Pradhamans, dowry and my great grandparents

May 30, 2017



My great grandfather VV Raman (VVR) had a very strict food regime- Rice, gravy, meat/fish, Vegetables and Payasam. Everyday for lunch ..No excuses and I wondered why...


My great Grandfather was called Rajah by his wife and his daughters and I always wondered y????


One day I could not hold my curiosity any longer and I questioned all my grandmothers why... and out came a beautiful story which every man and woman should hear.


My great grandfather Varthedathu Velandi Raman was born in the late 19th century to an impoverished family in Eduthuruthi, Rural Trissur. He was born dark,not blessed with the best looks, tall and possessed a very large voice. He was very good at studies, but after year 8 he was told, " Son , today is the last day of your school and from tomorrow, you will be on the fields". My great didn't take it very well and that night, he just ran away from home. For the next couple of years, he did all sorts of jobs and in the 1915 he went to Iran and worked as an accountant in the American oil company.


By around 1925, he had reached his late 30s and he felt it was time to share his life with someone.


My great Grandmother "Kunjipennu" (meaning "little girl"- us Ezhavas had very strange child naming sense those days) was born  a petite, green eyed beauty , soft glowing skin and jet black hair. Her condition was even worse. Her mother died at child birth and her father shortly later. Her brothers except one were not exactly the symbol of kindness and quickly installed her as the Maid of the house.  She was educated till year 4 and lived the life of Cinderella ...Bleak as well.


16 was the ideal age for a woman to marry in those  days...She was'nt finding a suitor only because her family was unable to succumb to the dowry demands...So she was there...entering into her 21st year.


It was this time my great had returned for a short holiday from Iran in the quest for a wife.  My great grandmother's brother ( the kind one) and my great grandfather were good friends. During this period, VVR decided to pay his friend a visit and what did he see? My pretty great grandmother in the garden toiling away!!! 


My great grandfather VVR instantly fell in love with my great-grandmother and he could think of no one else to marry.  But this reunion had some specials even unheard of today. There was no dowry. My great grandfather took over the complete expense of his wedding, presented her the jewels and the silks for the wedding!!! A true gentleman!!!




It was on that day he decided she needed a more respectful name and she became Janaki Raman ( Janaki is the alter name of Ramayana Hero Raman's wife Sita) and he... He became the king of her heart ...Rajah.


After they married, they emigrated to Iran in 1925 and proceeded to have one son Divakaran and 4 beautiful girls Parvathy (my ammama), Saraswathy, Indira and Subhadra. In addition to this he adopted his deceased sister's daughter Radha.


My great grandfather believed in the empowerment of women. He educated all his girls to the university level, taught them music and encouraged them to think independently. This was in the 1940s!!!



Rajah had some very strong views about life.  Life can only be lived once so live each day as your last. Everyday his lunch had to have rice, fish/meat, gravy and a payasam. A meal fit for a true sense. And she? She was a culinary goddess in deep adoration truly ready to cook what her Rajah wanted.


He strongly believed that a woman's character and worth can never be measured in terms of gold and money, it is simply under valuing her. A woman is the backbone of the house. It is the duty of the father to educate, imbibe values and give them the skills to lead a successful life.  


When I first recited this story to my little girl, she simply remarked "Mummy, looks like Moothammama's mother was a real life Cindrella!!!"



Presenting Janaki Raman's ritual Pazha Pradhaman




History : My aunts Rema Ammai, Gee and Ammamas
Bananas: MyBee Au dehydrated Palayamkoodans
Photography: Chettan
Old pics searched and set across: Gee
Recipe: My Grandmother Thankam Velunny (Parvathy)



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