After a tiring day full of events on the 31st Oct,wanted to just crash and sleep like a log.But before i could remember going to sleep i was woken up by the loud sound of people talking and my father was just about to wake me up. My wedding muhurtham was at 7
am in the morning. So was woken up at 4.30 AM to get ready for the rituals that need to be done before. Quickly took a shower (Mangala snanam) and i was helped by the priest to tie the traditional Panjakatcham.Its one of the most complicated piece of dressing perfected by very few.I was also told to change my sacred thread and this time given 2 sets to wear (usually brahmacahri wears 1 set and grahasta wears 2 sets) may be signifying i am all set to be a Grahasta??Kasi Yatra
After getting dresses in panjakatcham and wearing an Angavastram (one to cover the top portion so that now you are now semi topless) got ready for the Kasi yatra ritual.This is just a small non vedic ritual.It often brings a sense of entertainment to the marriage process. I was given a bamboo fan to carry, an umbrella, a book (I think it was Gita) , wear new slippers and also a small bundle. I was garlanded by my Uncle. A heavy dose of Kajal was applied to my eyes and parts of my face (thanks to Preethi's mom).
The ritual goes like this - Better sense prevails and the the groom decides to give up all the earthly pleasures to go to Kasi in pursuit of more knowledge. The uncle of the groom holds the umbrella for him. The usual convention is that after a few yards of the walk, the bride's father meets him, gives him a coconut and tells him that he is knowledgeable enough and asks him to change his mind and give up his trip to Kasi (Kasi Yatra) and in return he promises to give his daughter in marriage to him. He accepts the same and is then brought back to the venue where the bride garlands him.Maalai Mattal
Once the Kasi yatra is over, the bride and groom are bought into the mandapam campus and they are supposed to exchange garlands 3 times. Before commencement of this ritual it is noted that both the bride and groom wear 3 sets of special garland(called Mattu Malai) apart from the normal garlands. What is special in this is that the garland is not in the usual shape but in the form of an inverted "U" put around the neck.
This ritual is full of fun and frolic. During the exchange of the garland, the bride is lifted up by her maternal uncles and the groom by his maternal uncles and one after another the garlands are exchanged. When the bride tries to garland the groom either he is moved away or lifted much higher so as to make it difficult for her to garland him. The bride's party also tries to move the bride in critical time so that the groom has to try hard too to garland her. This ritual was done to relieve the tension surrounding the bride and the groom. Bride gets comfortable with the groom as she is entering a new life with a stranger.
It was of less relevance to us as we had known each other well before the wedding but yes,it did add fun to the wedding.Oonjal and Patchai podi
This is another very interesting ritual.The bride keeps her fingers folded in to the palm in a conical form and the groom holds her hand.The groom leads the bride in front of the swing (Oonchal) and are made to sit in it. The swing represents the ups and downs of life. Then elderly women from both sides sprinkle milk on the feet of the groom and bride one by one and wipe their feet with the edges of their silk sari. They then wave coloured rice balls (red and yellow) all round them in a circular motion and throw them in different directions. This is meant to ward off evil from the groom and bride. After this they give a mixture of milk and banana to the bride and groom. I think the scientific reason for this is that the bride and groom are supposed to observe a fast on this important day until the solemnization of the wedding.This can be quite long (spanning many hours together).The milk and plantain combination has enough energy to keep them going without getting hungry.
Once this is over few elderly ladies of the household and the mothers of bride and groom with grooms paternal aunt and maternal uncle's wives of both bride and groom go around the swing with lamps.
The bride and the groom are then taken to the venue of the marriage.
All the above rituals are purely a entertainment aspect to get the tempo set for the vedic rituals that would be starting next. Neither of the above are part of the vedic rituals for the marriage. Now we get into the serious portion of the wedding proceedings.Initiation of the Vedic Rituals
The vedic rituals are initiated with the "Vara Poojai".In this, the father of the bride welcomes the grooma and washes the feet of the groom.This is because, as per the vedic practices, the groom is presumed to be a swaroopa of the Lord Mahavishnu.Then is the Vigneshwara Poojai. This is to pray to lord Ganesha to help him finish all the rituals without any problems.Kanya Dhanam
This is one of the significant rituals in the marriage. In this ritual the father of the bride gifts his daughter to the groom. The bride would be sitting on the lap of her father.The brides mother would be standing on his right side.The bride holds a coconut and betel leaves etc in her palm supported below by her father's palm. The groom stands facing her with joined palms ready to take possession of her palm (of course with the coconut..).While the bride's palms are being transferred, the bride's mother should keep on pouring water over her daughter's hand.This is called Dharai Varthu Kodukkal.Gently the bride's palms are transferred to the groom's hand. This ritual symbolizes the transfer of ownership (and all associated troubles) of the bride to the groom.
Please note, this is one point of high emotions and you may notice some bit of emotional crying. Was very surprised why Preethi did not weep(may did not realise the significance of this event).
After this ritual there are a host of other rituals that aims at complete transfer of power and in praying different gods for the purification of the bride before the marriage happens.
The bride is at this point gifted an Saree (called the koora podavai).She is to change into this for the next ritual.Mangalya Dharanam
This again is a ritual that is of paramount importance. This where the sacred yellow string that binds the groom and bride is tied to the bride.The sacred string has 2 pieces of gold arranged in it called as Thirumangalyam. One of it would have been given to her by her father and the other from the grooms side. The shape and the characters etched on it (like Shiva lingam or Goddess Meenakshi) differs from family to family. For this reason the gold to be melted for making the mangalya is done on an auspicious day well before the marriage by the goldsmith. Before being tied it is circulated among the audience for their blessing and good wishes. The bride is made to sit on the lap of her father with her mother by his side.The groom ties the mangalyam round the neck of the bride. What is to be noted is that he ties only the first knot. Rest of the two knots are put by his sister.Don't know the reason behind.
At this point the groom is supposed to recite a prayer as he is tying the knot.This is quite famous and has been shown in different tunes in almost all the Indian movies (including the westernized version by A.R.Rehman). The meaning of the prayer is:
"This string is holy and giver of good things in life. It also is going to elevate my life. Hey, beautiful maiden, I am tying this around your neck and pray that you would live for hundred years."
Preethi did not dissapoint me here. She made a very prominent crying that spread to all her family members on and off the stage. I think the only person in her family who did not weep at this point was my FIL. He was rather very happy about which is the way it should be.
After the Mangalya Dharanam is over, the elders shower flowers and yellow coloured rice on the groom and bride. It is also common nowadays to congratulate the bride's parents and groom's parents after this ritual.
For the general public at the mandapam. This marks the end of the marriage rituals. You will find people moving out of the hall (mostly towards the dining hall). But for the bride and groom,its just the start and there are many more rituals before they are formally declared man and wife.
The new sister in law of the bride (Nisha in our case) puts on 2 toe ring each on the left and right leg.This is one more important ornament a married girl is said to wear apart from her mangalyam.Pani Grihanam
In this ritual, the groom hold the hand of the bride and goes round the fire. Normally the bride folds fingers her right hand fingers into a conical form upwards and the groom holds it in his hand folded downwards by surrounding all her fingers.This is similar to the way they hold hands during the oonjal ritual.Saptha Padhi
This is again is a very important ritual. According to Vedas, once this is over the bride and groom become wife and husband. This ritual consists of the groom taking the right foot of the bride in his left hand and making her take seven steps.
The following prayers are recited: -
Let God MahaVishnu who is spread through out the world, Give you food in plenty
Let Him come with you for a second step and give you sufficient strength
Let Him come with you for a third step to make you observe all religious rituals.
Let Him come along with you for the fourth step to give you pleasures
Let Him be with you when you take the fifth step to give you lot of wealth (cow)
Let Him lead you the six stages of life with happiness and welfare
Let him help you in performing Soma Yaga and other prayers when you take the seventh stepAmmi Midhikkal & Pori Poodal
After the above the husband and wife go around the fire and go to a Ammi kal (a flat stone).The husband holds the thumb of the right leg of the wife by his left hand and places it on a stone and recites some prayer. Then they go back to the place they were seated before and take their seat.
The husband and wife then offer a handful of puffed rice(pori) with the help of the brother of the wife (Rajesh in my case) to the fire (Agni). Then they circle the fire and repeat this ritual 3 times.
There are a host of other smaller rituals which i don't remember. But what i remember was that my eyes were full of tears - not because i was emotional like Preethi but because of the smoke.You will need to put up with close proximity of smoke for around 2-3 hrs.Aseervadam
This ritual is to get the blessings of all the elders present.The groom spreads his Uttariyam (Angavastaram) over his shoulders and his wife stands by his side. The elders in the gathering throw Akshathai(yellow coloured rice) at the couple with Vedic chanting asking the almighty to give the newly wed good things in life. All these would be collected in the Uttariyam. Once this is over the husband and wife do namaskarams to all the elders who stand together (During older ages it used to be one by one).
This is the stage when the newly wed are allowed to shake hands and accept gifts from friends and relatives.
After this an Arathi is taken. Arathi is nothing but water with turmeric and chunnanbu (lime) mixed in a plate and waved in a circular fashion by one female representative of the groom's side and the other from the brides side, along with a suitable song. The groom puts two coins as gift to these relatives.Palum Pazhamum
After the above ritual, the wife and husband visit first the husband's house and then the wife's house.In these houses the female relatives gather and give the husband and wife a spoon each of banana pieces put in milk (The energy food). If the husband is from another town (as in my case) the newly wed are taken to one of the rooms allotted to the groom's party and the husband's relatives give Palum pazhamum there. Then they are taken to the room alloted to the bride's party or the bride's house.
Both of us were already feeling hungry and we were looking for the first chance to hog some food.