Thaali –its meaning and origin.
So far we have seen from Sanskrit and Tamil texts that the ceremony of Mangalya dharanam was absent in Vedic marriages – at least until Silappadhikaram times.
However we do come across the mention of 'thaali' in olden Tamil texts.
In this post, we will analyze the information related to 'thaali'.
Thaali is found mentioned in many texts, but this is something worn by the babies!
Thaali is the shortened form of 'Im-padai-th-thaali' meaning, 'thaali having 5 weapons'!
It has been customary in olden Tamil lands to use this Im-padai-th-thaali' for kids,
as a kind of amulet to ward off evil eye.
'Thaal' means palm leaf.
The chain is made of palm leaf and / or in gold in the shape of a leaf..
The images of the Panchayudha or the 5 weapons of Lord Vishnu
were tied to this thaal.
It is possible to assume that the pendant was shaped like a palm leaf
with the images of the 5 weapons engraved on it.
Lord Vishnu was always identified with the act of protection (kaappu).
"kaappukku munnedukkum kadavuL MaalEyagum",
says Choodamani Nigandu. (1)
The very image of His weapons in whatever format,
is believed to protect the wearer from any evil or attack. (2)
This chain was tied around the neck of the baby on the 5th day of its birth.(3)
The baby would be wearing it till the time it starts eating solid food.
This is known from Purananuru (4)
wherein the mother says that the thaali is not yet removed from her baby
to be replaced by a garland,
for he has not started eating food.
He is still continuing on milk food.
The thaali, dangling on the neck of the baby never misses the attention of the people,
because that is the period the baby will be crawling with the thaali
that sways rhythmically, as the baby moves around.
The golden thaali shines with the images of the weapons
in such a way that no evil can come near the baby.
The mother talks about the beauty of her kid with the thaali on his neck (5)
Other texts also mention about thaali,
but only in the context of a baby wearing it. (6)
It is because of the thaali,
the term 'thaalaatttu' (lullaby) ('thaal aattu' – the sway of the thaal)
seems to have entered into usage!
This is understood from the fact that the stages of a baby as sung in
one of the song types, namely "Pillai-th-Thamizh" or "Pillai-k-kavi"
has this 'thaalattu-p-paruvam'
which begins when the baby is left on the cradle few days after birth
(or on the day of naming ceremony).
In Periyaazhwar Thirumozhi, we find the expression of the thaali,
which is adoring the chest of baby Krishna.
The aazhwar describes
"Thiru maarvukku yErkum ivai endru,
aim-padaiyum, aaramum kondu" (7)
The chain with the pendant of 5 weapons engraved on it,
is seen on the chest of Baby Krishna.
The 'thaalelO' rhyme of the Thaalaattu,
seems to be derived from the thaal
that is shining on the baby
and swaying here and there when the baby moves around.
It seems babies of both gender were made to wear this,
though the verses found in Sangam texts are about boy babies only.
The Pillai-th-thamizh is separate for boy and girl babies.
The Pillai-th-thamizh is sung on the different stages of the baby's growth.
Except certain stages, others are the same for both the genders.
'Thaalattu' is one such stage which is the same for both boy and girl babies.
This goes to show that that thaali was worn by the babies of both sexes.
The reason for wearing it as protection goes to show
how the thaali came to be adopted in later days
in the marriage ceremony!
(to be continued)
(1) Choodamani nigandu 12-139)
(2) The 5 weapons are mentioned in the last verse of Vishnu Sahasra nama and in Sangam texts too besides ChoodamaNi nigandu.
vanamAlI gadI SAr'ngI Sa'nkhI cakrI ca nandakI |
SrImAn nArAyaNo vishNuh vAsudevo'bhirakshatu ||
(3) Dr U.Ve. Sa in "Purananuru, moolamum, vuraiyum", Edition 1950, (p 182)
(4) "thaar poondu thaali kaLaindhandrum ilanE,
paal vittu ayiniyumindra yindranan"
(5) "ponnudai-th-thaali en magan"
(6) Manimegalai – 3-137
Kamba ramayanam (Nadu- 58),
Kalingatthu parani (Avatharam -9)
and Thiruvalaiyaadal puranam (39-25)
(7) Periyaazhwar Thirumozhi – (1-3 -5)