Something thats disappearing...

June 13, 2008

Walking in BTM Layout today, I spotted this laughing young girl:


She is wearing the “dhAvaNi”, which is also called the “half-saree”. It is a “pAvAdai-shattai” (long skirt and blouse) worn with a half-saree. Most south Indian young girls used to wear this once upon a time; my theory is, that the girls attaining puberty would have the remnants of sarees from older family members and would wear that along with the pAvAdai-sattai that they already possessed. The developing bosom had to be covered, in our prudish culture, so the pAvAdai-sattai of the younger days had to include the dhAvaNi, also. How did the dhAvaNi get its name? I don’t know.

The dhAvani in Tamizh culture and literature symbolizes the girl’s attaining maturity in many ways. There’s a movie by Bhagyaraj called “dhAvaNik kanavugaL” (dhAvaNi dreams)…and I still remember the lovely old song, “pAvAdai dhAvaniyil pArtha uruvamA?…ivaL poovadai veeshi vara, poottha paruvamA?” (Is this the form that I saw in pAvAdai dhAvaNi, is she blooming and redolent of floral fragrance?”)

A lovely thing about that song…the primary rhymes are “uruvamA” and “paruvamA”..but the secondary rhymes, “pAvAdai” and “poovAdai”….one is “pAvAdai”…“pAvai + Adai” …the garment that a pAvai, or a girl, wears; and the other is “poovAdai”…“poo + vAdai”…flower + fragrance.

What mastery of the language these lyrics show….

The half-saree is such an essential part of Tamizh culture….I wonder how many young women wear it any more. In the old days, when a young woman got married, she had to start wearing “pudavai” or sarees, and put by the attire of her unmarried girlhood.

I actually studied in a south Indian school in Calcutta which had both skirts/shirts and half-sarees as the uniform for the girls. The sight of this young girl brought back many pleasant memories…