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People here think I must be Christian or Muslim or I would follow the tradition. A neighbor of mine explained to me what is considered to be the 5 essentials for a beautiful woman, as they know them.
- It starts with flowers for the hair. Every morning women here very religiously adorn their heads with beautiful flowers, strung together on a thread. People wear different kinds of flowers: jasmine, rose, hibiscus, chrysanthemums. Every culture in India has attached different meanings to the use of flowers. In Tamil Nadu people believe that it brings happiness and prosperity to the family. It is to welcome Goddess Lakshmi to the house so she blesses them with all the wealth they deserve. Flowers are not just to beautify one-self, but to also ensure well-being of the family. It is a plus that the fragrance is absolutely mesmerizing.
- Next comes pottu on the forehead. It is worn between the eyes, which is an important pressure point known as Ajna Chakra - the spiritual eye of the third eye that is the place of wisdom and the center point of concentration. Pottu is believed to cool the forehead and prevent energy loss. The exact origin of its use is still unknown, but men and women have been practicing the use of pottu for centuries. A red powder called kungumam, made of saffron or turmeric, also used as a mark, is considered particularly auspicious for married women. The color of kunguman signifies love, honor, purity and fosters a feeling of sanctity.
- Third is a pierced nose, preferably the right side here in the south . They'd love it if you get your nose pierced on either side and wear huge studs, known as mookkuthi in Tamil. Women of Tamil Nadu rarely wear nose ring, they prefer nose studs. Historians opine that this tradition was introduced by the Muslim invaders in the 11th century. It is believed that the nose ornaments have their own scientific advantages. By piercing the nose to wear them the women protect themselves from all nasal infections. It is also considered to be very aesthetically pleasing. I most certainly agree.
- Then comes bangles or valaai for the wrist. It is considered inauspicious for a woman to have bare arms. Married women are necessarily required to wear bangles made of glass, gold or silver. The South Indian ceremony called Valaaikappu, held in the seventh month of a woman's pregnancy, is celebrated by the family by stacking the would-be mother's wrist with bangles of all colors and designs. It is believed to be an event that will ward off any evil spirits that might be lurking around the mother and the baby in her womb. See crowdfunding campaigns for Tamil women.
- Last comes adornment for the feet. Women wear beautiful silver anklets, known as kollusu in Tamil, on both legs, that goes 'chan-chan' every time they walk. They say that by wearing this one's energy is not wasted but re-vibrated back to the body. They also believe that anklets bring peace and good luck to the family.