Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The Wedding (III)
After the feast, after everyone has rested a little we make time for some fun and frolic: Nalangu. This involves no vedic hymns. It is basically an occasion for everyone to relax and show their talent in singing along with some playful activities between the bride and groom in which everyone participates. Nalangu is an occasion for relatives from both sides to mix and get acquainted. The nalangu normally lasts an hour or so. The ladies on both sides take turns in singing and teasing the bride and the groom. It also provides them an opportunity to exhibit their literary skills, music compositions skills and to humouruosly point out the shortfalls on either side in the conduct of the marriage etc. Both parties tease each other through the medium of music. In fact, some ladies specialise in composing such songs and train the youngsters to sing them. The bride is also required to sing a few songs during the festivities. In the olden days it was a practice to teach the girls a few songs, whether they had the aptitude for music or not. It is these occasions that used to enliven the marriages in the past.
The bride invites the groom for the function with a song, which used to be called Pathyam. In the olden days someone from the groom’s party would sing another song in acceptance of the invitation. The bride and groom then sit facing each other and all others sit around them. The bride then applies nalangu (a paste made of turmeric and kumkum} on the grooms feet, combs his hair and shows him the mirror. When he is satisfied with his looks, she breaks roasted papads over his head much to the amusement of one and all. The groom then does the same things to the bride. Relatives on both sides help the groom and the bride to avoid the papads falling on their heads. After this they start rolling a coconut between them, (first they roll a ball made of flowers and then a coconut made of brass and then a real coconut) to the accompaniment of songs from the gathering. Usually it is one song from the brides side followed by another song from the groom’s side. In the olden days, this time was also used by the groom’s party to criticise the wedding arrangements, etc., through songs, which would be aptly answered by the bride’s party and in retaliation they would find fault with groom’s party and so on.
At the end of it, groom and bride are made to test their strengh by wrenching the coconut from each other’s hand, etc. Both are given three chances. While the bride is allowed to hold the coconut with both her hands and groom is made to wrench it with one hand, the groom is allowed to hold the coconut with one hand and the bride is allowed to wrench with both hands.
These days, the evening is set apart for the reception and dinner. Many people arrange the reception the previous evening. In the olden days, there was another loukika function called Thozi Pongal in the evening, which was the time for the bride to visit her friends’ houses and bid them farewell. This ritual is only for the bride. Her uncle and all other friends and relatives usually accompanied the bride as she went to each of her friends’ houses (only to the front porch, where she would be received and an aarti done to her with a red solution made of turmeric and lime and this solution is poured on to the dhothi of the uncle). My mother says that when she was married, she was taken to her friends houses atop an elephant.
After the thozhi pongal there used to be one more swing-related function for both the bride and groom followed by some more vedic rituals and homam.The most important function of the evening was spotting the Arundhathi and Dhruva stars. The priest points the stars to the couple and the groom in turn points the star Arundhathi to the bride and askes her, “did you see the Arundhathi?” symbolizing his request to her to be as faithful and loving as Arundhathi and the bride points the Dhruva star to the groom and asks him “did you see Dhruva?” requesting him to be as devoted as Dhruva.
Aashirvadham which literally means blessings, follows. The priest chants hymns blessing the couple with a long and happy married life filled with lots of riches and children and throws colored rice (Akshathai) on them which is caught by the groom in his spread out upper cloth, called uthareeyam. Aarati is performed to ward off any evil eye cast on them. After this the akshathai is collected into a bowl and the bride and groom perform namaskarams to all the elders from both the families and take their blessings.
With the Aarati the auspicious rituals come to a close, much to the relief of the bride’s father, who is a “man reborn” by now.
Usually the groom’s party take leave the next morning. There is the custom of sending packed food with them, which is known as Kattusatham. This must have originated in the olden days, when people had to travel long distance by walk or bullock cart for long hours. The packed lunch was given so that they could rest in between and have some refreshments. One wonders why this practice should be kept alive in the current “jet age”.