Thursday, October 01, 2009

A Tamil Iyer wedding

It is never hard to imagine an Indian wedding, be it the buoyant north Indian type or the conservative south Indian type. An Indian wedding evokes the oohs and the aahs even from the foreign audience. You guys have a grand wedding arrangement, right. I hear it lasts for weeks. The normal cliches are not too uncommon. But then, they have a point. Even a simple Indian wedding is nothing but grand. It lasts for a minimum of two days, and a maximum depending on the time and money that can be spent on the wedding. It is an exercise by itself, rather a really taxing one.

In the non-South weddings, the fun factor is amplified by the jolliness of the event. What I hear from friends, the event is fun filled with a minimum ritualistic approach. But then, India is so diverse that there are a hundred different ways to celebrate a wedding. So, after saying so many things about a restrictive (or conservative, depends on which way you see it) type of wedding, you might not want to read the rest of the post. Anyway, let me oblige you with the unwanted details. First of all, let us be clear with the fact that the wedding takes place on the day of the wedding (OK, at least try to make a decent effort to explain the event). The explanations can't get worse from here after the first statement, so I am assuming that you are going to go the full distance in reading the post.

Pic: Mantras & more mantras

Be it day zero (the day before the wedding) or day one (day of the wedding), one thing is clear. Forget the bride, the bridegroom, the bride's parents, the groom's parents, friends, few (very few) close relatives, and very many (really many) never before seen relatives, the most important figure of the wedding is the priest. Well, actually, there are two priests, one from the bride's side and one from the groom's side. They have developed this wonderful ability to chant the mantras (prayers) at such a rapid pace that you are struggling to keep up with them. The point here is, the groom has a lot of work to do in repeating the mantras recited by the priests. You are seated on the floor with folded legs, and the mind is asking you to get up and run, ignoring everyone around. My father was shifting positions, changing all possible angles with a hope that at least some position would make him feel comfortable. I am sure he never got the comfort level. A wedding event has a hundred different types of eatables, but then, you end up starving the whole morning to abide by the protocols. This part of the ritual is called as the Viradham (fasting), and by the time you try to feast for lunch, your stomach is just an acidic mass rejecting any entry into it.

Pic: Thirupparankundram Kovil (Temple)

The same evening, you have the Mapillai Azhaippu (Baraat), where the bride's family welcomes the groom and the family for the wedding (it is a different matter that irrespective of the invitation, the groom wants to be there for the wedding). This is generally done with everyone going to the temple, and returning back to the marriage hall with massive fanfare. Then there is the Nischyathartham, a formal engagement to confirm the marriage next day. Even if you feel tired at the end of the day, you realize that there is no respite even the following day.

Pic: The "metti"

South Indian marriages generally have the Muhurtham early in the morning. Muhurtham is the time when the wedding is actually solemnized. Just before the Muhurtham, you have another ritual called as Kasi Yatrai. The explanation goes thus - The groom is suddenly scared of the wedding and informs everyone that he is going to Kasi (Varanasi). The bride's father tries to prevent this from happening, and tells the groom, "Please marry my daughter and become a grihasthi (married man)". I can bet on one thing, no groom would want to run away to Kasi at the time of his marriage. I can vouch for that! Then of course, you have the Oonjal (jhoola or the swing) ceremony, followed by many other Mantras chanting session, before you finally get to tie the three knots around the bride's neck.

Pic: Oonjal ceremony

This in no way offers a complete explanation of a Tamil Iyer wedding ritual. You can refer this link for more information (click on this link). This is more or less a light take on what to expect during a wedding. But, to be honest, every ritual has its significance, and it was made sure that we followed every aspect of the ceremony with due diligence and sincerity. At the end of the day, wedding is a once in a lifetime experience.


  1. Very well summarised ! I like the Nalangu ceremonies. They are fun !!missed your wedding, but the pics and this post made up for it :)

  2. I guess "South Indian" could mean atleast 4(state-wise) different genres of rituals! Makes me appreciate India's diversity - as dialects change over a span of a 100 kilometres, one can expect a reasonable culture shock!

  3. Suchitra, Thanks! I thought Nalangu was boring, but I guess it is fun for the onlookers :-)

    Sowmya, Yeah, that just reflects the cultural diversity of our country.

  4. You may find my write up illustrated by some friends, of interest to you , Ramachander

  5. The very long and interesting ceremonies and rituals... There would be a reason to celebrate for almost all the relatives!

  6. Good Read!

    Tamil marriages are always considered very impartant part of life. Adorned with the hues of saffron, gold, and red, the venue reflects the true essence of the Tamil culture and the rituals withhold the sanctity of the ancient Vedas and their verdicts.

    I like these type of content throwing light on Tamil culture and Tamil Matrimonial traditions, may be it is about Brahmin, Khatriya, Or Vaishyas.

    Thanks for Writing such valuable content.