Tamil marriage is a great extravagance, splendor and pomp occasion. Tamil marriages are the most sacred religious ties between the bride and groom families. The young boys and girls eagerly await for the elaborate, expensive and emotional marriage event. usually the Tamil marriage are help in large scale as the marriages are attended by the close as well as all the distant relative. The marriages in different communities differ slightly in some rituals but most of the significant marriage rituals remains the same. There are so many rituals take place before, during and after marriage without which the Tamil marriage is deemed incomplete. Like the other Hindu marriages the Tamil marriage also last about 3 days. Traditionally, the bride family is responsible for all the marriage arrangements and expenses. The dress code of the Tamil marriage is usually saree or madisaar for the bride and the bare chested with veshti for groom.
In the earlier days boy and girl used to see each other only during the marriage because everything was decided by the elders of the family. The final decision was made by the elders considering the family cast, religion, status, family background. Later the families agreed that the consent of the boy and the girl before marriage is important. Finally it became a formal to make a girl and boy to see each other and decide on the marriage only upon their opinions. Once the girl and boy agreed to marry each other then both families meet to perform the further rituals.
This is a process that usually takes place at the bride’s house. The at most importance of this occasion is to receive the blessings from the parents. The proposal is an arrangement between the two families and bringing them together, securing their blessings, support for the couple. The groom’s family members visits the bride and gifts her a tray containing betel leaf and nut, fruits and coconut. This occasion shows that the groom parents formally asks the bride’s hand in marriage.
In Tamil marriage rituals formally begin with the payers offered to the Gods and their ancestors to seek their blessing for the marriage. This happens the day before the marriage day in early hours. A sacred yellow thread is tied on the wrists of the bride and the groom. Then the Palika ceremony starts where nine grain varieties are sprinkled on the couple to wish them prosperity. After this Aarthi ceremony is performed.
The groom welcomed to the marriage venue by the bride family members often dancing, singing along the route. In the modern marriages, the bride may join the groom halfway through the procession. Then they go to the temple where the groom will be offered a set of traditional dhoti (veshti) and shirt to wear for the engagement ceremony. The procession then makes the way to the Marriage hall where the engagement ceremony begins.
The bride’s family members bring turmeric, clothes for the groom, betel nuts and leaves and the bride’s brother honours the groom by placing the garland around his neck. Sweets are distributed to all the guests as a symbol of happiness. Then the Aarti is performed and coconut is broken to get rid of evil eyes.
On the raised platform, both the families sit opposite to each other and marriage details along with the marriage date and time are written on the paper (Lagna Patrika) by the priest and read aloud to inform all the guests. The lagna patrika contains the names of both the families, the names of the grooom and bride and the marriage date and time on which the marriage to be conducted and it is signed by both bride’s and groom’s parents. After this occasion, Thamboolams (fry fruits, nuts, turmeric, kumkum and platters of betel nuts) and gifts are exchanged between both the families.
The groom now dressed in the given Panchakatcham veshti and holds umbrella, a fan, a walking stick and a towel containing dhal and rice tied to his shoulder. The groom then sets off on a mock pilgrimage to pursue further religious studies. The bride’s father stops groom by saying the importance of the married life to an ascetic life and he also promises the groom that his daughter will be a companion to him in all his challenges in life. Then the groom accepts for the words and returns to the marriage mandapam to get married. The groom keeps the umbrella with him to remind him in future of this advice.
Once the groom agrees to the bride’s father words then the ‘Maalai Maatral‘ i.e exchange of garlands between the groom and the bride takes place. Then the bride and the groom lifted by their maternal uncles, this is to express the continuous sibling support to their mothers. The couple attempt to garland each other while the both sides trying to dodge each attempt. The garland exchange occasion indicates their unification as one soul in two bodies.
Now the couple are made to sit on the swing (Oonjal) which is moved gently. The swing’s oscillation shows the couple that they must stay strong during all the challenges and joys of life. The ladies from both families through the coloured rice balls in four directions to get rid of the evil sprits.
Palligai are the earth pots made a day earlier. These pots spread with hariali grass and bael leaves. Nine different kinds of cereals are soaked in the pots. After the marriage occasion finishes, the sprouted seedlings are released in a pool or river. This rituals gives the blessings of quartered guardian angels resides in eight directions for a healthy life and wealth to the couple.
During this ritual the bride sits on the lap of her father. Bride hands are lifted in the upwards and places on the upward turned hands of groom and then the auspicious betel leaves, nuts and coconut are placed on the hands of the bride. A ring made up of Darbha of kusa grass is placed on the bride’s head and a yoke is placed over it. The Mangal Sutra ot Thali is placed on the aperture of yoke and water if poured through the aperture. The yoke symbolizes the ancient ritual life where only mode of transport for the households was the bullock cart. The bullock cart can not run with a single wheel, it should have two proper wheel to run the vehicle. Likewise in married life both bride and the groom have the equal responsibility to make it success.
After this ritual a new saree exclusive for the marriage occasion called koorai is chosen. The colour of the saree must be red, the colour associated with shakti. The saree is draped around the bride by the bridegroom’s sister signifying her welcome to the new family. The belt made of reed grass is tied to the bride’s waist. Now the thanksgiving vedic hitmns follow this ritual, to her childhood caretakers, dieties of Soma, Gandharva and Agni. Now the bride is free to be given to the groom. The groom then gives the assurance to the bride’s father saying three times that he shall remain forever the bride’s companion in all her sorrow and joy in this life and life after.
The bride then ties a thread spread with a turmeric paste and a piece of turmeric is attached to it to the wrist of the bridegroom to bind themselves by a religious vow. A little later the bridegroom ties the kankanam to the bride. The bridegroom gets the right to touch the bride only after this kankaka dharana ritual.
The bride is seated on the lap of her father facing the eastward while the bridegroom faces the westward. The bridegroom then ties the Mangala Sutra around the neck of the bride. As he does this, the musicians plays the nadaswaram loud and fast so as to muffle any inauspicious sounds at this most auspicious event. This is called “Getti Melam“. The groom ties the first knot of the Mangal Sutra as the bridegroom’s sister ties the two knots to make the bride the part of their family. The three knots symbolizes Brahma, Vishnu and Rudhra.
The bride and groom walk seven steps around the sacred fire. The bridegroom walks with the bride on the right side of the sacred fire by holding his wife’s right hand. The groom holds the right toe of the bride with his right hand. At the begininning of each step the groom chants a vedic mantra seeking the blessings of Maha Vishnu. As the seven mantras are being chanted, groom them asks the Mana Vishnu to follow in the footsteps of his wife and bless her with strength, food, piety, comfort, progeny, wealth and health.
Gifts are exchanged between both the families. They will follow that no gift shall be taken without a return gesture, which shows the mutual arrangements between the families to be based on the principle of the equality and respect of each other irrespective of each other’s financial status in the life.
The newly married couple goes around the fire and feed it with the ghee and twigs the nine types of holy trees as the sacred fuel. The sacred purifier Agni, the all round benefactor is deemed as a witness to the sacred marriage. This whole process is called ‘Agni Saakshi‘ i.e. witness by fire.
The groom holds the bride’s left toe to help her to tread on a grindstone kept on the right side of a fire and slips silver rings on her toes (Mettis), This is symbolic to the solid rock foundation for the union.
Then the couple is shown the Dhruva Nakshatra or Pole Star, who attained immortality through perseverance and single minded devotion and also the Arundhathi Nakshatra as the ideal wife, symbol to show the fact such kind of virtues are to be emulated throughout their marital life.
This rituals is done only the bride’s own offering to the sacred fire. To symbolize the sibling relationship her brother helps her in this ritual. He gives her a handful of the puffed rice grains which she gives to the groom. The groom then adds a spoon of ghee and her behalf and chants Vedic mantras. After every vedic mantra the rice is thrown into the sacred fire as an offering to the Agni. Through this offering to Agni the bride seeks the blessing to her bright life with her husband. The involvement of the bride’s brother indicates the involvement of both the families during the marriage. This offering is repeated thrice.
During this ritual the bride and groom sits opposite to each other. They apply themselves turmeric on each other’s feet. To get rid of the evil eyes the bride takes the yellow rice and waves around her husbands head the throws it away, the same process is repeated by the groom as well. After this the family play time starts to lighten the people after so much marriage work. The bride and groom search the object in the small bowl whoever find the object they believe that they will be dominant person in the married life. Another game of throwing the coconut as a ball takes place.
During this rituals they offer the prayers to the Gandharvas and other deities who are soft natured celestial beings with the finer sentiments of the life. The outcome of this prayer will give the knowledge and Brahminical “Sathvic” qualities. After this another three prayers are offered Vyahrithi homam, Swishtakrith homam and Pajapathi homam. One all the prayers are done the fire from the homam is preserved in a new mud pot and taken by the bride to her new house.
This is the rituals takes place during the bride’s entry into her husband’s home. The sacraficial fire brought by her from the marriage hall initiates the puja here, indicates the new beginning to her life in accordance with the existing happiness.
Sesha means leftover. Fire oblation with the pure ghee, small amount of which is sprinkled on the bride’s head four times and the leftover is considered as the sacred, the whole of which is then offered to Agni. This is a blessing for healthy future. The groom ties a thread around the bride’s hip.
The bride’s brother gives the first betel leaf to the couple to chew. Other gifts are given to the couple to bless them a long and happy life a head.
A plate is filled with the lime solution and added with the turmeric powder, circled around the couple and thrown away to get rid of the evil eyes on the couple. This process is done multiple times during the marriage.