Documentary and Book – Return of the Rituals: Rites of Passage of Nagarathar Children



‘Return of the Rituals: Rites of Passage of Nagarathar Children’ is the title of a documentary film and book by Dr Kala Shreen. As the title indicates, the book deals with rituals that were forgotten but which are slowly being picked up by the modern generation of the Nagarathar community in South India. The documentary film focuses on old rituals and older generations who had participated in the rituals shares their knowledge and experience.

The New Indian Express reports

The Documentary film has captured the ceremonies, which had become obsolete over the last century. Kala spent three days for shooting, when the ceremonies were enacted as one could not capture live performances of these obsolete rituals. People who were over 80 years of age were interviewed for the documentary. They shared their experiences of the past. Indigenous songs of the community were documented and tunes composed for them.

The book has two sections. The first section is a description of three life cycle ceremonies of Nagarathar children namely pudumai, supadi and thiruvadirai. These ceremonies have not been in practice since the early 20th century and are seeing a revival among some contemporary families in the community; hence the title, ‘Return of the Rituals’.

The second section comprises of a synthesis of relevant theoretical arguments and conceptual frameworks presented by social anthropologists and sociologists, based on their studies of cultures around the world, coupled with Kala’s findings and arguments.

In this part of the book, Kala has attempted to cover some of the emerging areas of research in this field, including varied aspects of material religion and associated emotions and feelings. Similar rituals and ritual elements in other countries such as Africa, China and Philippines have also been briefly identified.

The book is published by the The Chettinad House