Monday, April 16, 2018


Madi…మడి ...मडि

People from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and some pockets of Karnataka will perhaps understand what this word means...
Madi...this Brahmanical way of life originated from the concept of ‘purity’…a concept which, like all other traditions, lost its meaning in later years with its rigid and blind adherence.
Essentially madi meant keeping a distance from and not touching anything considered impure or unclean.
How it was practiced:
My grandmother would rinse her 9-yards saree the night before and hang it in the kitchen. The rod that she hanged it to dry would be placed way above anyone’s reach…close to the ceiling. To dry out one’s garment at that height was tricky indeed and was done with the help of a long stick pushing the garment hither-thither till it slid smoothly without folds over the rod. This practice also meant that the cloth couldn’t be touched by anyone else and become impure.
The next morning, after a bath, she would come, wrapped in a wet saree, heading straight to the kitchen, discard the old saree and wear the clean saree off the kitchen rod. This was normally worn as ‘adda-kacha’ meaning a garment that runs between your legs, dividing your legs trouser-like, giving you the liberty of free movement.
This was madi, a state considered pure. After attaining this pure state, you are not supposed to touch anything till the cooking and eating was done. No touching of beds, bed sheets, previous day’s discarded clothes, curtains, sofas, another human being… Considered safe was a chair with its cushions and covers set aside.
Once the cooking was done and the food eaten, you could change to another saree and then free to touch anything.
Breaking of Madi by accidently touching one of those not-to be-touched things or people meant a bath again and, as there was no back up madi saree, continue cooking in those wet clothes, sometimes shivering in the cold winter mornings, and with water dripping all over the kitchen floor.
Madi is even considered broken if you attend to nature’s call and you'd need a bath to purify yourself again.
Come pooja or festival and the rigorousness increased…more madi, more arduousness in following it, more fervour…
The flowers, coconut and all other things meant for pooja were to be strictly kept separate from cooking and dining areas. If any of the pooja stuff was kept on the dining table by mistake, it was considered impure and had to be washed before using it for pooja. The oil for pooja lamp was kept separately in the pooja room and was not to be touched or used in kitchen for cooking purpose.
Large canisters of oil or pickle could be touched only after madi and not any time we wished to use some.  Small quantities were kept in jars for everyday use.
Some madi rules during eating…
Serve food with left hand but every time you  touch any cooked food, wash your hand. This meant you had a puddle of water on the floor at your left by the time you finished your meal. All meals happened sitting on the floor, of course. Serving uncooked food like oil/ghee/salt/pickle/curd did not mandate washing your hand. Later, and especially after the meals started happening at the dining table, this ritual translated to tilting your glass of water ever so slightly…just enough to wet your fingertips! Who’d want those puddles of water on your table?!
My grandmother though, never ever in her life time ate at the table. The tables only get wiped, they never get washed like the floor, no?
In the night again, the madi saree was ready for getting rinsed and dried again. This saree was not washed along with clothes of the entire household.
This practice was carried through her lifetime.