God’s Own Initials : Pillayar Suzhi & Other Holistic Hindu Symbols
No Hindu puts down a thing in paper with pen-pencil without first marking the ‘Pillaiyar Suzhi’ – to Lord Ganesh (Pillayar is Thamizh name of Ganesha). It is custom even otherwise to begin anything and everything in our culture after offering obeisance to Ganesh first. Ganesh worship precedes all rites and rituals which follow up later. One of the strict advices we are issued before our school board/university exams is ‘not to mark our papers with the ubiquitous Pillayar Suzhi’ (habitual with most of us) – specific instruction from our teachers and invigilators supervising the halls. We Hindus associate Knowledge with spirituality; Knowledge leads to liberation; Knowledge is the ultimate truth, the enlightenment we seek. And the light that dispels darkness called ignorance is the He & She for us. After all who would worship text books and instruments of writing and machine tools and musical instruments, and why even the automobiles, the way we do in India! For one thing this represents the respect and love a Hindu inculcates from birth both for animate and inanimate objects. Then again, it symbolizes the significance we impart to acquiring wisdom that we have a designated Goddess heading the department, Saraswathi! I bow to her here for the supreme knowledge that She is and for what She bestows us with.
So from such a point of view we can derive at the curious custom of inscribing the Lord’s initials on our papers first – be it in the answering sheets in examination halls or in our accounting ledgers.
There are various ways we inscribe the Pillayar Suzhi. We each indigenise it to certain degree, to our style of writing. The first alphabet a Hindu child ever writes is this Pillayar Suzhi – with his/her mother or teacher holding his/her hand at the tender age of 3 years. Until recently our children wrote the alphabet in food grains on first day at school marking fertility and auspiciousness in learning and gaining wisdom. Even today many schools in India follow the tradition.
Origin of Pillayar Suzhi: The practice is since the ages when wise men wrote the Hindu scriptures in parched palm leaves with dried twigs/iron nails millenniums before. Pillayar Suzhi on top of the leaf was for testing whether the leaves were dried to optimum level before starting to inscribe in them. The suzhi that came with a stroke and curve and dot and line in its full form served as the judging sample for discarding/taking leaves for valuable inscription.
Pillaiyar Suzhi therefore came to mean beginning of scheme of things in general. On Diwali day which is the Hindu new year, traders open their new books after inscribing ‘Shree’ with words ‘Shubh Labh’ (auspiciousness & prosperity) flanking the Shree Mantra. In the place of Pillayar Suzhi, there is the tradition of inscribing ‘Om’ Mantra or the ‘Shree’ Mantra on top of a page in North Indian communities. ‘Shree’ not only refers to the Goddess of Wealth & Prosperity Lakshmi but also to Ganesh again. So either way, nothing moves in India without Ganesh’s consent.
Other famous Hindu symbols around the world include the ‘Swastika’ and the set of 2 Inverted Triangles overlapping each other. These are powerful as we know them today.
Kolams (in the south) and Rangolis (colourful Kolams done in north) are very precise arithmetic and geometric calculations, basically scientific in principle. The vibrant drawings they are, kolams are a varied expression of spirituality, a celebration of holiness whenever festivity is in the air. A work of aesthetics, the kolams are a visual pleasure for the right connoisseurs.
Anu’s Maargazhi Kolams: a page devoted to the passionate hobby of a friend who does a commendable job the entire Tamil month of Maargazhi (Dec 15 – Jan 14), the winter season. What a wonderful way to preserve, showcase and popularize our culture.
Check out Anu’s labour of love at
The kolams that still adorn every doorstep down south were meant to be mental practice for women who drew them with exact precision every morning in front of their homes to greet their ‘adhithi’ (guests). The kolams are good for nimble fingers even in today’s modern computer age, and weaving your way through the intricate maze-like artwork, mapping it out mentally with calculated precision could postpone the onset of Alzheimer’s in women. One sees innovative concepts in kolams keeping with changing times. The inner creativity (of the artist) – the ingenuity, the discipline, the harmony, the patience and the calm execution may well be important management lessons for youngsters today. Besides, the back-breaking exercise in early morning by itself is an uncharted but effective fitness regimen. It is a shame a good majority of us educated woman have given up the habit of drawing kolams.
Rangolis are more colourful creations compared to south Indian kolams (normally done with ground rice flour which doubles up as favourite food for winged visitors and insects and other pests.) Our ancestors had a reason apparently for every ritual we have adopted in our way of life. There is no Holy or Diwali celebration without adorning your home and carpeting your living with a Rangoli first.
Pookolam as the name suggests are floral kolams specific to Onam celebrations in Kerala. A group of women get together to create this enchanting masterpiece of peace and tranquility which is a feast for sore human eyes.
Which brings us to those special and divine kolams we reserve for the Puja (altar) in our homes. These are not for public display or to be stepped upon by foot.
The ambitious among us are also into computing the ‘Kubera Yantra’ kolam in our spirituality quotient! Literally meaning the Hindu magic square, it is scientific and one more proof to ancient Hindu genius. Yantra in sanskrit means ‘instrument’ or tool. The Tantra-Yantra-Mantra have imbedded cosmic elements which can have an effect on our beings. The astronomical, astrological derivations are not anyone’s fancy imagination but constitute a strict discipline of science.
The Hindu heritage is vast as the ocean and its depths. We shoulder the tremendous responsibility of keeping alive our precious traditions and passing on the wealth to future generations without a break. ‘Sanathana Dharma’ is not around for over 10,000 years without a logic. How many of us cherish our bountiful inheritance.
The scope of this post is enormous.
Om Shanthi ! (Peace)