‘Dravidian Tamil’ Superstitions about Sneezing and Lizard Chirping (Post No.3236)


Written by London Swaminathan


Date: 9 October 2016


Time uploaded in London: 19-31


Post No.3236


Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.


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Tamils have superstitions about sneezing, crows, lizard chirping and fluttering of eyes. It is seen in 2000-year-old Sangam Tamil literature.


Tamil Panchang (traditional calendars with Hindu festival days etc.) has got two pages devoted to Pancha Pakshi Shastra (Prediction by Five Birds) and Lizard Predictions. Nobody has done any scientific research into it to prove it or disprove it. The Bird astrology divides the day into five parts allocating one each to vulture, owl, crow, cock and peacock. Actually there is more to it. They tell you what would happen depending upon the nature of flights of birds. It is an interesting area for research students. Brhat Samhita of Varahamihira gives information about wagtail bird predictions.

If we go to the Lizard astrology page, the Panchang divides it into two parts. It tells you what would happen if a lizard falls on you and if the lizard calls (makes sound). It tells you something good or bad would happen depending upon the part of the body it touches or the direction of the sound. Big tabular columns are in the Panchang for birds and lizards predictions.


Lizards in Tamil Sangam Literature
The sound made by the lizards served as omens for the Tamils. Sangam period Tamil poet Kavan mullai putanar says,” the lizard on the Kalli tree makes its characteristic tickling sound and is taken as predicting the events to the wayfarers (Agam 151). Another poet says that the travellers paused a while hearing the tickling sound of the lizard (Agam 387). Even wild animals followed lizard sounds! A boar was just about to enter a millet field, but it went back on hearing the tickling sound of the lizard (Agam 186).
More references:–Agam 9, 151, 289, 387; Narrinai 98, 169,3 33, 9.

Fluttering Eyes


Flutter of eyes also is taken into account to find what is going to happen next. This is supported in Sanskrit literature as well. Tamils are not alone in it. One thing is common in all these strange predictions. Left is good for women and right is good for men. Probably the logic for this is Ardhanari principle of Lord Shiva, i.e. Shiva’s left side is shared by Parvathy. Bible also supports it by saying the woman is made from the left rib of man (For more, please read my Sanskrit in Bible posts)


Sneeze in Tamil Veda Tirukkural


If a person sneezes they say “Bless you” in western countries. Actually it started in India. We say Dirgayush (Long live). We have enough proof for this in Tamil and Sanskrit literature.

Tirukkural, the most famous book of the Tamils, says in Chapter FEIGNED:

When I continue to be receding, he sneezed and thought I would then wish him long life (Kural 1312)

I sneezed; “Live long”, she blessed. Then suddenly she wept saying, “You sneezed thinking of some other lady” (Kural 1317)

I stifled my sneeze. She wept saying, “Is it to hide from me the thought of thee in the mind of thy beloved” (Kural 1318)

This is based on the belief that you sneeze when someone who loves you thinks about you. If some sneezes then the Tamils wished them long life, says Tiruvalluvar in his Tirukkural. Even number and odd number of sneezes also make big difference. Even number of sneezes is good.


My Earlier Posts:-

Beware of Wagtail Birds: Prediction by Varahamihira!

Article No.1661; Dated 19th February 2015.

DIVINATION in The Vedas, Babylonian and Etruscan

Research Article No.  1792; Date: 10th April 2015


I want to add what Arthur Miles say about these superstitions in his book:-


Lizard Chirps
“Superstition plays an important part in daily life. The chirping or fall of the lizard; the shadow of a bird in flight; the flutter of a leaf; the first object one sees when awakening in the morning; are of the utmost importance in the sense of superstitious observance.


The lizard formula is so long and complicated that I wonder how any Indian can remember it. Everything depends upon the number of chirps, and the direction from which they come. As it is not unusual for two or more lizards to be chirping from different directions at the same time, deductions become rather involved. If a lizard chirps twice from the south-east on Monday, it portends rebellion. On Friday, however, the meaning is that the hearer will be decorated. The chirps which on Tuesday indicate enmity, on Saturday denote relationship with a new woman.


The lizard is a courageous little reptile, and to avoid danger or to escape from a palm squirrel, he will not hesitate to throw himself from a rafter to the floor. His fall augurs good or evil, to whoever happens to be underneath. If he falls on one’s head it means death; if on the eyes, it indicates prison. It is lucky if he falls on the forehead or the right arm, for this means coronation or general good health. Falling on the lips or chin is not so good, since there is a chance of losing money or of receiving priestly punishment. On the left arm the fall means great sexual enjoyment, but should it fall on the penis one will suffer penury and want. These are only a few of the lizard superstitions.


Another indication of good or bad influences is contained the sneeze. Should one sneeze but once it indicates failure but sneezing twice is decidedly auspicious. There are employed a number of absurd antics in order to produce the second sneeze.


Some friends and I were sitting under a tree in my garden in Mysore, when a leaf fluttered down. Before it could alight on a lady’s shoulder an Indian surgeon, attached to a regiment stationed in the district, diverted it so that it fluttered to the ground. To do this he jumped up, and overturned a small table. The Surgeon explained that we were sitting under a tamarind tree, which in itself was a very unwise thing to do. After examining the leaf, however, his face lighted up and a smile displaced apprehension. When he had apologized for turning over the table, he told the lady that nothing disastrous would have happened even if the leaf had touched her, as it was not a dead one. Had it been a dead leaf, some dire calamity, which nothing could avert, would have followed.


A caste of Tamil artisans pays particular attention to what they see in the early morning, especially on their New Year’s Day. The women make it their duty to ensure on New Year’s Day their husbands, on waking, see only objects of good omen. Ashes, firewood, and oil, being unlucky, are carefully screened from view. (Fruits, gold coins, flowers, mirror, new clothes are arranged on a plate; they are considered good)


Unlucky Seven! Koravas Supestition!

The Koravas watch for omens before starting out on one of their house breaking expeditions.

Water standing perfectly still is a good omen, but it is unfortunate to see widows, pots of milk, a bull bellowing, or a dog urinating. On the other hand, it is very lucky to hear a bull bellowing at the time of the criminal operation.


The number seven is considered ominous, and a burglary expedition seldom consists of seven men. It is even unlucky utter the number seven. A man who has just been released from jail, or a newly married man, is unlucky for criminal excursions. Should the number seven be unavoidable when starting out, the house-breaking instrument is considered the eighth member of the gang.


The women of this caste resort to divination, if their husbands are sometime absent and they fear the men have been apprehended. A long strand is pulled out of a broom, and at one end of it are tied several smaller strands, which have been dipped in oil. If the strand floats in water, there is no need to worry but if it sinks, the wife starts out at once to find her husband.


The eighteenth day of a month is the luckiest day for committing crimes. A successful criminal adventure on this day is sure to be followed by good luck. Sundays, while they auspicious for weddings, are unlucky for crimes. Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are unlucky until the afternoon for the beginning of burglary, as is also the day of the new moon. Fridays are not suitable for breaking into the homes of Brahmans.


Khondh Tribe’s Superstitions!
If a Kondh meets a woman, whether married or unmarried, when he is starting out on a hunting expedition, he will turn back. He will then make a fresh start, waving every woman that he meets out of his way. If a Kondh woman is menstruating, her husband, sons and brothers will not hunt game until her period is over. The men believe that they will come across no animals at such a time. The Kondh will not kill a crow because it would amount to killing a friend. According to one of the folk tales of the caste, soon after the creation of the world there lived a family of an aged man, a woman, and five children. Plague carried off the children one after the other in quick succession, and the parents being too old and too poor to take the necessary steps for the cremation of the bodies, they were obliged to throw them on the ground a little distance from their home. Vishnu then appeared to them one night in a dream, and promised to create the crow so that it might devour the dead bodies.

tiger-seal-3  tiger-seal

Picture: Tiger Goddess of Indus Valley

Superstition of the Aborigines

Many of the aborigines believe that they can transform themselves into tigers or snakes. Half the soul is supposed to leave the body, and in the guise of a tiger or snake it kill an enemy or satisfy its hunger by feeding on cattle in the jungle. During this time such people are said to remain dull and listless, and to shirk any sort of work. It is also believed soul wanders during sleep, when it may enter the body of a tiger or some other wild animal.


(Foreigners say that all the dark skinned people are Dravidians which is not correct)