Tamilians are always known for their elegance and simplicity even if it is something as big and extravagant as marriage. With all kinds of rituals and cultural norms that are much different from other Indian weddings, the Tamil wedding is one that gives importance to peaceful and spiritual union over pomp and grandeur. Tamilians give immense priority to their tradition and rituals which should be performed in the right manner. Weddings in the south are very different from those up in north India. Tamil people represent the major identity of South Indian communities and are known for their simple living and great education. Typical Tamil weddings are more about sticking to the age old customs and traditions than having lavish arrangements.
Tamil weddings are always filled up with joy and happy moments. They have big events with distant relatives, friends and family members but they would make sure there will be no compromise on the actual traditional ceremony. Tamil weddings, also known as Kalyanam, take place during the day of all months of the Tamilian calendar except Aashad, Bhadrapad and Shunya. The Tamil wedding ceremonies are broken up in Pre Wedding, Wedding and Post Wedding rituals. Pre Wedding rituals consist of NakshatraPorutham, Marriage Agreement, Panda Kaal Muhurtham, Sumangali Prarthanai, Pallikal Thellichal, Vrutham, Naandi Shraddham, Nishchaya Tram and Lagna Pathirikai. On the day of the wedding, they have MangalaSnanam, Gauri Puja, Kashi Yathra, Pada Puja, Pada Puja, Oonjal, Kanyadanam, Muhurtham, Saptapadi and lastly the post wedding rituals are Reception, Sammandhi Maryathai, Paaladaanam, Grihapravesham, Valeyadal, Maruveedu Varudal.
- Nakshatra Porutham – Matching of horoscopes are given utmost importance in a Tamil wedding. Horoscopes are matched which determines a lot of factors for the impending wedding like the wedding date, precise moment for the wedding or muhurtha and other rituals as well.
- Marriage Agreement– The marriage agreement is created by the priests on both sides once the marriage date is fixed. A meeting is arranged at the groom’s place where both the families exchange the marriage agreements by putting it on a platter containing a bunch of bananas, betel leaves, betel nuts and a coconut. Gifts are then exchanged between the families.
- Panda Kaal Muhurtham – During this ritual, both the families visit a temple or may organize a special puja at one of the homes, and pray to God so that the wedding may happen without any obstacles. This is generally done on the day before the wedding.
- Sumangali Prarthanai – This is a puja directed towards the Sumangalis or married women who take part during the rituals of the wedding. These women are basically close relatives, family members and friends. The women, generally grouped in odd numbers like three or five or seven, get decked up in traditional sarees. Once the puja is completed, the bride seeks blessings from each Sumangali and gives her some special gift like a saree or jewellery. Lunch is also arranged for them.
- Pallikal Thellichal – Clay pots are decorated with vermillion and sandalwood paste by five or seven married women of the family or both the bride and the groom’s families. Every pot contains nine different types of grains or navadhaanyam and are placed along with a bit of curd. A traditional south Indian sand art design that is believed to be bringing good luck, is prepared at a particular spot within the house.
- Vrutham – This ritual takes place at the groom’s house in the early morning before the wedding day. The day signifies transition of the groom from the Bachelorhood phase to Domestic phase. He seeks permission from his father to proceed to this phase. A sacred thread which is yellow in color along with turmeric is tied around the groom’s wrists. In a similar ceremony or puja, a yellow thread is also tied around the bride’s wrists. This thread is said to protect the bride and the groom from evil energy.
- Naandi Shraddham – During this ritual, the groom’s family arrives at the wedding venue on the morning of the day before. The bride’s family welcomes them with tray full of favors like sweets, betel leaves, betel nuts and fruits. The groom is especially welcome with a shower of rose water. A garland is put around the groom’s neck and a spot of sandalwood and vermillion paste is applied on his forehead. After the welcome, ten Brahmins are invited over who take part in a ritual that offers appeasement to the families’ departed ancestors. The Brahmins are treated to traditional Tamil vegetarian lunch and are given traditional two piece garments along with betel leaves, betel nuts, coconut, fruits and sweets. The Brahmins bless the couple and wish them a prosperous life ahead.
- Nishchayathram – This is the engagement ceremony that is done formally. The ritual begins with a puja to lord Ganesh at the bride’s home. The groom’s family arrives at the bride’s house. They give a beautiful saree and jewelleries to the bride. They then apply a spot of sandalwood paste and vermillion on the bride’s forehead. The sumangalis from both sides come and fill up the free end of the bride’s saree with rice, fruits, coconut, flower, turmeric, betel nut and betel leaves. An arti of the bride is performed while a garland is tied around her waist. The bride’s family also performs a similar ritual and gives new clothes to the groom. The bride and the groom then change into these new clothes. In some families, the couple also exchanges rings after they have changed.
- Lagna Pathirikai – This ritual involves announcement of the wedding and offering verbal invitation to the wedding. The family priests after consulting the couple’s horoscopes come up with the most auspicious moment of carrying out the wedding which they formally draft in the lagna patrikai which outlines the names of the family members, the bride and the groom’s, the marriage date and the marriage time. The time of the wedding or the Lagna is announced in front of all the family members of both the bride’s and the groom’s side. The lagna patrikai is seen and signed by the heads of the two families. Following this, gifts are exchanged between the two families.
Wedding Day Rituals:
- MangalaSnanam – The Mangalasnanam ritual is observed separately by the bride and the groom’s sides. A paste of turmeric, sandalwood and kumkum is prepared by the married women. They take turns in applying oil to the bride/groom’s hair and applying the paste on their face, hands and feet. After the ritual, the bride/groom takes a bath in holy water to cleanse their body. They then proceed to get ready for the wedding ceremony.
- Gauri Puja – This ritual is performed only by the bride. An idol of the Goddess Gauri, is placed on a plate containing rice and kumkum. After the bride has been dressed up, she offers her prayers and performs a short puja to the Gauri idol wishing for a happily married life ahead.
- Kashi Yatra – The groom’s party arrives at the wedding venue and the groom grabs an umbrella, walking sticks and some food items to go off to Varanasi or Kashi, renouncing all worldly attachments to pursue religious studies. The father of the bride then intercepts him outside the wedding hall and makes him see the virtues of domestic life. The father of the bride then promises the groom to give his daughter to him in marriage. The groom accepts this proposal and returns to the wedding venue to get married. The umbrella is to be kept with the groom throughout the wedding to remind him of the decision and his duties thereby.
- Pada Puja – After the groom arrives at the wedding mandap, the parents of the bride washes his feet with holy water, sandalwood, kumkum and milk. His feet are then wiped dry with flower petals.
- Maalai Maatral – In this ritual, the bride is brought into the wedding mandap and the couple exchange flower garlands as a first step of the wedding. The ritual is repeated three times and the bride/groom tries to evade garlanding by the other.
- Oonjal – Oonjal generally means a swing. During ritual, the couple is made to sit on the swing. The women of the family surround the swing and sing Oonjal Pattu songs. The elders of the family come one by one and feed the couple milk and banana and bless them. Women from both the families carry colored rice balls around the couple seated in the swing in both clockwise and anticlockwise directions three times before throwing the balls in four cardinal directions to remove evil energy. Older women also go around the couple holding an earthen lamp and pot filled with water three times in clockwise direction. The gentle rocking motion of the swing represents the turbulent situation that life may present to them.
- Kanyadanam – The bride and groom is then asked to step off the swing. The end of the bride’s saree is tied to the end of the groom’s angavastram. The bride’s mother then applies kajal on the groom’s eyes and the bride’s father washes his feet. Through this ritual the groom is viewed as representative of Lord Vishnu. The groom is then made to sit on the floor at his designated spot. The bride’s father sits facing the groom. The bride is seated on her father’s lap and a coconut is placed on her hands. The bride’s father then supports his daughter’s hands and offers the coconut to the groom together. The mother of the bride pours holy water over the coconut. Through this ceremony, the bride’s parents give her to the groom and request him to take care of their daughter for the rest of their life. The bride and the groom’s hands are tied with a sacred thread to seal their union.
- Muhurtham – After completion of the Kanyadanam, the groom’s parents present the bride with a nine yard silk saree symbolizing their acceptance of the bride into their family. The saree is draped around the bride’s shoulders while the groom applies vermillion to her hair parting. The bride then goes to change into the saree gifted to her by her in-laws. When she returns to the mandapam, a grass ring is placed on her head, over which the yoke of a plough is placed and a belt made of reed grass is placed around her waist. Water is poured over the yoke. This ritual is a symbolic reminder of the fact that the bride and the groom together have to overcome the challenges of life. The Thaali is blessed by the priest and the groom ties the Thaali, or south Indian equivalent of a mangalsutra, around the bride’s neck. The first two knots of the Thaali are put in by the groom while the third and the final one is put in by the groom’s sister.
- Saptapadi – In this ritual, the bride and the groom hold each other’s hands and go around the sacred fire seven times. Mantras are chanted by the priest which depicts the seven sacred vows of a marriage. This ritual marks the symbolic beginning of the couple’s journey as husband and wife. The groom then holds the bride’s left toe as she steps over a grindstone. This symbolically represents the solidity of their union.
- Reception –Once the wedding is over, it is followed by a formal reception in the evening where the guests are treated with a lavish vegetarian dinner. The newly weds are seated on a throne like chairs on top of a stage where they can meet the guests.
- Sammandhi Maryathai – During this ceremony, The two families exchange gifts and the bride prepares to leave her paternal home. She is bid an emotional goodbye by her parents and relatives after they have prayed to God.
- Paaladaanam – Before their departure, the bride and the groom lie face down and seek the blessings of the elders. The groom then escorts the bride to his home.
- Grihapravesham– Once the bride reaches the groom’s home, she is given a warm welcome. The mother-in-law performs arti and escorts her inside the house where she is led to seek the blessings of the family deity first.
- Valeyadal – This ritual refers to the formal introduction of the bride to the members of the groom’s family who offers her gifts. Several games are played to break the ice between the bride and the groom.
- Maruvidu Varudal – Three days after the wedding, the couple visits the bride’s paternal home. They are welcomed and are fed a delicious lunch. The bride’s parents give the couple gifts. This ritual marks the end of all the wedding celebrations.
For a note, the most important aspect of any wedding is the wedding ensemble of both the bride and the groom but more stress is laid on the bride’s attire. It is selected much in advance and the accessories to go with it are also decided way before the wedding. A Tamilian bride looks every bit of a Goddess on earth in a beautiful kanjeevaram silk sari, wearing traditional gold jewellery from head to toe and showing off her long braid accessorized with hair jewellery and flowers. The groom, on the other hand, wears a dhoti and kurta or a sherwani if he wants. Ensure that the wedding outfits for both are decided and kept ready with all the accessories much in advance.
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