Post No. 10,792

Date uploaded in London – –    29 MARCH   2022         

Contact – swami_48@yahoo.com

Pictures are taken from various sources for spreading knowledge.

this is a non- commercial blog. Thanks for your great pictures.

tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

Sangam Tamil literature has 18 books and they are 2000 years old. Tamil epics followed the Sangam literature . Of the five Tamil epics, Silappadiakaram, is the most famous one which contains a Tamil story of chaste woman Kannaki and her unjustly executed husband Kovalan. Two commentaries by Arumpatha Uraiaasiriyar and Adiyarku Nallaar are available. Both  make the epic an encyclopaedia. Though the story contained happened in Sangam period (Second Century CE), the language of Silappadikaram belongs to 5th or sixth century CE. A lot of Sanskrit words, post Sangam Tamil words and supernatural stuff in the 5000 line long epic betrays its age. For the first time we come across words like ‘Narada’, ‘Veena’ etc.

And the two commentaries are about 500 years old. But they contain lot of information which are not available from any other source. 30 words for Cloth are listed at one go by one of them. Clothes made up of rat’s hair is also mentioned!

( I am not repeating what I said I my 2012 articles about Tamil women’s Bra and Reed dress)


Let us look at details about weavers, weaving and cloths from Sangam period and epic period.

Kovalan , hero of  Tamil epic, was going through different shops in the great city Madurai. The author of the epic Ilango described the shops and the goods sold by them in vivid details.  The cloth/textile shops were selling clothes made up of hair, silk and cotton.

“Kovalan went through the street of cloth merchants, where several kinds of bundles were piled up, each of a hundred  cloths woven of cotton thread, hair or silk thread”.

Atiyaarku nallaar says the ‘hair cloths’ were made up of  rats’ hair. Hair cloths are referred to in another epic Seevaka Chintamani , verse 2686


Panju / Panji and Paruthi are the words for Cotton in Tamil, unrelated to Karpasa in Sanskrit. Ilavam Panju is got from the silk cotton tree. Tukil , Kalingam and Aruvai , Pataam were common words for cloth in the olden days, now Thuni and Thundu are more common.

Brahmin priests and orthodox Brahmins wear the Dhoti (Veshti in Sanskrit from Vastra and Vaasa) in a particular style called Panja kacham.

Following is from the Tamil – English Cre-A dictionary:
Panjakacham – a mode of wearing Veshti running one end of it through the crotch and tucking it up in the back.

Thaarppaaychu – wearing a veshti by tucking one end of it behind one’s back (Similar to Panjakacham)

(for this one needs longer dhoti)

Tamils wear pure white Veshti/Dhoti

Kooraip Pudavai- saree, usually in deep crimson colour, worn by the Brahmin brides during wedding rituals ; Kanchi Paramacharya (1894-1994) also mentioned it  and says it may be from the Koorai nadu.

But no one knows whether the Koorai saree gave its name to the area or viceversa.

Naarmadi or Naarpattu– Brahmins observe strict cleanliness with the dress and food.  Children wearing old dress may come and touch them or hug them during religious rituals. To avoid pollution/Theettu /ritual defilement, they ask children to wear Koti/brand new clothes or Pattu/silk or they wear Naarmadi. It is made up of plant fibres

Brand new clothes or cloths are beyond ritual defilement, they believe.


Applying starch to clothes

A particular caste of people did the washing for the public. The dhobi or the washerman was called Vannaar and his wife was called Pulaithi or Vannaathi; they not only washed and cleaned the dirt on the cloths, but also applied starch and folded them and delivered them at houses.

The following references from Sangam literature confirm the above details: –

Kurunthokai verse 390,

Narrinai verse 90,

Maduraikanchi – line 721,

Nedunalvaadai- line 134,

Aka naanuuru verse – 387, 34

Pura naanuuru verse- 311

(Tamil quotes are in my Tamil article posted today)

To be continued……………………

 Tags- weaver, washerman, starch, cloths with rat hair, Tamil terms, weaving

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