Thursday, 9 July 2009


The thamboolam is a mandatory take home at all Indian festivals and ceremonies, at weddings especially. The thamboolam bag (made of plastic, cloth or some polyester fibre, rarely of paper) contains a coconut or grapefruit, a couple of betel leaves, a packet of betel nuts – all auspicious tokens.

I don’t know what others do, but when I come home with the thamboolam, I put away the betel nut packet to be passed on, throw away the betel leaves which have started wilting, and use the coconut to cook. The bag if sturdy enough, will be reused as a carrier bag, that is if one doesn’t mind being the publicity person for the caterer. I have often felt that the fancy bags are a waste - especially when I see the grandeur of the bags – so much money spent on things no one really wants.

Long before the advent of plastic, the thamboolam was packed in ordinary paper bags on which the bride and groom’s names were printed. As plastic came into vogue, thin bags were used. Little by little the bags grew in size and show…….

So I was heartened when I read this news. Mayor of Chennai M. Subramaniam introduced an innovative concept at the wedding of his son recently, one that can be emulated by all. He gave away as thamboolam 3000 saplings to his guests to take away and plant. This delighted all environmentalists and eco-conscious citizens – zero pollution, plus greening.

The saplings are all avenue trees, and he had made arrangements with a nursery for the saplings to be readied by the time of the wedding.

I loved it, and I am sure GVK, fellow blogger, who has been pushing for distribution of saplings on all possible occasions will too. Many of us can follow this trend.


Jen Kumar said...

Raji, This is very interesting.
When one goes to some temples (this happened to me in Kanchipuram about 10 years ago), a yellow bag is given with name of temple, photo of god, etc with prashadam inside. Is this bag also called Thamboolam?

Thanks for continuing to teach about different aspects of Indian culture!


Jennifer- what we get from the temples, as you say, are called 'prasadam' gift of God, but not thamboolam. Though the items may be the same

Rajesh said...

That is really fantastic and innovative. It is nice to see some people really want to do their bit to save the environment.

Blogeswari said...

Great idea. My best friend's husband had organized a surprise birthday party for her , two years ago and guess what we (her friends) got as return gifts? A sapling each! Thought it was cute :)

Recently during my Gruhapravesham a dear friend gifted me a sapling

Devika Jyothi said...

That was a great idea, Raaji...commendable job hy the Mayor...if only those who took the saplings planted and took care of them :)

Delhi government recently announced its plans to plant Bougain villae on the road dividers, roads will be more beautiful round the year, being a perennial plant..but, ofcourse with pruning! :)


namaki said...

this is an interesting reflexion on our use of plstic on this planet ... in france Supermarkets don't give plastic bags any more ... and we see less of those by the road sides !

Ramakrishnan said...

Hi Raji
Very thoughtful and innovative idea from the mayor.Hope others take the cue and replicate this method of distributing Thamboolam. More saplings, greener city, fresher air, healthier residents ! And a choked city like Chennai(or for that matter most Indian cities) definitely needs more oxygen.

Praveen Krishnan said...

Raji mami,

how are you doing these days? long time no news!!!

Nice gesture from the Madras mayor :-)

Karthik Narayan said...

I am coming to this blog after ages and boy i have missed quite a few lovely writeups.... :)

And i was lookin up for thirukadayur and imagine whose comments i ended up reading :) seeing ur name in literally every blog i go to reminds me to come here more often:)

Meera's World said...

last month my mil went for her relative's kid's poonul function and brought back a small cloth sack filled with laddu,muruk etc etc:)somehow i would prefer this for a sapling,for obvious reasons:)eatables!

Sunita Mohan said...

I love this idea. My mind is zinging with the possibilities.
Maybe saplings of fruit trees would be a great alternative to avenue trees. Since apartment-living has become an unavoidable fact of life for most people, small-sized fruit-trees like custard-apple could still be pruned to adapt to growing balconies and terraces. This way you would get the eatables too ... though at a later date! :D

Raj said...

Hello :)
Sorry but I haddd to follow you!
You're blog is really goodd, and we have the same namee. :)


Unknown said...

Simple and innovative idea to save the environment, I found it very interesting.

Kamini said...

Great idea. I remember that when I finished college, our "gift" to the college was to plant a row of saplings along the driveway leading into the campus. It gives me such pride to see those saplings - now grown into trees after over 25 years.

Kamini said...

Great idea. I remember that when I finished college, our "gift" to the college was to plant a row of saplings along the driveway leading into the campus. It gives me such pride to see those saplings - now grown into trees after over 25 years.

Madhu Rao said...

A truism I read about politicians has stayed with me. Pardon my French, but it goes something like this ..

"Politicians are like diapers, almost always full of crap. If not, it is just a matter of time !".

But if our politicians do things like these, I will gladly eat crow. Good job Mr. Mayor and thanks for blogging about this Maam.

In brahminical households in Karnataka, Tulasi saplings are given with Tamboola(m). If anyone came asking for a Tulasi sapling that was abundant in our now non -existent garden, my mom would give it as a tamboolam with arisina-kunkuma..

Bhavesh Chhatbar said...

Do you have the name of the huge tree visible from your home? You made a post on it, and I did comment on that. The tree has pink-white flowers with thread-like petals in hundreds of number. I guess it's called Kaurav-Pandav due to 100 petals and 5 pollen=filaments. I'm in search of its seeds.

TV Tower on Sinhagad - Going Inside Clouds

Bhushavali said...

Great Idea.... Guess I'll use up the idea for my wedding...
Another idea we developed was to use bags developed in Spastn - The Spastic Society of India, the jute bags are developed by Spastic Kids. - My Travelogue

Bala said...

Hi Raji,

Gud post !

This new 'green' culture of giving saplings instead of thampoolam happened even in my friend's wedding a year ago. i was really surprised and appreciated it.

Since it is being done by the mayor, this news is made popular by the media... But nothing wrong in emphasizing a good thing...

Just landed in ur blog by chance... but feel glad for it...

keep writing...

Jen Kumar said...

Raji. Hi I recently wrote an article on Varalakshmi Vratham on my site. I have forgot an important part- the thamboolam. What is usually put in the thamboolam for Varalakshmi Vratham? Thank you.


Jennifer. Nice that you have written about Varalakashmi Vratham. I am doing the pooja today (July 31).Let me have the link, please.

Musts for thamboolam - betel leaves, betel nuts,turmeric, bananas, coconuts. Kumkumam is offered separately along with sandal paste to be applied on the forehead. Packets of kumkumam, or litle boxes of kumkumam are also given. Additional optional items are blouse pieces and bangles.

Jen Kumar said...

Thank you, Raji.
I will add this into the articles.
If so inspired, I'd be very honored if you could take a photo of the thamboolam and items you prepare for the puja as a highlight to the article.

Thanks also for the interest in my blog. Here are the articles
Varalakshmi Vratham Prayer Celebrations Video, Tutorial and Tips

Tutorial: Tips and Etiquette for Attending Varalakshmi Puja at Home or in Temple

Please do advise if I should add anything! Enjoy your day.


Rajesh, yes, indeed.
Blogeswari, how nice - it could really become trendy, then.
Devika, good point. I do hope the guests planted the saplings. Yes bougaenvillae are beautiful.
Namaki, even 20 years ago, plastic bags were a rarity in Chennai....
R. Ramakrishnan Glad you agree
Praveen, happy to get in touch withyou again.
Karthik Narayan - feel free ! :)
Meera - that made me laugh. Eatables should always take precedence over saplings.
Sunita Good idea - though Meera my not want to wait so long!
Raji - thank you. Do follow me, I love it.
T and S - thanks.
Kamini - brilliant of you gals. You should feel proud.
Madhu Rao - Obviously gifting saplings is nothing new. Your mother was following a good tradition.
Bhavesh - Raintree
Mitr- Friend. Good idea
to use jute bags.
Bala - thanks you for dropping by.
Jennifer, sent you the pictures.

Unknown said...

What a lovely way to give a thamboolam! I've been given a spaling before at a wedding too. Win for the environment and plant trees!

Girish said...

Here is a company which specializes in providing plants as Return Gift or Marriage tambula.

Gift plants and save yourself.