Puberty or the coming of age

Attaining puberty is called pooppeythal, literally “flowering”. The girl who has attained age is secluded from the rest of the family and is, as a rule, forbidden to see males. Among the Vellalars, a Kovia woman is designated to be the companion of the girl till the official ceremony takes place. Margosa leaves, which are believed to be very effective against evil, palm leaves and a knife called sathakam are placed in a secluded room. The washerman of the family is called to remove the soiled cloth, and a ceremonial cloth called vannanmathu is given by him. He continues to supply the girl with vannanmathu till the day of the official ritual. The girl bathes every five days helped by a girl cousin. On the final day of official and ritual celebration, the girl is taken to the well and is made to sit on old interlaced coconut leaves holding three betel leaves, three arecanuts and a coin in her hands. Kumpam, namely a pot of water with coconut on top and mango leaves placed on its mouth, some milk and a kind of grass called aruku is placed in a tray, and camphor is lighted. Palaruku is placed on the head of the girl by her relatives and the girl starts bathing. After the bath, the girl is conducted in procession to a clean room accompanied by music. In earlier times, the girl was made to walk on white clothes spread on the ground. She wears a saree for the first time, and adorned with ornaments, comes to take a place of prominence among the invited guests. Arati, the ceremony designed to dispel evil influences, takes place eleven times with lighted camphor and other articles such as flowers, fruits, curd, cakes, food and a coin. Usually the arati ceremony is performed by the girl’s aunts blessed with progeny.

Though most of the ceremonies mentioned here are performed by the Vellalars, many other castes, too, observe them in a general way.

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