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Women's Lives, Women's Rituals in the Hindu Tradition$
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Tracy Pintchman

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195177060

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195177060.001.0001

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 Threshold Designs, Forehead Dots, and Menstruation Rituals:

 Threshold Designs, Forehead Dots, and Menstruation Rituals:

Exploring Time and Space in Tamil Kolams

Chapter:
(p.85) 5 Threshold Designs, Forehead Dots, and Menstruation Rituals:
Source:
Women's Lives, Women's Rituals in the Hindu Tradition
Author(s):

Vijaya Rettakudi Nagarajan

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195177060.003.0006

This chapter explores the ways that women's religious practices cross boundaries and traverse thresholds, and emphasizes continuity and overlap between private and public domains. The focus is on the relationship between kolams – auspicious designs that women create daily at their domiciles' thresholds, and pottus – the auspicious red dots that adorn Tamil women's foreheads. It is argued that the kolam and the pottu are parallel ritual expressions that embody larger Hindu cultural values, especially auspiciousness and inauspiciousness, purity and pollution. Both kolam and pottu mark thresholds, those of the home and the body, and function to mark spatial and temporal transformations: from auspicious to inauspicious times or pure to impure ones, as in the erasure of the pottu; and the absence of kolam production during menstruation and their reappearance following the period of menses. Pottu and kolam both embody the status of married women as auspicious householders, a status that is rooted in their domestic location, but both send that auspiciousness forth beyond the domestic threshold into the larger communities in which female Hindu householders are situated.

Keywords:   Hindu women, religious practice, pottus, kolam, menstruation, auspiciousness, householders

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