Disclaimer: A lot of the names may slip of your tongue. Fret not . Read and enjoy the shaadi!
WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT? Oodles of colour, dollops of music and a melee of flowers. Add this together with a gazillion other elements and what you have at hand is a South Indian Wedding popularly called as Maangalyam or Thirumanam in common parlance. The weddings , at one point in time used to last for over a week. Right from the time when folks all over the town would gather to the making of bhakshanam, or home-cooked delicacies to the slightly fast-paced weddings that happen today to cater to the office-going crowd of the day, the typical Tamil wedding continues to be a gala affair, albeit truncated.
THE PRE-WEDDING JITTERS :- What goes into making a quintessential Tamil wedding? It begins with the fixing of the venue or the mandapam by the bride’s family who are usually entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out the wedding. Once the venue is bedecked with beautiful floral designs and the kolam or the grand pattern is drawn , the next step is the Palikai Thalikkal , where nine types of grains are placed in clay pots, and watered by 5 or 7 elderly women from both families.As the women continue to water the pots, the grains sprout, symbolizing the auspicious start of a new family . After the wedding, the bride too joins in watering the pot, and finally, the day after the marriage, the newlyweds throw the grains into a pond or river.
THE WEDDING EVE :- On the eve of the wedding, there happens the Nishchayathartam or the engagement.The groom and his entourage visit the temple to seek divine approval and blessings. Akin to a ‘baraat’ ceremony , there exists the Jaana Vasam in South India where the groom is toured around the area near the venue to let the world know of the wedding so that they may raise their objections, if any.When the groom returns, the ceremonial plate, adorned with flowers, clothes, jewels and fruits is exchanged between the two sides. Modern-day weddings have a pre-wedding reception following this which translates to delectable foods and a classical music performance by someone from the family or a veteran singer from a Sabha.
THE D-DAY:- The morning of a Tamil wedding begins early, so early that the young ones shudder at the thought of waking up at hours like 4 am in the morning. Thankfully, only the groom and bride are required to be mandatorily present at the Vratam or the oath-taking performed by the bride, groom and their parents. Herein, they vow to honour the holy vows and leave for a visit to the temple once it is over.This ceremony is also performed on the wedding’s eve depending on time constraints.
Once the Vratam is done with and more guests seep in, the Kashi Yatra begins. As the name suggests, this is meant to signify the groom’s visit to Varanasi. In olden days, young boys after their education would head out to Varanasi to join the ranks of the sanyasis. Similar to that, the groom,holding an umbrella, dressed in traditional sandals, with the Gita in his hands walks upto the entrance when the bride’s father, in nothing short of an actor’s poise stops him from going so that he can entrust his daughter in safe hands. Once the groom approves of the request, the Oonjal or the swing ceremony takes place before which the bride and groom exchange garlands.In a ceremony marked my much fun and playfulness, the families try to lift up the bride and groom to prolong the ceremony. Song are sung and there is much happiness in the air. During the swing ceremony,the couple is fed with a mix of bananas in sweet milk ( a form of sustenance as they do not eat much until the ceremony gets over) and circumabulated by the women.A special set of songs are sung specifically for this event. And then comes the moment everyone waits for! The Kanyadaanam and the Maangalya Dhaaranam.
The bride is made to sit on her father’s lap and the priest chants the mantras suited to the occasion.The father now gives his daughter to the groom, giving him all rights over her, and advising him to take care of her. The bride then goes to wear the nine-yard sari gifted to her by the groom’s family. She drapes the new sari in the traditional style with the help of the groom’s sister, and returns to the stage where the groom is continuing with the rituals. The next step is the tying of the mangalsutra which is supervised by the groom’s sister who helps tie two of the three knots. The groom now holds the bride’s hand and leads her to the sacred fire. Here, he stoops down and helps her take seven steps around the sacred fire. Known as Sapthapadi, each step is an oath the husband and wife make to each other.. Next, the groom leads the bride to a grinding stone placed next to the sacred fire, and places her foot on it. The mantras recited during this time advise the bride to lead a firm life like the bedrock upon whom the family can bank. Henow sits with his wife, facing the sacred fire and performs his first Homam (fire sacrifice) invoking the Gods to bless him and his family. Once the homam is done with, the couple are ready to feast at their grand meal. This is followed by the Nalangu ceremony, a hot favorite among all the young one where the couple is encouraged to play games and songs , playfully egged on by both sides. The day ends with the Griha Pravesham or the bride’s entry into the groom’s residence. Overall, it is a colorful,musical and grand affair. If you haven’t been to this ceremony, make sure you drop in at your South Indian friend’s place when he or she is getting hitched!