RITUALS IN HINDU MARRIAGES The typical Hindu Brahmin marriage ceremonies are called Vaidika ceremonies as they follow the Vedic Scripture. The more important events and rituals in a Hindu marriage are broadly as follows:
Marriage ceremonies normally conducted for two days – • One day prior to the Muhurtham day and • The day on which the actual wedding ceremony with Vedic rites The ceremony of each day begins with Pooja invoking the blessings of Lord Ganesa, for removing all obstacles and bless for the peaceful and orderly conduct of ceremonies.
THE DAY PREVIOUS TO THE MARRIAGE:
BRIDE’S FAMILY ARRIVAL TO THE KALYANA MANTAPAM:
The bride's family arrives at the kalyanamantapam one day prior to the wedding day at an auspicious time fixed by the Saastrigal. The venue is decorated with attractive designs kolams, and flowers. The kola podi is made with rice powder paste. This rice powder acts as fod for the ants. The anxious waiting of the parents of the bridegroom, the happiness in the face of the kalyana ponnu, the ecstasy amongst the children is worth watching.
For the arrival of the groom and his family, the bride's family keeps 'chandan' (sandalwood paste), 'kumkum' (vermilion), rose water, sugar candy, garlands and a plate for the 'aarthi' (traditional welcoming ritual). On the groom's arrival the 'nadaswaram' (traditional wind instrument) is played and the 'aarthi' is performed in his honour.
VRATHAM & KAPPUKATTAL
When muhurtham time is quite early the next day, they prefer to perform Vratham and Kappukattal on the previous day itself which is called POORVAANGAM.
In that case, the marriage ceremonies begin with vratham performed separately by the bride and the groom. For the bride, it means the tying of the kaappu, the holy thread on her wrists, which is meant to ward off all evil spirits. It is a kind of protective armor for the bride. When once the Sacred yellow thread is tied on the wrists of the bride and groom they are not permitted to leave the marriage venue.
For the groom, vratham begins with invocations involving the Gods Indra, Soma, Chandra and Agni. From there on, the groom prepares himself for a new chapter in his life as a grahasta. The days of his bachelorhood or brahmacharya are over now.
While the groom conducts the ceremony himself, guided by the pundits, the father of the bride performs Jathakarma & Namakarna on her behalf. Oblations are poured into agni in tribute to the Vedic-Gods – invoking them individually. It is a solemn request to the Gods, inviting them to witness the oath taking and the marriage ceremony. The pundit chants the appropriate mantras while the groom pours his oblations into the agni. After invoking each God the pundit pronounces ‘Avahayami’ (The Gods have arrived) followed by ‘Idham Asanam’ (The Gods are seated).
The belief is that the Gods shall stay throughout the Wedding and shower the blessings on the couple and the congregation. Some of the Gods invoked are Soma (for fine progeny), Varuna (abundance and wealth), Brahaspathi (impeccable morals and conduct), Gandharvas (conjugal bliss), Indra (power and protection), Adityas, Visvadevas (health, long life and compassion), and Surya (the Sun – purity, wisdom and peace).
From there on, the groom prepares himself for a new chapter in his life as a householder or Grihasta shedding the days of his bachelorhood or brahmacharya.
PALIKAI SEEDS SOWING
This is a fertility rite. Pallikai are earthen pots prepared a day earlier. Pots spread at the base with hariali grass and vilvam leaves. Nine kinds of pre-soaked cereals are ceremoniously sown in these pots by sumangalis. After the marriage, the sprouted seedlings are released in a river or in a pool. This ritual invokes the blessing of the Ashtadikh Paalakas for a healthy life and progeny to the couple.
WORSHIP OF ANCESTORS (NAANDI):
This is performed to propitiate the Ancestors and the Naandi Devatas. The Nandi Devatas are the holy Pitris, who live in the lokas of Bhuvash and Suvah. They are the builders of the subtle bodies, Sukshmadeha, around which physical atoms aggregate to produce the physical body. As the objects of marriage are the maintenance of the Grihastha Dharma and the begetting of progeny with spiritual, not carnal tendencies, the co-operation of the PitriDevatas is essential. To propitiate the Nandi Devatas, a leaf-laden branch of the pipal tree is set up. Five Sumangalis (married women) would then wash the installed branch with milk. The ritual is followed by gifting clothes to the bride and the groom. Generally, the bride is presented a sari while a traditional dhoti is gifted to the groom as part of the auspiciousness. These Pitru Devatas are not beings to be trifled with, and they are beings who generally avoid the physical plane of the Universe, the Bhurloka, and they should be sent away from the physical world as soon as the business for which they are invited is over. Nor are they to be invited frequently. In an ideal Nandi Srardha, 12 Brahmins are invited, Dhotis and Angavastras are ditributed, their feet washed amidst the chanting of the Srardha Mantras.
AUSPICIOUS EVENING: MAPPILAI AZHAIPPU/ NICHIYATHAARTHAM:
MAPPILAI AZHAIPPU/ JANAVASAM:
The families and friends of Groom and bride assemble in a temple nearby. The bride's family brings turmeric, betel leaves, nuts etc., The bride family present dress to the groom. The groom, in his new dress and all assemble in a hall in the temple. The bride's brother then garlands the groom, and sugar candy is distributed to all present. The groom is then brought to the marriage Mandapam in a procession in a decorated car (in earlier days on Horse or Elephant). Nadaswaram or Band is played. Young people dance and fireworks are displayed. This is mappilai azhaippu otherwise called as janavasam.
Once the procession reaches the marriage venue 'Aarthi' is performed and a coconut broken (sidar Thengai) to ward off evil. The groom is then led to the 'medai' (podium) in the 'mandapam' where all the ceremonies are performed.
Members of both families sit opposite each other and a 'lagna patrika' (contains information of the family lineage of groom, bride, time of marriage) is written and signed by the parents of groom & bride, read aloud by the 'Vadhyar'. This takes the character of a contractual document of Trust/faith and serves the purpose of a formal agreement binding on both the parties. 'Thamboolams' (platters of betel nuts, dry fruits, nuts, coconuts, turmeric and 'kumkum') and gifts are exchanged between both families.
The cone shaped 'parupputhengai' (a special sweetmeat), in pair, is an important part of all these ceremonies.”. The marriage ceremony takes place the next day. In many cases, this formality is completed much before the marriage in the form of Nichiyathaartham and again reaffirmed before the actual marriage.
It has now become a tradition / fashion for many families to conduct Reception in the previous evening of the marriage date. The dais is well decorated with flowers. The bride in order to make herself more beautiful invariably visits the beauty parlor for hairdressing and other make-ups. This practice has now spread to the bridegroom also. Reception is conducted mainly to introduce the couple for friends, relatives and neighbors.
THE DAY OF THE WEDDING:
The day of the Wedding start with Mangala Snanam(Bath), Vridham, Worship of ancestors (Nandi), Kasi Yatra, Malai Maatral (exchange of garlands) and Oonjal (Swing).
MANGALA SNANAM FOR BOTH BRIDE GROOM AND BRIDE:
Preparations for the actual wedding ceremony on the day of the wedding starts early in the morning. The nadaswara vidhwan plays the beautiful ragam “Boopalam” to wake up the bride groom and their family and remind them of the marriage day. For the Bride groom, bride’s side provide cosmetics such as tooth brush, paste, shaving set, towel, a mirror, soap, nalennai (நல்லெண்ணை), cheekkai (For oil bath), viradha appam 11 nos. with mangalavadhyam and to the accompaniment of 'Nadaswaram'. Then the bridegroom gets ready for the vridham, and so too the Bride.
The 'Vadhyar' usually tie the traditional 'dhoti' or 'Panja Kacham' for the groom and apply 'vibhuti' or sacred ash in three horizontal lines on his forehead. The groom is now ready to get married.
THE KASI YATRA:
This is a very important part of the ceremony. Immediately after his student life, the young bachelor has two alternatives before him – Grihasta or Sanyasam. Being by nature in a sathwic state due to strict adherence of bachelorhood and observance of austerities, he is drawn towards asceticism.
Dressed in the traditional ‘panchakatcham’, holding an umbrella, a fan made of bamboo, a walking stick and a towel containing ‘dal’ (lentils) and rice tied to his shoulder, the groom embarks on a mock pilgrimage. As he steps out of the ‘mandapam’, the bride’s father intervenes and pleads with him not to go to ‘Kasi’ (a sacred pilgrimage site in the city of Benaras) and advises him of the superiority of married life to an ascetic life and also promises to give his daughter as companion to face the challenges of life.
After much ado the groom accepts and returns to the ‘mandappam’ to get married. The umbrella is to remain with the groom, to remind him in the future of this advice. As promised his wife stands by him in his life, so too the walking stick.
On entering the 'mandapam' the groom discards his walking stick and is garlanded by the bride. The bride and groom are lifted to the shoulders of their respective maternal uncles. This is an expression of continuing sibling support to their mothers. The two garland each other thrice for a complete union. In the sastraas, the exchange of garlands symbolizes their unification, as one soul in two bodies. It is inward acceptance by each of the very fragrance in the other.
The couple is then made to sit on a decorated oonjal. The chains of the oonjal is made to swing to signify the eternal karmic link with the Almighty. The to and fro motion represents the undulating sea-waves of life. Yet in mind and body they shall move in harmony – steady and stable. Further it also ward off the effect of "evil eyes" (evil thoughts or curses) on the couple.
The women folk smear their feet with a little milk, 'kumkum' and 'chandan' (sandalwood paste). A pot of water and a lamp set inside a measure containing rice are carried by the bride's mother and other elderly ladies around the oonjal and the couple is given a mixture of bananas, milk and sugar.
Water and lighted lamps are circulated around the oonjal in order to guard against demons and ghosts. Colored globules of cooked rice are waved in a circular motion and thrown away to propitiate the evil spirits. After the traditional 'aarthi' the bride and groom are escorted for the next ceremony -the 'kanyadhanam'.
THE MOST IMPORTANT RITUALS AND MANTRAS RECITED:
KANYAADHAANAM (GIVING AWAY THE BRIDE):
The bride is made to sit on her father’s lap and is given away as a gift by him to the bridegroom. On the bride’s head, a ring made of Darbha of Kusa grass is placed. And over it is placed a yoke. The gold Mangal Sutra or Thali is placed on the aperture of the yoke. And water is poured though the aperture. The father of the bride while offering his daughter chants: “I offer you my daughter: A maiden, virtuous, good natured, very wise, decked with ornaments to the best of my abilities. With all that she shall guard the Dharma, Wealth and Love”
The bridegroom returns his assurance to the bride’s father saying three times that he shall remain forever her companion in joy and sorrow, in this life and life after.
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 symbolism of the yoke is drawn out of ancient rural life where the only mode of transport for households was the bullock cart. It is supposed to signify that just as a bullock cart cannot run with just one bull, the marriage needs both the bride and groom. Both of them have to face their responsibilities together.
Thereafter, Bride is (symbolically) given a bath in Holy waters with 5 mantras which seek God’s blessings to give the bride purity, happiness, closeness and understanding with husband and good company.
KOORAI PUDAVAI: (கூரை புடவை):
The bride is then given an auspicious ablution. A new sari, exclusive for the occasion, called the koorai is chosen. The colour of the koorai is ‘arraku’ i.e. red, the colour associated with Shakti. This sari is draped around the bride by the sister of the bridegroom, signifying her welcome to the bride. A belt made of reed grass is then tied around the bride’s waist.
The mantras then 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 lives. She standeth as one who is avowed to stand by her husband virtuously. Be she tied with this reed grass rope to the sacrament of marriage.
The bride ties a string fastened to a piece of turmeric around the wrist of the bridegroom to bind themselves by a religious vow. A little later, the bridegroom ties a kankanam to the bride’s wrist.
The tying of the Mangal Sutra or Thali takes place at exactly the pre-determined auspicious hour, known as MUHURTHAM. The bride is seated on the lap of her father, looking eastward while the bridegroom faces westward. The bridegroom ties “Thiru Mangalyam” (special Gold ornament ties in yellow thread) around the neck of the bride. Three knots are tied; The first one by the bridegroom. The other two knots are tied by the groom’s sister (naathanaar- நாத்தனார்) to make the bride a part of their family. As he does so, the Nadaswaram is played loud and fast so as to muffle any inauspicious sounds at the critical hour. This is called Getti Melam. Sumangali ladies sing auspicious songs. The vedic hymn recited by the bridegroom: "I pray to the Almighty that I be blessed with a long life. I tie this knot around your neck. Oh Soubhagyawati, may providence bestow on you a fulfilling life of a Sumangali for a hundred years to come!". (Maangalyam thanthunaanaena mama jeevitha haethunaa / kanttae bathnaami supahae sanjeeva sarasa satham). :
When the bridegroom ties the knot all elders throw “akshadai” (rice mixed with turmeric) on the couple.
After Mangalyadharanam, BRIDEGROOM lowers his right hand and catches Bride's right hand with all the fingers together. Four mantras are recited at that time, to convey the following:
• I hold your hand to keep you with me to raise good children and till you become old. Devatas including Indra have offered you to me to become the Lady in charge of the house. • Sun God/Lord Agni, who has been powerful when they were having their "Grahasthasrama" has given you to me. • Oh, Goddess Saraswathi, you should protect us well. We will offer our oblations to you before all the creatures of this world. • Let the Vayu God who cleanseth and pervades all directions and corners, and who holds Gold in his hand and is the counterpart of Agni, unite you with me in mind and thought.
After this, Sapthapathi is performed.
Holding the bride’s hand the bridegroom walks seven steps around the holy fire with her. This is the most important part of the marriage ceremony. And only when they walk these seven steps together (i.e. perform the saptha pathi) is the marriage complete. With each step they take a vow. The belief is that when one walks seven steps with another, one become’s the other’s friend. The mantras said at this time mean:
"You who have walked with me, become my companion, whereby I acquire your friendship. We shall remain together – Inseparable. Let us make a vow together. We shall love, share the same food, share our strengths, the same tastes. We shall be of one mind.
We shall observe the vows together. I shall be the Sama and you the Rig. I shall be the upper world and you the earth. I shall be the sukhilam and you the holder. Together we shall live, beget children and other riches. Come thou, o sweet worded girl."
• We take the first step to provide for a happy and wealthy life. • We take the second step to develop physical, mental and spiritual powers. • We take the third step to increase our wealth by diligence and righteousness. • We take the fourth step to acquire knowledge, happiness and harmony by mutual love and trust. • We take the fifth step so that we are blessed with strong, virtuous and loving children. • We take the sixth step to promise to care for each other for a long life together. • Finally, we take the seventh step to be true companions and remain partners by this marriage.
Obviously, the idea behind this is to pray to Lord Vishnu, the protector of life, for his blessings in marital life.
BRIDEGROOM then recites a mantra to convey the following meaning:
"After crossing seven steps with me thus, you should become my friend. I too have become your friend now. I will never discord this friendship and you should not also do that. Let us be together always. Let us resolve to do things in life in the same manner and tread the same path. Let us lead a life by liking and loving each other, having good heart and thoughts, and enjoying the food and our strong points together. Let us have undivided opinions. We will perform the vrithas united. Let us have same and joint desires. I will be Sama (one of the vedas); you will be Rig (another Veda). Let me be the Heaven; you be the Earth. Let me be the Shukla (Moon) and you be its wearer. Let me be the mind and you its spokesman (Vak). With these qualities, you be my follower. You the sweet tongued, come to me to get good male children and wealth."
Gifts are exchanged between the families of the bride and groom. Any gift not accompanied by a token gesture of a coin of small denomination that represents the stored value of human effort is considered incomplete; thus respecting the value of human effort through which wealth is acquired. Also no gift shall be taken without a return gesture, which merits the gift received. Pala Dhanam as ordained by the scriptures is thus an action signifying mutual arrangements between the families, to be based on the principle of equality and respect for each other irrespective of one’s economic stature in life. The return gesture by the family of the groom could never equal to the gift of the bride given to the groom. Hence, the same coin given to the groom’s family is returned to the bride’s family an acknowledgment of the priceless gift received.
A crucial part of the wedding is the homage paid by the couple to Agni, the God of Fire. The couple goes around the fire, and feed it with ghee and twigs of nine types of holy trees as sacrificial fuel. The fumes that arise 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 sacred marriage. Hence the term ‘Agni Saakshi’ or witness by fire.
AMMI MIDITHAL: (அம்மி மிதித்தல்):
Holding the bride’s left toe the bridegroom helps her to tread on a grindstone (அம்மி) kept on the right side of a fire. The mantras chanted say: “Mount on this stone, and let thy mind be rock firm, unperturbed by the trials and tribulations of life.” This ritual is symbolic of the solid rock foundation for the union.
ARUNDHATI PAARTHAL:( அருந்ததி பார்த்தல்)
Next the groom shows the bride the star Arundhati (from the Saptha Rishi or Great Bear constellation) as also Dhruva or the pole star. Arundhati is the wife of Vashishta Maharishi and exemplified as the ideal wife - the embodiment of charity. Dhruva is the one who attained immortality through single-minded devotion and perseverance. This is symbolic of the fact that such virtues are to be emulated throughout marital life.
This comprises the bride’s own offering into the sacrificial fire. As an expression of sibling support to her marriage her brother helps her. He gives her a handful of puffed rice grains which she hands to the bridegroom, who on her behalf, feeds it to the fire. Through this food offering, the bride seeks a long life for her husband and for propagation of her family. Participation of the bride’s brother indicates the continuance of links between the two families even after marriage. The couple circles the fire three times. The feeding of puffed rice to the fire is also repeated thrice.
Akshadai , i.e. rice grains coloured with turmeric and saffron are showered on the couple by elders and invitees as benediction (Aasirvadam). GRAHAPRAVESAM (ESTABLISHING OF THE NEW HOUSEHOLD OR ENTERING BRIDEGROOM'S HOUSE):
Certain mantras are recited for the safe passage of BRIDEGROOM & Bride upto BRIDEGROOM's house to establish a new household. These have no significance in marriages conducted in marriage halls in cities. In most marriages, logistics do not permit BRIDEGROOM to take Bride to his house. The function is symbolically done in the room allotted to BRIDEGROOM's family members. BRIDEGROOM enters his house with B, carrying the Agni in a mud pot from the Homa Kunda(m) in the marriage hall. B places her right foot first while entering the allotted place.
BRIDEGROOM then creates a homa kunda(m) on the north-east side and invokes Lord Agni in it. With B touching his shoulders through a Darbai, he then offer ghee in the Agni and recites certain mantras to convey the following:
• "May the Lord creator grant us progeny. • May the Lord anoint us together for longevity. • The auspicious Lord has given you to me. Let us enter our home. • May you bring facility to all living beings. • May we both be together in our home and never be parted. • May we both attain long life."
Bride there after says:
"With full willingness, I enter this holy house having plenty of food and flowing ghee and resided by good minded and brave people with lot of good will and pure mind and thoughts."
PLACING A CHILD ON BRIDE'S LAP:
So far, B has been sitting to the right of BRIDEGROOM. Now she shifts and sits to his left side. A male child from a family in which no death of a child has taken place, is made to sit on the lap of Bride. ( The idea is Bride should get such healthy male children.) The child is given fruits with mantras.
After these, Mangala Aarthi is performed by ladies; this concludes the vedic rituals concerning Hindu marriages.
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 all gathered, there follows a series of playful games. The bride anointing the groom’s feet with colour paste, fanning him, showing him a mirror, breaking appalams over each other’s head. Wrenching the betel pack from each other’s hands. Rolling the coconut from one to another as in playing ball and so on. During these events women sing songs, making fun of the bride, the groom and the in-laws. These events bring out the qualities of the bride and the groom’s sporting spirit, kindness, co-operative nature thus surfacing the hidden traits for the other to note, thus bringing about better understanding and compatibility.
Aarthi is taken. Aaarthi is taken many times during the ceremony
It is a practice and as per the provisions of the Hindu Law to get the wedding registered. 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.
KATTUSADAM: (கட்டு சாதம்):
At the end of the second day, the bride family is seen off by the bridegroom family alongwith Kattusadam (Individual or multi Packets) as per requirements, food lasting up to 48 hrs, like Dry chappathi (Sukka rotti), potto finger chips, tamarind rice, lemon rice, thayir sadham etc etc…
Thus ends a typical Hindu Marriage.
Let mappilai and ponnu padhinaarum petru peru vaazhvu vazhhga. (பதினாரும் பெற்று பெறு வாழ்வு வாழ்க).
Nama parvadhi pathaye harahara mahadevaa (நம பார்வதி பதயே ஹரஹர மஹாதேவா) *****