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Ladies and ThirumaNN kAppu

From: V. Sadagopan (
Date: Mon Jan 26 1998 - 05:06:22 PST

Dear Sri Srinivasan :

" Pazhaya Kaalatthu AmmAmis " ( Ladies of earlier generations) 
used to wear Sri chUrNam on their foreheads and then add 
the kumkumam at the lower end of it , just above the brows. 
This was their normal "dress code " . Later , it ended up 
in pottu . Even today , during formal occasions 
( Marriage et al )  in Sri Vaishnavite homes , Sumangalis
wear the red Sri ChUrNam and the Kumkumum on
their foreheads . 

One step further , the ladies , who lost their husbands 
wore a white crescent just above the brows from 
ThirumaNN instead of the whole U-shaped form and 
wore yellow dot above . Blank forehead was rarely seen
among widows in the  earlier days especailly in villages .

While on this subject , a reference was made to Ladies 
reciting Sahasra Naamam and attracting the attention 
of Men by accident because of their sweet tones and higher
pitch . The deeply rooted cultural mores of India in Sri Vaishnavite 
homes rarely would lend themselves to  men and women 
sitting in the same ghOshti and  reciting Sahasra Naamam 
or any other sacred works together . 
My mother and grand mother wont even sit in front of their 
husbands even at home . Even in this country , the ladies 
and women sit in separate groups at the temple following 
the Indian traditions . They may recite the sacred works , 
but from different sections of the assembly  . The old
generation couple in India rarely ate together . The husband 
and children were fed first before they could eat . Many of our women 
in the cities of India are C. As , Doctors, Lawyers et al today 
and these customs under time pressures have changed . 

The restrictions on women reciting scriptures are common 
also in Muslim and Jewish religions . In both these religions,
women are relegated to separate seats away from the Orchestra
level seating . The old Roman Catholic religion  has 
ongoing fights  about accepting women into preisthood 
and who can say the mass . 

All aside , I do not see any reason for the ladies reciting 
Sahasra Naamams at home in front of pujA graham 
daily . My grand mothers on both sides had Vedic Scholars
as husbands . They were however illiterate and could only
make thumb impressions as signatures on official documents  . 
Both however had good grasp of slOkams and they recited them
and left the menfolk to teach it to us . They learned it as chilldren 
from their fathers and recitesd them as they went about their chores .

In Swami Desikan's times , the ladies were pampered and 
they were not subject to the rigors of speaking in Sanskrit ,
even if they could . They elected instead to speak in PrAkrutham .
That had the sweetness and the endearing "lisp " . 

In the Vedic times , the wives of many Sages were profound
Vedic Scholars and debated with their husbands on esoteric
subjects in deva bhAshA . Whole Upanishad has resulted from
such a discussion between sage Yaj~nyavalkya and his consort . 
The Rishis for some of the Veda manthrAs are women . They are
the manthra dhrushtAs .  

Times have indeed changed !