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AND THE RATIONALE
THE RITUALS AND THE
The GSB Wedding Ceremony has a number of rituals and customs
most of which are often labelled as superstitious or time wasting. It is
believed to be nothing but rituals more rituals. But have we asked ourselves
what a " Ritual " is? A ritual begins as a creative rational action to express a
sentiment or idea – like the lighting of lamp to dispel darkness at twilight or
folding of hands into a "Namaste" to greet an elder. As more and more people
succeeding generation repeat the action it becomes a convention – then a RITUAL.
A ritual is thus an action on which time has set its seal of approval. There is
a Konkani " Oddani paadu marlaari tho vEdu ,sannani marlaari gHani
The Ritual of the Hindu Wedding too is each symbolic of
beautiful and noble sentiments. Unfortunately today many parents and couples
perform them without an awareness of the rich meaning behind them.
A modest attempt has therefore been made to briefly describe
the meaning and significance of the rituals of a Tamil Brahmin Wedding. Mostly
this are applicable to any other Hindu section. For the elders, this information
may be superfluous but it is hoped the younger generation, especially those yet
to be married, may find this useful.
So let us take you around . . . . .
As you enter you see
THE EVENING PREVIOUS TO THE MARRIAGE DAY
- Full-grown plantain trees tied to both the gateposts – Eternal tree of
evergreen plenty for endless generations!
- Festoons overhead of mango leaves, and screw-pine petals that never
- Notes of the Nadaswaram, the South Indian Shehnai!
- Kolam or Rangoli designs at the doorsteps – an artistic welcome!
- At threshold of the hall, sprinklings of rosewater, offerings of flower,
sandal batter, sugar candy!
USHERING-IN OF THE
On the evening prior to the wedding day, the bridegroom is to
be brought in a procession from a temple in a flower decorated car. He is
escorted by the bride’s parents, and welcome at the marriage mandap, which is
the bride’s abode. Nadaswaram band leads the way along the streets, the flower
decorated car jam-packed with children.
This is a social function, called
VHARAN, (JANA VASAM )in South India and
BARAAT in North India.
Through such a parade, public approval is sought of the groom,
chosen by the family.
After reaching the marriage hall, there is a formal ceremony of
ON THE WEDDING DAY
As in an inauguration of any function so also in a
marriage – Ganapati, the God of Initiation is invoked, to keep away all
There are several presiding deities – the
Nandi Devatas. To propitiate them, a leaf-laden branch of the pipal tree is
installed, and an ablution with milk is performed by five Sumangalis (housewife,
with husband living). This puja is followed by a presentation of a dhothi, and a
saree to the marrying couple.
This is performed to propitiate the nine astral
planets that rule over man’s destiny.
The marriage ceremonies begin with the Vratham performed
separately by the bride and the groom. For the bride, it means the tying of the
KAPPU – the holy thread on her wrist which is meant to ward off all evil
spirits. It symbolises a kind of the protective armour for the bride. For the
groom, the various Gods – Indra, Soma, Chandra, Agni. From there on, the groom
prepares himself for a new chapter in his life as a householder or Grihasta. The
days of his bachelorhood or brahmacharya are now over and the acceptance of this
is all what the Vratham is about.
This a very important part of the ceremony.
Immediately after his student-life, the young bachelor has two alternatives
before him – Married life ( Grihasta ) or asceticism ( Sanyas ). Being by nature
escapist, he prefers the ascetic life to the tribulations of married life. He
therefore ‘makes his way’ to kasi (VARANASI), complete with slippers, umbrella,
bamboo fan etc. On his way, the bride’s father intervenes and advises him of the
superiority of married life to ascetic life. He also promises to give him his
daughter as companion to face the challenge of life. The umbrella is to remain
with groom, to remind him in the future, of this advice.the real tradition.
(However there are different view points on this aspect. Given
below is an observation )
During the wedding ceremony the groom is welcomed as
Mahavishnu Svarupaya varahaya ie maha vishnu himself ( or the Siva the
equivalent in the Adi Saiva tradition ) and the bride as Lakshmi. Thence , it is
imperative he knows no sin, thence he needs to perform a yatra to kashi ,
submerge in Ganges and comes and does the wedding purified.
In the days
of yore , when a man after education takes a yatra like this ( it takes up some
months, sometimes a year on foot) , he gets to see the world , otherwise which
he would not have been exposed to , thence from Brahmacharya , before moving to
grahasta ashrama he come experienced and purified, disiplined ( goal oriented)
and fit to take up the challenges of married life. And those days the groom
would have been engaged ( nischya dartha) , and proceeds on this yatra and is
welcomed back after the father in-law etc after coming back, with this words
Maha Vishnu Svarupaya, and given the kanya dhana.
Samnyasa and Grathasta
ashrama are both pillars of the society , which is still relevant and have
positive contributions to society.This has to be clearly
At the marriage
hall, the bride’s father and the bridegroom’s father facing each other,
solemnise the final betrothal ceremony, the vedic priest chanting the relevant
hymns-in which the names of the bride, the bridegroom, as well as the names of
their three generations of ancestors, are cited in presence of friends,
relatives, and invitees.
The manthras say : "O God Varuna, Be she harmless to my
brothers and sisters! Oh Brihaspathi! May she no evil to her husband! O
Lord Indra! Bless her to be a good guardian of her
children! O Surya! Bless her
with all wealths! "
The bride and the groom are lifted to the
shoulders of their respective uncles; and in that position the two garland each
other thrice for a complete union. A garland worn by a person, should not be
used by another, ordain our shastras. Here the exchange of garlands symbolises
their unification – as one soul in two bodies. It is inward acceptance by each
of the very fragrance of the other.
SWING, RIDE AND SINGING OF Jnoyi
Then, the marrying couple is seated on a swing (
Hindlo); they rock forth and back, as the ladies around sing – Jnoyi songs to
praise to the couple. The chains of the swing signify the eternal Karmic link
with Almighty above; the to-and-fro motion represent the undulating sea-waves of
life; yet, in mind and body they shall move in harmony unperturbed, steady and
The feet of the bridegroom is washed in milk, and
wiped off with silk.
Water, and lighted lamps are circulated around the swing in
order to guard the couple against demons and ghosts.
Coloured globules of cooked rice are waved in circular motion,
and thrown away – to propitiate the evil spirits.
The bride is made to sit on her father’s lap and
is given away as gift by him, to the bridegroom.
On the girl’s head, a ring made with Kusa, the sacred grass
called DARBHA, is placed, and over it, is placed a yoke; the Gold Mangal Sutra (
or THAALI ) is placed right on the aperture of the yoke, and water is poured
through the aperture. The Mantras chanted at this time, say:
"Let this gold multiply your wealth!
Let this water purify your married life, and may your prosperity increase. Offer
yourself to your husband! "
The bride then is given an auspicious ablution, and an
exclusive new KOORAI Saree is draped around her – this is done by the sister of
To bride in her new saree, a belt made of reed-grass is tied
around the waist. The manthras chant:
"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 life. She standeth as one
who is avowed to stand by her husband virtuously. Be she tied with this
red-grass rope, to the sacrament of marriage! "
Thanks giving vedic hymns follow to the celestial caretakers of
her childhood: the Deities of SOMA, GANDHARVA and AGNI. Having attained
nobility, the girl is now free to be given over to the care of the human – her
The Vedic concepts underlying this ritual is figuratively this:
that in her infant stage, SOMA had given her coolness of the moon, and strength;
in the next stage, GANDHARVA had given her bodily beauty; and lastly AGNI gave
The father of the bride, while offering his daughter chants: "I
offer ye my daughter, a maiden virtuous, good-natured, very wise, decked with
ornaments to the best of my ability-; that she shall guard the Dharma, Wealth,
and Love! "
Thus offering her daughter, her
father gets a word of assurance three times that the bridegroom shall remain for
ever her companion in joy and sorrow – in this life, and after death too!
The bride ties a string fastened to a piece of
turmeric, around the wrist of the bridegroom – to bind themselves by a religious
vow. It is only after tying the Kankanam that the bridegroom gets the right to
touch the bride. A little later, the bridegroom ties a Kankanam on the bride’s
Next, timed to exact
auspicious hour, is the tying of the Mangala Sutra ( Thaali ). The bride seated
over a sheaf of grain-laden hay, looking eastward, and the bridegroom facing
westward, ties the gold Mangala Sutra around the neck of the bride. As he does
so, the Nadaswaram drums are beaten loud and fast, so as to muffle any
inauspicious sounds at the critical hour. This is called Getti Melam; as it
sounds, the Sumangali ladies sing "GOURI KALYANAME, VAIBHOGAMAY! "
Three knots are tied – the first one by the bridegroom, the
other two knots by his sister to make the bride a parts of the boy’s family. The
Vedic hymn recited by the bridegroom when he ties the knot, is: " Praying the
Almighty that I be blessed with a long life, I tie this knot around your neck,
oh soubhaygavati, may providence bestow on you a fulfilling life of a
‘Sumangalis’ for a hundred years to come! "
This means "holding hands". The groom holds the
hand of the bride. The Manthras say: The Devas have offered you to me in order
that I may live the life of a householder ( GRIHASTA ); we shall not part from
each other even after we grow old! "
Holding the bride’s hand, the bridegroom walks
seven steps with her. This is the most important part of the marriage ceremony,
and only when they walk seven steps together ( i.e. perform SAPTHA PADHI ) is
the marriage complete legally. The belief is that when one walks 7 steps with
another, one becomes the another’s friend. The manthras recited then, mean: "Ye
who have walked seven steps with me, become my companion, where by I acquire
your friendship. We shall remain together inseparable. Let us make a vow
together; we shall share love, share the same food, and share the strength, the
same tastes. We shall be of one mind, we shall observe the vow together. I shall
be the SAMA, you the RIG: I shall be the Upper World, you the earth; I shall be
the SUKHILAM, you the HOLDER – together we shall live, beget children, and other
riches, come thou, O sweet-worded girl! "
A crucial part of the
wedding is the homage paid by the couple to AGNI, the fire- God. They circle
around the fire, and feed it with ghee, and twigs of nine types of trees, as
sacrificial fuel. The fumes that arise, are supposed to 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 marriage (AGNI SAAKSHI )
TREADING ON THE GRINDSTONE
bride’s left foot toe, the bridegroom helps her tread on a grindstone kept on
the right side of the fire. The Manthras says: "Mount up this stone. Let thy
mind be rock-firm, unperturbed, by the trials and tribulations of life! "
SHOWING HER THE
"ARUNDHATI " STAR
shows her the Star ARUNDHATI ( of the SAPTHA RISHI Constellation ), as also
DHRUVA the polestar. Arundhati, the wife of VASISHTA Mahrishi, is exemplified as
an ideal wife, the embodiment of chastity. DHRUVA is the one who attained
immortality through single-minded devotion and perseverance – virtues to be
emulated through out married life.
This shall comprise the bride’s own offering to the
sacrificial fire. As she is forbidden to do it herself, her brother helps her.
He gives her a handful of parched rice grains which she hands to bridegroom who
on her behalf, feeds it into the fire. Through this food offering, the bride
seeks a long life for her husband, and propagation of the family. Participation
of the bride’s family members indicates the continuance of links between the two
families, even after marriage. The couple circle around the fire, three times,
and the feeding of the fire with parched rice, is repeated thrice.
SHOWERING OF ‘AKSHATHA’
rice-grains coated with turmeric and saffron, are showered on the couple, by
elders and invitees – as benediction.
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 vedic
hymns now sound likes the mother’s words of advice to her daughter: "Be the
queen of your husband’s home. May your husband glorify your virtues; conduct
yourself in such a way that you win your mother-in-law’s love, and be in the
good books of your sister’s-in-law."
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 one and all gathered,
there follows list of playful items: the bride anointing the groom’s feet with
colour paste ; fanning him, forcing him to eat banana,showing him a mirror; breaking papads over each
other’s head; wrenching the betel pack from each other’s hand; rolling the
coconut from one to another as in ball-play; and so on. During these items, the
ladies sing songs poking fun at the bride, groom and the in-laws.
These events brings out many qualities of the bride and the
groom – sporting spirit, kindness, strength, co-operative nature etc.
THAAMBOOLA CHARVANAM & BALA DHAANAM
girl’s brother gives the ceremonial first betel to the couple to chew. Certain
other gifts are made to bless the couple with children and long life.
A solution of lime and turmeric powder, and in
colour, is prepared on a plate, and circled around, and thrown away to ward off
evil eye. This is done a number of times during the entire wedding ceremony, and
at the end.
The consummation of the marriage at night – the