On this auspicious day of Vaikunta Ekadashi, the Shukla paksha Ekadashi that occurs during the Dhanur month, in the Hindu Calendar. The Vaishnavite sect believes that “Vaikunta dwaram” or the gate to the Lord’s inner sanctum is opened on that day. This in lunar calendar is known as “Moksha Ekadashi”. No true srivaishavites forehead is seen without the thiruman, or naamam, which is usually in V shape or U shape, white in colour, in the middle is seen the red or yellow straight line.

In Tamil Nadu, JADERI, a small village where there are 100-150 families, a small hamlet, who are preparing Thiruman for the entire Sri Vaishnava Community, the mark of Lord Vishnu found on the foreheads of Vaishnavites is believed to protect the wearer from evil. This thiruman is sent to all perumal temple adjoined shops in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Thiruman applied in the forehead by Perumal and his adiyars (bhaktas) has special significance which is being prepared by these selfless bhagavathas for generations. This Thiruman prepared, which is finger-length long and is also called as “NAAMAKATTI”. This village is in Cheyyar taluk, in Thiruvannamalai district. This village is about 40 kms from Kanchipuram.

This village has the raw material naturally in abundance which goes into the making of Thiurman. The sacred white earth, sand, rock form, for making Thiruman is available in a neighbouring hamlet to Jaderi which is called Thenpoondipattu. The rich deposit of HYDROUS SILICATE, minerals that form fine grain particles of clay used for making Namakatti. This is formed naturally by weathering or alteration of other silicates over time, that gives them their unique white colour. The raw material is transported by lorries and bullock carts. Once is six months, the rocks are chipped off into big stones manually, 10 tractors are pushed into service to ferry the rock. One tractor load costs around Rs.4000/-.

Once the rocks are transported they are manually hammered into smaller stones. Then they are placed in a circular pit and crushed by a roller drawn by tow bulls. A worker then removes the crushed clay and stamps it with his feet to make the crushing even and turns it with a shovel. This process takes over three hours till the rocks are flattened and crushed. The clay is then gathered and left to soak in water pit for five days. The clay then goes through multiple steps filtering process in different pits. Over time it turns milky white. The clay is now gathered and beaten with a stick, dried partially to remove moisture, then shaped by hand to the required size. It is once again dried completely thus finishing the process. After this, it is taken into the village and left to dry. It is only the people of Jaderi are involved in making of the Namakatti, as it involves a tedious and time-consuming process. Making Namakatti is their primary occupation and even agriculture is secondary. From start to finish the process may take 10 to 15 days. Unlike other places that make Namakatti, the ones made in Jaderi are completely natural and manufactured by hand without the use of modern technology. This has no chemical component or any other ingredients are added at any point. 

Three bags of clay so produced are sufficient to make 3000 sticks. The pieces are dried, rolled into clay sticks and packed. Each dealer spends Rs.10000/- as lorry rent for a consignment. The cost of 300 packet consignment costs Rs.400/- each packet contains 100 pieces. A 50 kg bag with bigger pieces is sold at Rs.800/-. Each family earns around Rs.25000/- once in three months on an average.  Despite all this, even at this day and age, it is very common to see the people of Jaderi who are making the mark of the Almighty are still living in door less huts, without basic education and amenities. The villagers strongly opine that the middlemen and merchants reap the awards of their hardship and they are left with just the crumbs of their profit.  This Thiruman has medicinal values too, when children have stomach aches they are mixed with water made as a paste and applied on their tummy, around the navel, to ease and relieve pain. They are also used for reducing the kidney stones, when applied on the lower stomach in paste form.

On September 9th this year, when the District Collector Sri. K.S. KANDASWAMY, thiruvannamalai, visited the village spent a day with them, seeing the process of making of Namakatti, listening to their woes, problems, he immediately, sorted out two issues, one, “He promised he would desilt the white sand tank in Jaderi itself, which would increase its water bed and more white sand can be gotten as raw material to make the Namakattis’ and secondly, it’s easy to transport them into the village rather than transporting them from the next village which is costing them more. The sand that is gotten in Jaderi is very white in colour and it comes free of cost as raw material and transportation. He also on the spot issued, mining permission to 50 people, since there was no scope for alternative livelihood. They were suffering for a long time in getting mining permission which was given remedy by him. As a family income the return on manufacture or production is good for them, as right from children to aged are engaged in making this Namakatti at different process stages. Pure White the Thiruman made is, it fetches about 25% to 30% increase cost/rate wise, than paler white ones’ fetch. The difference in cost of production and the ultimate consumer price differences would always be there because they can’t be marketed by them directly to the places of sales, it’s imperative that they depend on intermediaries, dealers, middlemen to sell their produce.” The collector’s immediate action of granting licences has relieved the villagers from long time woes.

As narrated and reported, on his visit to Jaderi, by Sri. Manoram Chaitanya Das, of ISKCON,” The villagers strive for the upkeep of Sanatana Dharma, selflessly. The need of the hour, in this village there is an ancient Krishna Temple, they need archakar for the temple to do the nitya kaala Pooja. Weekly or monthly visits of renowned Sanathana Dharma Scholars and lectures to enlighten them on Hindu Mythology and Hindu religious related discourses (upanyasams) in simple language for their understanding. Few years back there used to be Sanathana Dharma lectures in this village. Now interest being shifted to bigger temples the smaller temples are ignored”.

He further said, “Suggestions made are, Personal visits by a team of volunteers to support the children of this village to clean the temple and do some basic Poojas on holidays. Arranging visits of Sanatana Dharma Scholars, jeeyar’s to enlighten them on Dharma, especially children who are our next generation. Water seems to be an issue there, so arrange for some tube well to ensure water supply is available to support Thiruman preparation. Support villagers by buying Thiruman directly or arranging some online sales opportunities, so the sales through middlemen and dealers can be avoided, who are making whopping profit.  Provide Transport facilities for children to commute to school”.