Among the most ritualistic of Indian weddings, the traditional Tamil Brahmin weddings stand apart. Their fun filled and the ritualistic affair is still not changed much. After all cut shorts, it is still a grand three-day affair!
According to Tamil Brahmin traditions, apart from a formal engagement, another engagement will be held on the day before marriage. On the first engagement, the girl enters the hall and is welcomed by an aarti by the groom’s side. And the boy, in turn, is welcomed with aarti, flowers for ladies, sweets and sprinkling of rose water.
The girl changes her saree to the one gifted by the groom’s mother. After she changes into it, the mother-in-law puts a garland around her neck, applies haldi, kumkum on her forehead. She is welcomed with sweets, gifts and jewellery. The lagna patrikai (marriage invitation) will be read out, officially announcing the wedding. Thereafter the boy and girl take blessings from all elders. The engagement ceremony is followed by a traditional lunch.
Pandalkaal - One or two days before the event, both houses will be purified by burning camphor and applying turmeric and kumkum on the walls. Then the marriage pandal or canopy is built with bamboo poles and are decotrated with the branches and leaves of a tree. Small plantain trees will be fixed on both sides of the entrance as a mark of festivity.
For Iyengar Weddings, halls are booked for three days. On the preceding day of the actual event, there will be poojas held at the mandap to ward off all obstacles. The girl enters the hall with an aarti and is not supposed to step out of the hall till the actual marriage ceremony gets over.
Mapillai azhapu or Janavasam –Known as (baraat in Hindi), the formal wedding function starts here on the day before the actual wedding day. The bridegroom arrives in a car decorated with flowers and enters the venue accompanied by nadaswaram (a musical instrument).
Nichayatartham – This is a formal announcement of thewedding by parents with the exchange of small tokens. After this, the bridegroom's dhoti (the one for marriage) will be dipped in turmeric water by both mothers. Everyone prays for the event. This will be followed by a reception with entertainments.
Nalangu- On the wedding day morning, a paste of turmeric is applied on the legs of the bride by her women relatives and her hair will be oiled.
Viratham- On the marriage day, by giving all personal grooming items the groom is asked to get ready for the wedding. Traditionally he would not have shaven up till this. Two separate poojas will be conducted simultaneously after that.
After the bath, two separate functions will be held simultaneously. The girl's side perform a puja called jadaga namakarana (naming ceremony of the girl) and the bridegroom’s side performs pooja for the boy as he leaves bramhachari stage to grihasta stage. The girl accompanied by the elderly ladies from her side moves to the groom’s side carrying several sweets and savouries. The girl is welcomed by aarti. The groom applies kajal in his eyes and bride on her cheeks which are supposed to ward off all evil.
Kasi yatra- It is a symbolic re-enactment, where the groom pretends to go to Kashi and become a ‘sanyasi’. A bachelor from his side accompanies him by holding an umbrella for him. The girl's father then requests the groom to marry his daughter and they will exchange ceremonial coconuts dipped in turmeric water. The groom then returns to the ‘mantap’ with his family.
Malai Maatral- This the official exchange of garlands thrice among the bride and groom. The maternal uncle lifts up the girl and the boy to make fun and finally the groom is given the bride's hand to hold.
Oonjal - The couple enjoys the swing for a few minutes while ladies sing songs. Five ladies from the girl's side would together pour milk on the couple’s feet. Coloured rice is circulated among the couple and it is thrown in all directions to ward off evil eyes. The bride and the groom are considered as Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu. The groom’s feet will be washed by the bride’s side after this.
Kanyadanam - The groom blesses the bride and gives her a 9-yard saree to wear thereafter. The ‘thali’ is taken around and touched by all elders indicating their blessings and flowers are distributed among everyone to bless the couple during the nuptial note which is about to follow this.
Maangalya Dhaaranam- The bride arrives in new saree and sits on her father’s lap. The groom ties the thali with an auspicious yellow thread. The groom ties the first two knots while his sister ties the last one. The couple thereafter takes seven steps round the ‘agni’ (sapthapadhi) as everyone showers their blessings with akshate (rice mixed with turmeric). The bride’s father and the groom’s sister, in turn, gifts the groom and the bride respectively with gold and diamonds. Both parents also exchange gifts post this.
There are some fun filled moments along with this as the groom holds the bride’s leg while taking 7 steps, the bride sits on grooms lap, rolling of coconuts etc. A traditional feast follows this.
Nalangu – This is a fun-filled ritual. The bride invites the groom and his family to play relaxing games like rolling coconut, breaking papads on each other's head, applying kumkum and combing hair for each other amidst chanting of slokas. This will be followed by an exchange of several gifts, aarati etc. Both families tease the couple and many songs are sung during these rituals.
After dinner, the couple is blessed for Shanti muhurtham.
Kattu saadam –On the third day, a sumptuous lunch (saadam) will be packed for the couple and they will be escorted by the bride’s family members to the in-laws house.
Samandhi virundhu -Ending all the function the groom's family invites the bride's side for a lavish lunch.