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The auspicious tamboolam


NAVARATHRI, THE festival of nine days, that just concluded, signifies all that is auspicious in Hindu religion, all that has come to be auspicious in daily life. Tradition is strictly followed in the manner of worship, in delighting in traditional attire, in welcoming guests, and in visiting, and in exchanging `vetrilai paakku', or tamboolam.

The coconut tree is said to be Viswamitra's creation. Its fruit was to be used by him to create children, as a challenge to the Creator. Instead, Vishnu appeased the great sage by promising that the coconut fruit would be recognised as the best by mankind, a great boon to humanity. The fruit resembled the human face too. A great source of food, water and natural medicine, the fruit is called the `purna phala', or the complete fruit, and the tree, the `kalpa vriksha'. The tree's flowers and tender fruits are used to decorate doorways on auspicious occasions, and its young leaves made into toranas. The dried copra is etched and set out for marriage ceremonies. The temples of course pay great importance to this fruit.

The areca nut is also a `mangala dhravya', or auspicious material. Betel nut, with the leaf, is chewed after meals and exchanged in all religious and symbolic auspicious functions. Hanuman too is associated with the betel leaf, with devotees making offerings of garlands made from the leaves.

Betel leaf and nut, along with a bit of lime is chewed for digestion, as an aphrodisiac, as a lip colour enhancer, as a mouth freshener etc. The leaf is also used in the making of deodorants, and ayurvedic medicines.

Turmeric and kumkum are the very essence of visible auspiciousness, in Hindu India. Whole dried tubers of turmeric are a must in tamboolam, as are small containers of kumkum, which again have turmeric as an important ingredient. Bunches of freshly dug turmeric adorn the puja room on special days. Turmeric paste is applied by most women as a skin tender, and also as an antiseptic.

Flowers are a must in this offering of tamboolam — fragrant jasmine, rose, tuberose, etc. The conclusion one comes to is that most of these objects have been venerated over time as aids and symbols of fertility and procreation — the very essence of life. Beautiful things, conducive to domestic harmony and mental peace, have gained the position of being auspicious, and have become part of enduring tradition.

RUPA GOPAL

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