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Known for their simplicity and naivety, the Tamil community attaches great importance to age-old rituals and customs. Their weddings are an embodiment of their values and ideals. A grand occasion of fun-filled celebration, Tamil weddings offer a glimpse into their ancient civilization. Though not greatly ostentatious and extravagant, nevertheless, Tamil weddings celebrate love and commitment.
Panda kaal muhurtham: It is customary to invoke the blessings of the family deity who is represented by a bamboo pole so that the wedding proceeds without any hassle. Usually a small ritual, it takes place at both the bride's and groom's homes.
Sumangali prarthanai: There is a belief amongst Hindus that it is auspicious if the wife dies before her husband. Those women are called sumangalis. This ritual involves praying to all the sumangalis so that the would-be bride be also blessed with the same fate. A feast for all married women is also held.
Kalyanaponnu/Kalyanappillai: This is a bathing ritual, held separately at both the bride and groom's places usually on the Friday preceding the wedding. Anointed with scented oils, they are not supposed to leave their homes till they are married. The bride is gifted a green sari with matching bangles by her mother. While the groom is gifted clothes and toiletries by his father.
Receiving the groom: In a Tamil wedding, the groom and his family arrive at the wedding venue a day prior to the wedding who are welcomed with a tray of flowers, fruits, betel nut and leaves and mishri. While the bride's brother welcomes the groom with a sandalwood tilak, the bride's mother offers the groom's parents a sweet dish prepared from condensed milk. It is also customary to break a coconut as this is believed to ward off evil spirits.
Vratham: This ritual involves invoking the blessings of the family deity and the ancestors of both the bride and the groom so that the wedding festivities are not obstructed.
Paalikali thalippu/Karappu: Performed by the bride's family, this ritual involves decorating seven clay pots with sandalwood paste and kumkum powder which are then filled with curd and nine types of grains. They are then watered by five/seven married women from both sides, who are gifted saris. Once the wedding festivities end, the bride and groom throw these pots into a nearby pond/lake hoping that the fish would eat the grains that must have sprouted by then and bless the couple.
Naandi shraartham: As a symbol of the souls of the ancestors of both sides, eight/ten brahmins are invited. The two families seek their blessings and honor them with gifts of fruits, flowers, coconut, sweets, betel nut and leaf, and dhoti-angavastram (clothes).
Janavasanam: This refers to the formal betrothal when the groom is brought to the wedding venue from the nearby temple amidst music and dance. With five different kinds of sweets and clothes, the groom is welcomed by the bride's family.
Nicchiyadharatham: This ritual refers to the Ganesh puja that the bride's parents participate in. Thereafter, the bride is brought out where she is applied tilak on her forehead and gifted a new sari by her in-laws. The pallu of her sari is filled with fruits, kumkum, coconut and cashew nuts. A flower band is also tied around her waist and an aarti is performed.
Lagna pathirigai: The priest now formally reads out the wedding invitation including all information related to the muhurtham. This is followed by a lavish dinner.
Mangala snaanam: Mangala snaanam refers to the ceremonial bath of the bride and the groom together at an auspicious hour early in the morning of the wedding day. They are both given the clothes for the actual wedding ceremony after the bath.
Gauri pooja: After the bride dresses up, she offers her prayers privately to Gauri amma.
Kashi yatra: This is an interesting ritual that adds drama to the occasion. After the mangala snaanam, the groom pretends to leave for Kashi to lead the life of an ascetic. Carrying a walking stick and some meager essentials, the groom shows disinterest in becoming a householder. The bride's father intervenes and requests him to accept his daughter as his life partner. The groom finally agrees and comes back to the venue.
Pada pooja: Once the groom returns, the bride's mother washes his feet with water, sandalwood paste and kumkum in a brass vessel. The bride is then brought to the wedding altar by her maternal uncle. Amidst a lot of teasing, the couple exchanges garlands thrice.
Oonjal: The couple is now made to sit on a swing. Small balls of cooked rice, colored with turmeric and kumkum are dipped in milk which is sprinkled on the couple's feet. Married ladies then circle the rice balls thrice around the couple in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions and fling them in four directions to prevent any evil disruptions. Holding a lamp or alternately a water urn, women go around the couple thrice singing oonjal pattu songs. A mixture of milk and banana is finally fed to the couple.
Kanyadaanam: The bride's father welcomes the groom as he comes to the mandapam where the sacred fire has been lit. As the bride's father washes his feet, the mother of the bride applies kajal in his eyes. The bride is then brought to the mandapam where she sits on her father's lap with a coconut in her hands. The bride and her father offers the coconut to the groom while the bride's mother pours water over the coconut symbolizing the giving away of their daughter. The groom's family gifts the bride a nine-yard long traditional sari which is to be worn for the tying of the mangalsutra.
Muhurtham/Mangalyadaranum: With the help of her sister-in-law, the bride changes into the nine-yard long sari and re-enters the mandapam. The bride again sits on her father's lap, who is now seated on a sack of paddy. The sack of paddy symbolizes good fortune and abundance. The bride's forehead is then touched by a farmer's plough. This gesture carries the hope that the couple will always walk together, by each other's side. The priest and relatives bless the mangalsutra which is then handed to the groom who ties it around the bride's neck with two knots. The third knot is made by the groom's sister signifying the bride's bond with the entire family.
Saptapadi: The groom holds the bride's right hand in his left and encircles the sacred fire seven times. The bride begins each round by stepping onto the ammi (a grinding stone/slab). This signifies that the bond be as firm and steadfast as the stone.
Laaja homam: The bride's brother now puts puffed rice to the groom which is then poured into the holy fire to seek blessings from the fire god.
Ammi midithal: The bride is now taken to the north side of the fire and is asked to put her right foot on the ammi. The groom, holding her right toe, puts the toe rings. Everyone present then showers rice and flowers on the newlywed couple. The wedding ceremony comes to an end with the couple drinking panaham, a traditional drink made of jaggery, cardamom and black pepper in water.
Paaladaanam: The couple now seeks blessings from all the elders of the families. They also offer them a gift of fruits and a token rupee.
Sammandhi mariyathai: The families of the newlyweds exchanges clothes and other gifts during this ceremony.
Grihapravesham: Since the groom's family is present in the wedding venue itself, a part of the ceremony takes place in the temporary groom's quarters. A ceremony similar to oonjal is held by the groom's side. Later when she actually steps into her marital home, a pot of rice is kicked gently by the bride. The groom's relatives come to bless the new bride. Milk and bananas are served to all those accompanying the bride who are also presented with gifts by the groom's parents.
Valeyadal: The groom's sister now presents the new bride with gifts after which the wedding games begin.
Bridal night: In the wedding venue itself, a room is specially decorated for the couple to spend their wedding night. The mother of the bride gifts a small idol of Lord Krishna along with other gifts to her daughter. The next morning, as the couple comes out, they are greeted by women singing.
Kattu saddam: After these days of fun and frolic, the groom's side leaves the wedding venue. An elaborate send-off meal is prepared for the groom's family. The bride's family also packs food for the bride's new home.
Sadva pooja: The next day at the groom's place, the bride serves the first spoon of payasam (kheer) to the women present for a pooja.
Sumangali prarthanai: This is similar to the ritual held before the wedding involving married women. The only difference is that it is now held in the bride's new home.
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