10 Popular Malayalam proverbs & old sayings and their interpretations for a healthy living style

Proverbs (Pazhanchollu in Malayalam) coded by our ancestors can be interpreted many ways. Centuries back, they told many things which have been communicated to future generations as proverbs or sayings. Most proverbs (sayings) are simple, a single sentence or a phrase, but with hundreds of meanings, viable even in present-day high-tech life, and will always remain so.

When it comes to Malayalam proverbs related to health and life style, most of them are related of Ayurveda discipline and treatment. They can help us to develop a healthy life style by keeping diseases at bay. Here I list 10 such Malayalam ‘Pazhanchollukal’ related to health. Try to adopt them into your life style and notice big changes in your life. Also read: A journey through Malayalam proverbs about ‘Parenting’ theories.

Food was served on floor, even in rich families those days, and was seen as a part of tradition (Image courtesy: Vanitha Magazine and its artist)

1. Moonu Neram Kulikkanam Oru Neram Unnanam (Bath trice a day and eat once)

When you interpret it based on meaning, it means ‘Bath trice a day and eat once’. But it’s not! In monsoon bath in the morning, in winter during noon and during summer in the evening; that’s what told about ‘bath trice’. When you bath, take note of a few points. Preliminary activities such as going to toilet should be done before bathing. A bath is complete only if you pour water repeatedly on head, just washing hair or rubbing with a moist cloth or washing body only cannot be counted as bath.

For each season, choose a different time for bath. During winter, cold is intense in the morning, and hence noon time is the best for bathing. In ‘sweating’ summer, take bath in the evening before 6 pm and not at night. Dirt and gems due to sweat and dust can be removed this way. During rainy season it takes more time to dry hair, and hence morning is appropriate.

Like that, take food at correct time and regular intervals every day. During early days, breakfast was light. Rice was used as main course for lunch, which was taken between 11 am and 1 pm. Supper was also light. Also read some stories about traditional kitchen of old days.

2. Athaazhamundaal Arakaadam Nadakkanam, Muthaazhamenkil Mullinmelenkilum Kidakkanam (If you have taken supper, walk a few steps. After lunch, sleep at least on thorns)

Take light exercises if you have taken supper. But after lunch, take rest for some time. Before you sleep if you do light exercises, your digestion process becomes easy. Never go to bed soon after supper. Instead walk a few steps, which improves blood circulation and hence digestion. You also get good sleep. As per old principles, take supper before 7 pm.

After lunch, you have to resume your work. That’s why it’s asked to take some rest. Never walk for a long distance soon after lunch. Even if you don’t sufficient time or facility for rest, you should find a solution somehow. That’s why it’s told, sleep at least on thorns after lunch.

3. Karkidakachena Kattittenkilum Thinnanam (You should eat elephant yam of Karkidakam month, even if it’s stolen)

Food habit of Karkidakam month is very important. As water content of yam during this month is high, it’s very tasty. It’s an edible tuber item which can be consumed irrespective of season or disease. It’s called ‘Sooranam’ in Sanskrit and is available in three varieties – white, red and wild yams.

Calcium and many vital nutrients are available in plenty in yams. It can also reduce heat of stomach and effectively used as medicine for diseases like piles and blood cancer. Some chemical substances available in yam can control WBC in blood. But if you eat excess, gastric problems can happen, and as medicine chew a few beetel leaves and drink its juice. After delivery, yam is given to ladies. You can prepare delicious & nutritious vegetarian curry using elephant yam stem and green gram. 

4. Undukazhinja Udane Kulikkaruth (Never take bath soon after meals)

Bath improves longevity, makes us healthy and keeps many diseases at bay. It also gives strength and energy to our body and mind. But bath soon after meals can give health problems. Digestion problem is one such. Interestingly one saying says – If you see someone bathing soon after meals, you should also take a bath.

As soon as we start to eat, our body gets prepared for digestion process. Soon after meals, our blood circulation process and digestion enzymes fully concentrate on stomach. When you take bath, as a part of body temperature controlling process, blood circulation in the stomach as well as presence of enzymes get affected, thus reducing digestion process leading to indigestion.

5. Athaazham Athipazhatholam (Take supper fig sized)

As per Ayurveda (modern medical science too), take light supper only, which is compared to the small sized fig. After a long day of tedious work, all our internal organs might have reduced the speed of activities and already in snooze mode. At this point of time, they need to take rest. If you take light supper, digestion process is easy, which gives less work to internal organs. Digestion will be perfect and you get perfect sleep. You get an energetic day after a sound sleep.

Now in the dieting process, many people go to sleep on empty stomach, which is not at all a good idea. As this saying goes, you should take light dinner, and never go empty stomach. You take breakfast at least after 8-10 long hours, and if you keep your stomach empty for prolonged hours it can lead to gastric diseases. During menstrual periods, ladies should take only light meals, as per old day discipline, which is a good remedy to stomach pain and related issues. If you have returned after a journey, drink water before taking meals.

6. Morum Muthirayum Cherilla (Buttermilk and horse gram never go together)

Always follow a balanced diet so that you get all essential nutrients for good health. Yet some food items are contradictory and cannot be taken together. In Ayurveda, it is called ‘Virudhaahaaram” or contradictory food. Milk and fish never go together. Similarly to make your milk payasam thin, if you add more milk, it is also contradictory. Such food habits won’t cause problems quickly. But slowly diseases may develop if you repeat the same thing multiple times. It may take a little time.

Horse gram is a ‘warm/hot’ food which can increase scurvy (rakthapitham) and constipation. But cooked horse gram is good for diabetic patients. It can also flush out impurities of uterus after delivery. Buttermilk gets digested easily and is a good remedy to swelling and liver problems. It is a good solution to constipation too. However if you consume buttermilk and horse gram together, it becomes a slow poison. All contradictory foods are like this. Though all are nutritious and own many health factors, certain combinations are not advisable. It’s just like a chemical reaction, where combination of certain substances can give dangerous products.

7. Orikkalunnunnavan Yogi, Randuneramunnunnavan Bhogi, Moonnuneramunnunnavan Rogi, Naaluneramunnunnavan Poyi (A person who takes a single meal is a saint, twice a day is a comfort seeking person, thrice a day is patient and four times a day – he is gone!)

Rice is a staple dish for Indians, especially Malayalis. But it is advisable to consume rice once a day, to keep diseases at bay and remain healthy. If he eats rice once a day, he becomes a yogi or monk. Both physically and mentally he has good health and good control of mind, similar to a saint. When we take rice meals, we are in comfort zone, and like a bhogi with desires bad thoughts can pollute your mind.

If you eat rice food thrice a day, it gives negative effects more than positive ones, and also invities diseases. This saying is very much significant in modern times, where we eat too much, comparing with older generations. Now we are burning our calories very much less, and heavy meals thrice a day can invite life style diseases very easily.

If three-time meals is superfluous, what to say more about someone who takes 4 meals a day! He approaches diseases and death very much easily. So it is always advisable to follow a disciplined and well-balanced diet.

8. Inchiyilacurry Thairu Tharippanam Kanjiyodanchum Anthikkaaka (5 items comprising of ginger, leaf dishes, curd, fried & tharippanam should not be added to supper)

Our ancestors, through sayings and proverbs have also told about items to be included for supper, and which ones to be excluded. As per principles, 5 items – ginger, leaf dishes, curd, fried & powdered normal rice or puffed rice (termed as tharippanam in certain regions) and congee should never be included for supper.

Though ginger curry is equivalent to 1000 curries, it should not be used for supper. Curd and also snacks or main course items made from fried rice flour should also not be included. Curd gives constipation. It is not easy to digest, and hence is advisable to avoid for supper. That’s why it’s told curd should not be taken after sunset. Fried rice flour can also cause constipation. Leafy vegetables take more time to digest, and that’s why our ancestors suggest to avoid such items for supper and take some light food.

Yet Ayurveda also suggests rice congee to be a simple, nutritious and easy digestive dish for supper. Green gram thoran along with congee is nutritious. Medicinal congee, fenugreek congee and coconut milk congee are other variants.

(I am a bit doubtful about the interpretation of this saying. Based on its saying, I am not sure if congee can be used as supper or not, and if congee is included in those 5 items. If any reader can help me, you are warmly welcome)

9. Arsasinu Moru Durithathinu Naamam (Buttermilk for piles and prayers for sufferings)

Piles – a painful disease, which gives a lot of mental strain too. Buttermilk is a good remedy. If you are suffering from bleeding, crush a shallot and add to buttermilk before drinking. Buttermilk is a complete food, which has almost all nutrients essential for body; Lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, enzymes, vitamins etc. Milk has fat. But fat is absent in buttermilk. Those who suffer from milk allergy can also consume buttermilk. It flushes out impurities of body and cures mouth ulcers. Fill your mouth with buttermilk to reduce ulcers.

If you are a patient, you lose your mental strength and control over everything. You may turn angry easily and turn desperate. Depression can also attack you. To control mind at this stage, chanting mantras is a good solution – that’s what told in the second part of proverb.

10. Ozhichundaal Ozhichunda Bhalam (Urinating before meals equals having rice with ghee)

This saying is not about serving meals with some delicious curry. It says about urinating before taking meals. As per saying, if you urinate before meals, it gives the effect of having rice with ghee. In short, unlike normal human procedure, urination before taking food is suggested by our forefathers. If you feel to go to toilet or urinate, never take food. Complete these activities before meals to avoid gastric diseases and discomforts. Then only digestion also takes place smoothly. For better functioning of all internal organs, it’s very much essential.

In fact, as per Ayurveda, you should flush out all wastes from your rectum and urinary bladder soon after you wake up and start your daily routines, and make it a daily habit. When you make it a part of your life and daily routines, many discomforts will be kicked off, and you can do all your day activities freely. It also improves the functioning of internal organs. Take a bath and eat breakfast. Resume your work. It gives you a positive feel. It’s also a good idea to ‘empty’ your urinary bladder before lunch.

The way by which our ancestors linked old sayings with life style and health are relevant even today. Now everyone boost it if he follows Ayurvedic discipline, which was a part of Malayalis’ lives a few centuries back. Let us adapt at least a few of them into our life and wait for positive life.

Read a few more articles related to Ayurvedic discipline. Here is the page link. Click on the images to read.


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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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