The Scientific Indian

Life in Namakkal: Headshave and ear-piercing

Nidhi Nova is now one year old. The force of tradition is great and our daughter was swept away yesterday by its blind tidings. We tried our best to ride the tumultuous waves of tradition while keeping our daughter above the waters.

In many parts of India there is a (religious) tradition of giving the child a headshave and ear-piercing when the child is a year old – or sometimes even younger. The reasons for the two – one very risky and the other definitely harmful – no one knows. I am told that the hair is offered to gods. I am fine with that, I think that’s what gods deserve, a bit of keratin for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The ear-piercing seems to be just an early preparation for dangling fashion accessories. No pious reason was given to me for messing with the earlobes. Piercing the ear of a child is only the first step to more sinister things like the chinese fad called Lotus feet. Even if it is just an earlobe, piercing it is a lot worse than leaving it alone.

Body piercing is found in every culture. It seems to stem from a deep need to endure hardships – self-created or otherwise. Perhaps, it is one other expression of the great tradition common to all cultures: “Rites of passage” – most of which try to get as close as they can to the hardship of the first rite of passage (through birth canal). Apparently, people in many parts of the world have come to think that god is appeased when a human shows willing submission to suffering. Endurance is indeed a good quality but when it is in the name of ignorance, it is utter nonsense.

Today my daughter’s head looks just like mine. Her ears are still unpierced. I refused to allow piercing although there were multiple attempts from her grandparents, great-grandmother and numerous other staunch, unwitting and many-a-times exasperating bearers of the torch of tradition.


  1. #1 Hindu Atheist
    December 15, 2008

    Recently I came across a blog run by an electrical engineering student from India and the goal of the blog was to potray that – “all of the beliefs in hinduism have scientific background”. To quote from the blog, here is the *scientific* reason why women never wear a sacred thread (while men do) but wear earings:

    Jokes apart, as you will understand from the 2 previous posts on the same subject, applying pressure on our ears has an effect on the pituitary gland, which in turn facilitates the functioning of the urinary system.

    So, even with the basic earrings, there is a certain effect on the urinary system, and it is more dominant when we take into account all the other jewellery on the other parts of the ear.

    This is why there is no need of having the sacred thread/Yagnopavitam, as earrings and other pieces of jewellery on the ear carry out the same function…

    Prior to this post he made claims that men wearing holy thread is scientific as they pull the thread over their ear during their visit to toilet. This inturn puts pressure on their pituitary gland which helps their urinary glands function better. Take that Scian!!

    With junk like this pervading our society, I am sure people will provide you enough *scientific* reasons for piercing your daughter’s ears. I posted my comments on that blog and begged the author to read about science (since he is an engineering student) before making these associations. Sadly, my words fell on his deaf ears and he continues to make flimsy, superficial scientific case for *all* beliefs. It’s really depressing to see the young generation succumbing to such nonsense & get motivated to run a blog for geting the message out.

  2. #2 Rana
    December 15, 2008

    Well done. Where “tradition” involves painful mutilation of non-consenting children, it deserves nothing but ridicule and contempt. This traditional scientific Indian applauds you.

  3. #3 kumar
    April 17, 2009

    Hey guys,

    If the rationalists think they are wise in their ignorance, let them be ignorant of the traditions of the ancient religions.

    There is no need to educate them. No one foreces the treditional practices in ancient cultures, like taliban.( I love taliban, forcing namaz… lot of freedom is spoiling the ancient people)

    Hey u moderns
    just tell me why ayurveda popular in germany ?
    Why u.s wants hindi teachers ?(with all its own technology )
    Why the west researchs on our culture, if its practices are useless?
    They want to alineate you from your culture, while they themselves learn your ancestors techniques and rule you.

    Keep your modern ignorance with yourself dear selva (raj?).

  4. #4 venkat
    April 17, 2009

    I think there is some rational reasoning for our ancient reasonings. But Indian mind is so enslaved that we need endorsement from the west in order to accept it

    For example take the ear pulling we do infront of Lord Ganesh which is called “Thoppu Karanam” in Tamil. It is also used for punishing children

    Now it is coming back us in the form of superbrain yoga and an American TV has a clip on its effectiveness on increasing concentration, improving studies etc

    here is the science behind it

    An impartial skeptic (vs a dogmatic atheist), will realize there is more to our blind beliefs. But if only we try to go deep an investigate it.

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