J is for Jaya & Jasmine #BlogchatterAtoZ

Talking of Chennai and not mentioning tthe late J Jayalalitha , or Amma as she was known as, just does not seem  right. The power that lady held was simply phenomenal.

I remember driving into Chennai from Bangalore the first thing we would see, as we reached the outskirts of the city, would be huge cut-outs of her, in her trademark cape, and later Green-hued sarees. I miss the red and black party flags and cut outs of her lining the streets outside where her home used to be. Amma Unavangam (Canteen) still stands, serving South Indian vegetarian food at subsidised low cost rates. You could have a full meal hear at the price of a basic chocolate bar, i:e for about 10 INR.

Her car used to have a custom inbuilt light shining down on her, as she sat in the front seat next to the driver.

From a top actress to a politician, Jayalalitha was someone who learnt on the job and excelled in every role she played. Ruthless, decisive and ambitious she overcame every failure and drawback only to emerge stronger than ever, till death came as an untimely visitor and claimed her.

Jasmine, or Malli Poo as it is known as in Tamil, is a flower you will see a lot of. it is sold everywhere. On streets, in markets, outside temples. This small, pristine white flower with a heady fragrance is a considered an auspicious flower.


Wearing Jasmine is considered to be a sign of prosperity and luck. The beautiful fragrance it emits doesn’t hurt either. Which is why you’ll see women adorning their hair with a string of it. Some wear it daily, while others do so on certain days of the week or festive occasions.

When you attend a wedding or a felicitious traditional ceremony it is most likely that you could be offered a string of Jasmine. Never refuse it, even if you may not wear flowers in your hair. Take it, thank the person who gave it to you, keep the string with you, maybe wrap it around your wrist. Giving a lady guest a string of jasmine is considered auspicious, so naturally refusing it is not taken very well.

After you finish praying at a temple here, you could be handed a string of Jasmine or loose flowers by the priest. Consider it prasadam.


I love the fragrance of Jasmine. However I don’t wear flowers in my hair. So what I do is place a string near the air-conditioning vent, at home and in the car. The room and the car both smell so good!

Written for the theme

My A to Z of Chennai: The City Viewed Through An Outsiders Eye


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28 thoughts on “J is for Jaya & Jasmine #BlogchatterAtoZ

  1. Amma, of course, was legendary. As you say, ruthless, ambitious and tough. Someone asked her once what she would have been doing if she had not entered politics. She replied that she would have probably been an academician. She was brilliant at studies, sports, debating and several other things even as a child. She missed the merit list by just 3 marks in her SSLC examinations. And Jasmines remind me of a girl I had a crush on when I was a young man. They say Jasmine does not sit well on a girl if she adorns her hair with it when dressed in jeans and tee shirt. But this girl used to do just that and used to look gorgeous. We used to meet each other at the bus stop where we caught the buses to our respective offices. I think she liked me too but unfortunately, before I could grab an opportunity to talk to her (those days it was not as simple as walking up to a girl and start ing to talk, you needed to find some excuse) I got posted elsewhere and that was the end of things.

  2. At the first Tamil wedding that we had attended, I was handed over Jasmine by the bride’s sister. I was naive enough to tell her that I had short hair and so the Jasmine was of no use to me. Later on, one of my colleagues told me that I had made a blunder, hurting their sentiments in the process. It was my first learning about Tamil weddings and rituals.
    Amma was of course an icon of the state. Lovely post again M.

  3. I have heard from friends who belong to Chennai the kind of following that J Jayalalitha enjoyed. They would literally worship the ground she walked on… In fact the kind of devotion that people in south India have for their politicians and film stars is quote something. And yes although even I dont put flowers on my hair… I love how it looks on other women…great post….

  4. I was thinking you would talk about Amma and stop, but you also touched another important J of Chennai. May be, the sweet smell of Jasmines gives us the strength to bear the Chennai heat

  5. I always admire the lady! In a male dominated politics, its not easy to get a party listen to women! And she took the party in style from many legends! Amma, was pulled down from the truck carrying the body of MGR… she did not fall… but rise such a height!

  6. I hated wearing Jasmine flowers too. I HAD to wear them for all the temple visits, weddings, and festivals, as a kid. Now that I don’t get to wear them, I miss it. These days on my trip to Kerala, I lovingly ask my husband to get me a string of these fragrant white flowers to adorn my hair. πŸ™‚ Your post reminds me of so many such memories.
    And of course, J is for Jayalalitha!

  7. That’s a lovely tip on using jasmine! Though it isn’t as popular in Delhi, it’s sometimes sold at traffic lights. The smart hawkers target young couples, appealing to their romantic nature. My husband has fallen prey to their sale tactics and bought me the flowers a couple of times, even though I don’t adorn my hair with them either!

  8. I have heard about the canteen which Amma had started. A person can indeed eat a full meal at Rs 10/-. It is open for all. I must say the people of Chennai were taken over by grief on Amma’s sudden demise.
    Jasmine is one of the flowers with the best fragrance. I also love placing these flowers in front of the AC vents in the room. It just fills the whole room with their goodness.

  9. I love wearing Jasmine flowers on my juda when I go to Kerala, I take the feel I will visiting Kerala in next few days. Jaylalitha was an iconic lady. You have covered beauty and braind in a single post

  10. I liked the rare combination you weaved in this post dear. I have fond memories of wearing jasmine Gajras pinned to my ponytail by mum. I totally but your point that Jaya has donned all hats to perfection for Tamilians.

    I am really loving your series and look forward to reading many more great posts.

  11. Jasmine was my and my father’s favorite flower coz of its heavenly fragrance. He planted it in our house garden too very fondly. I was thinking of him since morning and came across this post. Another signal from him πŸ™‚
    I love wearing jasmine in my hair only at family weddings as I like that different look it gives instantly. In India, I used to keep a pot of water with a few jasmines in it. You post evoked many many memories, Mayuri.

  12. Footprints of amma and fragrance of jasmine both are going to stay with chennai forever. I had made only a two day visit in chennai but with your beautiful posts each day I am falling for the city.

  13. Amma was larger than life itself and her cutouts..gigantic. Are we soul-sisters?? I do the same with malle puvvu πŸ™‚ AC vent and car. I was born here and my sisters used to even string the flowers. And when my husband brought them for me……………………..!!! Sigh!! Memories!

  14. We don’t wear flowers in hair here but I remeber on my visits to south, we were offered the strings. We did wrap that around our wrists. It has such a pleasant fragrance.

  15. Ruthless, decisive and ambitious… that about sums it up very accurately! πŸ™‚
    I didn’t know about this custom of gifting jasmine strings. Mom used to force Dad to gift them to her every time we went to Mall Road in Kanpur. Would that count as an auspicious gift? πŸ˜› πŸ˜› πŸ˜›
    Find my J post @ Memories Of Journeys With Indian Railways

  16. Jayalalitha’s car had custom inbuilt light shining down on her!!!!! Wow!! Wasnt aware of this πŸ˜€
    I love jasmine flowers, though we dont use them here in North, except for may be in pooja sometimes. Thanks for sharing about the traditions and customs regarding these flowers. Wasnt aware of these either πŸ˜€

  17. Didn’t know so much about Jayalalitha. And yes the Jasmines, I know that Tamilian women love it. As north Indians , I initially found this obsession with flowers in the hair to be a little over boarding, but now it all seems to make so much sense. After all whats the harm in having some fragrance in life!

  18. Amma was an exceptional politician and I doubt there ever can be anyone else like her. She made a mark for herself in her lifetime and even after she has gone, it stays.
    I love the smell of jasmine but don’t like wearing them in my hair. Like you, I like to keep them in my bedroom and their lovely fragrance is far better than any air freshener!

  19. Oh yes, Chennai and Amma! I realized this tradition of wearing flowers in hair during my stay in Bangalore. People consider it auspicious and a mark of prosperity, and I remember when I first held gajra in my hand ages back Dad gave a tough stern warning. What a huge cultural difference.

  20. I love Jasmine. When stringed together it is called ‘Gajra’ in Marathi and hugely popular .. However our gajras use only flowers and is not mixed with orange blossoms of Aboli (Crossandra infundibuliformis) or any foliage. Either ways the stringed Jasmine are a winner all the way!

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