Monday, 29 April 2013

Mayir Pudunggeriya? (Plucking your hair?)

(This is based on oral history and not written evidence)

The Tamil language has many foul words. Some of these words were not foul in origin. One classic example will be the word mayir. Mayir is hair in Tamil. The other word for hair is Mudi. 

Mayir is often pronounced with an extended 'u' as mayiru.

"Mayir pudunggeriya?" is a common phrase used especially when someone is angry. It is used on people believed to be useless, procrastinators, lazy. If someone uses it on you, then he is trying to tell you that you are good for nothing, in a very harsh way.

What's the origin of this phrase?

In ancient times, Tamil Nadu was under the influence of Jainism. The Jain religion has many extreme practices. The monks are usually nude and hairless. They do not shave their hair. They remove the hair by plucking it out.

These Jain monks are usually jobless. They do not work to earn a living like most people do. It was common for the other working Tamils to see these Jain monks plucking their hair daily. 

For some, what the monks did was useless. They don't work and spend time plucking hairs.

These people would have then sarcastically asked the monks "Mayir pudunggeriya?". Even now, when someone is angry for an unfinished assignment, they may ask "Ennada, velai seyama mayir pudungganiya?" (Were you plucking hair instead of working?)

Jainism is no longer a major religion in Tamil Nadu. There are not much monks left. No more sights of people pudunggeraning their mayir.

But the phrase got stuck till today!
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