In Tamil Nadu, Pillayar suzhi or Ganesha circle is drawn first before writing anything on paper. It is comprised of a circle, a curve, two lines and a dot. Perhaps in earlier times, when there was no paper, scribes used palm leaves to write on. Before they started writing, they checked the quality of leaf by making a circle, a curve, a line and a dot.
This came to symbolize Ganesha, the scribe who helped Vyasa write down the Mahabharata. Since then the Pillayar Suzhi is supposed to make things auspicious and bring good luck. In examinations, students draw this symbol at the beginning of their answer paper in the hope that the examinations go well.
The 'pillayar suzhi' as shown in the above picture, contains all the basic shapes necessary to write down any letter in Tamil. Namely, straight lines and curves. Additionally people also add a dot in the bottom.
This helped people identify good pal leaves to write on. The ones on which they couldn't draw the 'pillayar suzhi' comfortably were discarded. This habit persisted and is still followed as a tradition albeit without any particular use.
Symbolism behind Pillayar Suzhi
naatham kodu vadivam. Idu Sivam.
Aduthuthu thondrum Vindhu pulli vadivam. Idhu Shakthi
Sivanum Sakthiyum sernthathu than Pillayar suzhi.
This is the prayer.
This is the prayer.
In Pillyar suzhi , the Tamil Letter உ – begins with small circle, then semi circle expands and end with straight line.
First small circle represents poornathvam - Brahman aspects, second the expanded semi circle presents - apoornathvam - represents the world. It symbolically represents that from the poornam Brahman which represent small circle, this world - appornam [semi circle] came into existence. Since this Brahman aspects is complete poornam and the world comes out of it from the same substance must also be Brahman only.
This Pillayar Suzhi in Tamil Nadu serves the same functions as the mark of SHRI in North India. Shri is also said to be another name for Ganesha. By writing his name in the beginning, one is heralding auspiciousness and ensuring absence of obstacles in any activity.
Source: Excerpts from the book on "99 Thoughts on Ganesha" written by Dr.Devdutt Pattanaik