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Friday, June 12, 2009

A Kerala Iyer Wedding

On Sunday 7th June’09 we attended a wedding in Tattamangalam Village in Chittur Taluk in Palakkad district of Kerala. The distance from Coimbatore to Tattamangalam is around 50 Kms and the journey took around 90 minutes. Enroute we crossed KG Chavady, Kozhinapara, Nellaipally, Chittur and finally Tattamangalam. I always enjoy a drive into Kerala with green fields and coconut groves and banana plantations lining either side of the road – indeed God's Own Country. The wedding was at the Tattamangalam West Village – an old Brahmin Agraharam. There are two temples in this village – an Ayyappa Temple and a Krishna Temple. There is a big well at the center of the village and a large water tank adjoining the Krishna Temple. The wedding was being conducted in a Pandal erected adjacent to the Krishna Temple.
This was a Kerala Iyer wedding. The boy is a software engineer working for Oracle in Bangalore and girl too is a software engineer – she has quit her job at Trivandrum to join her husband to be in Bangalore. We were warmly received on arrival and straightaway led for breakfast, which was arranged in an old agraharam house that had been purchased by the Brahmana Samooham and modified. Breakfast menu included Dosa, Idlis, Vada, Uppuma, Halwa, and coffee. I was seated next to the bridegroom and his father and we were introduced to each other and got chatting. The groom has recently returned from a two year stint in California on Oracle Project work. He appeared simple and unassuming without any of the airs & trappings that we normally associate with a software professional. Maybe the recent economic downturn (and the Satyam fiasco) has taken away some of the sheen from the software industry.
The wedding was well attended – apart from friends and relatives of the family the entire Tattamangalam village appeared to be in attendance – as is the usual practice in village weddings. The women were well attired in gorgeous “Pattu” sarees and donned their finest jewellery which is a must for such occasions and the young girls were dressed in Pattu Pavadai or Pavadai half saree.
The wedding ceremony was elaborate. Both the bride and the groom followed instructions and chanted the vedic mantras obediently without any kind of murmur. The proceedings started with the Paradesi Kolam and Kasi Yatrai , during which the groom wore a 8-10 yards Veshti(white lungi) in Panchagacham style with an Anga Vastram slung over his shoulder, carrying a walking stick, umbrella, vishari (fan), a book, and symbolically takes a few steps as if he is leaving for Benares. The father in law persuades him to return, accepts him as a Vedic Scholar and promises to give his daughters hand in marriage to him. The groom willingly and enthusiastically accepts the father in laws proposal and returns.
Next the groom is placed on a Thottil and lifted and carried to the Oonjal (swing) decked with flowers. The radiant bride joins him there soon. Her hairdo is elaborate with intricate floral arrangements. She is wearing diamond earrings. Her hands are adorned with multitude bangles mainly of gold. She is wearing an Oddiyanam ( golden belt) around her waist. Her hands and feet carry intricate Marutani (Mehndi) designs probably applied by an expert. The Malai Mattral (exchange of garlands) follows. Here both the bride and bridegroom are lifted by the maternal uncles on their shoulders for the exchange of garlands. This tradition was introduced when child marriage was in vogue in the early days. There is a lot of fun, mirth & merriment during Malai Matral. Then the couple sit on the Oonjal, the bride is seated to the right of the groom. The groom holds the brides hand. The bride’s mother & groom’s mother and aunts and relatives take turns to sprinkle the grooms & bride's feet with milk and wipe clean with their sari pallu. After this the relatives take Pacchai Podi (colored balls red & yellow) in their hands rotate in circular fashion and throw the same in various cardinal directions. Next the couple is given a mixture of banana, milk and sugar from a silver bowl – this ritual is called Paalum Pazhamum. During this ceremony relatives with mellifluous voices sing carnatic or filmy songs to suit the occasion. Sometimes catchy lyrics including the names of the bride and groom, are specially composed for the occasion by enterprising youngsters .
After this the couple move to the Kalyana Medai and sit on wooden Palagais in front of the Agni. Next function is the Kanya Dhanam. First the groom is made to sit on a chair and his feet placed on a Brass Thambalam (large plate). The bride’s father then proceeds to wash the grooms feet with water poured from a brass Chombu by the bride’s mother. After this the bride is made to sit on her father’s lap. The father holds on his palms the Thamboola ie Betel leaves and Areca nut. The bride’s palms holding coconut is placed over the fathers palms. The father transfers the bride’s palms holding the coconut to the bridegroom’s palms. While this is happening the bride's mother keeps pouring water over the coconut till the transfer of palms is completed. This flow of water is called Dhara. Thus this ceremony is also called Dhara Vattu Kudukaruthu.
The groom then hands over a 9 yards sari (this is called Koora Pudavai) to the bride, which she accepts and she is then led away by the groom’s sister to the dressing room. This is the first time in her life that the bride is going to wear a 9 yards sari. An elderly aunt chips in to help her with the complicated and tricky procedure of draping the sari. The sari has to hold firm without slipping for the next two to three hours or so.
After a while the bride reappears on the scene to the deafening sounds of Nadaswaram and Mridangam. The groom holds the bride hands and leads her clockwise to the Kalyana Medai and they first do a namaskaram before being seated in front of the agni to chant mantras. The golden mangal sutra tied on yellow charadu (string) is placed on a Thambalam filled with flowers and taken around to all the elders seated there, to receive their blessings.
Then the most important ceremony follows which seals the marriage – the Thali Kettal or tying of the Mangala Sutra. The bride again sits on her father’s lap. The groom holds the Managal Sutra in his hands and turning around exhibits the same to the audience who nod their heads in approval. Then under chanting of mantras and to continued sound of Nadaswaram & Mridangam the groom ties the Thali around the bride’s neck. The groom’s sister then ties two more knots of the yellow Charadu – thus completes the Moonru Mudichu. The groom’s sister receives a gift from the bride’s parents for tying the extra knots.
The couple are back at the Kalyana medai. The groom’s sister then brings 2 sets of Silver Mettis and slips them on to the bride’s long toes-3 Mettis on each foot. Luckily the Mettis are of the right size and they slip on comfortably. After this is the groom bends down and with his left hand lifts the big toe of the brides right foot and places it on a stone called the ammi. This is called Ammi Medhikkal and is accompanied by chanting of Vedas. After this there is Pori Idal or placing of popped rice by the bride’s brother on her palms and she along with the groom jointly offer the same to the Agni. The bride’s brother is rewarded with a gift for assisting in this ritual. This is again accompanied by chanting of Vedas. The next ceremony is the Saptha Pathi. The groom lifts the big toe of the bride’s right foot and takes her forward seven steps. This is considered the most important part of the Hindu Wedding and the marriage is considered legally binding once this is done.
This is followed by Asirvadam – the groom holds his Anga Vastram open with both hands and the elders throw flowers and rice into it to bless the couple. After this the couple seek the blessing from all the family elders by doing sahtanga namaskarams. After that is the Oadhi Idal - the couple receive cash & gifts and the names of the person giving the cash/gift is announced loudly for all to hear.
Next follows the sumptuous wedding lunch. Lunch was arranged in the same hall where we had breakfast. The menu for the wedding feast – mango pachadi, kootu curry, kalan, stew, thovaran, avial, mango curry, puli inchi, rice, sambar, rasam, pappadam, butter milk and paladai pradaman payasam. The entire village seemed to have landed for lunch at the same time – there were long queues and several panthis (rounds) before we could squeeze in some sitting space.
Finally it was time to bid good bye. We received the customary Thamboola Pai containing Murukku, Laddu , Coconut and Vetthala Pakku.

For wedding pictures log onto: http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/KeralaIyerWedding?authkey=Gv1sRgCK7epqn3opjp6wE#

16 comments:

  1. I always love marriages... for how many things one can observe and understand. Its all interesting :) I love attending marriages...

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  2. Very nice, Ramu. Both Maiji and I enjoyed reading this - and seeing the photos. Do I recognise the bride?

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  3. Thanks Raji. The bride is Sangeetha alias Meenakshi from Kollengode. Strike any bells ? We dont know the girls family !

    Ramu

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  4. //young girls were dressed in Pattu Pavadai or Pavadai half saree.//
    Davani is fading away like anything. Nice to see some girls clad in it...

    //The proceedings started with the Paradesi Kolam and Kasi Yatrai// Kasi yatrai is my fav. part in any marriage, it's so funny...

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  5. *Thank you Sowmi. yes I agree marriages are interesting. Its an opportunity to meet friends/relatives you have not met for ages. Now a days I try and attend as many marriages as I can !

    *Mitr: Thanks. I agree that the beautiful Pavadai Davani dress is fast disappearing in favour of the "more fashionable" shalwar Kameez or pant/top combinations ! Really a pity.

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  6. Marriages are always a happy event.
    I loved detailed write, most enjoyable to read.

    Thanks for visiting my world, much appreciated.

    Yvonne.

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  7. Hi Raji, Thanks for your lovely comment on my last poem. Malaga City is where Picaso was born. My son lives in a place called Benalmadena on the Costa Del Sol.(Southern Spain) Madrid and Barcelona is many hours away but is more commercial. There are many mountain villages scattered about.
    Take care.
    Yvonne.

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  8. felt i was watching a documentary.

    yes, it has never ceased to amaze me how indians, no matter what they are or in which part of the world they work, come back home and meticulously follow the rituals when it comes to weddings.

    no wonder the britishers in the colonial days were perplexed. they have observed several times that no matter how westernised the indians were, the roots of tradition could never be distroyed, .

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  9. Kochuthresiamma

    Thank you for visiting my blog and posting your comments.Your observations on Indians being strong traditionalists is very true.
    Only second generation Indians settled abroad break this bond of tradition and blend with the local society to a great extent.

    Regrads

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  10. Nice to read about a wedding took place at our village.

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  11. Hi Ram:)

    I have attended Brahmins wedding before but I never could understand the rituals and proceeding and customs. You have explained everything so beautifully. I agree this is the occasion to see all the lovely colorful gorgeous expensive pattu sarees.

    The wedding ceremony is a long procedure and it takes hours compared to Christian weddings.

    I have also experienced the rush at the time of serving food. Once I went with my family when my children were small and we had a tough time to get seats together.

    I enjoyed reading your detailed write up on the wedding.

    I have seen all the places you have mentioned because I used to go to Walayar cement factory and Chittoor sugar mills for business and if I remember correct I had to take a deviation from Thatamangalam to go to Chittoor because I was going from the Palghat town.

    Similarly the beautiful undulating hills far in the background is a wonderful sight.

    Have a nice day Ram:)
    Joseph

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  12. Dear Joseph

    Thanks for reading my writeup & your appreciative comments. I have now added a Part 2 covering some of the rituals that I did not cover earlier.
    What have you finally decided about your laptop - repair or buy a new one ? We await your beautiful photographs !

    Warm Regards
    Ram

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