We were in Chennai on 23-24 Jnne'09 to attend another wedding - between a Kerala Iyer boy and a Tamil Iyer girl. Since the rituals followed by Kerala Iyers & Tamil Iyers are virtually the same I have retained the title as Kerala Iyer Wedding.
In my earlier blog posted on the subject I have covered only part of the rituals associated with a wedding - from Kasi Yatrai on wards upto Thali Kettal followed by the wedding feast. In this blog I have attempted to cover some of the earlier rituals conducted on the day prior to the wedding.
We arrived at the Kalyana Mandapam in Valasaravakkam on 23rd morning around 8.30 am. After break fast on the ground floor we proceeded upstairs to witness the Vritham/Kappu Kettal - which is the first ceremoney that sets off the wedding proceedings. Both the families are Mumbai based. The boy, Ramesh, is a software engineer who works for Satyam and the girl Sriradha too is a software professional employed in TCS. The boy's father, a successful exporter, hails from Trivandrum while the girl's father is a Senior Manager in Bank of India, originally from Trichy. Surprisingly this is an arranged marriage which is becoming rare these days.
The marriage ceremonies begin with"Vratham" performed separately by the families of the bride and the groom. For the bride, it means the tying of the kappu, the holy thread on her wrists, which is meant to ward off all evil sprits. It symbolizes a kind of protective armor for the bride.
For the groom vratham begins with invocations involving the Gods Indra, Soma, Chandra and Agni. From thereon the groom prepares himself for a new chapter in his life as a householder or grihasta. The days of his bachelorhood or brahmacharya are over now. In earlier days vritham was conducted in the the respective homes before proceeding to the wedding venue, but now a days this done at the marriage hall.
The Vritham is followed by another ritual called sprinkling of "Paaligai". Pali means row of trees and this ritual would originally mean planting of trees by the groom's and bride's families for the upkeep and happiness of the groom and the bride. In modern days, this consists of sowing germinated seeds of nine kinds of pre-soaked cereals (Navadhanyams) in 5 mud pots (layered with green grass and bilva leaves) by married women (Sumangalis) relatives of the groom and the bride. They first sow the germinated seeds and pour milk with water over it. It is a custom to have five such pots for each side. Five sumangalis (three from the groom's relatives and two from the bride's relatives in case of the groom's side and three from the bride's relatives and two from the bride's side in case of bride's side) sow the germinated grain and pray for long happy married life for the couple as well as to be blessed with several children to brighten their homes.
The above rituals completed the mornings rituals and this was followed by a grand lunch.
The next ritual to follow was the "Mapillai Azhappu" or "Janavasam" which was held in the evening around 7.30 pm. The bride's side presents the groom with dress & accessories for the occasion(suit, shirt, tie, watch, shoe etc). The groom is taken to a nearby temple. The bride's family also bring turmeric, betel leaves, nuts. After the groom gets dressed, the bride's brother garlands him, and sugar candy is distributed to all present. The groom is then escorted to a decorated car and the family leaves in a procession for the 'mandapam'. The flower decked open car led by nadaswaram/mridangam troupe and followed behind by the grooms family & relatives. Sometimes this is accompanied by bursting of crackers.Once the procession reaches the marriage hall, the groom is received by the bride & her family. The bride is led outside by her close friends to get a glimpse of her future husband! She also briefly gets into the car and sits besides the groom. 'Aarthi' is performed and a coconut broken to ward off evil. The groom is then led to the 'medai' (an elevated place in the 'mandapam' where all the ceremonies are performed).
Nischathartham: Janavasam is followed by Nischathartahm. Members of both families sit opposite each other and a 'lagna patrika' (marriage contract) is written and read aloud by the 'priest'. 'Thamboolams' (platters of betel nuts, dry fruits, nuts, coconuts, turmeric and 'kumkum') and gifts are exchanged. The groom's parents give the bride a silk sari. She goes into the dressing room and after a while emerges in her new sari. The groom's sisters tie Thamboola in the bride's sari. They also apply kumkumam to the brides forehead and place flowers on her hair.