Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hair Offering Custom...Do You Believe In It Now?

Picture is from The Hindu.

When I read the news in The Hindu, the caption, 'Tale of a hairy sale', which said that 'Trumala temple has got a huge stock of 471 tonnes of hair, offered by devotees, for disposal, profitably (!)', I remembered taking my sons to Tirumala long back for their hair tonsure!

As per our family custom, we had to tonsure my sons' heads, first at Gunaseelam temple, Trichy and then at Tirumala, Tirupati. This god (Gunaseelam temple) is supposed to be the elder brother of Tirumala's Venkateshwara. Read the rest of the details in the above link.  We were supposed to do the first one, in the 3rd year for the first baby .  Only 'odd' years! Until this was done, we could not visit the temple, both temples, Gunaseelam and Tirumala, for any reason...even for attending a wedding or for darshan! My first son had long hair (double plaited) when we went to Gunaseelam! The second son was some 8 months old. The babies were made to sit on their father's lap while tonsuring.  I remember my husband telling me that both of them cried a lot! In those days, there were only male barbers for doing this job.  Women/mothers were not allowed inside the room.  Now, we can see women also doing the job (Picture above). After tonsuring, the babies should be bathed and some priest would apply sandal paste on their heads.  Some devotee would apply the 'naamam' on their forehead Lord Venkateshwara wears, like this:

I have got their pictures with shaven head and naamam on their forehead...I laugh and they glare at me, whenever they see it!

I was just wondering what our wikipedia says about this and yes, I got the story and only now I know why I offered my sons' hair to the god!

When Lord Balaji was hit on his head by a shepherd, a small portion of his scalp became bald. This is noticed by Neela Devi, a Gandharva princess. She feels "such an attractive face should not have a flaw". Immediately she cuts a portion of her hair and with her magical power she implants it on his scalp. Lord Balaji notices her sacrifice. As hair is a beautiful aspect of the female, he promises her that all his devotees who come to his abode should render their hair to him, and she would be the recipient of all the hair received. Hence it is believed that hair offered by the devotees is accepted by Neela Devi. The hill Neeladri, one among seven hills is named after her.

Some of my relatives (husband's side - Tamilians) offer their babys' hair at Vaidheeshwaran temple. But as far as I know, every child's first hair was offered to some temple, mostly Tirupati. My Maharashtrian friend said that they don't have this custom. My mother's side (Udupi) too, don't have this custom! Is it just the custom of the Tamilians?

I don't know if I would ask my son to do this ritual and the ear-piercing ritual for his children. The babies are too small while doing this and I can't bear the crying of small babies.  Or as an elder, I might like them to do so...I might think it as the family custom and might be good for their well being! I think the younger generation would abhor this custom. They say that the hair will grow thicker if it is tonsured completely in the early years, do you think so?

What is your opinion?

Edited to add on 26.5.13: Profit for Thirumala from selling of hair!

Picture courtesy of Lord Venkateshwara: Google


A said...

I am not in favor of this. My opinion

Sandhya said...

A: I respect your opinion, Amrit! I don't follow some things my parents followed. Likewise slowly these customs will fade away, one by one.

radha said...

The in-laws are tamilians and I had my daughters' hair removed, and my father ( from Mangalore) was not very happy about it! But well, hair removed comes back. And it is only for a short while that my dad was unhappy. And the issue was forgotten.

Destination Infinity said...

I guess its not a Tamilian custom, because my hair (and a lot of my family members hair) were similarly offered in the same Tirupathi. And we are Telugu (at least my mother tongue is Telugu). Its a very common practice in South Andhra, and I know that all my relatives from Nellore/ Kalahasthi follow this ritual as well.

Actually it doesn't pain at all (not sure about the ear piercing one) but the kids are afraid of the ambience, I guess. Maybe hair grows better if its shaved completely at least once. That's why they should have kept this ritual.

On this one point, I don't think the Temple is acting in a profit minded motive.

Destination Infinity

Bikramjit said...

hmm we have a huge and big big country and have very long list of beleifs and cultures .. as long as it doesnot hurt anyone it is fine ..

I wud not want anyone interferring in mine so i dont interfere with anyone else ...

I do and follow what i like or want to and no one can force me so i guess it shud be the same for everyone ... :)


BK Chowla, said...

Whenever I will go to Tirupati,I will do so.

Baskar K said...

IN such things, it is only believers who matter. Non-believers if you are logical about it, have no say in it!!

Just think, I want to sacrifice something as penance to god, something that is a part of me. As logical human beings, we have decided upon hair, there is an element of sacrifice(it is considered beauty) and it is not barbaric as well.

If anything our forefathers should be given credit for such a line of thought and we should do all we can to educate and nurture people about it. Most of the times, we don't even stop for a moment give a benefit of doubt and then analyze as to why ? It is very cool to be dismissive of our forefathers, but even what we achieve is on top of that mountain of evolutionary wisdom that they left inside us (genetic) and to learn (external - traditions/customs) etc. Take another example of theetu after death of a person in the family. Why is that, in ancient times, people dies of largely treatable and communicable diseases. So if a death happens, quarrantine that family for some time and then "theetu"is over.... I am a great rationalist who sees reason, understands them and follows them.

Renu said...

In north also it is done..normally at some ganga hair is considered important as it is a part of our body which we are giving..

In my time i nevr ever thought of defying any tradition..whatevr my MIl said, it was done, so I did for my children, but whether they will do it for their children.depends on them only.

Sandhya said...

RADHA: In my side of the family, my brother and sister didn't do it for their children because that custom is not there. In my husband's side, all of us follow this tradition. The next generation is a bit against it now.

DESTINATION INFINITY: Today morning one of my relative said that her neighbour sat with the baby when her hair was removed. She didn't cry, it seems.

My son always says that he can follow or not follow customs of his father's or mother's side, according to his wish!He might use this option for this custom too! Even I feel that removing the hair once is good for hair growth. I must remember this point to insist if and when needed!

Tirupathi is full of corruption now and they will grab money from wherever it comes. All of them make money while selling tickets for different darshans. It was a bit less during Chandrababu Naidu's time, I think.

BIKRAMJIT: That is a good policy, Bikram! Sing now...meri marzi....(is that Anu Malik's song?!)

BK CHOWLA: Many people do that, Chowlaji. My sis in law's husband offers his hair twice a year. He says it gives him self-confidence. Though I and my husband don't offer hair, we visit Tirupathi and Trichy temples once a year without fail.

BASKAR K: Welcome here, Baskar!

Earlier we had joint family system, so, we were able to follow theettu etc. It is not possible now. People even go to their office. Somebody was there to take care of the house if others followed theettu. Now, it is nuclear family system. Nobody stays that long in other's houses.

I follow most of the traditions because I like them. I can't compel others.

Thanks for the comment, Baskar.

RENU: I did for my children but I doubt if I would compel my children to do so. I like to follow all the traditions, well, mostly! Children might follow if they liked to do so.

Hema said...

I too had my head tonsured on 13th nov 2010. Its still growing back.. I am not sure if only tamilians have this, but is scientific (not very sure though)that removing that baby hair is very essential like the baby tooth.. Also that ear piercing is something good as in acupuncture (again not sure, only hear-say).. Anyways the babies wailing is a big trouble.. our inlaws do it in the house and offer it to the kula deivam and so it was a big drama with all the relatives and the big feast everything.. I have to say I was kinda brave, my hubby was almost reduced to tears.. In our custom, the childs mama, which is my brother, will have the child on his lap for tonsuring the head.

Shail said...

Scientifically there is no proof to suppose tonsuring will make the hair grow any better, I have read. This seems the sort of thing that gets repeated often enough and gains authenticity because no one is sure either way. There is perfectly good explanation as to why the shaved hair "appears" thicker to us.

Whenever anyone has thrown the wisdom at her, of shaved head growing thicker hair, my mother has pointed to us (sis and me) and her sister's daughter. We sisters have never been tonsured, but had/have heads with thick hair. Our cousin too had good hair, but not as thick as ours.

Shail said...

I forgot to add that my cousin had her head tonsured in childhood, but in spite did not have thick hair like us.

R.Ramakrishnan said...

It was nice to know about the legend of Neeladevi ! Thanks for sharing.

Varunavi said...

I believe it and i did for varu at tirupati and for pinks at narasimha swamy temple yadgirigutta here.Husband was upset but it for few days as hair grows back fast.

Never heard of the story,thanks for sharing it.

indianhomemaker said...

I am not sure if hair grows any better or worse, although my kids (and mine) hair was shaved once as toddlers, I know my kids hated it and the discomfort was avoidable.

The story behind it makes it sound even more unnecessary.

Baskar K said...

Nobody offers their hair at Tirupathi or similarly, wishing it will grow better. It is an act of sacrifice before god. I will desist from ascribing silly motives for these acts. Like said earlier, only believers matter in all these.

Sandhya said...

HEMA: For ear-piercing, the baby sits on his mama's lap. Both of us went out and stood in the balcony when it was done, I still remember.

Everything is hearsay. Nobody knows the correct reason. We just follow the tradition of our family. So, when the children question, we are unable to give proper answers!

Normally, elders/women, get their hair tonsured if there is some 'venduthal'/'mannath', right?

SHAIL: My side of the family hasn't got this custom, so my hair was not removed and I had very thick hair. My sis in law and her children who had their hair tonsured have got very thin hair! My sister has got thin hair. I think it is just genetic! One of my son has got thick and the other one, normal hair. Both their heads were tonsured, thrice!

R.RAMAKRISHNAN: Thank you, Ramakrishnan Sir!

VARUNAVI: Even I, came to know about the story only now!

IHM: We follow our traditions without knowing the proper reason. If the reason is right, we would follow them and explain to our kids also properly. Ear piercing is attached to accupressure, I know and it sounds logical.

I remember from Tejaswee's picture that she had beautiful think hair.

BASKAR K: Here, everybody expresses their opinion, Baskar. It is nice to know the different angles of our tradition.

Kirtivasan said...

We did "poo mudi" for both our daughters at Vaidheeswaran. I being from Kumbakonam and my wife from Palghat, somehow we managed to have a consensus on this solution.
A happy new year to you, Sandhya and to all the other bloggers.

KParthasarathi said...

We follow many customs as followed by our parents and their ancestors without knowing the significance as long as it is connected with god.In some cases we may not get satisfactory explanations too.It is more in marriages.But there is a gradual giving up of the age old practices

Sandhya said...

KIRTHIVASAN: Thank you and wish you and your family a very very happy New Year, too, Kirthivasan!

KPARTHASARATHY: What you say is right, Partha Sir! We find it difficult to explain why we are following certain customs, because we ourselves don't know the right reason. The next generation is diluting it and next to that generation will forget it!

kavita said...

My dad had offered his hairs at Tirupati after me and my sister's wedding .I shaved both of my kid's hair when they completed their first year .I am comfortable with this custom.

Deeps said...

I am not sure if I can really believe that hair-tonsuring can ensure hair to grow back thicker. I had a hair tonsured when I was a baby but I have never had very good hair, it has never grown beyond my shoulder, howsoever much my grandmother tried with her hibiscus & tulsi oil massage treatment all through my growing up :). And when Namnam was born, both my husband and I were not very keen to get her hair tonsured, so we didnt go for it. Whats interesting to point out is that she has far thicker and better-textured hair than I ever had :). So I guess most of the rituals that you have mentioned in your post have been practiced mainly to propel the superstious beliefs attached to religion.

Krishna said...

It is common in Subramaniya temples

happy new year

kanagu said...

I believe that shaving head makes the hair to be thick.. but for kids I don't like it :(

Its so sad to hear them cry and ear piercing is something I can't think off.. but I am brave and got my ear pierced at my 1 year.. LOL!!! :D :D

Sujatha Sathya said...

we did the hair cutting custom for my daughter
dont know whether the hair grows thicker after it but well, its a custom on my husband's side & we followed

Sandhya said...

KAVITA: My sons had their hair shaven in three temples. One was done when they were quite old! They agreed for our sake. But some children who are newly married and who have got small babies seem to be against it. We were not able to give them the reason why it should be done! We just say that it is our tradition/custom. Some reluctantly agree and some argue. This was the reason I did this post, Kavita!

DEEPS: Some of my relatives give the reason that if you remove the hair in the early years, it will grow thicker. I doubt. My hair was not removed but I have very long thick hair.

I remember Namnam paappa's thick hair!

I think I should agree with you, Deeps! But I had been and am going to follow all the customs! I don't compel my children, just tell them about our tradition, that is all!

KRISHNA: Yes, I have seen!

KANAGU: Brave little Kanagu, I can imagine!

SUJATHA SATHYA: Yes, I too followed the custom of my husband's side and did it for my sons, Sujatha Sathya!

R. Ramesh said...

it's a custom followed by my fmly for our gen also v have opinion...and thanks sandhya ji...for the nice words..wishes

wordsndreamz said...

Will come back to comment properly, Sandhya, wanted to tag you first -

Rahul Bhatia said...

A very nice post! This custom has been ongoing for ages and I think it makes sense even now! Doctors too recommend tonsuring in some instances!

SM said...

its just a custom follow or no follow
no need to follow.

Sandy said...

just read this post.. guess there is a logical reason behind the custom. ours is a tropical country and lot of hair in young children is painful both for the child and moms due to sweat, lice and dirt. so this custom i for the ear piercing.... ppl hv lot of reasons one of them being acupuncture. dont know how far its true though.

Sandy said...

Just read this post.. a tad late i guess. anyways.. Ours is a tropical country so tonsuring in kids is a relief for bot the child and the mom prevents from sweat, lice and dirt in esp in the hot summers. maybe thats the logic behind. we associate religion and god with everything so thats why we do it in temples. my opinion... as far as ear piercing goes... i hear1000 reasons from logical accupuncture to extremely illogical narabali so i dont know :)

Sandhya said...

R.RAMESH: Yes, we follow our ancestor's customs, but will our children do that?

Thank you, Ramesh.

WORDSNDREAMZ: Thanks, Smitha! Will try to do the tag!

RAHUL BHATIA: I have read that tonsuring is good, too! But will our children follow the custom in the future, I doubt!

SANDY: Welcome to my blog, Sandy!

Yes, that might be a valid reason, Sandy. Ear piercing custom...I don't know if it helps the babies in any way. But I did it for my sons!

I too have heard that ear piercing is done to distort the baby's body so that no one does black magic on them!

Thanks for the comments, Sandy!

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