R’s wedding was a grand affair as always with South Indian weddings. The proceedings of the actual wedding ceremony started on the previous morning. (The preparations have started months in advance, in fact, as my husband says from the day R was born). In the olden days (when my parents and in-laws got married), the marriage functions lasted 4 days. As the years have gone by, owing to the constraints of time and space, the functions are now conducted over two days. The main reason is the unavailability of marriage halls and the high rents for them. There are halls charging rent up to Rs 1 lakh per day, the reasonable ones being about Rs. 30000 to 50000.
The marriage was to take place in a famous marriage hall with separate rooms for the bride’s and groom’s party and spacious hall for the ceremonies with an attached kitchen and dining hall. The entire hall and the rooms were air-conditioned.
Early in the morning by about 5.30 am the bride’s parents arrived with some immediate family members, to make sure that the hall was ready and the marriage contractor had made all arrangements. Preparations for the breakfast had begun. The bride and other members of the family arrived by 6.30 am followed by other guests. The bride was received with nadaswaram at the entrance of the hall.
The bridegroom’s party arrived by 7.30 am, they were received at the entrance by the parents of the bride and other elders with trays laden with fruits, coconuts, flowers, betel leaves and nuts, to the obligatory nadaswaram recital. Aarti of the groom was done by the prospective mother-in-law and the bridegroom was garlanded by the bride’s brother. The bride’s brother and bridegroom’s sister occupy special positions in Tamil Iyer marriages. The paternal aunts and the maternal uncles and their wives also have to play important roles.
The first ritual is Vigneswara Pooja, seeking the Blessings of the Lord for the successful accomplishment of the ceremony without impediment, followed by Punyaha Vachanam, followed by Pandakkal puja. This is sanctifying the pole of the tent to be raised in front of the hall (in the olden days, the marriages were conducted in large tents, put up in front of the house) for the smooth conclusion of the function.
Vratham follows which is a resolution taken by the parents of the bride and groom, separately, to conduct the marriage of their daughter/son with the blessings of the Almighty and the elders present. A “yellow thread” sanctified by vedic mantras is tied on the wrist of both the bride and groom by their respective fathers to symbolize the resolution, which is knows as Kangan dharan. There is a belief that after the kangan dharan, nothing can stop the marriage function. There is also a popular saying, “Kanganam kattindu erukkan,” to indicate how determined a person is about something.
If the jathaka karma and namakarana have not been performed for the girl as per vedic rites earlier in their lives, they are performed now.
There is a ritual of sowing nine varieties of seeds by 5 sumangalis in five small earthen bowls filled with soil which are watered for 3 days, by which time the seeds would have sprouted, which indicates good progeny for the family. The sprouts are then immersed in running water or a well.
Nandi was performed by the groom’s father, seeking the blessings of the ancestors for the smooth conduct of the ceremony.
This almost concluded the morning ceremonies.
All this time, the guests are busy catching up with friends and relatives and generally making a lot of noise.
One thing you observe in south Indian weddings is the rich brocaded silk sarees and elaborate jewellery worn by the women. One can see the latest designs both in sarees and jewellery there. One can also easily identify the immediate family members of the both the bride and groom by the richness of the sarees worn by the women. There is a practice of presenting the immediate family members with silk sarees/dhothies. In R’s wedding, the groom’s parents had selected sarees of the same pattern for the cousins of the groom. They had selected one combination for the daughters of the family and another combination for the daughter-in-law. They deserve to be complimented for the time and effort spent in planning and selecting the sarees and even clothes for the children in the family. On the wedding day, one could see even a one-year-old girl having the same color of silk pavadai, as her 5-year-old cousin. They need to be applauded for getting the blouse materials to all persons concerned well in time so that they could make and wear them for the wedding. These days, usually owing to the different tastes of the youngsters, we don’t see such uniformity in selection of the dresses.
Lunch followed. After a brief rest and relaxation, there was a program of Radha Kalyanam – a bhajan by a professional group. The acoustics of the hall was not at all supporting the bhajan and nobody could make out the words of the songs.
The evening programs started around 6.30 pm, with Janavasam and Nischayathartham. The groom is usually taken on a procession to the nearest temple. This was an elaborate function in the olden days when the groom was taken in a procession that included members from both parties around the village. In later years, in towns and by the rich, the groom was made to sit in an open car and taken around. Here he went up to the gate of the hall, where there is an idol of Lord Vigneswara. This was followed by the Nischayathartham, when both the parties once again reaffirmed their contract to get their daughter/son married to each other. Both the bride and groom are presented with gifts from the parents of each other. The bride was given a rich silk saree and some jewellery by the groom’s parents and the groom was presentd with a suit by the bride’s father.
Elaborate dinner followed and all the guests retired to their respective rooms.
Usually this is the time the bride’s party gets busy with making kolams or rangoli for the next day’s marriage and getting other things ready. These days, the marriage contractor takes care of everything including the kolams and flowers and garlands.