Mottai & Kaadhu kuthal ceremony – Rituals for removing hair and piercing of ears

I was at the salon the other day for a hair cut. I was listening to a girl’s (who was sitting next to me for a haircut) conversation with her hairdresser. She was talking English with a Russian accent. She was saying: “All of our Russian girls’ hairs are so thin, advice me on growing thick hair”. Well as usual the hairdresser was selling her products: “You should try our volume shampoo, which is about four hundred bucks and the conditioner is 200 bucks….” She kept ‘bla blaing’ a lot more. Well I mumbled too myself and to my surprise that girl heard me. Usually people don’t really hear my mumbles.

She asked me: “How come you Indians have beautiful thick velvet hair?”. I said something along these lines : “When we are young around one years old (Ayush homam), our parents take off all of our baby grown hair (literally take off all the hair, BALD). So that’s why MOST of our hairs are thick. It grows thick and beautiful and to add to that they apply rich Thil seed oil (nallennai) everyday or before we take shower to the head.” When showering or bathing for the head natural elements are used instead of shampoo and soap.

Hmm, I don’t really think that girl really understood the meaning behind my words but I could read her reactions. She was eager to find out more. She said she wanted to talk to me afterwards. She caught me again at the end of our salon session. That’s when she asked what was this ritual about. She also mentioned she was very interested in Ayurvedic products.

Mottai adikrathu – Balding ceremony (taking off all the hair)


It is a way of sacrifice to God. Yea! Sacrificing your children’s hair. Parents saying a big thanks to God for giving them a beautiful child. Ofcourse, the hair regrows healthier and thick (in most cases).

This ceremony takes place in our native town/city/village or at the kuladeivam kovil (native temple). Each family or tribe are assigned, if I can put it that way, to a dedicated temple. We follow the God in that temple and follow up the festivals that takes place at that specific temple. This happens through generations. My Kuladeivam, through my father’s side is Swamimalai Murugan. Since my marriage I have to follow my husband’s Kuladeivam, Saastha.

mottai 2

While doing this mottai ceremony, the baby must sit on its uncle’s lap. The uncle has to be thaai mama (mother’s brother). If the mother doesn’t have a brother then another male equivalent to her brother can take the place.

The baby is dressed in a cute pattu paavadai and should be ready at the temple on time. An auspicious time is given to conduct this ceremony. Location – Temple tank nearby the water. The barber will have a knife made for such events. Whether the baby cries or not the thaai mama should hold the head tight while the barber carefully shaves all the hair out. These barber guys are professional, no doubt in that, but ofcourse the parents will have that fear that they might cut their baby. This is their full time job. These barbers are assigned for this task. Especially those who have been to Thirupatthi (famous for mottais 😉 ) will know what am talking about. Millions of barbers shaving hair off for many million devotees.

Barbers removing hair

Barbers removing hair at Thirupathi. People queue up for this.

This mottai ceremony is done initially for babies at the age of one, but anyone can shave their hair off under any circumstances. It is seen as a sacrifice to God especially if some good omen has taken place during problem times, after severe prayers and hope.

After the hair is shaven off, the baby is given oil bath. Sandal paste is applied on the bald head to keep the head cool from the sun. Sandal and tumeric paste has medicinal effects. They are good anti-bacterial substances. Usually in this phase the children will stop crying and start to enjoy the tingling feeling on their head.

Kaadhu kuthrathu – Piercing of ears

Karnavedha Sacrament

Karnavedha Sacrament

Later on the day, another auspicious time is given to the parents to do the ear piercing ceremony. A specific lotion is applied to the ears to make the ears numb. The man who pierce the ears will come sit in front of the baby and her uncle. Again the baby sits on the laps of her/his uncle (thaai mama), can be grandfather as well. The man who pierces the ears will make a mark in both of the ears so that the piercing is aligned on the lobe of the ears. This is a more painful thing to watch for the parents. Watching their baby cry while a pin is stuck through their ears is not that easy for a view.

Both the rituals are finished with some prayers and abishekam (washing of moorthis/Godly Idols/Kuladeivam). Some wealthy people end off this day on even a better note. Giving anathaanam (feeding the poor). Mostly varieties of pongals are cooked and fed.

Karnavedha (Sanskrit: कर्णवेध, Karṇavedha) or Karnavedham is one of the Hindu Samskaras (sacraments) performed for a child. It is an ear piercing ceremony that occurs in the third or fifth year for some Hindu children. This can still be performed in later years. Brahmins perform Karnavedha, which is one of the sixteen major Samskaras (rites) during the course of their lifetime.

Brahmins follow these complex rituals in connection with major events in their lives, such as pregnancy, childbirth, education, marriage, and death. The major Samskaras 16 in number are generally known as “Shodasha Samskaras”. These samskaras are mentioned in the Vedas, Karnavedha is noted to be performed by male Hindu’s as well (see picture). It is stated in the Veda’s that Brahmin’s male and female, adhere to all Samskaras as they are considered the highest class of the 4 varnas, said to occupy the first position among the four varnas of Hinduism.

Karnavedham of Brahmin boy (both ears pierced)

Karnavedha not only applies to females but to males as well. Due to modern western influences Karnavedha has become an uncommon ritual overtime amongst males. Karnavedha should still be performed just as Upanayanam (thread ceremony – another major samskara ) or any other Samskara as each holds equivalent spiritual value.

Karnavedha is a Vedic rite of passage. Common between male and females, it is intended to open the inner ears of the child for receiving sacred sounds. This rite has deep mystical and symbolic significance. It is believed that merely hearing sacred sounds has merit in that it cleanses sin and nurtures the spirit.

As years passed, the “Karnavedha” became religious attire so its recital became obligatory and not doing it is regarded as sin in some places. According to a medieval writer, “All the accumulated merits disappear at the sight of a Brahmana through whose ear holes do not pass the rays of the sun. No gift should be given to him in the Sraddha ceremonies. If one gives, he becomes an `asura` or demon.”

One should not think that due to modern lifestyle or appearance that karnavedha should not be performed for males. You cannot accept another Samskara and deny another due to this. Preventing a child or person from performing anyone of the 16 Samskara’s even not knowing, can cause great spiritual disruption and negativity. – Wikipedia

That Russian girl was astonished with my explanations. She said she will definitely do that for her first baby. She was pregnant by the way.

Recently both my nieces went for this ceremony. They sat on my dad’s lap since they don’t have a thaai mama.

Brush that hair daily!

Prad 🙂



  1. Hi, I have a doubt. My son is 10 months old and I am planning his first mottai next month. My wife has no brothers (so no thaai Mamas) should I ask my Appa (paternal) or her appa (maternal) grandpa to keep my son. I don’t want to create a family dispute 🙂


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