A South Indian Wedding - What Pradeep Sees

A South Indian Wedding

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"Maangalyam thanthunaanaena mama jeevitha haethunaa, kanttae bathnaami supahae sanjeeva sarasa satham"

The marriage ceremonies are called Vaidika ceremonies as they follow the Vedic Scripture. The more important events in a Hindu marriage are broadly as follows: Marriage ceremonies last two days, one day prior to the Muhurtha(m) day and the day on which the actual wedding ceremony according to Vedic rites is conducted. On each day, the ceremony begins with Pooja invoking the blessings of Lord Ganesa, (Vigneswra), who is said to remove all obstacles and bless the peaceful and orderly conduct of ceremonies. The day previous to the marriage, it is a customary practice to visit a nearby temple, offer prayers to the presiding deity and take the Bridegroom in a procession to the hall where the marriage is conducted. The Lagna Patrika, (a document indicating the details of the Bridegroom & Bride and the timing and place of marriage, duly signed by the parents of Bridegroom & Bride, is read out and signed by the two sets of parents. This takes the character of a contractual document without stamp paper. Though this does not take the character of a legal document, it serves the purpose of a formal agreement binding on both the parties. In many cases, this formality is completed much before the marriage in the form of Nichiyathaartham, which is done to commit the parties to the marriage indicating a specific date for the marriage. The next day ceremonies start with Kasi Yatra, Malai Maatral (exchange of garlands) and Oonjal (Jhoola). These have no religious significance as such. Secondly, these rituals vary from community to community, depending on the established custom and traditions. The Kasi Yatra ritual which is peculiar to Brahmin community is the one when the father of Bride symbolically weans away the Bridegroom from the pursuits of Brahmacharya(m), which is symbolically represented by his journey towards Kasi (Benares or Varanasi), the seat of Vedic culture and knowledge, and requests him to enter Grahasthasrama by marrying his daughter.

The bridegroom is adorned in a silk 'veshti' called a 'Panjakacham' and is a unique way of wearing the dhoti by the south indian brahmins. The bridegroom also has a few big garlands that he wears to mark the auspiscious occassion. The bridegroom wears very little jewellery, if any. There are various rituals perfomed during the course of the wedding and is predominantly done by the bridegroom and the bride lends a helping hand.

The bride is adorned in a silk saree which is 9 yards in length (a typical, normal saree is around 6 yards). The 9 yard saree is called a 'Madisaaru' and is a unique way of wearing the saree for the south indian brahmins. The bride also has a few big garlands that she wears to mark the auspiscious occassion. Other things include lots of jewellery, which include adornments on the head (thala saaman, nethi chutti etc). To top it all, the smile on the brides face sets the tone for the wedding, of joy and happiness.

A proud and happy father of the bridegroom, peace personified

Mehendi - a wonderful and intricate art form.

'Kashi Yathrai' This is a very joyous occassion and friends and relatives across the country and abroad come for the wedding, this is the best time to get together. Everyone looks forward to the wedding and starts preparing for it well in advance, In this picture you will see the traditional attires for the immediate family, the men wearing the 'Panjakacham' and the women wear the 'Madisaaru'. This photograph was taken right after the 'Kashi Yatrai', where the bridegroom gets cross and decides to go to Kasi, a holy destination, the father-in-law then goes and convinces the bridegroom to reconsider his decision.

The 'Oonjal', literally translated means a 'Swing'. Before the actual wedding, this is an event where the bride and the groom sit on a swing and they give them milk and banana. They also use colored rice balls to wade out the evil spirits. What you see in the picture is the fun bit, where the relatives from the bride and bridegrooms side try to stop the bride from garlanding the bridegroom and vice versa, its good fun and the lift the bride and bridegroom really high to get them away from each other.

'An Emotional Mother'. In the picture you see the brides mother, this was shot during the 'Oonjal' and is one of my favourite shots of the wedding, It is a very emotional for a mother to get her daughter married, Someone you have bought up for 20 odd years, leaves you and your family to go set a family. Though she feels that she would miss her daughter, she is happy for her, and that tear in her eye expresses so much.

The 'Vilayaadal', which means games, was a tradition during the early days. The bride and the groom did not know each other as marriages were typically arranged by the families. So this was a means of the bride and the groom to get to know each other. As part of this tradition, they present the bride and the groom with all that they need like toilet kits, dresses etc. Here in this photograph we find 2 dolls representing the bride and the bridegroom, in the background you can find the actual bride and bridegroom.

'I Do'. The 'Kanya Dhaanam' is followed by the bridegroom taking the girls hand in marriage and to keep her happy in all ways possible. In this photo you can see lots of bangles worn by the bride and the armlet that she is wearing is called 'Vanki'

'Cleanse Thy Feet'. This is time when the father-in-law cleanses the bridegrooms feet and applies 'sandanam' (sandalwood paste) and kungumam (a red powder) on the feet. This is done because the 'Maapillai' (Bridegroom) is conisdered the form of the god 'Vishnu' before the 'Kanyaa Dhaanam'.

'Kanyaa Dhaanam'. This function signifies the father-in-law giving away his daughter in marriage to the bridegroom. This is considered one of the most important events of the wedding ceremony. The bride sits on her fathers lap and the mantras are chanted before he gives his daughters hand in marriage to the bridegroom

'Thirumaangalyam & Koora Pudavai'. In the picture you see a necklace which is called the 'Thirumaangalyam', and could be compared to the wedding ring. Just below the 'Thirumaangalyam' you can find the 'Koora Pudavai' which is the brides saree to be worn when the bridegroom ties the knot. The saree is usually Red in colour and is 9 yards on length. Its worn in a way which is special to south indian brahmins called the 'Madisaaru'. Anything which is sacred is usually accompanied with 'Vethalai' (Betel Leaves), 'Paaku or Seeval' (Betel Nut), 'Poo' (Flowers) and 'Kungumam' (A Red Powder).

'The Bride & Bridegroom' after the 'Oonjal', go through a long session of chanting mantras (only the bridegroom chants the mantras, not the bride). This is the most important part of a wedding, its an extended version of the groom and bride promising to be together in the highs and lows of life. In this picture you see a typical indian bride who is shy and humble and the groom concentrating on chanting the mantras, and occasionally taking a break to catch a glimpse of people who have come to attend the wedding.

'Tying the Knot'. This is the moment we have all been waiting for. In the picture you can see the bridegroom ties a yellow thread (A white thread colored with turmeric powder) around the brides neck. He makes '3 knots' on the thread of which 1 is tied by the bridegroom and the other 2 are tied by the bridegrooms sister, who is called the 'Naathanar' of the bride. The significance here is that the bridegrooms sister assures the bride that she will also play a role in taking care of her when she moves to her in-laws place. The young couple are blessed by everyone in the hall by throwing flowers and rice at them and is a sight to watch :).

The Expression Says It All'. The atmosphere after the bridegroom ties the knot is wonderful, its happiness all around and everyones smiling and congratulating each other and the young couple. In the picture you can see the broad smiles of the bride and the bridegroom.

'Aarthi'. We have our set of beliefs and superstitions, The Aarthi is taken to wade off evil spirits and for the well being of the young couple. The Aarthi is taken by 2 people, one from the brides family and one from the bridegrooms family. The plate that they are holding has a mix of calcium (Sunnambu), red powder (Kungumam) and water, The plate is shown to the couple and they drop some coins into it, and then after a few circular motions of the plate, its thrown outside away from everyones view. There is a saying in tamil which goes thus - 'Kalladi pattaalum Kannadi Pada Koodaadhu' which means even if you get hit by stones its fine but dont get the evil stares of people, its more dangerous, i somehow find this true. This is the last in the series of 'A South Indan Wedding', I hope you liked the journey and found it a little informative and a peek at our culture, I am sure I have not done complete justice, but I am happy with the start :)

It is a practice now a days to get the wedding registered as per the provisions of the Hindu Law. Though the marriages conducted in the manner described above are conclusive evidence and are acceptable in a court of law, in most marriages registration is done as a matter of abundant precaution and to meet the requirements of law requiring proof of marriage. One of the most beautiful and extensive function for a South Indian family.

4 Responses to “A South Indian Wedding”

  1. Anonymous NSC_cmphhfs-fyu=0a14011a0050 

    Just came across ur blog while surfing!!
    Your description of the various events involved is very good...and the photos are awesome. Hope the couple are njoyig their married life to the fullest!!
    Wishing them luck ..

  2. Anonymous ananthanarayanan 

    A beautiful collage, with right mix of everything that is beautiful, and memorable. Congrats.

  3. Anonymous Sundar Raghavan 


    A fantastic narrative of a typical South Indian (Brahmin) marriage. This brought memories of all those marriages that took place in my family. The best part is that you explained the significance of each and every custom of the marriage.. Great going Pradeep.


  4. Anonymous Mahalakshmi Sundara Subramanian 


    Fantastic job done!! I could see me and sundar in the pics above as it takes me back to the memories of my wedding.......wonderful explanations of the customs that we have, and which our generation needs to know. hats off to u. Keep it up.


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