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Defilement Caused by Birth or Death of a Relative
("Aasoucham" or "Pula")

The happy occasion of the birth of a child and the sad event of the death of a person are accompanied by the observance of what is commonly called 'Pula' or 'Aasoucham', which is a form of physical pollution or defilement. The degree of defilement varies depending on several factors (ex: closeness of relationship), and are, well-codified, though confusing as discussed here. In the case of a birth, defilement may be a token of sympathy with the mother for all her sufferings, while with death, it could be the form-alisation of a mourning period.

1. For Parents when a child Dies:
If death occurs during its birth defilement ("Petta pula") period, although parents do get death defilement "Maricha pula"), it also ends along with the death defilement. If news of death reaches parent(s), after birth defilement period, the standard 10-day defilement period should be observed, but reckoned from the day of death. The others observe only birth defilement. But on hearing news of death, they should take bath.
1. On a male birth: 10 days to all the members in that family.
2. On a female birth: Her immediate relatives in that family have 10 days pula and others in that family have 3 days pula. Her immediate relatives are:
1.Grand father
2.Grand mother, other Namboothiri wives of grand father
4.Mother, step mothers
5.Father's brothers and their wives
6.Father's unmarried sisters
7.Father's brothers' sons and their wives
8.Father's brothers' unmarried daughters
9.Stepmother's sons and their wives
10.Stepmother's unmarried daughters
11.Her brothers and their wives
12.Her brothers' sons and their wives 
13.Her brothers' unmarried daughters
14.Her unmarried sisters

Pula at birth

2. For the other Children of the Dead Child's Mother:
If the child (male or female) dies on the 11th day after birth, between sunset and early morning (change of "Ahass"), then after bath, 10-day defilement to be observed.

3. For the Children of the Dead Child's Father's Older Wives (Older Step-mother's Children):
If, as in 2, if the child is a male, only a bath is prescribed. If the child dies between 11th day and one year, one-day defilement, and if thereafter, 10 days. If the child is female, between birth and one year, only bath, and if thereafter, 10 days.

4. For the Child's all other 10-day Defilement Relatives:
As in 2, if male child, only bath. One-day defilement if death occurs between 11 days and one year, 7-day if before 7 years old, and 10-day thereafter. If the dead child is a female, a bath if it is between birth and two years, one-day upto 7 years, 3-day, if between 7 and 11 years, and 10-days, after that.

5. Male Member's 10-day Defilement Relatives ("Pathu pulakkaar"):
From father on upto 7 paternal linear ancestors and all their descendants are mutually 10-day defilement relations.

6. Female Member's 10-day Defilement Relatives:
Father and grandfather, their children, grandchildren and all the wives.

7. For the 3-day Defilement Relatives of the Dead Child:
If death occurs to a male child between birth and age one: just the bath; 1 - 7 years : 1-day; thereafter : 3-day. If female, birth to 7 years : bath; 7 - 11 years :1-day; and if later : 3-day.

8. 3-day Defilement Relatives of Male:
Upto 10th lineal paternal ancestors and all their descendants, except the 12-day defilement relatives.

9. 3-day Defilement Relatives of Female:
Brother's 10-day and 3-day defilement relatives, less her own 10-dayers. One version excludes husband's 3-day defilement relatives.
[Note : The 10-day/3-day period is to be fully observed also if a male child dies after "Upanayanam".]

10. Defilement for Other Relatives ("Chaarcha pula"):
Father, paternal and maternal grandfathers, their children and grandchildren, mother, paternal and maternal grandfathers, one's own grandchildren - less all the previously described 10-day and 3-day defilement relatives - are the "other" relatives.

Of the above, mother, paternal and maternal grandmothers, their children and grandchildren, one's own grandchildren, father and paternal and maternal grandfathers are "Yoni" relations (Y), and all others "Beejam" relations (B).

According to the Northern Kerala version, 3-day defilement is observed by both Y and B if a child dies following birth. But in the Southern version, if a girl dies either before she is married or before she is 11, or if a boy dies before either "Upanayanam" or age 7, in both Y and B, only bath is prescribed. Beyond that, 3-day defilement if death is among Y; if among B, some observe 1-day, some 1-day, some 2-day and yet some others 3-day. Chaarcha pula, need not be observed after the marriage of one's female relatives, one's adopted family's (by marriage) female members ("Tharavaattukaar"), or defilementally related other "Tharavaattukaar". "Tharavaattu pula" is predominant. No 3-day defilement is to be observed if children of the female relatives after such marriage, die. Only bath and other previously described observances are needed.

11. Merged Defilement:
During a defilement period, if a weaker or equal second one is to be observed, it will be over along with the first. When two equal 10-day ones merge, 3-day observance from the start of the second one is needed. If the second one is stronger, that should be observed for the full period.

[10-day and 3-day Defilement (Pula) : Cutting off]

Namboothiri males observe "Saapindyam" (Pathu Pula, 10-day defilement) with seven generations before and after theirs, and "Sodakathwam" (Moonnu Pula, 3-days) with three generations thereafter. For women, the period is reversed, with three generations for Saapindyam and seven for Sodakathwam. While this change or cut-off is automatic for women, in the case of men the change will be recognised only through a declaration. In very early times, it is said that such declarations were non-existent, began to be observed at some later stage, and again became extinct.

If the eighth or later generations of two separate lines ("Thaavazhi") in a family wish and decide to separate with the formation of a new Illam (family) for one of them, it can be done through a declaration, or "Saapindya Nivruthi" or "Vilichu Parayal". The declaration is: "Adya Prabhruthi, Aavayo Mithha: Thriraathrameva, Aasouchamsyaal" ("Aasoucha Chinthaamanai Vyaakhyaanam", 115), meaning: "Henceforth, you and I have only 3-day defilement" (Mazhamangalam; Vyaakhyaanam of Slokam 13). The declaration should be made by the members of the same generation from both lines and with the concurrence and in the presence of all members of the two lines. Three generations later, Sodakathwa Nivruthi (cutting off the brotherhood) can be performed by the two families through a similar declaration process, releasing the two families from further mutual Pula. "Aavayo" means between you and I; yet the interpretations varied as to who is authorised to declare and who is to accept. It started to bother the community. This and possibly the difficulties in some families to find members of the same generation, might have led to the discontinuation of Sapinda Sodakathwa Nivruthi. In very recent times, the process seems to be reappearing once again.

Source: "Sapinda Sodaka Vishayam" - P G Narayanan Bhattathiripad (Porakkudinjathu Mana) - "Yajnopaveetham" Vol. 1, Issue 5, June - July 2002

12. Not Fully-merged Defilement:
Father (excluding father of adopted children), mother, husband, wife, son, daughter (excluding adopted ones) their death defilement, and son, daughter, oneself - their death defilement thus making a set of nine. None of these will be cut short when merged with one another or with any other. But, if other defilements merge with these, they are cut short as mentioned earlier, and depending on their strength. If the father dies during the death defilement of the mother, 3 days from the day of father's death, and if it is the other way, five days from the day of mother's death, will suffice.

13. Relative Strengths:
10-day death defilement, 10-day birth defilement, 5-day death defilement, 3-day death defilement, 3-day birth defilement, 1-day defilement and 1-day defilement - these seven are in the decreasing order of strength. The longer duration one is stronger than shorter duration. When the periods are the same, the death defilement is stronger. All death defilements of equal period are equal, and likewise for birth defilement also.

14. Salt Defilement ("Uppu pula"):
Paternal and maternal grandfather, their children, mother of both parents, husband, older direct and step-brothers, their father's wives ("cheriyamma"/ "valiyamma") - if any one of them dies, 12-day salt defilement is to be observed. In some places, this is applicable also to the death of any of the older persons among the paternal and maternal grandfather's grandchildren.

| Article No:8.6 | Last update of this article:19th November 2002 |
Ref.: "Aasoucham"
Handout released by "Kanippayyur Sankaran Nambudiripad Smaaraka Grandha Saala", Kunnamkulam
English Translation: K D Nambudripad

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