that works well than any other preparation. Also to have easy digestion, people eat a banana after their meal.

The most important preparation out of the banana is the Panchamirdham, that consists of 5 items that are sweet. Its ingredients are the Banana, Dates, Vellam (Kandhsari Sugar), Kalkandu, Honey. Of all the Panchamirdhams, the Palani Panchamirdham is the most popular one.

So the banana is such a divine fruit that the plant gives itself as a whole for the benefit of the people. There are many literary contexts of the banana used in Tamil Literature, some of which are as follows.

The song by Avaiyar in her work, Nallvazhi sings the following song that mentions the plantain

“Nandu Sippi Vei Kadhali Naasamurum Kaalathil
Konda Karuvalikkum Kolgaipol OneThodee
Podham Dhanam Kalvi Pondravarum Kaalam Ayal
Maadhar Mael Vaippar Manam”

meaning, like the Crab, Clamshell, Vengai (a species of tiger in which the cub is born by tearing its mother’s stomach) and the Plantain, that dies when its offsprings arrive. Men will destroy themselves when a mind offsprings a thought for other women than their own.

The famous Kaalamegam also compares, a banana and a snake, in his pun filled poem

“Nanjirukkum Tholurikkum Naadharmudi Mael Irukkum
Venjinathil Pall Pattaal Meelaadhu Vinju Malar
Thaenpaayum Solai Thirumalairaayan Varayil
Paambaagum Vaazhai Pazham”

the meaning, first about snake – It has poison (Nanju). It sheds off skin (Thol). It is on top of Lord Shiva’s head (Naadhar Mudi). If it strikes with its fangs in anger, then the poison would kill the person. Likewise for the banana – It would seems as if crushed, when it is ripe (Nanji Irukkum). You have to peel the skin to eat it. If hit goes between the teeth of a person, the banana is crushed. It stays on top of the Shiva Lingam as Panchamirdham. So by comparison, in the mountains of Thirumalairaayan, the snake is same as the banana

Both Avaiyar and Kambar have used the following lines when they realised that have to learn a lot besides being great poets.

“Karungaali Kattaikku Vaai Naana Kodari
Ilam Vaazhai Thandirkku Vaai Naanitru”

meaning, the axe that did not give up even for the hardest Karungaali (a tree) wood, gave up for a tender plantain (banana tree) stem. Actually it is hard to cut the banana stem across with an axe that is capable of cutting the hardest woods.

There are even, negative comparisons to the plantain too. For people who are the slow learners and not as smart, they are compared to Vaazhai Mattai (The bark of the banana tree). The mediocres are compared to wood, and the really smart people are compared to camphor. This comparison is based on the burning ability the above.

The other one is about the benefit derived out of friendship. The people who give are close and give benefit only if well tended and maintained are compared to the plantain. The people who help out if they are just well fed are compared to the coconut tree. The people who help out without any expectations are compared to the palm tree.

Though there are good and not good contexts about the banana. It forms a staple diet for the people in our country. The greatness of the blessed fruit that brings joy to all who eat it is a bliss for a lifetime to remember. And its place as a fruit for all auspicious occasions confers the honour for the fruit that has brought joy for generations since the old days. This post completes the information about the Mukkani (Maa, Palaa, Vaazhai).

More to come, until then…