prayers are offered to the ancestors of the family to seek their blessing for the upcoming wedding alliance.This is practiced in the morning hours and is considered as the beginning of the marriage ceremonies.
This ceremony takes place in a temple. The bride’s family brings turmeric, betel leaves, nuts and clothes for the groom. The bride’s brother then garlands the groom.The groom is then taken in a decorated car and the family leaves in a procession to the mandapam.
This is followed by the procession, after the groom and his family and relatives reach the mandapam where the engagement ceremony is performed with the priest reciting the religious mantras. Thaamboolam are exchanged it contains the materials required for muhurtham.
Kashi Yatra is a unique ceremony, which has the boy saying at the end of the thread ceremony that he has discarded the worldly pleasures and going to Kashi. He carries a walking stick and some essentials to show that he is not interested in getting married.Brides father Stops him and ask him to accept his daughter as wife and fulfill his duties as head of new household. Dressed in the traditional panchakatcham, holding an umbrella, a fan, a walking stick, and a towel containing lentils and rice tied to his shoulder.
The bride and groom are lifted to the shoulders of their respective maternal uncles. This is an expression of continuing sibling support to their mothers. And in that position the two garland each other thrice for a complete union.the exchange of garlands symbolizes their unification, as one soul in two bodies. It is inward acceptance by each of the very fragrance in the other.
The marrying couple is seated on a swing. They rock forth and back, as women sing songs to praise the couple. The bride and groom are given a sweet concoction of milk, sugar and bananas to eat. Water and lighted lamps are circulated around the swing in order to guard against demons and ghosts. Colored globules of cooked rice are waved in a circular motion and thrown away to propitiate the evil spirits.The to and fro motion represents the undulating sea-waves of life. Yet in mind and body they shall move in harmony – steady and stable.
Pallikai Seeds Sowing
This is a fertility rite. Pallikais are earthern pots prepared a day earlier. Pots spread at the base with hariali grass and Bael leaves (vilvam). Nine kinds of presoaked cereals are ceremoniously sown in these pots by sumangalis. After the marriage, the sprouted seedlings are released in a river or pool. This ritual invokes the blessing of the eight direction quartered guardian angels (Ashtadikh Paalaks) for a healthy life and progeny to the couple.
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 bride’s head, a ring made of Darbha of Kusa grass is placed. And over it is placed a yoke. The gold Thali is placed on the aperture of the yoke. And water is poured though the aperture.
The symbolism of the yoke is drawn out of ancient rural life where the only mode of transport for households was the bullock cart. It is supposed to signify that just as a bullock cart cannot run with just one bull, the marriage needs both the bride and groom. Both of them have to face their responsibilities together.
The bride is then given an auspicious ablution. A new sari, exclusive for the occasion, called the koorai podava(saree) is chosen. The colour of the koorai is ‘arraku’ i.e. red, the colour associated with Shakti. This sari is draped around the bride by the sister of the bridegroom, signifying her welcome to the bride. A belt made of red grass is then tied around the bride’s waist. 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 lives. 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.
And when she becomes a maiden Agni gave her passions.The bridegroom returns his assurance to the bride’s father saying three times that he shall remain for ever her companion in joy and sorrow, in this life and life after.
This means holding hands. The groom holds the hand of the bride.
Holding the bride’s hand the bridegroom walks seven steps around the holy fire with her. This is the most important part of the marriage ceremony. And only when they walk these seven steps together (i.e. perform the saptha padhi) is the marriage complete. With each step they take a vow. The belief is that when one walks seven steps with another, one becomes the other’s friend.
Gifts are exchanged between the families of the bride and groom. Any gift not accompanied by a token gesture of a coin of small denomination that represents the stored value of human effort is considered incomplete; thus respecting the value of human effort through which wealth is acquired. Also no gift shall be taken without a return gesture, which merits the gift received. Pala Dhanam as ordained by the scriptures is thus an action signifying mutual arrangements between the families, to be based on the principle of equality and respect for each other irrespective of one’s economic stature in life. The return gesture by the family of the groom could never equal to the gift of the bride given to the groom. Hence, the same coin given to the groom’s family is returned to the bride’s family an acknowledgment of the priceless gift received.
A crucial part of the wedding is the homage paid by the couple to Agni, the God of Fire. They couple goes around the fire, and feed it with ghee and twigs of nine types of holy trees as sacrificial fuel. The fumes that arise possess medicinal, curative and cleansing effects on the bodies of the couple. Agni, the mightiest power in the cosmos, the sacred purifier, the all-round benefactor is deemed as a witness to the sacred marriage. Hence the term ‘Agni Saakshi’ or witness by fire.
Treading on the Grindstone
Holding the bride’s left toe the bridegroom helps her to tread on a grindstone kept on the right side of a fire.
Arundhati and Dhruva Star
Next the groom shows the bride the star Arundhati (from the Saptha Rishi or Great Bear constellation) as also Dhruva or the pole star. Arundhati is the wife of the Vashishta Maharishi and exemplified as the ideal wife – the embodiment of chastity. Dhruva is the one who attained immortality through single-minded devotion and perseverance. This is symbolic of the fact that such virtues are to be emulated throughout marital life.
This comprises the bride’s own offering into the sacrificial fire. As an expression of sibling support to her marriage her brother helps her. He gives her a handful of puffed rice grains which she hands to the bridegroom, who on her behalf, feeds it to the fire. Through this food offering, the bride seeks a long life for her husband and for propagation of her family. Participation of the bride’s brother indicates the continuance of links between the two families even after marriage. The couple circles the fire three times. The feeding of puffed rice to the fire is also repeated thrice.
Taking with her fire from the Laaja Homam, the bride takes leave of her home and enters the new home of her in-laws.
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 all gathered, there follows a series of playful games. 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 playing ball and so on. During these events women sing songs, making fun of the bride, the groom and the in-laws.
These events bring out the qualities of the bride and the groom’s sporting spirit, kindness, co-operative nature thus surfacing the hidden traits for the other to note, thus bringing about better understanding and compatibility.