The mark of a brahmin woman
It was a silent evening at home while I watched my mother prepare for Varalakshmi Nombu. The priced wooden temple came out of its bag and I proceeded with the yearly ritual of assembling the parts together. My fascination for temples made me look at this small mandapam in wood wondering whether I would be able to carve something similar.
An ancient bag, almost belonging to the previous century came back home from the bank with all silver items in it. Part of the booty was a silver pot, kuthi vallaku(lamps) and of course Amman herself wrapped in a red cloth which was her dress for the puja. Amman, wore necklaces made of semi precious stones, an elaborate nose ring, beautiful earrings that gave life to her bright eyes.
The following morning, Amma was draped in her madi saree (9 yard saree) reciting mantra and meticulously doing the puja. I watched Amma in her madi saree, a fairly complex outfit with innumerably tucks and twists to finally give the most gorgeous outlook to a brahmin woman - the virtues of Amman herself.
Amma was complete, with metti(toe rings) in her toes and golusu (anklets) to go with it in silver. They say these jewelery keep away all evil spirits and black magic, while she is free to tread on any ground, her purity being her only guard.
The madi saree itself is considered to be most pure as the yarn does not involve the killing of silk worms or pesticides as in the case of cotton. The yarn being pure and not bringing any "dosham" (sin) onto itself is considered the purest outfit a brahmin woman can wear. Hence worship of Amman is best done in a madi saree for it increases the spiritual power of the woman when she worships God.
Amma wore her bangles, a combination of emerald and rubies embedded in gold. She wore her six petaled "vairu thodu"(diamond earrings) embedded in gold and of course her nose ring. Gold is a significant metal worn on the human body, it has a power of its own. Being worn in the arms, ears and nose enhance the internal spiritual power of the brahmin woman. Puncturing of the nostrils allows the impurities in the inhaled breath to exit through the hole therefore allowing pure air to enter into the lungs. Puncturing of the ear lobes help similarly in health. Hence problems like sinus and headaches are minimized.
Amma never uses the hair dryer. She says our hair gets spoiled and it brings in side effects on the face. Most traditional brahmin women have long hair to comb, hence water should not remain on the head. Hair should be dried naturally ensuring there is no water accumulation. This reduces tension headaches and sinus. Amma always dries her hair by brushing it vigorously creating water sprays all around her with our most famous "thundu" - the brahmin absorbent white towel, completely functional but fairly lousy to look at after a while!!
Then of course the most fabulous mark of a brahmin woman is the big red bindi Amma wears on her forehead. With vibhuti smeared above it, it completes the picture. Amma looks like Amman just descended into the house, simply perfect. With jasmine flowers locked into her hair, the red madi saree brightens up the whole house as Amma runs into rhythm with her mantras to Amman. I feel so small when I look at Amma perform, still wishing every time I would get a chance to do the same puja with just as much devotion as she does it with.
Truly a divine form, with her feet richly colored with turmeric, subtly enhanced by the silver metti and anklets contrasting with the red madi saree with a thick gold border, she simply looks great! I sat back in my "paavaadai" wishing some day I would enter the divine category of brahmin women, a form of Amman relived.