Everyone knows that a typical Tamil Brahmin wedding would take anywhere from 2 to 4 days of celebrations with numerous interesting rituals to enjoy and lip-smacking food to savor. Here I take you on a tour of a 4-day Tamil Brahmin wedding of the modern times. If it is the first time for you, take my advice, pack a lot of party-wear, especially Kancheepuram sarees and prepare to eat, eat and eat a little more!
Day 1 – The Mehndi
Even though Mehndi is a North Indian ritual, the Tamils have happily adopted it into their wedding rituals to start with. In the earlier days, the paternal aunt was the only one privileged to apply Mehndi, or ‘Maruthani’ as the Tamils would say, on the Bride’s palms and feet. And hold on, the groom also gets to apply it on his palms and feet. It would be a simple round-shaped Mehndi pattern considered auspicious. Nowadays, the Mehndiwala comes home to apply intricate mehndi designs for the bride and her friends and relatives who gather at home or a hall. The Groom’s party also arranges a Mehndi for their relatives or joins the bride’s party for Mehndi. This usually happens in the evening and ends with a lavish dinner.
What to wear?
Ladies can manage in a simple to party wear salwar kameez. Men have practically nothing to do other than chit-chatting and eating. So anything casual would do!
Day 2 – The Sangeeth
Again happily adopted from North India, the bride and groom throw a party to the friends and relatives where they all sing and dance. It serves as an ice-breaker between the two sets of relatives meeting for the first time. There’s nothing much to do other than enjoying the performances and the dinner.
What to wear?
Get your dancing shoes on! You can dazzle in a party-wear – South, North or Western! The Tamil Brahmin are quite tolerant with these attires as long as it is decent!
Day 3 – The Drama Begins
Today, the actual Tamil Brahmin wedding rituals begin. In the morning, or as the groom’s party arrives, the bride’s party will welcome them with garlands and ‘Kettumelam’ or the background percussion which you have to get used to till the wedding gets over. The next function is the ‘Vrutham’ wherein the bride and groom are tied an auspicious yellow thread which marks the official beginning of the wedding rituals. It is done separately and the bride and the groom are not allowed to sit together as yet. Once the ‘Vrutham’ is over, the bride and the groom are not allowed to step out of the home or ‘Mandapam’ till the wedding gets over! The lunch follows after which both the parties have to get ready for the grand evening functions.
The evening starts with ‘Nischayathartham’ or the Engagement ceremony which is followed by the grand ‘Mappilai Azhaippu’. The Groom’s party is officially welcomed by the bride’s father and relatives. They take the bride and the groom around the ‘Mandapam’ in a fancy open car decorated with flowers as a procession. This car follows a band orchestra and fireworks where these are allowed. They visit a nearby temple to take blessings and reach back at the ‘Mandapam’. Though these are the official rituals, these days a grand reception is also scheduled after the ‘Mappilai Azhaippu’ followed by a lavish dinner.
What to wear?
You can wear something semi-casual or party-wear for the morning functions. The function in the evening is a grand one; so be prepared to look your best. Though the bride and groom get to change their attire for each ritual, you need not bother about it!
Day 4 – And They are Hitched!
This is the grand day of celebration and it begins quite early. The bride typically requires a couple of hours to get ready for the Big Day and the rituals start at least a couple of hours before the ‘Muhurtham’. It is the auspicious time on this auspicious day according to astrology when the groom ties the ‘Thaali’ or ‘Magalyasoothram’ which proclaims them officially married. The day starts with the groom setting out for a ‘Kasi Yatra’ which denotes his bachelorhood. He is dressed in a ‘Panchagacham’ (silk dhothi) holds an umbrella and stick and embarks upon a journey to Kasi leaving all worldly desires. The bride’s father allures him into the marriage and promises that his daughter would make a great companion. The groom agrees and comes back to the ‘Mandapam’.
The bride and groom exchange garlands in the next ritual which is called ‘Malai Matral’. Both are carried on the shoulders of their relatives which is an expression of their full support in their married life. Next, the bride’s father gives her daughter’s hand to the groom and they are seated on a swing or ‘Oonjal’ hand in hand. The relatives sing songs and offer them milk and bananas. They throw rice balls in all sides surrounding the couple to drive away any evil spirits. I find this as the most enjoyable part of Tamil Brahmin Weddings.
The next ritual is the ‘Paaligai’ which symbolizes fertility. 9 Pre-soaked cereals are sown on earthen pots with mud and watered by the relatives. They are later released into a river when they sprout seeking the blessings of the ‘Ashtadik Palakas’ or the guardians who take care of the 8 directions. This is followed by the ‘Kanyadhanam’ wherein the bride’s sits on her father’s lap and he officially gives away his daughter to the groom. The groom gifts her new sari called ‘Koora Pudavai’ which she comes wearing for the ‘Mangalya dharanam’. The ‘Koora Pudavai’ is a 9-yard saree.
The groom then ties the ‘Magalyasoothram’, and his sister helps him tie the 2nd and 3rd knots. All these rituals happen in front of the fire or with ‘Agnisakshi’. They take 7 steps around the fire. This is the main part of the Tamil Brahmin wedding. After this, the newly married couple performs a ‘homam’ to please the Gods. Then the groom guides the bride to the ‘Ammikkallu’ or grinding stone holding the bride’s hand with one hand and helping her pulling her toe gently with the other hand. After this, they both are guided outside to see the ‘Arundhathi’ and ‘Dhruva’ stars. This marks the official beginning of their journey as a married couple.
The next function is ‘Nalangu’ which is a game organized by the parents to get the bride and groom. They get to know each other through playful rituals. This is an optional ritual though it is a lot of fun. The bride and the groom are made to sit facing each other on a mattress spread on the floor. They apply turmeric on each other’s hands and feet and comb the other’s hair. They play games such as rolling a coconut to each other while singing songs. The function lasts for about an hour depending on how many are attending it. This day, be prepared to eat a lavish lunch with Payasams.
What to wear?
Wear your best traditional attire. You will find a lot of Mamis wearing bright and heavy Kanchipuram sarees and the Mamas wearing elegant Shirt and Dhoti. If you want to gel with them, wear something similar.