It is quite common in Tamilnadu for elders to bless, especially newly-weds, by saying "Padhinaarum Petru Peru Vazhvu Vazhga", or, 'May you be blessed with sixteen and live a great life'. Sometimes people, mistakenly, think that the sixteen in this blessing refers to sixteen children. It actually means sixteen different things that one would ideally like to have to lead a good life.

What are these sixteen things? One list is what is included in the 'sankalpa', i.e., when we express our resolve at the beginning of pujas:

"Asmaakam saha kudumbaanam,
kshemasthairya veerya vijaya ayur-arogya aiyswarya abhivridhyartham,
dharma artha kaama moksha chathurvitha pala purushartha sithyartham,
puthra pouthrabhivrithyartham,
manovancha pala sithyartham, samastha mangalaani praapyartham, sarvadhosha nivarthyartham, yadaa sakthi,…(e.g., Sree Saraswasthy),dhyana-avaahanadhi
shodasa upachara pujaam karishye"

A simple translation of the sixteen things:

  • Prosperity, stability, fortitude, success, long life and good health, and wealth for the whole family (incidentally, invariably, while seeking long life one always wants it to be a healthy one as well!) – these make seven
  • To be blessed with dharma, artha, kama and moksha – four more
  • Betterment of children and grand-children – two more
  • Fulfillment of desire, to be blessed with all auspicious things and destruction of all sins – three more, adding up to a total of sixteen.

In summary, we want sixteen things, and, perform a puja comprising sixteen acts or steps of worship! Sometimes, when one feels one has asked for too many worldly things, as the Paramacharya says, we add – attainment of jnana and vairagya!