Indian weddings, in general, are an elaborate affair. And if you happen to attend weddings taking place in various parts of the Indian subcontinent, you would know how each one is exclusive and distinctly elegant in its own way.
But if one might ask what sets apart a Tamil wedding from the rest of the crowd, most people would agree that it is the value shown to rituals and traditions. Much of these customs are thousands of years old as they hinge on sacred texts (of the Vedas).
Tamil weddings are grand events. Not so much in their level of extravagance as the importance that is given to elegance and simplicity.
A recurring theme in a typical Kalyanam (wedding) is the presence of red and gold. Be it in the form of wedding decor, the outfits that are worn by the bride, groom and their respective families or the manner in which the rituals are performed – these two colours are a must.
But what are these wedding rituals all about, and why is its influence so steady and relevant? Let’s find out.
Sumangali is a term that is used to refer to married women who lead a blissful and happy married life. The Sumangali Prarthanai, therefore, is a pre-wedding ritual dedicated to Sumangalis as well as the bride-to-be in order to bless her union and pray for a congenial and flourishing life with her husband-to-be.
Sumangalis are required to wear a 9-yard saree known as the Madisar at the time of the puja (prayer). The family must ensure that the number of Sumangalis invited to the wedding are always odd in number. Once the puja is complete, the women are treated to a traditional South Indian spread (all served on a banana leaf).
The Pallikai Thellichal is another pre-wedding ritual that is performed in order to bless the couple’s union. The custom involves gathering 9 kinds of rice grains that are mixed with curd, all placed in 7 separate earthen pots. These earthen pots are beautifully decorated (with beautiful and colourful designs, sandalwood).
Once this is done, the pots are immersed in a water body so that fishes can eat from it. The ritual is a key aspect of making married life blessed and promising.
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The Mangala Snaanam, which literally means ‘purifying bath’ is a custom that takes place on the day of the wedding (at dawn). It involves the application of sacred items such as turmeric, kumkum (a red pigment) and oil on the bride as well as the groom before they go for their morning bath.
The customs and rituals in Tamil weddings are not always of a serious nature. There is a fair bit of fun and play involved. The Kashi Yatra is one such playful ritual where the groom pretends to go on a Yatra (journey ) to Kashi.
He dresses up in the complete garb of someone who is about to set out on a holy pilgrimage by wearing a simple pair of slippers, carrying a walking stick and a few other bare essentials to his person.
It is now the bride’s father’s job to convince the groom to stay and marry his daughter. Essentially, he must lay out the advantages of the match. The groom then agrees (but naturally) and is then ushered to the mandap.
The Pada Puja is another ritual that takes place on the day of the wedding. In it, the mother of the bride washes the feet of the groom in water, sandalwood essence, and kumkum. Soon after this custom has taken place, the bride is ushered into the mandap.
Some traditions also involve the mother of the groom washing the feet of the groom-to-be.
The Kanyadanam ritual in Tamil weddings is similar to the one performed in the northern states of India. The custom itself involves the father of the bride handing over his daughter to the groom to be united for eternity.
But what set’s this ritual apart from others of this kind is the fact that the bride sits on her father’s lap before he gives her away. It symbolises how the bride would play on her father’s lap as a child, and he took care of her then. The act itself, therefore, is a promise the father seeks from the groom that his daughter will be looked after with the same care, love and concern.
The Muhurtam is perhaps the most important wedding ritual performed by the couple. It marks the beginning of the couple’s union.
In the course of the custom, the groom applies kumkum/sindoor between the parting of the bride’s hair. And after that, he ties a Mangalsutra (a necklace of sorts) around the bride’s neck.
The Saptapadi is the ceremonial ritual familiar to most everyone who is aware of how Indian weddings function in general. During the ritual, wherein both the bride as well as the groom circle the sacred fire seven times, with each round signifying a certain promise and a vow.
One of the first few post-wedding rituals that are performed, the Sammandhi Mariathai, is one where the bride’s family and groom’s family exchange gifts and tokens of appreciation. It is at this time that she leaves her childhood home to start life with her husband.
The Gruhapravesam is another custom that is known to people from various parts of India. It happens when the bride and groom arrive at the groom’s house and the bride is welcomed by the entire family. A small aarti (puja) is performed just before the couple makes an entrance.
Tamil weddings are a wholesome, mirthful and enjoyable experience. Each of the customs and rituals performed have a poignant and purposeful meaning attached to it, making it all the more alluring and beautiful.
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