If you haven’t already come across the “Super Brain Yoga” clip, then do have a look at this video below.


As anyone from south India would tell you, this is an age old custom out here. Right from the time we are kids, we are taught to do this in front of Ganesha idol. And this form of movement is known as (as near as I can write the sound) “Thoppu-karnam”…

Which word, is related to the Sanskrit “Dvau-bhuja-karnam” [ from what I have recollect reading Mahaperiyava of Kanchi say in an article…Note: My recollection was in error. Please see correction below] The meaning of that is, ‘two hands on two ears’… And is done exactly the way described in the video.

(Correction: I had recollected the term as Dvau-bhuja-karnam… On checking Deivattin Kural, I found the reference in Vol 4… I was in error. The phrase is “Dorbhi: Karnam”.. meaning the same as Dvau-bhuja-karnam, ‘two hands on ears’. Also, please see L Srini’s comment below, on the derivation from ‘toba karna’).

I guess the folks who have scientifically checked out this “super brain yoga” should next check out “pillayaar kuttu” as well – which is knocking one’s temple (side of forehead) region three or five times.

Kuzhakkattais anyone?


27 Responses to “Toppukarnam”

  1. L Srini Says:

    Sir, toppikaranam, I’m told comes from Urdu ‘toba karna’.

  2. bala Says:

    toppikaranam usually associated with pillayar or punishment in school

  3. L Srini Says:

    Here’s the info from the Madras Tamil Lexicon:

    தோப்பிக்கரணம் tōppi-k-karaṇam

    , n. < U. tōbākaraṇa. Punishment requiring a person to take hold of his ears with his hands and sit and stand alternately; காதுகளைக் கை களால் மாறிப்பிடித்துக்கொண்டு உட்கார்ந்து எழுந்து நிற்கச் செய்யும் தண்டனைவகை.

  4. Padmini Says:

    I guess we should thank our teachers for this as well – punishing us this way 🙂

    What next, I wonder.

    – Padmini

  5. Ranga Says:

    Guys and Gals,

    Beware..!! Soon…very soon…you will all be banned from doing ‘Thoppu Karnam’ as the Yanks are already in the process of patenting it, preventing anyone in the world to do it without an American Doc’s presence when doing it…!!
    BTW: Is ” Murrgaa” position is an adopted version of the “Toppu Karnam” by folks North Of Vindhyas….???


  6. S Venkatesan Says:

    Tamizh is a very ancient language and I would think that toba karana would be derived from thoppukaranam or Dvau-bhuja-karnam.

    In fact Tamizh is the only language which has a word for Vedas – Marai. (All other languages have the Sansrit word modified..)

    In the case of blood, Tamizh has kurudi; same is the case with Sun (it is parithi).

    Arisi in Tamizh became rice; maanga become mango; kaasu became cash; kattumaram became catamaram; millagu thanni is now ….

    Please visit this URL:

  7. L Srini Says:

    Well whatever. The original word is not dvau bhujakaranam – that much is evident. If you believe that, then California came from Kapilaranyam – that came from the same pen. You just need to read the Deivattin Kural more 🙂

  8. gkamesh Says:

    The etymology of the word is interesting… Let us leave it at that…

  9. Arunachalam Says:

    Well as an explanation to Pillayar Kuttu I have the following to put forth, as I have learnt from elders.(incidentally I am 73+)
    Pillayar Kuttu activates the glands under the roof of the palate(of one’s mouth) which is supposed to ooze necatarine like fluid that can have
    a vitalizing effect on health, intelligence and age.Under side of the palate roof is also called Amrtha Yoni.

  10. Murali P Says:

    Hi Guys,
    The interpretations are amazing. I think we all end up doing thoppu karnam, only when it gets patented and comes back to us from US / Europe with a fancy name, say ‘knee positive’ and a physio therapists or air conditioned gym charging a fee to heal your knee joint pain

  11. very informative Says:

    dear sir,
    it is very informative.thanks.expecting more in future.

  12. Vinjamoor S. Vijaya Raghavan. Says:

    Dear all,
    Holding the tips of the ears by cross-changing the hands is a short-cut for connecting pisitive and negative life forces and, while in that position, by doing sit-ups, the vital veins are stretched and the nerves in spinal chord connecting the brain trigger the tender nerves in the brain, which effect multiplies the brain power.
    Vinjamoor S. Vijaya Raghavan.

  13. manirangan Says:

    as a person of proud performer of 1000s of awarded thoppu karnams during my young days (60 yrs back ) by my teachairs and parents i can vouch that it is indias proud invention and no one else can claim it.

  14. Anwar Barayil Says:

    Touba or Tawba is a root arabic word for repentance, which is also accepted in Urdu with the same meaning. Karna is to do in hindi as well as Urdu. So Thoppu karanam being derived out of “Tawba Karna” is a possibility. Arabic language is one of the earliest language from the time of Adam and therefore Tamil being older than that may not be a possibility. Quran being the highest form of literary arabic talks about ‘tawba’ (repentance in many places). Muslim prayer form does involve raising ones hands upto shoulder level, sitting down, standing up etc. which can resemble ‘toppu karanam’
    God in His immense wisdom has recommended all actions from his creations which are beneficial to the creations. (Circumcision which is practiced by Muslims and Jews were found to be a health benefit only recently by medical fraternity) Remember, He is the architect/inventor/creator and hence He should know best. So simply follow the Almighty’s commandments and benefit in this world and in the hereafter. Let the guiding force for us not be ‘western discoveries’ but God Almighty’s guidance. jai Ho

    • gkamesh Says:

      Thanks folks…

      आ नो भद्राः क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वतो says the Veda. “Let noble ideas come to us from all world…”…

      Interesting discussion….

  15. M. Blue Says:

    Interesting info and ensuing discussion indeed. The debate is about the etymology of the word “thoppikkaranam” and NOT about which is the ancient language in the world! It is entirely possible that a relatively modern language such as Hindi or Urdu to give birth to a word esp if a science, art or practice originated from the region where that langauge is spoken. The don’t always have to have origins from an “ancient” language – Tamil, Arabic or Sanskrit or Latin or whatever. The omniscient, omnipresent God gave speech and languages to several parts of the world about the same time! And the universe is not just 6000 thousand years old either.

  16. gkamesh Says:

    Thanks Blue!

    On the etymology, God google threw up one more link, in line with the Dorbhi karnam:

    ‘Toba Karna’ from Tamil Lexicon is also pretty sound – as the scholarship behind the lexicon is supposed to be very high standard.

    A friend of mine also wrote offline to me saying that Toppikaranam is one of the 108 Karanams mentioned in Natya Shastra. Well, I went and checked the Natya Shastra, and couldnt really make out which one it was. So, I am not sure of that one. In Deivattin Kural, Acharya has specifically said that in ‘Toppikarnam’, the second part is not ‘karanam’ and that it is ‘karnam’ – unlike the other old movement – ‘kuttikaranam’ (where it is karanam)… Of which, some other time 🙂


  17. Pranagold Says:

    Dear All,

    Thank you so much for your input. It is indeed so interesting to learn about its origin.

    I used to do the same during school but never knew its benefits. I am happy to know now that i am reaping the benefits of this punishment.

    Blue thanks for your wise words, we are all under one roof anyway…

    Mr. Arunachalam, i would be glad if you could elaborate your explanation.

    Also, gKamesh…plz explain “pillayaar kuttu”…

    thanks to all, pranagold

  18. gkamesh Says:


    As regards Pillayar kuttu. You may have seen south indians, when they visit Vinayaka shrine, do toppukarnam… they also knock their forehead-sides with their knuckles five times… this is pillayar kuttu… if you want to see a picture, check out ‘Vighneshwara Dhyanam’ in the following link


  19. Gopinathan. Chetlur.C Says:

    Dear One & All,
    Best Wishes one & all,

    Gopi, Mumbai, India

  20. cnsone Says:

    “Thoppai KarayaNum” – Those who can see the lighter side of it will understand what I mean.

    “Thoppai karayuNumnaa Podu ThoppukarNam -108”.

  21. gkamesh Says:


    That is a really good one, cnsone…

    (for those who do not know Tamil – “Thoppai karayanum” means – “For stomach to lose flab”.)

  22. Anand Says:

    I have done this in my school days, Bcoz i always used to get punishment from my teacher

  23. Vi-rag Says:

    Those interested in the connection to “pillayaar kuttu” might want to listen to EFT 101:


  24. K.Ramamritham Says:

    Pillayar TOPPUKARNAM. We in India do this commonly from our child hood as part of our worship to Lord Ganasha .Who is God Clearing All Obstacles so what you have found is the same thing .

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