Avani Avittam is the day when a majority of the Tamil Brahmins exchange their old three threads, worn across their body, for new.
I read this in a brahmin-oriented yahoogroup…
Ambi porantha Sobhanam
Akka porantha Ukkarai
Patti porantha bakshanam
Patta porantha pazhukavadi
……..and at the end of it the bhramachari gets a dime.
the translation goes like this
hail Aug 12th – the Underwear old
brother’s birth brings brightness more
while sister’s birth means jaggeried flour
Grandma’s birth gets the goodies pick
but grandpa’s is jus the walking stick !
This verse is very old, and that explains the “brightness” when the brother is born, as opposed to the “jaggeried flour” when a sister is.
The death of a really aged relative usually is occasion for the family to celebrate the liberation of the associated soul, and that explains the goodies distributed when Grandmas die.
A week or so ago, my room mate, who hails from the Szechuan province in China (yes, as in “szechuan chicken”), spied the threads around my body, and asked me what purpose they served. I gave him the standard joke about it being useful to scratch the back, and then went on to explain the caste system as it was followed in India. In explaining this I used the word “Varna” which, when literally translated, means “colours”. He listened intently, and I was explaining patiently. At the end of it all, he asked me, “So do the other castes wear threads of different colours?”
And I was thinking that was a neat idea! Maybe it was that way (I know it wasn’t) and thats why we have the word “Varna”.