An interesting anecdote of a typical South Indian Wedding
From a mile away you could be transformed into a mood of gaiety. The gate posts of the wedding hall are adorned by full grown plantain trees, signifying evergreen plenty for endless generations. Overhead festoons of mango leaves and screw pine petals signify the never fading relationship to begin here. Notes of Nadaswaram are heard loud and clear. This wind pipe instrument played in all temple festivals signifies that the union made here is sacred and divine.
Kolam or Rangoli
Intricate designs at the doorsteps, matches the mood of the occasion, beckoning a hearty welcome to the well wishers who arrive. At the threshold of the hall, sprinkling of rose water perfumes the visitor. Offering of flowers to women, express a wish of Sowbagyam for the lady guest. The sandal paste to be smeared on oneself, is to provide relief from the sub-tropical heat and the sugar candy brings forth the sweetness of happiness, the visitor has arrived to partake in.
At the threshold of the hall, sprinkling of rose water perfumes the visitor. Offering of flowers to women expresses a wish of Sowbagyam for the lady guest. The sandal paste to be smeared on oneself, is to provide relief from the sub-tropical heat and the sugar candy brings forth the sweetness of happiness, the visitor has arrived to partake in.
This is performed a few days prior to the wedding as an invocation to the departed Sumagalis to get their blessings. The Mangalya to be tied around the neck of the prospective bride is placed in Puja. Sumangalis are fed sumptuously and offered gifts and one among them is chosen for the gift of the saree placed in Puja.
This is also performed a few days prior to the wedding day. Venkatachalapathi the Lord of the Seven Hills and his spouse Alermael Manga Thayar are worshipped. This is to get the blessings of the Lord for a prosperous life for the couple.
When the Ozone Layer is very near to earth, it is advisable to go for walking, joging etc so as to breathe fresh air. Now the Scientists have found that the layer will be very near to earth for 30 days from Dec 15th to Jan 15th in the early hours before sunrise.
The Morning Previous to the Marriage Day
As in the inauguration of any function so also in a marriage, Ganapati, is invoked to keep away all impediments.
Naandi Devata Puja
Naandi is a very important religious rite. This is done with the help of learned Pandits. Naandi along with Homam is always preferable. Naandi is done to seek the blessings of the Pithrus for a long and Prosperous life, for all to be free from diseases and aliments and for the children to get food education and lead a healthy life.
The marriage ceremonies begin with the Vratham performed separately by the bride and the groom. For the bride, it means the typing of the Kappu-the holy thread on her wrist which is meant to ward off all evil spirits. It symbolises a kind of protective armour for the bride. For the groom, the Vratham begins with invocations involving the various Gods-Indra, Soma, Chandra, Agni. From thereon, the groom prepares himself for a new chapter in his life as a householder or Grihastha. The days of his bachelorhood or brahmacharya are now over the acceptance of this is all what the Vratham is about.
Paalikai - seeds sowing
This is a fertility rite. Paalikais are earthen pots prepared a day earlier-pots spread at the base with hariali grass and betel leaves. Vilvam: nine kinds of pre-soaked cereals are ceremonially sown in these pots by Sumangalis. After the marriage, the sprouted seedlings are released in a river or pool. This ritual invokes the blessings of the guardian angels of the eight quarters, for the healthy life and progeny to the couple.
The Evening Previous To The Marriage Day
Ushering-in of the Bridegroom - Jaanavaasam
On the evening prior to the wedding day, the bridegroom is brought in a procession from a temple in a flower decorated car. He is escorted by the bride's parents, and welcomed at the marriage mandap which is the bride's abode. Nadaswaram band leads the way along the streets, the flower-decorated car jam-packed with children. This is a social function, called Jaana Vasam, in South India and Baraat in North India. Through such a parade, public approval is sought of the groom, chosen by the family. After reaching the marriage hall, there is a formal ceremony of betrothal.
Vaaku Nichaya Muhoortham
At the marriage hall, the bride's father and the bridegroom's father facing each other, solemnise the final betrothal ceremony, in the presence of friends, relative and invitees. The mantras say -
"O God Varuna, Be She harmless to my brothers and sisters! Oh Brihaspathi! May she think no evil to her husband! O Lord Indra! Bless her to be a good guardian of her children! Surya! Bless her with all wealths"
On The Wedding Day
This is a very important part of the ceremony. Immediately after his student-life, the young bachelor has two alternatives before him. Married life (Grihasta) or asceticism (Sanyas). Being by nature escapist, he prefers the ascetic life to the tribulations of married life. He therefore makes his way to Kasi(Varanasi), complete with slippers, umbrella, bamboo fan etc. On his way, the bride's father intervenes and advise him, of the superiority of married life to ascetic life. He also promises to give him his daughter as companion to face the challenge of life. The umbrella is to remain with the groom, to remind him in the future, of this advice.
Exchange of Garlands - Maalai maatral
The bride and the groom are lifted on to the shoulders of their respective uncles: and in that position the two garland each other thrice for a complete union. A garland worn by a person, should not be used by another, ordain our Shastras. Here, the exchange of garlands symbolises their unification as one.
Swing, ride and singing of Laali. Then, the marrying couple are seated on a swing (Oonchal). They rock forth and back as the ladies around sing, songs to praise the couple. The chains of the swing signify the eternal Karmic link with almighty above, the to-and-fro motion represents the undulating sea-waves of life - yet, in mind and body they shall move in harmony unperturbed, steady, and stable.
The feet of the bridegroom are washed with milk, and wiped off with silk. Water, and lighted lamps are taken around the swing in order to guard the couple against demons and ghosts. Coloured globules of cooked rice and waved in circular motion, and thrown away-to propitiate the evil-spirits.
The bride is made to sit on her father's lap and is given away as a gift by him, to the bridegroom. On the girl's head, a ring made with Kusa, the sacred grass called Darbha, is placed and over it, is placed a yoke, the Gold Mangal Sutra (or Thali) is placed right on the aperture of the yoke, and water is poured through the aperture. The mantras chanted at this time say -
"Let this gold multiply your wealth! Let this water purify your married life, and may your prosperity increase. Offer yourself to your husband!
The bride then is given an auspicious ablution, and an exclusive new Koorai Saree is draped around her-this is done by the sister of the bridegroom.
To the bride in her new saree, a belt made of reed-grass is tied around the waist. The mantras chant -
"She standeth here, pure before the holy fire, as one blessed with boons of a good mind, a healthy body, life-long companionship, of her husband (Sumangali Bhagyam), and children with long life. She standeth as one who is avowed to stand by her husband virtuously. Be she tied with this reed-grass rope, to the sacrament of marriage"!
Thanksgiving Vedic hymns follow to the celestial care takers of her childhood - the Deities of Soma, Gandharva and Agni. Having attained nubility, the girl is now free to be given over to the care of the human - her man.
The father of the bride, while offering his daughter chants -
"I offer ye my daughter, a maiden virtuous, good-natured, very wise, decked with ornaments to the best of my ability, that she shall guard the Dharma, Wealth and Love!
The Vedic concept underlying this ritual is figuratively this - that in her infant stage, Soma had given coolness of the moon, and strength, in the next stage, Gandharva had given her bodily beauty, and lastly Agni, gives her the passions.
The Bridegroom's Assurance
Thus offering his daughter, her father gets a word of assurance three times that the bridegroom shall remain for every her companion in joy and sorrow in this life.
The bride ties a string fastened to a piece of turmeric, around the wrist of the bridegroom-to bind themselves by a religious vow. It is only after tying the Kankanam that the bridegroom get the right to take the bride. A little later, the bridegroom ties a Kankanam on the bride's wrist.
Next, timed to exact auspicious hour, is the tying of the Mangala Sutra (Thali). The bride is seated over a sheaf of grain-laden hay, looking eastward, and the bridegroom facing westward, ties the gold Mangala Sutra around the neck of the bride. As he does so, the Nadaswaram drums are beaten loud and fast, so as to muffle any inauspicious sound at the critical hour. This is called Getti Melam. As it sounds, the Sumangali ladies sing -
"Gouri Kalyaname, Vaibhogamay!" Three knots are tied-the first one by the bridegroom, the other two knots by his sister to make the bride a part of the boy's family. The Vedic hymn recited by the bridegroom when he ties the knot is -
"Praying the Almighty that I be blessed with a long life, I tie this knot around neck, Oh! Sowbhagyavati, may Providence bestow on you a fulfilling life of a 'Sumangali' for a hundred years to come!" There is no mantra in the Vedic texts for Mangalya Dharanam. The following shloka is recited -
"Paani Grahanam" Paani Grahanam is the sacred act of uniting the couple by holding hands. The word Paani Grahanam
means "holding hands". The groom holds the hand of the bride. The mantras say -
"The Devas have offered
you to me in order that I may live the life of a householder - "Grihastha", we shall not part from each other even after we grow old" This is the one of the very important function in the marriage ceremony. In fact there is no mention about the Mangalya Dharanam in the Vedic Texts. The Mangalya Dharanam is only a customary one. But in practice, everybody attaches much importance to Mangalya Dharanam and see that the said function is completed to perform the Paani Grahanam in the best auspicious time. In between Mangalya Dharanam and Paani Grahanam, the couple is not expected to touch anybody. Hence, it is usually suggested to everyone at the marriage hall, not to shake hands with the couple immediately after the Mangalya Dharanam.
Holding the bride's hand, the bridegroom walks seven steps with her. This is the most important part of the marriage ceremony, and only when they walk 7 steps together (i.e. perform Saptha Padhi) the marriage is completed legally. The belief is that when one walks 7 steps with another one becomes the other's friend. The mantras recited then, mean -
"Ye who have walked seven steps with me, become my companion, whereby I acquire your friendship. We shall remain together, we shall share - love, share the same food, share the strengths, the same tastes. We shall be of one mind, we shall observe the vows together. I shall be the Sama, you the Rig, I shall be the Upper World, you the Earth; I shall be the Sukhilam, you the Holder-together we shall live, beget children, and other riches, come thou, O sweet-worded girl!"
One step for Vigour,
Two steps for Vitality,
Three steps for Prosperity,
Four steps for Happiness,
Five steps for Cattle,
Six steps for Seasons,
Seven steps for Friendship,
To my devoted.
After the seventh step, the bride remains still while the groom says:
With seven steps we become friends
Let me reach your friendship,
Let me not be severed from your friendship,
Let your friendship be not severed from me.
Next, touching the heart of the bride, the groom says,
I hold your heart in serving fellowship,
Your mind follows my mind,
In my word you rejoice with all your heart,
You are joined to me by the Lord of all creatures.
A crucial part of the wedding is the homage paid by the couple to Agni, the Fire-God. They circle around the fire, and feed it with ghee, and twigs of nine types of trees, as sacrificial fuel. The fumes that arise, are supposed to possess medicinal, curative and cleaning effects on the bodies of the couple. Agni, the mightiest power in the Cosmos, the sacred purifier, the all-round benefactor, is deemed as witness to the marriage (Agni Saakshi)
Treading on the Grindstone - Ammi midhikal
Holding the bride's left foot toe, the bridegroom helps her tread on a grindstone kept on the right side of the fire. The mantras say -
"Mount up this stone. Let thy mind be rock-firm, unperturbed, by the trials and tribulations of life!"
This shall comprise the bride's own offering to the sacrificial fire. As she is forbidden to do it herself, her brother helps her. He gives her a handful of parched rice grains which she hands to the bridegroom who on her behalf, feeds it into the fire. Through this food-offering, the bride seeks a long life for her husband, and propagation of the family. Participation of the bride's family members indicate the continuance of links between the two families, even after marriage. The couple circle around the fire, three times, and the feeding of the fire with parched rice, is repeated thrice.
Showering of 'Akshadai' - Aaseervadham
Akshadai, i.e. rice-grains coated with turmeric and saffron, are showered on the couple, by elders and invitees - as benediction.
Taking with her the fire from the Laaja Homam, the bride takes leave of her home and enters the new home of her in-laws. The Vedic hymns now said are like the mother's words of advice to her daughter -
'Be the Queen of your
husband's home. May your husband glorify your virtues - conduct yourself
in such a way that you win your mother-in-law's love, and be in the good
books of your sisters-in-law".
The evening of the marriage day is the time to relax and play. The newly-wed wife calls her husband for play, inviting him through a song. Much to the merriment of one and all gathered, there follows a list of playful items; the bride anointing the groom's feet with colour paste; fanning him, showing him a mirror; breaking papads over each other's head; wrenching the betel pack from each other's hands, rolling the coconut from one to another as in ball-play, and so on. During these events, the ladies sing songs, making fun at the bride, groom and the in-laws.
These events bring out many qualities, of the bride and the groom - sporting spirit, kindness, strength, and co-operative nature.
The Night of the Wedding
The Jayaathi Homam is performed to propitiate the Gandharvas and other deities. Pravesa Homam is done to solemnise the bride's entry into the husband's home. The sacrificial fire is brought along by the bride. Sesha Homam is Fire oblation with the residual ghee, a little of which is sprinkled on the bride's head four times.
Showing her the 'Arundhati' Star
Next he shows her the star Arundhati (of the Saptha Rishi Constellation ), as also Dhruva the pole-star. Arundhati, the wife of Vasishta Maharishi, is exemplified as an ideal wife, the embodiment of Chastity. Dhruva is the one who attained immortality through singleminded devotion and preseverance - virtues to be emulated throughout married life.
Thaamboola Charvanam ; Baladhaanam
The girl's brother gives the ceremonial first betel to the couple to chew. Certain other gifts are made to bless the couple with children and long life.
A solution of lime and turmeric powder and in colour, is prepared on a plate, and circled around, and thrown away to ward off evil eye. This is done a number of times during the entire wedding ceremony, and at the end.
The consummation of the marriage at night - the nuptials!
The Day after the Wedding
When the bridegroom and his people take leave they are provided with the necessary food packets for their journey. The main aim is that there should be no need for them to buy food on their way, and also when they reach their homes they should be quite at ease without the care of looking immediately into the family needs. Hence provisions and vegetables are also sent with the bride. On the whole the main idea is, that everybody should be comfortable, happy and prosperous.