Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Common Telugu Pregnancy Superstitions


(Pic of my tummy on Maya's due date, 2012)

Recently, I was asked to give some input to a Western magazine article regarding common Eastern superstitions about pregnancy. My previous article about superstitions in South India is one of my blog's most popular reads. 

In India, people are obsessed with avoiding the evil eye - almost to a fault. Depending on the family, drishti may be removed several times a day, as you enter or exit the house. Let's face it - life in India is chaotic, and you never know what will happen next, so there is a grain of truth to the evil eye. Believing in the effects of the evil eye is generally taken very seriously and it is practically a devout religion of its own. In our family, especially on the Telugu side, people believe in it a lot.

Pregnancy is already a sensitive and auspicious time for a family. While one is lucky to be pregnant, one is vulnerable. The health and well-being of the child entirely depends on the mother, so one can never be too careful. During pregnancy, belief in the evil eye goes on overdrive - much more than the average person. My MIL says that when a woman is pregnant, she has a natural glow that makes her more beautiful - so she is more at risk to envy and the evil eye.


For this information, I had to consult my dear MIL and her sisters on some (specifically Telugu) old-wives' tale superstitions regarding pregnancy:


- pregnant woman must not attend any large gatherings (temples, wedding, house warming, etc) or be around a lot of people, to risk being given the evil eye more.
- nobody in the pregnant woman's home should attend a funeral because death will "attach on" to people who attend.
- drishti must be removed on the pregnant woman each time they return to the home, especially if they feel sick after returning.
- a pregnant woman must not see drishti being removed on someone else, or else they will take on the evil eye they have seen being removed.
- you can remove drishti on a pregnant woman by rotating a pumpkin in front of her (clockwise and counter-clockwise) and then break open the pumpkin, but the pregnant woman must not see the pumpkin break.
- the pregnant woman must not perform Manja Kumkum.
- a pregnant woman should refrain from going out too much at night.
- a pregnant woman should always carry cloves of garlic in her purse, especially if she has to go out at night.
- the husband of the pregnant woman must not shave after her 7th month, to prevent women from falling in love with him and snatching him away.
- eclipses (both solar/lunar) are said to be extremely dangerous for pregnant women. On the day of the eclipse, one should completely shut all the windows and not step outside, or else the fetus will be at risk of deformity.
- since labour is considered an auspicious event, you must TRY to leave the house at an astrologically auspicious time (ie. 10:26am)
- if you are leaving the house and a widow crosses your path, you have to go back into the house for 20mins and then try to leave again.
- a pregnant woman should not eat papaya or sesame seeds.
- one should not offer any bananas to a pregnant woman, because then you will curse her with only having one child.
- the pregnant woman must not watch any horror films or else her child will end up mentally unstable.
- the pregnant woman must not go to any temples on hills.
- the pregnant woman must not cross a river to go to a temple.
- the pregnant woman should not cut anything with scissors.
- After the 5th month, nobody who is living in the pregnant woman's house must buy anything that comes from soil (clay materials, broomstick, chata)


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Dear readers, do you believe in the evil eye?
Are there any superstitions about pregnancy in your families or culture?

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13 comments

  1. Some of them definitely make sense. For instance, Papaya and Sesame seeds indeed increase the heat of the body in general and there is a possibility of impacting fetus. But, this is only applicable until 5 th month. My aunt ate lot of papaya's during her pregnancy after 5th month and surprisingly the baby was the healthiest.

    But most of them belong to old times where hygiene and comfort was the difficult for women. I believe, they just came up with general to-do list and made it common for everyone. Although, I would be surprised if they still apply to the current era unless until people live in unclean environment or in remote places where basic amenities are still a luxury.

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  2. Green (raw) papaya has enzymes in it that can cause miscarriage... it absolutely must be avoided! It is no superstition :) I think that ripe papaya loses that ability ... but you can see where a lot of the superstitions come from a need basis. I must say I agree with the horror movie one too .... they are doing studies now where they find babies can absolutely hear music before they are born ... so they can probably hear horror movies too and I'd rather them hear much more pleasant sounds!

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    Replies
    1. Hahaha during my pregnancy, I was obsessed with horror and detective films... pregnancy cravings are weird - more than just food! Activities too...

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  3. I come from Odiya family in eastern India, I had been warned about eclipses during my pregnancy.My MIL had strictly instructed me not to put cold water while rice is boiling, not to harm any animals, even ants, cockroaches or mosquito (No she is not a fan of PETA, in fact she enjoys spatting them very much) and what nots (I had not paid enough attention as I had found them very silly). And my OB had advised me not to have raw papaya or pineapple during my pregnancy.
    MM

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  4. Something I came across during my pregnancy was that sitting on one hip was bad for the baby and one must always sit fully on one's bottom...!

    Raina.

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    Replies
    1. I never heard that one before! Interesting!

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  5. About enzymes: papain (from papaya) and bromelain (from pineapple)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQUFT1fRjac#t=100s

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  6. I'd like to have some hope that no one will try to snatch anyone's husband away, ever. lol Not before pregnancy, not 6+ months into it, 3+ months after that, or at all.
    Papaya seeds are used as natural birth control, and may affect a growing baby. So there's some science behind that one.

    In any case, superstitions drive me a little crazy. Some superstitions, if believe in one thing or another, that's not so bad... But the evil eye concept is a bit much in my opinion.
    I'm not oblivious to people who have the will to hurt you or do harm, and I know there is both good and evil in the world.
    But to me, the concept of the evil eye just seems... paranoid.

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  7. Have to ask - we're you expected to go along with any of these superstitions when you were pregnant?

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    Replies
    1. Oh yes, and I rejected all....ha ha!
      Watched tons of horror films, ate loads of pineapple, roamed around during eclipses....my MIL was totally freaked out for me!

      Delete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. hi, we have recently blessed with baby boy and my wife is staying at her mother's place. is there any tradition to keep clothes to her parents while bring my wife back home?

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