The strange case of songs that celebrated Coming of Age on Malayalam screen

Indian Celebrations

We Indians are known for our lavish celebrations, be it our festivals or our weddings. There is a celebration for all occasions. For an adult, it starts with the wedding with a lot of pomp and show, then its formal  reception, the Shanthi Muhurtham which is prevalent in Tamil Nadu, Valakaappu during pregnancy, the celebrations associated with the  28th day after child birth, the Naming ceremony, Kaathu kutthu – the list is never ending. Even death is celebrated in our country, where the funeral procession is with dance and music.

But amongst all these billion and another two hundred thousand ones, there is one celebration which amuses me the most. That is the coming of age celebration, when a girl attains puberty. Popularly known as the Thirandu kalyanam in my part of the state, is celebrated on the 7th day after a girl attains puberty. Though now it is not celebrated as in the past, still it is an occasion in the villages. My question is,  Why ? Why should such an occasion be celebrated? I did ask my grandmother. She said, it’s to let the world know that there is someone in the family ready to bear a child, in other words, ready to get married. I countered with emphasising 13 or 14 is too young to get married ! Pat came the answer, “I was married within a year after I attained puberty at the age of 13, and a mother at 14 !” And she gave me one of those wide toothless smiles. I was dumbfounded !

Today, I have 2 daughters , both in their teens, but when they attained puberty, I was panic stricken. I didn’t want the world to know they were old enough to bear children. To me they are still my babies !

When I reach Kerala for my vacations, I look forward to meeting my friends Nandu and Krishna Kumar, both of them great music lovers and above all great Devarajan Master fans. Especially KK, who eats breaths and sleeps Devarajan songs. In fact I look forward to the evenings we spend over a couple of drinks and discuss music. During one of those evenings, while we were discussing different genres in music, suddenly KK came up with this statistics. He said in Malayalam film music, there are only 3 songs on coming of age and that all 3 are composed by G Devarajan. Two of them penned by the great Vayalar Rama Varma and the third by Kavalam Narayana Panicker. Of course, you might find  songs which has “obvious” words like Hrithumathi, but the whole song on coming of age are only these 3. So without much furthur ado, here are they.

1. Irunooru pournami from  Makane Ninakku Vendi (1971 )

Usha Nandini in Makane Niankku Vendi (1971)

This is mainly about the physical changes you see in a girl by the time she attains puberty. It is said that by the time a girl completes 200 lunar cycles, she would have come of age. Many thanks to our dear Gopalakrishnan for uploading this video.

When Vayalar starts off with :
ഇരുന്നൂറു പൌര്‍ണ്ണമി ചന്ദ്രികകള്‍
ഇരുന്നൂറു പൊന്നരയന്നങ്ങള്‍
കുളിരുമായ്‌ നിന്റെ കൗമാരത്തിന്റെ
കിളിവാതില്‍ കിരുകിരെ തുറന്നു നോക്കി..
he doesn’t leave much room ( for that matter any doubt ) as to what he is exactly going to be discussing about, isn’t it ?

Lyrics : Vayalar Rama Varma
Music : G Devarajan
Sung by : KJ Yesudas

The next 2 songs are on the ceremony/rituals itself.

2.Illaarillaam kaattinullil from  Karakaanaakadal ( 1971 )

Jayabharathy in Karakaanakkadal (1971)

This song sequence, to me is of historic significance as it has clearly recorded for posterity, the ceremony inside the limitations that the medium allows, and for that, a big thanks to KS Sethumadhavan. It becomes by default, a visual bookmark for those among the coming generations who have an innate desire to learn more about the social rituals that had been prevalent and has become redundant, thankfully !

Lyrics : Vayalar Rama Varma
Music : G Devarajan
Sung by : P Madhuri and Chorus

3. Poovam kuzhali from Vaadakaykkoru Hrudayam ( 1978 )

Jayabharathy in Vaadakaykkoru Hrudayam (1978) Another one from the Padmarajan – IV Sasi collaborations which approached repressed sexuality, this time from a different perspective, this time inside the strictures of the marital framework. Interestingly, Jayabharathy was the protagonist for Padmarajan‘s two more explorations of this ” repressed sexuality” theme – Itha Ividey varey ( 1977), which approached it from the testosterone-heavy male point of view, and Rathinirvedam ( 1978) in the same year, those that I can immediately recollect.  Also , Jayabharathy seems to be the subject in two of the three songs that depict Coming of Age in Malayalam films too.🙂 Interesting !

Lyrics : Kavalam Narayana Panicker
Music : G Devarajan
Sung by : KJ Yesudas

Thank God for the changing times, increasing awareness through education and self – assertion.

Do write in with your thoughts.

16 thoughts on “The strange case of songs that celebrated Coming of Age on Malayalam screen

  1. It is still very often celebrated. Just a couple of months ago, my mother was invited to a similar ceremony performed by our neighbour in Bangalore for her daughter. And with girls beginning mensturation earlier and earlier these days, these children are hardly old enough to feel embarrasment.

    1. Thanks Nalini… Yeah you said it.. owing to the hormone injected chicken and meat that we eat, children who are hardly 10 get their cycles. Ask me about it!!!

  2. Marvelous write up!!!!A rarely disclosed or discussed topic on the beautiful milestone of Womanhood…….Great salutations Vijuetta…

  3. one more song there VIJU BHAI.. and that is from the movie THULAVARSHAM (i think i have given you the movie, if not i will give you next time) by n sankaran nair.. picturised on sridevi when she (her character) reached such stage in the movie. this song was written by BHASKARAN master and composed by DAKSHINAMURTHY. (as salil da had no idea abt a suitable tune for such situation).

    nice theme selected for your new article.

    1. Thanks Gopal for the info. I guess it should be Paarayidukkil mannundo…. 2 songs in Thulavarsham were composed by V. Dakshinamoorthi swami. The other is Maadathe kili pennu. I have seen the picturisation of Maadathe.. Major part of the movie Thulavarsham was shot in my village. Just about 100 meters from my house. But the song Maadathe kili pennu was not included in the movie. It was picturised on Hema Choudhury and Prem Nazir.🙂

  4. Dear Viju
    Thanks for presenting a write up on a subject on coming of age. There is a song in Iniyoru Janmam Tharu which starts Maamsa Pushpam Vidarnnu… Maadaka Gandham parannu… Aaraama Menake.. This song written by Vayalar Rama Varma is composed by M B Sreenivaasan. Here the poet with deep felt sorrow asks why the aarama devatha exposed the flower that bloomed to a Maiden for the caprice of the evil minded world.
    Aarama Devathe Nee Enthin aa
    Vasanthaarambha Pushpathe
    Teruvil Vittu
    Kindly go through the first & second Anupallavi and charanam of the song.
    Also listen to the fresh treatment of the interludes filled with the wa wa guitar strokes. This is a song which can be included in that category of songs that went unnoticed

    Sajith

  5. Yes, it is a little discussed topic…Would “Paavaada praayathil ninne njaan kandappol” be a coming of age song?

    As far as I know, coming of age exist for boys as well, Upanayanam (poonool kalyaanam) for Brahmins and Sunnath for Muslims. I have heard a few songs mentioning the former – Pavanarachezhuthunnu” from Vietnam Colony,and “Valkkannezhuthiya” from Paithrukam. The song “Shanthi manthram” from Aaryan shows some scenes of this celebration.

  6. Viju, interesting commentary.🙂 I share your opinion of the thirandu kalyanam but when a couple of my students went through this ceremony (and not so long ago, either), I was invited; when I asked them later whether they were embarrassed/irritated about this public ceremony, both answered in the negative. Different strokes, I guess.

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