Myths and Beliefs: Inherited

Summer Vacations…

I guess this is the only time of the year when I’m a little soft and approachable for the kids. 😀 😀 😀

No mad statements like,

“Wake up, you moron!”

“Brush up fast!”

“Don’t waste water!”

“Pack up your bags!”

“Don’t forget anything!”

“Gobble it up!”

and in the evening,

“5 minutes and I want you to start doing your homework”

“Finish your dinner and hit the bed fast”

Poor things! Our lives are now totally running along with the hands of the clock.

Mechanical and monotonous!!! 😕 😕 😕

Peace it is for another month or so…how relaxed and stress-free I feel. 😎

I’m sure they might be feeling even better. 😀 😀 😀

I was telling them stories about my childhood, our school summer vacations and got reminded of some of the crazy incidents and happenings.

As informed earlier as well, I belong to a very conservative and orthodox Nair tharavadu (family) from the Valluvanad district, or rather Southern Malabar side of Kerala. My Ammamma (grandmother; Amma’s mother) had a severe back problem and used to walk with a hunch back. Her movement was restricted to within the four walls of the household, but she had good control over the happenings within the compound of the house.

Photo Credit: Tharavadu (
Photo Credit: Tharavadu (

This is about few of the episodes or rather incidents that happened during our tharavadu visit days, which I still do not completely understand or can take as logical, because I was never offered a logical explanation for them. Rather was slashed with sentences like,

“Do not question age-old traditions? Fear the Almighty’s wrath.”

Some of the incidents that still pester me:

  • Once I was asked to get Plavila (Jackfruit leaf) from the backyard to make a spoon for Govindankutty Mama (Amma’s maternal uncle) to have Kanjhi (Rice Porridge). The ever-enthusiastic me rushed to the backyard and came back at the speed of light with a Plavila and a victorious smile, only to be scolded for having brought back a single leaf. I thought may be they wanted more leaves so that others too can use, but what they meant was one is not supposed to bring back one single leaf of jack fruit into the house. The reason: nobody ever bothered to explain. 😕
  • We had gone to attend my Mema‘s (maternal aunt) marriage. Amma and the two of us. Acha had informed that he didn’t get leave and will not be able to reach. The anxious and innocent child in me was praying non-stop to Lord Krishna to send my Dad as soon as possible, for we had not seen him for over 2 and a half years. After the marriage when the next day after settling Mema in her new house, we reached home, I saw my Muthacha’s twinkling eyes waiting to disclose a secret to me. I ran up to him, but there was so much noise and the only word I heard was Papa. When I asked repeatedly, he didn’t say anything for he also had to attend to the guests. I was having lunch amidst a huge gathering and suddenly I hear a car screeching to a halt at our gate. I didn’t need any visual proof or any verbal proof, I knew it was my Dad. I ran across to reach the door, and was scolded so harshly by one of the oldie-baldies. They said you were not supposed to get up from a gathering before everyone finishes. I met my Dad probably a few minutes later than I had wanted to, but it broke my little heart. 😦
  • Every Vishu eve, me and my sis will be those extra-obedient angels who descended out of nowhere like the elves descended down the chimney in the Cobbler and the Elves story. We would help Amma with anything and everything.Everything went off well, till Amma finally sat down to break the coconut into two halves. If in the first instant it didn’t break into two exact halves, she lost it. She’ll be so very tense and would shout and scream for everything till we the elves decided to retire into bed. She used to fear when the coconut broke closer to its eyes that something will go wrong. A fear her mother passed on to her, her grandmother to her mother and so on. It doesn’t stop there, she passed on that fear to me and my sis. Post my marriage to a culturally very different family as they hailed from the Northern most part of India, closer to the Himalayas, I am revealed to the fact that at my in-laws house, coconut is broken right through the eyes. Imagine my plight! 😦

Now get ready for the baap (father in Hindi) of all: a custom I have myself followed blindly for years and to be honest I still do to a certain extent. 😐

Those blood on the moon days, during which you are already so very irritated with yourself and everything around…in our household females were barred from entering the main compound of the house as well as the kitchen. A mat, a thin blanket, a plate, a glass and one set of dress were the only items available to you. You’re not supposed to touch anyone else in the family, and if by mistake you happen to touch anyone, or that someone happens to touch you, you’ll end up having to collect their dresses, which are now Ashudham (impure) too.

Torture it indeed was. I used to fume inside when those lady workers used to return in the eve to collect their day’s earnings and peep through the window, give a strange look and shout at the top of their voice, “Embralle, kutty aithayirikya?” It actually used to sound like I’m an untouchable or an evil witch. Hufff!!! 😡

The best of all is that on the fourth day morning, you end up in the tharavattu kullam (pond) with all those items: ‘offered as well as collected’ to become Shudham (pure). Trust me, a non-swimmer like me was made to take a dip in the pond along with all those items, which includes the mat, the blanket, the plate, the glass,  my clothes and those of anyone who happened to touch me in those three days. I would have definitely drowned had it not been for Amma. I believe this custom too would have been instituted to get rid of girls.   😡 😡 😡

Amma tells me it was actually instituted so that the females get to rest at least for those few days. I prefer not. Still fuming! 😡

But imagine, with even so much anger, I still continue to follow some of those customs. Not because of any kind of superstition, but because I have myself found out some logical reasoning to the age-old customs, which are healthy enough to convince me. But I’m still not sure if I would like to pass on the parcel to my daughters.

Photo Credit: The Freeman Family (
Photo Credit: The Freeman Family (

So that’s how superstitions, myths, beliefs and customs are passed on from generation to generation. 🙂

Amma’s Grannie —> my Grannie

My Grannie —> Amma

Amma —> Me

Me —> ??? 

I am not questioning any of these, all I wish to know are logical explanations.

What I wish to know is that: are customs and religious beliefs way above human relations and sentiments? Any thoughts?


18 Replies to “Myths and Beliefs: Inherited”

  1. There are a lot of these things that makes me wonder what it is all about. Apparantly, it all started with some logic of scienc behind it but later turned out to sound stupid because nobody bothered to understand the reasons behind them. My Valyammavan makes all sorts of new traditions and explain it to the kids (it is his idea of fun) only to be scolded later by ammumma for conjuring up ne wtraditions. 😀

    1. Exactly my point. I believe our ancestors were much better at making traditions and would have definitely done all that based on facts and scientific notions. The trouble is we have got to inherit them without the explanation part. I am supposed to be the rebellious one when it comes to obeying rules without explanations. But I am making sure that my little ones ask for the explanations and do not just gobble up things for the sake of knowing. Let me see how far they succeed. Truly those memories are still fun to rewind. 🙂

      I too have a Valliya ammavan, my Amma’s ammavan. Will write a tribute for him sometime soon. That would be fun too. 😀

  2. Ofc,there are plenty of things that they do and tell which won’t make the faintest of sense for us..And the hardest part is,they’ll never walk away from the customs and traditions they’ve been following for these long times…And the weirdest part is,whatever we’re outside the “tharavadu-compound”, we’ve no say in these kind of things…… 🙂
    Welcome to tharavadu 🙂

    1. Well said, Gautam! I’ve seen the wierdest and the most feared person too quietly following such traditional customs…mostly out of respect for the elders who preach the rules.:-)

  3. All these “sambavams” are very new to me, Chechi! I hope you know that I’m belonging to a urban city like Kochi and haven’t own any notable experiences similar to the ones you have stated above. The only thing which I have in my memories are the days with my Grandpa and fun moments we had together years back. I have always loved to hear about this kind of relieved family atmospheres, at least in some classic Mallu movies though. At the end of our life in this real world, what actually would remain close to every single hearts are these logical-scientific mixtured translucent images itself. Lucky you!! 🙂 🙂


  4. Hi Rekha !!

    I picked up this thread from Sakshi Nanda’s blogpost (
    where you had commented. When i read your post and your share of beliefs , myths that generations followed without questioning them it was like, Yes i have witnessed them as well.

    The customs , traditions , myths , beliefs of 2-3 generations that are behind us were governed by some factors. To start with it was lack of education that did not allow people to understand or reason things in the right perspective. Secondly it was fear factor that gods will send all the evils our way , this was more controlled by religion and propagated heavily by the ‘Godman’s’. Lastly during those times the relationships had lot more respect and understanding and a word said by the elders was unquestionably right.

    If i come down to today we have information at our finger tips but lesser intelligence , more resources yet less willingness , sea of virtual relations but extinct respect and understanding. Now when we follow those age old traditions we do so to find an anchor , a mooring in our lives. We purposely want to fall back to find some ground to our existence , some culture, some values and ethos.

    Please find time to visit my blog . My latest post ‘Love Lost Found and Abound ‘


  5. Whew ! Wish I could see logic in all those customs which keep changing from region to region . As for the “Ashudh” part , my two cents on the topic. Why can’t she be given a rest just like that ? Why that “impure tag” ? 😮

  6. ellam vayichu…
    really nice 🙂
    I too have faced the same kind of situations at home, bordering on the logical / illogical…

    especially ayitham aavunna karyam 😀

    I hail from a Iyer family at Thrissur (I’m sure you know ppl like us who are perpetually confused about whether we are Malayalis, or Tamilians 😛 ) and I’ve seen every situation that you have mentioned here, so I can easily identify with it 🙂

    No questioning them, ellam nallathinaa nnu vechu sahikkyanne 🙂

    1. Hahahaha!!! I remember people asking me are you a Mallu. Then I would say, “No. Then they would ask are you Tamil/Madrasi, then I would yell a BIG NO and say, I am a Pallakad Iyer. Then they would go…’Oh mix breed hai”

  7. Very well written post Rekha.after my marriage to a Maharashtrian, I saw many customs collide. And amidst all this I still wonder how am I supposed to raise my daughter. My in-laws are my support system, but I don’t want my daughter to follow things, just because she is being told. I’ve seen parents and grandparents tell.that, ‘If you do.this, God is watching. He will punish you’ I wonder if the parents of rapists ever told them this. I have so much to say on.this, need a separate post 🙂

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