Tamil Wedding Rituals

The Tamilian community is fairly large and Tamilian weddings are usually well attended by close as well as distant relatives. The Tamilians believe in simple living, hence their weddings are not necessarily extravagant affairs. A large wedding hall is booked for the occasion and decorated with flowers and lights. The date for the wedding is fixed after consulting the Hindu calendar. As per the Tamil calender the months of Aashad (July 15th to August 15th), Bhadrapad (September 15th to October 15th) and Shunya (December 15th to January 15th) are considered inauspicious for weddings and hence, Tamilian weddings are not held in these months. 

Panda KaalMuhrtham Oonjal
Receiving The Groom Kanyadaanam
Vartham Muhurtum
Pallikai Thellichal Saptapadi
Naandi Sammandhi Mariyathai
Jaanavaasam Laaja Homam
Nicchiyadharatham Paaladaanam
Reading of Lagna Pathirigai Grihapravesham
Mangla Snaanam Reception
Kashi Yatra Katta Saddam
Exchange of Garlands
Panda KaalMuhrtham
It is customary to invoke the blessings of the family deity to ensure that the wedding preparations proceed smoothly. Usually, this small ritual is performed one day before the wedding. The family of the bride and the groom pray to the deity who is symbolically represented by a bamboo pole.
Receiving The Groom
When the groom and his family arrive at the wedding hall on the morning one day before the wedding, they are welcomed with a tray containing offerings of flowers, paan supari, fruits and mishri. Rose water is sprinkled on the groom. The bride's brother applies a tilak (dot or line) of sandalwood paste and kumkum on his forehead and garlands him. The bride's mother offers the groom's parents offer a sweet dish prepared from condensed milk. A senior female member of the bride's family performs aarti (a small ritual conducted as a mark of reverence) and welcomes them. It is also customary to break a coconut to the ground as this is believed to help ward off evil spirits.
This ritual is somewhat similar to the Panda Kaal Muhurtham. It is usually performed a day before the wedding by the family of the bride as well as that of the groom. They recite Vedic hymns in the presence of a priest (Vaadyar) and seek the blessings of a family deity. Next, they invoke the blessings of all their ancestors and pray for their intervention in removing those obstacles that threaten to disrupt the wedding proceedings. Following these ceremonies, all married women from the groom's family participate in a ceremony called Palikai thellichal.
Pallikai Thellichal
The family of the bride begins this ceremony a day before the wedding. Clay pots are filled with grains. Married women from both the sides sprinkle water on the pots filled with nine varieties of grain. During this ceremony, the others present sing traditional songs to the accompaniment of music. The next day (the day after the wedding) when the grains sprout, these pots are immersed in a pond so that the fish in the pond may feed on the grains and bless the newly-weds abundantly.
This ceremony involves honouring a few Brahmins with gifts and sweets. The Brahmins are invited to represent the souls of the ancestors of the bride and the groom. The families seek their blessings before beginning the marriage proceedings.
A tradition which is rarely practised these days. The groom gets into a decorated car and is escorted to the wedding venue by a large and joyous procession of family and friends. Professional musicians accompany the procession and play traditional wedding music. Sometimes there are also fireworks to celebrate the occasion. The girl's brother garlands the groom and receives him at the Wedding hall to the accompaniment of traditional music.
The bride's parents perform Ganesh Pooja in the presence of the officiating priest. The bride is also present during the ceremony. Tamilians have great faith in the Elephant God, Lord Ganesh, the remover of obstacles. The groom's side gives the bride a new sari. She wears it with the assistance of her sister-in-law. A tilak of chandan and kumkum is applied on her forehead, while the pallav (part of the sari near the border) of her sari is filled with fruits, paan-supari, turmeric, kumkum and coconut. A garland of flowers is tied around her waist. Aarati is also performed for her.
Reading of Lagna Pathirigai
The priest formally reads out the wedding invitation. Details on 3 generations of the lineage of the boy and the girl and other information on the muhurtam and venue is announced. This is followed by an elaborate dinner.
Mangla Snaanam
The mangala snaanam is the auspicious and purifying bath that the bride and groom must have in their respective homes on the dawn of their wedding day. Before the bath they are anointed with oil and a tilak of haldi-kumkum.
Kashi Yatra
This is an interesting ritual and adds an element of colour and drama to the occasion. After the mangala snaanam, the groom pretends to leave for Kashi, a pilgrimage center to devote himself to God and a life of prayer. He carries a walking stick and other meagre essentials with him to imply that he is not interested in becoming a householder. The girl's father intervenes and requests him to accept his daughter as his life partner. He exhorts him to fulfill his responsibilities as a householder and thus follow what is written in the scriptures. The groom relents and returns to the pandal where he is received by the bride.
Exchange of Garlands
This ceremony is full of fun and gaiety. The bride and the groom exchange garlands thrice. They are teased by their relatives. For instance, they pull the girl away when the boy reaches forward to be garlanded by her, and vice versa. The bride and the groom's uncles (mother's brother) have to hoist them.
When the couple finally succeed in garlanding each other thrice, they are made to sit together on a swing. Married women from the families give spoonful of milk and banana pieces. They circle rice balls around the couple in circular motions, in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions and fling them away. This rite is believed to prevent evil forces from disrupting the wedding ceremony. Another rite to achieve a similar end, involves the womenfolk going around the couple four times, holding in their hands a lamp or alternately, a container of water. Songs called Oonjal Paattu must be sung during these rites.
The bride's father welcomes the groom when he comes to the mandapam (place where the wedding rituals are carried out).. The mandapam houses the sacred fire around which the wedding ceremonies will be conducted. The bride's mother applies kajal in the groom's eyes. The bride's father washes his son-in-law's feet. Through this gesture the father conveys that that the boy is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and believes that he will support and take good care of his daughter. The bride sits on her father's lap with a coconut in her hands. The father and bride offer the coconut to the groom while the bride's mother pours water over the coconut thus symbolising the 'giving away of their daughter.' The groom's parents gift the bride a nine-yard sari and a blouse to be worn for next moment, the auspicious occasion of tying the mangasultra.
With the help of her sister-in-law and other aunts the bride changes into a nine-yard sari and again enters the mandapam. A sack of paddy is placed on the floor. The bride's father is seated on this and the bride sits on her father's lap. The sack of paddy symbolises good fortune and abundance in terms of material and spiritual wealth. The yoke of a farmer's plough is touched to the bride's forehead. This gesture carries the hope that the couple will always walk together, by each other's side to pull the plough of life. The priest and relatives bless the mangalsutra or sacred thread and hand it to the groom who ties it around the neck of his bride with two knots. His groom's sister ties the third knot much to the rejoicing of everyone accompanied by the drums of the melam. The three knots symbolise the marriage of the mind, spirit and body.
The groom takes the bride's right hand in his left hand and leads her around the sacred fire seven times. The bride begins each round by touching her feet to a grinding stone. This signifies her hope that their union may be as firm and steadfast as the grinding stone.
Sammandhi Mariyathai
The families of the newly-weds exchange clothes and other gifts befitting their status during this ceremony.
Laaja Homam
The groom accepts popped rice from the bride's brother and offers it to the sacred fire or Agni. The blessings of Agni are sought as fire stands for the divine power and light of God.
The bride and groom seek the blessings of the senior members of the family by prostrating in front of them. They also offer them a gift of fruits and a token rupee.
The wedding rituals over, the bride is escorted to the groom's house. If he lives far from the venue, she is taken to the home of his nearest relative. She is welcomed into her new home with an aarati. Lunch is served at the venue after the newly-weds return.
After the series of religious ceremonies, the evening reception marks a tone of informality with the guests meeting the couple and conveying their best wishes to their families. 
Katta Saddam
The next day after the 2 day affair, the boy's side leave the marriage hall and proceed to their respective homes. The bride's side bid adieu and provide them with all the condiments like rice, dal, tamarind, coffee powder, appalam, pickles etc. They also give packed cooked food which include coconut rice, lemon rice, tamarind rice and curd rice.
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