In TamilNadu, poochaandi is a word that is typically used to scare children, to make sure they sleep early, or to get them to eat properly. You will often hear mothers saying – “Poochandi varan. He will take you away.” He is given descriptions of someone who will come and take away misbehaving children. Of looking ferocious and scary etc.

More recently, while listening to a lecture by R.B.V.S.Manian, I came to know of the actual meaning of the word. I obviously googled right after, and just could not find this gem of an information anywhere. So I thought, let me do the honors.

The 3rd, 4th, and 5th century in the history of Tamil Nadu was called the dark ages. This was right after the Sangam period. This was an age when there was quite a bit of Hindu suppression that happened in this area. Buddhism and Jainism were fast gaining popularity in other parts of south India, particularly in the Mysore State (what is now Karnataka). This was a time, when it is believed that, large portions of Tamil Nadu were taken over by the Mysore rulers. It is believed that there was significant religious suppression that happened during this period. The Buddhist and Jain rulers tried in as much to convert the Shaivites and Vaishnavites to their religion.

During this period, there was a ban on anyone applying the sacred ash (vibhuthi) on their forehead (or anywhere on the body). It was also called Kandu-muttu-ketu-muttu – literally translated prohibition to see and prohibition to hear. In other words, anyone who saw someone who had applied vibhuthi would be punished. Anybody who heard about someone similar would be punished. This practice carried on even after the fifth century, when some of the tamil kings who ruled Tamil Nadu were Jains/Buddhist themselves. One of the famous kings under whom there is record of this practice happening is King Koon Pandiyan, who ruled Madurai.

Around this time, there were a group of extreme Caivites (worshippers of Lord Shiva) who used to roam around in only their langote/komanam (single strip underwear). Their principle was that, they have renounced everything to God except that single strip underwear. They were also called “aandi” – crudely translated to “naked”.

The “Aandis” wanted to rebel the prohibition on vibhuthi and smeared their entire body with vibhuthi. Poochu in tamil means “to smear”, “to splatter”. Hence these people were called “Poochandi” — “Poochu”+”Aandi”.

Now why were these people feared. Quite obviously by the dictum of the king, if someone saw these people or heard about these people, they would get punished severely. Hence folks would get very scared and run into their homes and lock themselves up.

This fearful term has come handed down generations down, and even now, mothers quiet their little children saying “Poochandi Varaan” {Poochandi is coming}.


One thought on “Poochaandi”

  1. Thanks Mr. Mouli!
    This is something that I have been trying to trace and tell my children for a while.
    We happened to have a book mark with poochandis on them and since then the search for the origin of the name started.

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