An inviting food jugalbandhi with pristine and polished banana leaves, the crackling dolby effect of the very pompous nagaswarams, festoons overhead of mango leaves that never fade, Maamas and Maamis clad in Panchakachams and Madisars scurrying around like beautiful Gandharvas. Oh and how can one forget the famed athirasam!
All these are surely scenes that one can anticipate in a Brahmin Wedding. But do we also that the Brahmin Wedding rituals come from the Vedic times? These rituals are not just pomp and fest, and each of them have a sure fire inner meaning that is not known to all and sundry. A few outdated traditions perhaps, but old, as they say, is always gold.
At Focuzstudios , we love shooting for Brahmin Weddings. And after we learnt what each of these rituals meant, our respect for their tradition has only rocketed a zillion notches up. And what better to tell the world about it? A blogpost? Well of course. So we sought the help of a few learned maamas and maamis to conjure up a post with information elucidating the necessity for these rituals. And here we go thus: Brahmin Wedding Rituals…
Or ‘receiving of the Groom’s party’. The bride’s parents wait outside the marriage hall with coconuts, flowers, Thamboola with two conical structures called ‘Paruppu Thengai Urundai” (made of Dhal, jaggery, coconut) to receive the groom and his family for the wedding.
The main part of the wedding starts with ‘Viratham’.
This ceremony is performed by both the families to invoke their family deities and ancestors. A ‘Kappu’ is tied around the wrists of both the bride and the groom, and the yellow thread should not be untied until the wedding is over. The Kaapu is supposed to ward off evil spirits by acting as a protective armour for both the bride and the groom.
From hereon, the groom prepares himself for his new phase of life as a ‘Grihastha’.
Or the ‘Maapilai Azhaippu’. A pooja ceremony happens at a temple nearby, and then the groom is taken on a procession to the mantap to accept the bride. The procession these days is in a car, but in the olden days the procession used to be (sometimes) on elephants (gasp). The Januvasam is to ‘show’ the groom to the public, and allow to voice their objections if any, to the marriage.
Or the engagement ceremony. Once the groom reaches the venue, a formal engagement ceremony takes place. A Ganapathi Pooja is performed, and a final formal agreement is made between the bride’s and the groom’s family.
After the recitation of Vedic verses, the groom, all well clad in Panchakancham, starts his journey towards Kasi (Varnasi) to expand his knowledge of Brahman. The groom sets off towards the gate, with his slippers, a bamboo fan, and an umbrella. The bride’s father stops him on the way, and convinces him of the importance of being a ‘Grihastha’, and also promises to give him his daughter as his companion to face the trials and tribulations in life.
EXCHANGE OF GARLANDS / MAALAI MATRUTHAL
Symbolising their unification as one soul in two in two bodies, this inward acceptance is demonstrated by exchange of garlands between the Bride and Groom. The Maternal uncles lift the Bride and the Groom respectively to their shoulder levels enabling for easy exchange of garlands. While thrice they exchange, fun is also added making garlanding one another difficult for sometime.
THE “UNJAL” CEREMONY / OONJAL CEREMONY
Once the groom comes back, the bride arrives, and there is an exchange of garlands amidst family and friends. Lots of mirth and fun is had during this ritual. The couple are then made to sit in an oonjal (swing), lots of songs are sung, and the bride and the groom are served with paalikai (a mixture of banana, milk and sugar) by women from both the families. The women also prepare rice balls with turmeric, and circle them around the couple. The rice balls are thrown in all the four directions to ward off evil spirits. The groom is then asked to hold the right hand of the bride, and lead her to the marriage dais.
The bride is made to sit on her father’s lap, and is then given away as a ‘gift’ the groom. The priests chant the manthras, and a darbha grass is placed on the bride’s head. The father recites the following verses:
“Kanyam Kanaka Sampannam kanakabharanairyutham, Dashtami Vishnave Thubhyam Brahmaloka Jigeeshiya.Vishwambhara Sarvabhuta, Sakshinya Sarvadevatha,Kanyamimam pradasyami, Pithrunam Dharanayavai.Kanyam Sarvalankritham Sadhvim Suseelaya SudheemathePrayathoham prayaghchami Dharmakamardha Siddhaye”
The bride is made to sit on her father’s lap, and is then given away as a ‘gift’ to the groom. The priests chant the manthras, and a darbha grass is placed on the bride’s head. The father of the bride declares that “With all the beings in this world, with the five elements and all the celestial beings as my witness, I am giving my daughter to you for the good of your ancestors, and for the liberation of my ancestors”.
The bride is made to wear the Madisar or the ‘Koorai Pudavai’, and made to sit on her father’s lap facing eastward. The groom faces westward, and ties the mangalyam around the neck of the bride. “Getti melam”, the bride’s uncle would say and this signals the nagaswaram and thavil artists to speeden their tempo up. A total of 3 knots are tied around the bride’s neck. The first knot tied by the husband formalises their union, the second and the third knots are tied by the groom’s sister to symbolize the welcoming of the bride into her family.
The Bride Groom holds the Bride’s right hand and recites the marriage vows in four mantras. He prays to Agni, the God of fire, Saraswathi the Goddess of Knowledge and Vayu, the Lord of air for blessings, long.
The bride and the groom now hold hands and pray for their eternal happiness. The groom also helps the bride to take seven steps around the sacred fire, and this ritual is called the ‘sapthapathi’. This is the most important part of the marriage ceremony, and only after the sapthapathi are the bride and groom ‘officially’ married.
1. We take the first step to provide for a happy and healthy home.
2. We take the second step to develop physical, mental and Spiritual powers.
3. We take the third step to increase our wealth by diligence and righteousness.
4. We take the fourth step to acquire knowledge, happiness and harmony by mutual love and trust.
5. We take the fifth step so that we are blessed with strong, virtuous and loving children.
6. We take the sixth step to promise to care for each other for a long life together.
7.Finally, we take the seventh step to be true companions and remain partners by this marriage. life and confluence of mind.
The groom takes the bride outside to show her two stars. One representing the sage Dhruva, and the other star ‘Arundathi’, the wife of sage Vashishta. Vashishta is part of the Saptarishi mandalam, and his wife Arundhati holds a place in the mandalam owing to her selfless devotion to the sage. The bride and the groom are shown these stars as great personages they must try to emulate.
After all these rituals, the bride and the groom are made to perform a series of homams for their well being, and for the well being of their progeny. Nalangu happens post lunch, where the bride’s family and the room’s family get to know each other through a series of playful activities.
The marriage ceremony is conducted in a mantap, and the bride has to enter the groom’s house at an auspicious time. The ceremony representing the entry of the bride into the groom’s house is called ‘Grahapravesham’, and the bride is welcomed into her new house with love and respect. A new sari and other gifts are given to the bride by the groom’s family, before the bride and the groom retire to Shanthi Muhurtham (nuptials).
Brahmin weddings are not just fun, and great food, but they are also very ritualistic upholding the treasure chest of tradition. Like to share your own personal experiences in hosting/being a part of a brahmin wedding? Drop us a comment, we are all ears!
NALANGU and VILAYADAL
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 one and all gathered, there follows a list of playful items, the Bride applying the Groom’s feet with turmeric paste; fanning him, showing him a mirror, breaking papads over each other’s head, wrenching the betel pack from each other’s head, wrenching the betel pack from each other’s hand; rolling the coconut between them as in ball-play and so on.