Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Coming of age - shobanam.

One of my village children, Kavya,  has come of age. Varalu called up and told me. This is traditionally   seen as one of the stepping stones in life, and traditionally a function called 'shobanam' is performed. The earlier function and first function for the child would have been the ‘purudu ceremony’ 11 days after birth. Now after the ‘shobanam’, the next would be marriage, and then the funeral.
This is also when the girl child starts acquiring some assets in her name. She would ideally get a pair of small gold earrings, or something more, or something less, as would be the family situation. This will stay her own through life, as it would be given publicly and acknowleged publicly. So through  her marriage also this would be her own asset – a certain form of security. 

Once the child attains puberty, a small hut is constructed of branches of the mushti (Strychnos nux-vomica) amd the uduga (Alangium salvifolium) trees. These branches keep away gaali (spirits) from affecting the girl. A broom or slippers are also kept outside the hut for the same purpose. Similarly a cow horn is also kept in a pot along with some mushti and uduga leaves. The girl  stays in the hut for eleven days. Some broomsticks  and  mushti and uduga leaves are kept near the girl and whenever she steps out, she takes them with her. The spirits have to be kept away as they may desire to possess a girl entering puberty. The girl takes bath on the first, third, fifth, seventh and eleventh day. After the eleventh day she formally reenters the house. Each of these eleven days, the child is celebrated and  vandi techchedi (cook and getting delicacies) is performed by a relative who brings the girl some sweets and savories, or a full meal. The mother makes the girl sweets, and also balls of blackgram, jaggery and til oil. The girl would also be given blackgram and jaggery daily. It is said that this helps the blood flow. She is also given steamed rice flour mixed with sugar. Govindamma, the village midwife, said that this helps the hips become firm and strong.

On the eleventh day the girl  enters the house in a new saree, carrying a pot. Then she goes to the temple. After that the nalugu ceremony is done where everyone in the village anoints the girl is anointed with turmeric and given betel leaf and betel nut by everyone. All relatives come and it is celebrated almost like a mini wedding. On this day the girl’s maena mama (mother’s brother) carries her up and down the village street on his shoulders.  Gifts are given, and the girl starts her collection of sarees with these gifts! For the first three cycles, the girl is kept outside the house. If she goes to school on those days a Calatropis gigantica flower is tucked into her hair, and she carries along a couple of broom sticks.

Many families do not do the function anymore. But in the year 2011, Shyamala’s shobanam was done.  In 2013 it was done for Nandini. But many people also say that it was a waste of money as for school going girls it does not make sense as they cannot take the prescribed days off.

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