Tamil Wedding Program

Hello from IWA Team,

Today, we’ll discuss events in Tamil Wedding Program.

Tamil Hindu Wedding Program

Part 1: Tamil Pre-Wedding Program

Engagement Nichyathartham

The engagement function also known as ‘Nichyathartham’ generally takes place four to five months before the actual wedding. However, in some cases the engagement happens just a day before the wedding and heralds the start of the wedding ceremonies. This typically happens due to certain circumstances, such as when the bride or groom lives overseas and is hence unavailable for an earlier engagement ceremony.

Ganesh Puja

At the Nichyathartham the bride’s family first performs a Ganesh puja, invoking blessings to ensure that all goes well right through the wedding ceremonies and even after. The function usually takes place on an auspicious day determined by a priest and is organized at the bride’s home or sometimes at an external venue, if the number of guests are large.

Part 2: Tamil Wedding rituals

Mapillai Azhaippu

The groom, his parents and relatives by the bride’s family are welcomed the evening before the wedding. He sets out in a flower bedecked car driven slowly at the head of a procession. Accompanying him is his best man, the ‘mapillai thozhan’, typically, a cousin. With nadaswaram players leading the procession, he arrives in grand style and is welcomed by his future mother-in-law and other family elders. Blame it on the northern influence of Bollywood, a Tamil groom today could well arrive on a horse or even a chariot!

Before the groom enters the wedding hall, the bride’s mother and other elder women of her family perform an aarti for the groom. A piece of burning camphor placed on a plate with kumkum infused water is held in front of the groom as a blessing. This is also believed to ward off the evil eye.

Padaipu

The ceremony known as ‘Padaipu’ is done to honor and gain the blessings of ancestors. A priest is appointed to offer prayers. Food is cooked and symbolically offered to the ancestors and the same food is then eaten by the family. Worshipping one’s forefathers is an essential part of most Indian functions and ceremonies and Indian weddings are no exception to this rule.

Vratham

The Vratham is performed separately for the bride and groom by the priest. A holy thread or Kaapu is tied to the bride’s wrist which is meant to ward off evil spirits. It is supposed to form a protective shield around the bride right through the wedding ceremonies. For the groom, Vratham involves praying to Indra, the King of the Devas, Agni, the fire god and Chandra, the Moon god to help him take on this new chapter in his life.

Kashi Yatra

The bride and the groom have a ‘Mangala Snaanam’ or a purifying bath on the morning of the wedding at their respective homes. After that a light-hearted ritual is acted out where the bridegroom decides to take sanyas and leave for Kashi (Varanasi), giving up all desire for married life and the responsibilities that go with it. He returns only when he is persuaded by the girl’s father to stay and marry his daughter, who is waiting for him.

Kanyadaanam

During the Kanyadaanam the bride is made to sit on her father’s lap and hold a coconut with both her hands. The bride and her father together offer the coconut to the groom. While they do this the bride’s mother pours water over the coconut. The significance of this ritual is the father giving his daughter away to the groom in marriage. It is an emotional moment for the bride’s parents.

Thaali

The thaali is the South Indian counterpart of the mangalsutra, the sacred thread tied by the groom around the bride’s neck during the marriage ceremony. The groom’s family usually gives part of the gold required to make the thaali. In actual fact, two thaalis are made. One is made out of thread and smeared with haldi or turmeric paste; this is what is used during the marriage ceremony. Another, more durable one is made of gold which the bride is expected to wear all her life.

Tying the Thaali

As the music in the wedding hall reaches a new heightened pitch the guests present turn their eyes expectantly towards the mandapam or stage where the wedding rites are being performed. It’s time for the thaali to be tied. The priest places the sacred thread atop a coconut and takes it around to be blessed by the elders present. It is then placed before the bridegroom.

As the music crescendos, the bridegroom ties the thaali around the bride’s neck and makes three knots. The gathered onlookers shower the couple with rice and flower petals. One overzealous and slightly nervous bridegroom almost placed the thaali around his future mother-in-law’s neck as she was bending low near her daughter to straighten a piece of jewelry!

This is the core of the wedding ceremony. After this, close relatives go up to the mandapam to wish the parents and the bride and groom.

Bells for My Toes

The bride is lead to the Northern corner of the mandapam and asked to place her right foot on an ‘ammi kal’, a traditional, Indian grinding stone. The groom then places or attempts to place a silver toe ring on her right foot. The bride is supposed to wiggle her toes and make it as difficult as possible for the groom to accomplish this. The significance of the ritual is to ensure that their marriage is as strong and enduring as the ‘ammi kal’.

Star Gazing

The newly wedded couple is led outside the marriage hall after the ‘ammi midithal’ or toe ring ritual. The priest guides them to view the Pole star ,‘Dhruva’, and the morning star, Arundhati Nakshatra. The husband points out the Pole Star, the brightest star in the sky, to his newly wedded wife. He prays for stability in his household, just like the Pole Star remains steadfast and unchanging in its position. He then points out the star ‘Arundhati’ which symbolizes purity.

Exchange of Garlands

The exchange of garlands tends to be a light and entertaining ritual. The bride and the groom exchange garlands three times. Each is teased by his or her relatives to make it more difficult for the other. So the friends and relatives pull the bride away as the groom tries to garland her, and likewise the groom may stand on his toes or try to dodge the bride’s attempts to garland him.

Oonjal

After the couple has garlanded each other comes the Oonjal (swing) ceremony. They sit on a large, decorated swing. Married women come forward and feed the newlyweds with small teaspoonfuls of milk and chopped bananas. They also circle rice balls clockwise and anticlockwise around the couple and then throw the rice balls away. Symbolically, the malefic effects of any evil eye on the newly married couple have thus been removed. The women present sing ‘Oonjal paatu’ or playfully romantic songs while a general air of merriment prevails.

Tamil post wedding rituals

Many post-wedding rituals are specific to certain Tamil communities. Some families follow rituals to the ‘T’ while in others, certain customs have fallen into disuse over the years. Urban families tend to be more westernized; wedding over, the young couple, more often than not, jets off on a honeymoon. Every ritual though is deeply symbolic and also reflects the involvement of the whole family in the union.

Pon Azhaippu

This ceremony is conducted by either the mother or the sister of the groom where they welcome the bride into her new home. Pon Azhaippu simply means welcoming the girl. Seven different items are arranged on a large plate in small cups. These seven items are usually, betel leaves, fruits, turmeric, rice, salt, sacred ash, tamarind and some cotton. A traditional rice measure containing paddy is also placed among these.

The bride then stands looking towards the east. One by one, the gathered women touch the seven cups thrice and sprinkle a pinch of sacred ash over themselves and the bride’s head as well. This ritual has to be performed by twenty one different ladies. After that the bride holds a betel leaf in her hand , over which water is poured.

Handing over Household Responsibilities

At the groom’s house, a small silver statue of a baby is placed in a pot filled with water. The bride and groom go around the pot and then lift up the statue. The bridegrooms mother performs an aarti for the newly weds. She then slips a bangle from her wrist onto the bride’s. She also puts a toe ring onto the middle toe of the bride’s foot. This symbolizes the handing over of her household responsibilities to her new daughter-in-law. And hopefully this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship!

Removing the Arasanikkal

In Tamil Chettiar weddings after all the functions are over the father of the bride remove’s the ‘arasanikkal’ or bamboo stick which was erected at the start of the wedding. He then takes the sprouts and immerses them in a tank or lake. A conch is sounded while this is being done. This ritual signifies the end of the wedding ceremonies.

Turmeric bath

When all the wedding ceremonies are completed, the bridal couple changes out of their finery into a set of plain clothes and sit once again on the ‘manai’ or low wooden platform. Oil is rubbed onto their scalp and they are bathed with turmeric water. After this they get dressed in new clothes which they receive from their respective in-laws. This turmeric bath is meant to be relaxing and signifies cooling down of the bodies after having gone through the hectic wedding functions and activities.

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IWA Team

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