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Ruthu Sadangu

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  • Wednesday, May 9, 2001
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  • Sarawanan @ Thiagu
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  • Most commonly this Puberty ceremony is called Ruthu Sadangu or Pen Vaisu Vanthachu.

    The Ceremony is usually witness by very close family member in the Indian tradition and culture circle.

    The coming of age rites have to be performed on the very day the girl attained puberty. But for Uvaraani, as the Malaysian Puberty Ceremony was not conducted then, it has to be perform before she got married. So in celebrating this, it became a personal milestone. These events provide a dramatic shift in identity that touches us on every level of our existence.

    Imagine growing up in a world free of culture and tradition? Passing a year without celebrating birthdays? Qualifying from school with no certificates or graduation? Or a marriage without any type of rites, rituals or ceremony? That is why most people in the world understood the importance of their own native cultures. A country without culture has no history, do you agree?

    Uvaraani, living in the modern world tries her best to accommodate the whims and fancies of her parents and relatives. Being born of a mixed parentage does have its advantages as she enjoys the best of both worlds. Both our forefathers being immigrants of Malaysia bought with them the traditional cultures and practices during the early 19th century. But with all the "acceptable inter marriages" after 1950's, intertwining of cultures becomes part and puzzle of the present society.

    The sisters of her father will be the first people to be told of this good news. In this modern times, not every girl wants the whole world to know she has menstruated. At the threshold of womanhood, she patiently listen as it was explained to her the customs that she has to go through the next two weeks. And I am glad it increased the intimacy between mother and daughter at a time when many girls shut down and refuse to communicate.

    For approximately 2 weeks, she is advised to stay home, ritual baths were performed by the father's sisters. For some Hindus, before she is clean, she is considered to be in a state of ritual pollution (thittu). Eggs and selected food with gingerly oil are prepared for her consumption to gain strength in time for the Malaysian Puberty Ceremony.

    Once she is "clean", a special Malaysian Puberty Ceremony will be held. In the olden days, once the girl becomes a woman, she will be announced and the mother's brother, uncle or relative are the first choices of getting her as a bride. This is usually the message pass on to the girl.No wonder they would simply say NO to the Malaysian Puberty Ceremony.

    The house where the Malaysian Puberty Ceremony and rituals are performed must be decorated or changed with fresh mango leaves. Either nine of eleven leaves will be washed, dotted with sandalwood and kumkuman (red dots) and tied in front of the house entrance.

    Turmeric and Flower Bath

    Five aunts or sister from the father side will bath her with specially prepared water. Dried turmeric powder, seven types of flowers and 3 limes, will be added to this special bath.

    Generally, she sits in the bathroom on a stool for this bathing ritual. The five aunts will take turns to pour this turmeric and flower bath over her head till she is wet through. The most privileged person is Aunty Kamachi, her Patti being the father's aunt, followed by Chandra's sister then blood cousins. After the Turmeric Bath, Uvaraani will be escorted to the room to dress for the Malaysian Puberty Ceremony. The honoree has to be dressed up with silk saree and shining jewellery.

    Items needed to perform the ceremony

    A Nirai Kudam (special place) in the house is prepared for the Malaysian Puberty ceremony. Usually a low stool, covered with a piece of white cloth is placed. A typical position to sit facing the entrance of the house. Beside the low stool stands two kuttu villakku (brass oil lamp) dotted with kumkuman and decorated with flowers.

    In front of her, a total of nine Ruthu Sadangu items is arranged in sequence and kept in different trays in preparation for the Malaysian Puberty Ceremony.

    Ritual seat for the Malaysian Puberty Ceremony
    Ruthu Sandangu items for the Indian Girl Malaysian Puberty Ceremony as seen at the Nirai Kudam (special place)

    Pen Vaisu Vanthachu Ceremony or Malaysian Puberty Ceremony Items

    A small silver bowl with Turmeric water to make a Manjal pillaiyar. A few stalks of arugam grass is place in the turmeric water.

    A tray filled with kumkuman (red powder), Santhanam (sandalwood paste) and rose scented water.

    A silver pot filled with clean water.

    A silver tray filled with a can of paddy and a lighted kamachi lamp. The kamachi lamp must be placed on top of the can of paddy during the rituals.

    3 pieces Paal Roti Biscuit made of milk, flour and sugar.

    An amie kale (rolling mortar pestle) with Santhanam (sandalwood paste) and kumkuman pottu is dotted in three positions

    3 plates or bowls, sweetened rice, rice cooked in green peas, curry or vegetable is prepared.

    Relatives bearing gifts at the Malaysian Puberty Ceremony
    Rows of relatives with gifts like flowers, Saree, fruits and goodies

    Other items required for the Malaysian Puberty Ceremony or coming of age rituals

    A tray of assorted fruits (odd number in total)

    A turmeric dressed coconut

    Betel leaves (sireh leaves), dried areca nuts (Pinang) and topped with lemon

    Indian Sweet meats in odd number (Palakaram)

    Assortment of Loose flowers

    Some relatives comes with trays of gifts, consisting of fruit, garlands of flowers, home made local sweets cakes, Sarees and Jewellery.

    Pen Vaisu Vanthachu Ceremony (coming of age rites)

    Now the ceremony begins with the aunt accompanying her to the specially prepared Nirai Kudam. The brass oil lamp is then lighted and the Malaysian Puberty ceremony commences. 5 lady relatives will performed these puberty rites. But first, she will be cross garlanded across her arms and neck.

    Cross garlands at Coming of Age Rituals

    Then the five ladies will take turns to bless her with the prepared items. This is a intricate sequence of events using the prepared Ruthu Sadangu items. What happens is this, the first lady will begin the ceremony by blessing the body of the honoree starting from her right hand.

    She will used the manjal pillaiyar to wipe both her hands as a sign to purify her. She ends the purifying on her left hand. The sequence the first lady begin is slightly touching her right knee, right shoulder, her head, her left shoulder then her left knee. One by one the ruthu sadangu items will be used to blessed the honoree and placed on the right side of the performing ladies.

    The second lady will then begin from the left side of the her knee and ending on the right knee. This goes on until the five ladies performed this simple ceremony. She will in turn present a small gift to the ladies who performed the ceremony. Watch the ceremony here.

    Once all the ladies completes the rituals, they will gather around her to perform a folk dance. With hands clapping and singing a folksong, they will circle her and dance. Approximately 5 to 7 turnings around her till the singing stops.

    She will now proceed to the family altar room to offer her prayers. This ceremony now turns into a celebration with dances, singing and clapping. Folk dances and songs will be happily performed as she changes and parades all the sarees gifts given. All the sarees must be worn as not to offend the presenter.

    First red dot at Malaysian Puberty Ceremony

    First privilege as a woman, a red dot happily placed by Aunty Sarojini (Ayteh Sarojini)

    Final Ceremony to ward off Evil influences (ARTHI)

    A shallow round tray of turmeric powder, squeezed lime and water is prepared for this final ceremony. A camphor is lighted and placed on top of the betel leave. Three ladies will hold this tray in trinity above the honoree head and circle 3 to 5 times. Then the eldest aunt will swipe her face with the fire flame. After which, the fire is put off and the remaining water is poured on the any plant outside the house. The final ceremony is performed to ward off evil influences.

    Interestingly, Malaysian Indians, locals though do refer to the book. The Book of Omen or prediction, so it is referred to. This is beyond any comprehension and a part I would not have any opinion.

    The Book of Omens

    On that momentous day when the girl's body signaled that she was no longer a child, but a young woman. That for the Indians in Malaysia is very significant as some would consult the book of omens. (We did not consult the book, spare her that). But I was told the day and time are use to predict the future of the young marriageable lady.

    What happen is this, when a child is born, the parents would note the date, birth time and hour and seeks the astrologer and numerologist advise. Usually they will prepare a Book of Prediction or Books of Omens based on all the timings and dates given. This is considered to be the first JATAKAM for the child. In this books, the good and bad timing of the said child is being foretold. With this books of prediction, some names are given and selected for the child too.

    By the same token, the second JATAKAM is prepared after the first show of blood. The timing, date and day it happened is calculated and becomes her second book.

    ARTHI Ceremony, warding off evils influences after the Ruthu Sadangu ( Puberty Ceremony)

    Monday - She will be eminently chaste.

    Tuesday - It is not favorable, as she is likely to be a widow early in her days of wedlock.

    Wednesday - She will be wealthy.

    Thursday - Is good, for she bids fairness and virtuous.

    Friday - is not considered auspicious.

    Saturday and Sunday - are also bad days as she runs the risk of being poor.

    They would then ask the time it happen, for it has some meaning. These customs seem to be a reflection of the South Indian customs.

    These rituals of first menstruation are also found in most Sri Lanka and India's many ethnic groups. There may be a few variants but overall the rituals are similar.

    What a wondrous future lies in front of us as these young women mature and take their places of leadership in the world!

    She might not realized how symbolic this Puberty Ceremony is. It will stay in my mind and heart. To me, this is a gratifying ceremony, one done from the heart of hearts. I felt overwhelmed by the love showered on my daughter. It has been years she has turned into a woman but today, her aunts makes it so special as if it was her first time. Indeed she is blessed surrounded by love and sincerity of these young aunties.

    This fascinating South Indian Ruthu Sadangu puberty ceremony can be classified as the one of the most important rites ever performed for a female "coming of age". Step by step as I watched the ceremony being performed for my daughter, I feel so pleased for her. The Puberty Ceremony photos has most of the essence of the ceremony from the turmeric bath to warding off evil influences but nothing beats being there at the time, i can tell you.

    As I witnessed these puberty ceremony, I am humbled by the magnitude of the significance. I am sure these few aunts felt so much pride and privileged being able to do this for her. They have watched her grow and turn to a beautiful and cheerful woman. They pride themselves to guard young girls becoming princesses at their first bloods honoring.

    Saree and gifts for Puberty Ceremony
    Sarees, bangles, ear rings, necklaces, kumkuman and dried turmeric for the Indian Girl Puberty Rituals

    Trays of gifts for Indian Puberty Ceremony
    Trays of fruits from close relatives for the Puberty Rituals

    The Puberty Ceremony Photos is a great window to view this wonderful ceremony to encourage the girl to be a woman. Actions of encouragement through the rituals was translated to me as I watched my daughter enjoying all the fun and teasing by the aunts. The ceremony may be full of wishy washy of rituals but it has profound significance.

    Aunty Anandi blessings during Indian Puberty Ceremony
    Aunty Anandi! The food for me to eat or my knees to eat?

    Gifts given after blessing on Coming of Age rites
    Look! she gave me a gift, says Aunty Sarojini.

    This act of Ruthu Sandangu blessing symbolizes:

    Purifying her soul and spirit.

    Cleansing her with clean water to beautify her body.

    Showering good wishes with kamachi light.

    And wishing her home will always be filled with abundance of rice and food.

    Armi Kale blessing on Indian Puberty ceremony
    Shall I take my revenge now after raising you? says Aunty Gowry.

    Kamachi Light blessing on Indian Coming of Age
    Now don't you pour oil on me. Uvaraani says to Aunty Gowry

    Breaking of Paal Roti in four pieces signifies opportunities and good wishes from four corners of the world.

    Touching the amie kale blesses her with great cooking skills.

    May these food strengthen your spirit, so they whispered.

    And by placing a red dot (kumkuman) on her forehead for the first time on becoming a woman.

    Folk dance performance in Indian Puberty Ceremony
    Performing a folk dance for the princess of the day

    Prays to home altar at coming of age rituals
    Uvaraani with her Patti who looked after her since birth

    Having witnessed and performed these ceremony for my daughter, it is truly a chance of a life time. I even say this was to me a life experience I would not have wanted to miss. For all of you who have never experienced such an event, have a look at the selection of South Indian Puberty Ceremony Photos which I made during the event of Ruthu Sadangu (coming of age).

    I would warmly invite girls turning to womanhood is understand what joy they brought to this world. Truly, the future of mankind do depends on the WOMAN! For more information about this ceremony done, get in touch with me.

    Final folkdance and singing during Ruthu Sandangu
    The folkdance joined in by all attended during Uvaraani's Ruthu Sadangu

    Relatives participating at Puberty Ceremony
    The aunts from both side of the parents during the Ruthu Sandangu day

    In Malaysia, there are no rituals for boys reaching puberty. So there is no puberty ceremony photos for boys. But the Chinese observed these rites in a very different way. For the young girls and boys upon reaching puberty, medicinal soups will be prepared to give them strength. The breaking of Vocal chord is the sign of puberty for boys.

    If I remembered rightly, Indian boys will start growing beard. So the fathers played an important role by advising them not to keep touching or shaving their growing beard.

    It is believed that if you do not pay attention to it, it will discourage the growth. Men will confirmed this advise, as shaving in the later years is such a troublesome act. How they would love not to have to shave daily.

    But marrying an Indian, I know without mustache, beard or side burn, he is not an Indian man. The joke is, I have seen Chandra without mustache and till today, he keeps it on. Do you know why? Without it, his mouth looks weird and funny. When I joked and teased him, his reply is that he no longer feels important because there is no underline under his nose!. There goes my two cents worth!

    Please share this puberty ceremony photos with anyone preparing for marriage. I hope they understand the roles they played as a girl and now turning to a woman. The impart hit me straight to my heart, I can feel how William Tell's son felt when the arrow hits the apple on his head. Even if you will not have this opportunity performed for you, sink into the pictures and feel blessed as Uvaraani has.


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