Saturday, July 11, 2009

Iyer Marriages - Rites & Rituals - 1

Iyer Marriages - Rites & Rituals - 1

Research & documentation By P R Ramachander


Marriage ceremonies and rituals, though based on the common religious percepts are different for different castes in India. It is also different for the same caste living in different parts of the country not only based on the Veda or Sutra they belong but also due to customs that the community has adopted. An attempt has been made to list out and describe the various rituals and functions of the marriage of Iyers. It does not mean that these are same for all Iyers. According the Veda and the Sutra that they follow as well as the custom adopted by the families these can be different. The marriage rituals, except for a few have not been stable over years. It has kept on changing according to the needs and conveniences of the iyer society. Even about 100 years back, most of the marriages were celebrated for four days.

Little earlier to that Vara Dakshina or dowry was not in practice but Kanya Shulka or brides money was given to the father of the bride. What are being described are the functions and rituals, as it should be based on the Vedas and different family customs, which are in vogue. Some effort has also been made to give the significance of these functions as well as the meanings of the important mantras recited at different times.

Marriage for a Hindu is not a contract but a sacrament or in other words. a function dictated by religion aimed at elevating two individuals in to a unified whole called the family. But going through the following , it could be seen that all the prayers are chanted by the groom .All prayers are aimed at purifying the bride and no where a need for purification of the groom is mentioned.(One of the learned referees of this article has pointed out that , performance of Vritha cleans the bridegroom). It could also be seen that majority of the rituals are dictated by custom rather than by religion. Marriage is one of the 40 samskaras (16 according to some), which every individual has to undergo from the time of conception in the womb of the mother till the individuals death. Samskara in Sanskrit means refining Marriage is one of the important samskaras in an individual's life.

Every individual iyer knows that the iyer marriage is a very complicated function. They would however be surprised to know that the part dictated by Vedas in the marriage ceremony is extremely less. Most of the manthras are very significant but some of them are extremely out dated. Some of the out dated ceremonies are slowly being changed or left out by our forefathers. We have to be really proud of that group of people who were tied in orthodoxy of those times but willing to change once they realized that it is not relevant. Apart from the Vedic rituals there are also puranic rituals, which must have crept in with passage of time. This was possibly the reason why the Indian Constitution tells that the stipulated marriage rites of a Hindu community are those rites, which have been prevalent for the past 25 years. There are also umpteen rituals in the iyer marriage, which has nothing to do with Veda or puranas or even the religion. These are the loukika rituals. Sumnagalis or married women whose husbands are alive take a leadership in determining and carrying out these rituals.

Broadly in the iyer marriage the Vedic rituals are

1. Groom asks for the girl from her father through intermediaries

2. Father of the bride agrees

3. The father of the groom gives permission for the groom to marry

4. The bride's father gives his daughter as a gift to the groom and then

5 .The Groom marries the bride who is now his. But the rituals and steps are much more than five.

The rituals and functions as was the practiced are: -

1.Vang Nischayam
2.Sumangali Prarthana
3.Pongi Podal at the aunt's house.
4.Yatra danam at the Grooms house.
5,Receiving of the Grooms party
6.Vara Praekshanam
7,Janu Vasam
9.Vritham for the groom and Kappu Kettal (Raksha) for the bride
10.Sprinkling of Paligai
11.Para desi kolam and Kasi Yatrai
12.Malai mattal or Exchange of garlands
13.Unchal and Pachai podi
14, Vara Poojai
15.Telling of Pravaram
16.Dharai Varthal or Kanya danam
17.Agni prathishtapanam
18.Madu Parkam and Vara pooja
19.Looking at the bride
20.Vivaha sankalpam, Kanya samskaram and Mangala snanam
21.Mangalya dharanam
22.Wearing of toe ring by the bride
23. Prayer while tying the string made of Dhurbha
24.Groom leading the bride in front of the fire.
25.Agni muhurtham
27.Saptha padhi
28.Parinayam and Pradhana homam
29.Asmarohanam, Laja Homam and Agni Pradakshinam
30.Removal of Dhurba tied around the bride
31.Jayadhi homam
32.Aseervadham and Phala Dhanam
33.Palum Pazhamum
34.Marriage feast (Lunch)
36.Journey towards husband's home
37.Griha pravesam
38.Pravesya Homam
39.Gandharva pooja
40.Prayer for getting good children,
41.Seeing of Arundhathi and Dhruva
42.Post marriage rituals

a. Sthali bhagam
b. Oupasanam
c. Sesha homam
d. Nandi sraddham
e.Kooshmanda Homam
f. Phala dhanam
g.Thamboola charvanam
h. Aseervadam.