'THANDATTI' - forgotten history on earlobes

Thandatti are heavy, gold earrings that women in southern districts of Tamil Nadu used to wear until recently

The thandatti used to be so heavy and long that it would almost touch the shoulders of the women wearing it

The earrings are geometrical in shape with interlocking squares and rectangles. A screw attaches it to the earlobe

If shaped like a snake, thandatti is called pampadam or nagavadam. If multiple rings are worn together, it’s called Chavudi

Thandatti was worn with poodi, koppu and onnappathattu on the ear

Anthropologist Sundaravanthiya Thevan says Sangam literature talks about thandatti being worn by women in Pandiya country

Thandatti wearing was a process. The ear was pierced, then the hole grown gradually by adding weights.

By the time of marriage, the girl was ready to wear thandatti

Stretched out earlobes are symbols of Jainism, says R Muthunagu, author. Mahavira is often shown with long earlobes symbolising his universal awareness

In Kallar community, fines were levied if women didn’t grow their ears for thandatti

Later, thandatti distinguished Tamil women from Telugu and Kannada settlers in Madurai region