Saturday, 4 April 2015

Earlobe Stretching - Forgotten Culture of Tamil People



My father's eldest sister, Pichaiammal of Sivagangai district, Tamil Nadu. She was born in the 1930s and is probably among the last of the few Tamil women (Maravar) who have stretched earlobes. 

Culture changes according to time. Up to the previous generation, it was normal for Tamil women to practice earlobe stretching. 

Usually, a girl will be given a pair of heavy pair of earrings by her parents just before her wedding. The heavy pair of earrings displays their wealth. 

Some of these earrings weighs around 16 gram. These earrings are quite heavy and over the time, the weight stretches the earlobes. It is considered as a mark of beauty. Some also believe that the longer it stretches, the longer her life will be.


A scene from Angkor Wat that shows two group of people involved in cock fighting. The ones on the left have stretched earlobes. 
Source: http://www.oldworldwandering.com/
The earrings used by the Tamil women to stretch their earlobes are known as Thandatti and Pambadam. The word Pambadam comes from the Tamil word for serpent, Pambu. The Pambadam is shaped like a Cobra's hood.

Cobra is known as Naga in India. The Naga worship was very popular in ancient Tamil Nadu and also in other parts of ancient India. Today, Naga worship has been absorbed into mainstream Hinduism. 


Naga worship as part of Hinduism
Source: www.hinduwebsite.com

The ancient Naga worshippers were known as Nagar in Tamil language. Usually in English, we just call them as the Nagas. The Nagas were once spread all over the Indian subcontinent. 

Pambadam is probably a leftover of this ancient Naga culture. 

Apart from the Tamil people, earlobe stretching was also practised by other communities such as the Kenyah tribe of Borneo and the Masai tribe of Africa. 

We are not sure if they were part of the ancient Naga culture. Like the Tamils, these tribes also stretch their earlobes for the same purpose of beautifying themselves. 

Please take a look at the pictures below which I found in the internet. 

Reference:
Earring: Ornamental Identity and Beauty in India
by Waltraud Ganguly

Snake Earrings of India: Their social, religious and sumbolical context
by Waltraud Ganguly




A pair of Thandatti
http://www.saffronart.com/

A pair of  Pambadam
Source: http://www.saffronart.com/

Tamil woman with stretched earlobes
Source: http://m5.i.pbase.com/o2/75/648575/1/140360075.ss6OnPZc.Pambadam.jpg
Tamil woman with stretched earlobes
Source: http://m9.i.pbase.com/o1/75/648575/1/139707189.U9CcoU22.5xPambadamSnakeearringsinTamilNadu.JPG

Masai woman with stretched earlobes
Source: lavera-photo-stories.com

Masai woman with stretched earlobes
Source: dpreview.com
Kenyah woman with stretched earlobes
Source: Ardi Sayuti @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/adventure-borneo/3662246879/

- Comments

2 comments:

  1. According to reseacher Spencer wells gene m130 has been migrated 70000 years ago from Africa to India, piranmalai kallar people have this unique gene and Australian aborgines and some Americans have this. Those people came from Africa via India to Australia. In Africa maya maara people are somehow related with kallar people. Their names like sembi - sembiyan maara- maravar, edamba - edambban and so on. Now this gene holder is living near usilampatti.

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  2. So the first foot in india was by a kallar people. I am not saying this, it is proven by science. If it was happened to the other community they would have taken this for a historical message and testimonial. But sadly everyone knows about this, also this politicians neither honour this people nor officially announce this in tamilnad or Indian history.

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