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Why boiled rice items are considered as "pathu"


Dear sir,
I have seen in my home, my mom & my elders whoever touches the boiled rice vessels/ Dosa/ Idli anything made by boiling the rice is called "Pathu". They wash their hands before touching any other vessels & even they do clean the surface/ gas burner where they used to place it. Can anyone explain to me the reason behind it? Is it mandatory to follow & whats is actually "pathu" means.Thanks.


Gold Member
Gold Member
I am not a traditionalist, I believe in a scientific reason for a practice to be followed.
This topic has been discussed in this forum.

It is surprising that the term Pathu is used differently in different villages of Tamil Nadu.
In some households, any think cooked is "pathu", in other houses wheat items are not pathu. These are no equivalent words in other languages or cultures. In North India, that practice and term will be totally foreign.

Secondly, it might have had some significance before refrigeration.
Now you keep you pathu item with non-pathu item in the same fridge, so all these mixings were not allowed in the ancient times. I remember my mother would keep Yogurt separate are of the kitchen from cooked items. There might have been a reason for that, from spoilage point of view. But once we got a fridge my mom gave up this practice. Similarly, we stopped tossing away leftover foods. We keep all the food items (pathu and non-pathu items) on the same table and eat at the very same table. A lot of "tradition" disappeared for the sake of convenience, and modernization.

Earlier times there was someone to serve you food, you never use your left hand to serve yourself, but now no one serves you, you eat what you can serve yourself, so practices change.

If there is no rational explanation, you may follow blindly out of guilt or ignorance, or give up the charade and follow hygiene practice for health reasons.
Last edited:


Gold Member
Gold Member
One point of View:

There is a custom called ‘pathu’ that was religiously followed by us till about 25 years ago but has been eased out these days. Cooked rice, dal, sabzi and other rice based salted ‘high tea’ delicacies like dosai, idli etc. were declared ‘pathu’. One had to wash one’s hand after touching these items and could not directly touch pickle, milk, curd or other food stuff. Strangely wheat preparations like puri and chapathis were exempted. Uppuma was ‘pathu’ but suji halwa was not. Deep fried items were not ‘pathu’ even if they were rice based. Like the English language where the spelling of ‘put’ and ‘but’ are similar but their pronunciation is different one had to be born a tambram to understand when one needed to wash one’s hand and when it was not required. When I say washing hands after touching certain food items I mean merely touching water with the tip of one’s fingers. I now realize that those were days when refrigeration of left over food was unheard of so all items marked out as pathu tended to spoil fast and this was a precautionary measure to prevent mixing of food.



Active member
Not only boiled rice but cooked food are pathu with exemptions as in the above two posts.

one had to be born a tambram to understand when one needed to wash one’s hand and when it was not required.

Yes this I have experienced when I told many of other than TamBrahm but their understanding is totally different and afterwards I stop saying that and concluded myself if among TamBrahm too in modern days many are eased out snd even that is explained in above two posts.

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