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Namboothiri Ornaments

Namboothiris, and especially Antharjanams, had a large variety of ornaments. But they wore them only infrequently. Though most Illams had a set of jewelry, they were worn only when someone visited relatives, or went some other place, and during birthdays, Onam and other festivals.

Namboothiris (Male)

Ordinarily, male Namboothiris wore two plain rounded gold rings or one simple design ring ("Katta Vecha Mothiram") on the right ring finger. A sacred ring ("Pavithra Mothiram") was worn after either parent died. Those who did take a fancy to ornaments, wore a nine-stone (gem) ring and a Thulasi (basil) or Rudraaksham (Eloeocarpus ganitrus) chain linked with gold or silver. In some aristocratic families, a few wore a flattened triple gold string around the waist. These are, however, not universal.


Infant boys started wearing jewelry only from the "Choroonu" day (rice-feeding ceremony), and not earlier. If the first born was a boy, there used to be a function called "Valayideekkal" (wearing of bangle or bracelet) on the Choroonu day, when relatives, according to their capacity, put a bangle on the infant's hands.

Little boys wore a plain sand-filled gold ring tied around their neck with a white cotton thread ("Vellacharadu"), a gold or silver (based on financial capacity) flat 3-strand chain ("Moonnizha Nool") around the waist, and a gold or silver anklet - "Thala".

On special days, the plain neck ring was replaced by a "Puli Nakhha Mothiram" (tiger claw ring) with or without a blue or green gem-stone, a "Kingini" and "Elass" of gold or silver around the waist above the thread ("Nool"). Those who could afford, used a sand-filled Elass or Thala, which made a slight sound. Boys from rich families wore a plain ("Ozhukkan") bracelet as well as an intricately carved ("Roopam Kothi Vala") one, while those from poorer families wore only the plain one. After around age four, only Elass, but no Kingini nor Thala were worn.

Gold and other ornaments were not worn by Upanichunnis, except for a plain ring tied as a locket around the neck. Relatives attending the Samaavarthanam ceremony used to give rings to the boy.


Antharjanams wore combinations of five kinds of necklaces with centuries old designs, but worn only during marriages and other festivities.

  1. Kaasaali (Kaasu Thaali, coin necklace) - has either 13 or 15 engraved lockets, of which 10 depict "Dasaavathaarams (the 10 incarnations of Vishnu), three representing Sreebhagavathy, Ganapathy and "Paradevatha" (family deity), and if 15, the remaining two for Indran and Indraani.
  2. Poothaali;
  3. Kettarimbu;
  4. Kazhuthila;
  5. Mani, with three strands ("Izha") believed to be not just an ornament, but also having a sacred nature, and worn during the husband's "Aagrayanam" (Puthari Karmam).
Such ornaments were not owned by individuals, but were family property and were shared by all. It was also quite common to borrow from and lend to neighbouring Namboothiri families in times of need during festivities like marriages.

On ordinary days, Antharjanams wore only the "Cheruthaali". Cheruthaali was mainly of two types - Kamazhthi (convex outwards) Cheruthaali for Aadhhyans and Malathi (convex inwards) Cheruthaali for Aasyans. The 21-Desam women had an altogether different type [Click here for Irupathonnu (21) Desam]. Cheruthaali contains 15 lockets alternating with round "Manis". On the same string at the back will be four "Mookkolakkallu", a Rudraaksham and an "Ilanji" (Mimosops elengi) seed.

Aadhyans wore 15 brass bangles or bracelets on the right hand, and 14 on the left. Aasyans wore bronze bangles. Everyone used to wear "Chittu" (a wide ear ring) in the enlarged lobes of the ears.


Girls wore around the neck a gold ring (filled with sand) as locket, tied with a white thread and another gold ornament called "Mookkolakkallu" or "Kuttivecha Mothiram". Brass bangles were also worn. (When rubbed with "Ammippaal" - the whitish liquid one gets when a grinding stone is used with just water - they shone like gold!). Gold or silver "Aranjaan" around the waist and anklet (Thala) were worn.

Even the well-to-do wore only silver anklets, though gold ones were not uncommon for the special girl born after several boys! Instead of Thala, some girls wore "Paadasaram" (made of gold or silver).

After the ears were pierced ("Kaathu Kuthal"), the holes were slowly enlarged using "Marakkuradu" (special wooden round piece placed inside the hole), which was continued to be worn until marriage, when it was replaced by Chittu.

On important occasions, "Paalakkaa Mothiram" which was either plain with wax filling or with gem-stone of green, blue or flame red color, "Pappada Thaali" with green or red stone at the centre, and "Kuzhalan Mothiram" (tubular ring) were worn. Both Kuzhalan and Paalakka Mothirams have a "Thalla" ( meaning old woman!) locket in the middle, with 10 - 12 of the others on either side. Special girls might get to wear a gold Elass or Kingini. Older girls wore a thick gold/silver waist band, "Aranjaan". Pappada Thaali is a single piece locket with an ordinary thread for tying. Aadhhyans and Aasyans wore similar ornaments. The bangles girls wore were similar to those of Antharjanams.


Namboothiri brides even during marriage wore much less ornaments than those of other communities. As mentioned, the Marakkuradu in the earlobes were at that time replaced with Chittu. During the auspicious time (Muhoortham) of marriage, it was her father who tied the "Cheruthaali" - also called "Pozhuthaali" - around the bride's neck using an ordinary cotton thread. (In most other communities, the bridegroom tied the Thaali). Usually, another complete set of Cheruthaali was also worn at that time. Four silver rings were worn on every finger except the two middle fingers. There would also be a plain round gold ring on the right ring finger.


Widows wore no ornament except the ring. Some continued to wear the Chittu. They often wore a Thulasi Maala (chain made of basil beads) or a Rudraaksha Maala strung in gold or silver.

| Article No:11 | Last update of this article:16th August 2001 |
Article by : Leela Nambudripad ["Sumangala"], Desamangalam Mana, Kumaranellur - 680590, Vadakkancheri, Thrissur Dist. Phone: 0488-432690

Reference : "Ente Smaranakal" - Vol. 1, Kanippayyur Sankaran Nambudiripad
Publishers : Panchaamgam Pusthakasaala, Kunnamkulam - 680 503

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