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‘Manja Pai’ makes a fashion statement!!

January 7, 2015

How we all hate that ‘Manja Pai’ from our parents’ generation ….! For those who are unfamiliar with the infamous ‘Manja Pai’ of Tamil Nadu, let me elaborate:

‘Manja Pai’  literally means Ýellow bag’ (manja – yellow in tamil and pai – bag). A Manjapai is thus a cloth bag in yellow colour, considered an auspicious one.

The ubiquitous Manja Pai served as the ultimate ‘thamboolyam’ bag in our parents times (g0-home gift of a coconut, 2 bananas and betel leaves and nuts with flowers would be packed into the Manja Pai the traditional way to give the guests attending wedding muhurats, griha pravesham (housewarming) or any family function in the south.) Now in the place of the Manjapais we have expensive fancy bags, that’s the difference. But the custom of giving thamboolyam in our functions remains. Shops in the city delivered saris and dress materials once upon a time in Manjapais only. Now modern business houses have moved over to catchy plastic bags but some add jute bags if your purchases exceed a certain value.

So none left a celebration without this manjapai in his/her hand in those days! I just hated seeing my father and grandfather dressed in trousers and full sleeved shirts leaving marriage halls carrying the manja pai hahaha! Wouldn’t be seen anywhere near the bag!

I am not a fashion-conscious person yet I was totally put off by the mere sight of the manjapai just like my friends were! To me the manjapai still meant a fashion faux-pas! How gross!!

My granny accumulated these bags and stacked them in an almirah as if they were pricey possessions. In times when the plastic carrybags were still not in vogue, the manjapais were best when it came to grocery shopping.

My MIL still goes everywhere with Manjapai only. Any valuables, she carries in it.

My uncle too goes to the market with a manja pai. He is a typical Mylapore mama lolz. He just wouldn’t change. I keep telling him, one day I would loot all the manja pais in his house and throw them in garbage. He takes me very seriously and says, ‘no don’t do that! they are so valuable! and useful! what a weight bearing capacity! and so convenient to carry!’

* A typical Mylapore Mama is one who goes to Mylapore market every evening with his white dhoti folded up at knees, carrying the Manjapai, with his forehead anointed with ‘vibhuti’ or the holy ash. He starts his walk with Valleshwar temple first, then may include Kapali temple depending on time available, may include thus Sai Baba shrine if it is a thursday, rarely cuts through the Nageswara Park, and after all this will buy vegetables and fruits and flowers on the Mada Veedhi obstructing traffic standing in the middle of the road! This is his everyday ritual, come rain or shine! Well this is my husband & son’s description of a typical Mylaporean. One day both are threatening to knock off as many mamas as possible with their car to clear the roads and get some parking space lolz. Índecent’ they say in one word anything about Mylapore because I come from there!

”Your daddy was like this?!’ they ask and I proudly say, ýes!’ lolz Why should my father be any different. He was a typical Mylaporean too. For him, evening hours after office were in temples and markets before getting home for supper. Ofcourse he always went out with the Manjapai!

Actually my uncle used to take his lunch box to office in manja pai only in those days! OMG !!!

I have some manja pais at  home courtesy my MIL : will click a pic and add later on.

The cloth bag is thus something our oldies would not be seen without, could not be separated from. The manjapais were collectibles!

In short there is no south Indian home without the manja pai even though none of us in this generation would want to be associated with it in public!

With the advent of the plastic and polythene carrybags, the Manjapais have vanished from the wedding scene in Tamil Nad totally except from some real traditional and old fashioned ones. Few available are still zealously collected by those like my uncle and my MIL for perennial future use.


Its true the Manja Pai is environment friendly, is washable and cheap and can be recycled/used many times over.

Manja Pai now has some new lovers surprisingly in Chennai in this generation. They want the return of Manja Pai in lieu of plastic/polythene carrybags in our cities and towns. Me too. But don’t expect me to carry one, NO WAY!!!

I find the manja pai useful when it comes to operating bank lockers! I stuff gold/silver jewellery/articles in the manja pai and double wrap it in fashionable totes keeping with times. Casual chic lolz . Same way if there has to be heavy cash withdrawal, I take manjapai with me. In ATMs, manjapais are best useful to stack your cash in. Then you can tuck the manjapai safe into your handbag. So I have to confess, I do hoard manjapais for this reason! (without anyone noticing ofcourse!)


Surprised to see that our Manja Pai is now fashion statement:



Says a friend: ‘Don’t tease the Mylapore Mamas too much. Now all who’s interested in us is them OMG !!! Because all the young guys from our times are now typical Mylapore Mamas with pot bellies and bald heads lolz.’


From → Etcetera

  1. I used to hate Manjapai and other such traditions. However,as I grow older i find that i am falling back into those very traditions. 🙂 The cloth bag for Bhaji. The empty agarbatti packets are clothes freshers, and so may more….. 🙂

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