Monday, April 16, 2018

Aththaan

I was at a get together recently. A Tamil iady addressed her husband as “Aththaan”. I was pleasantly surprised. Nowadays, almost no Tamil woman address her husband by that word.
 
The actual meaning of “Aththaan” is either he is her dad’s sister’s son OR mom’s brother’s son. That word always has a romantic connotation in Tamil Nadu.
 
When some girl says, fondly, he is my aththaan , it is understood he is the guy she intends to marry.
 
In Tamil culture, a girl can legally marry her dad’s sister’s son OR mom’s brother’s son. I know it will be disgusting to our North Indian readers. Actually, 50 years ago 70% of the Tamil marriages were within close relatives. My mom and dad are related. My brother married his aunt’s daughter. No, I did not marry any of my cousins. I married an outsider.
 
I asked that lady in that get together if she and her husband are related before marriage. She said no. Still she addressed her husband as "aththaan".
 
So many romantic songs in Tamil movies with that word. For example:
 
Aththaan varuvaga. Oru mutham koduppaga (Aththaan will come. He will give me a kiss).
 
Aththaan en Aththaan. Avar ennaithaan. Eppadi solvenadi (Aththaan he is my Aththaan. How can I say what he did with me.)
 
Kulungum mundhanai sirikkum aththaanai viratuvathenadiyo (Why the shaking loose end of your saree is chasing out this Aththaan)
 
Akkaluku Valaigappu. Aththaan mugathiley punsirippu (Baby shower ceremony for elder sister. Aththaan’s face is full of smile.)
 
There is a dialogue in a Tamil movie (Bangalore Naatkal). A guy is telling his close associate what kind of wife he wants. One of his condition is the girl should address him as Aththaan after marriage.

18 comments:

  1. Wow! There is so much connected to a single word! Very interesting read. Marriages taking place between sodara (term fir such marriages in Mangaluru) relationships is not uncommon to Karnataka even.

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  2. This made for an interesting read. I have seen marriages within families in Muslims and Parsis, but wasnt aware that it happens in TN and as Sindhu mentioned, in Karnataka too.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Shilpa.

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  3. Atthaan is dad’s sister’s son while ammaanji is mom’s brother’s son. These days there is awareness of the risks in consanguineous marriages and such marriages have become very less.
    Film world is still to come out of it.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Mr. KP. Yes, people are realizing how unhealthy it is.

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  4. Hahahah....I have way too many such relationships in my family where my cousin is married to their Mama (less age difference) so now they are my Mami and cousin....very confusing.....I almost came close to such an alliance with my Mama's son, but thankfully.... saved......Good One SG.....

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    1. Thanks for your comments. Too bad, your aththaan is the unlucky guy for not marrying you.

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  5. I have heard about marriages between relatives in South India and in Muslims. However after reading comments I learned it also happens in Parsis and in Karnataka. Informative post :)

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    1. Thanks for your comments Shesha. After finishing my college in Chennai, but before coming to USA, I was in Delhi for a while. (Remember roti byto?) At that time I told my Punjabi friend I may end up marrying my cousin. He got so mad that he stopped talking to me for 3 months. To his delight, I married an outsider and not my cousin.

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    2. Hahahaha yes for some of us it is a shock probably because we consider cousins as we consider our siblings and feel the same way about them. For marriage one has sort of different feelings for the spouse. Even I felt weird after hearing it for the first time. And for a long time I couldn't accept the fact that girls do get married to their maternal uncle as well in one of the cultures. But that was long back when I was in first year of my college. You should add this incidence to your main blog. Your friend is interesting :))

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  6. In-family marriages perhaps made sense in those days as they wanted to keep the property within their families. That is indeed a beautiful word and another word that has similar connotations is 'Mama'. I have always wondered how, with that age difference, they managed to get a girl married to her uncle (Mother's brother). But it makes a lot of sense, esp. for the girl's mother, if you analyze it closely.

    Destination Infinity

    Destination Infinity

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    1. Thanks for your comments Rajesh. I am glad you mentioned the word "mama". Some Tamil speaking girls address their husbands as "mama" whether he is related prior to marriage or not.

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  7. I wasn't aware of this Tamil word, and its significance.

    In Kerala, it is very common for a woman to call her husband "chettan", which means brother. That way, it's "worse" than "Aththaan"! Also, there are women, who don't, saying, "How can my husband ever be my brother?!"

    When my wife and I visited Kerala for the first time, after our wedding (which was in Bhopal), we were at her uncle's house. There my wife's aunt heard my wife call me by my name. That virtually scandalised her aunt, who gave her a piece of her mind, saying she should never call her husband by his name, instead, she should always call him "chettan".

    Her aunt's advice only in turn scandalised my wife, and she has always called me only by my name!

    Let's be fair ... I think it must be left to the couple to call each other whatever they want!

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    1. Thanks for your comments Pradeeep. Very good anecdote.

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  8. In Kerala also among Hindus and Muslims brother's and sister's children marry each other and now also. Wives address their spouses chettan in most cases and of late by name only.

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  9. Even previous generations in my family had some close relatives marrying each other, but genetically it's not a great idea. I didn't know about this word. Don't think we have an equivalent work in kannada.

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