Sunday, July 12, 2009

Iyer Marriages - Rites & Rituals -2

1. Vaaang Nischayam (Loukika)

The families after examining the compatibility of the couples both physical and mental and the longevity of their wedded life from the horoscopes initiate the marriage negotiations. This consists of enquiring about the background of the bride's and groom's families and a visit of the groom and family to the bride's house. Once the groom and bride like each other both families decide to perform the marriage. A simple ceremony which was preceded by a Vigneswara pooja and exchange of Nalikera and Thamboola (Coconut, betel leaf and arecanut) before elderly people of both families, by the brides and grooms parents is called Vaang Nischaya, Later the reading of Lagna Patrika (or a contract by both parents about the performance of the marriage) was added to this simple function.

But this has now become a mini marriage ceremony, which is celebrated in the groom's house. Apart from what is described in the last paragraph, mutual garlanding of the groom by the bride and a big feast for large number of invited guests etc form a part of this function.

2. Sumangali Prarthanai (Loukika)

This is a prayer by the groom's and bride's families to those ladies of their family who have died as sumangalis. i.e. died before their husbands. The blessings of these sumangalis are sought by inviting 5-8 Sumangalis for a special pooja and a traditional feast. Normally the married daughters and sisters of the family are included in the list of invitees. All Sumangalis come to the feast in a traditional attire of a nine-yard sari. Here the Sumangalis invited represent the dead Sumangalis of the house and they are first woshipped and fed. It is interesting to note that this is the only iyer function in which women eat before men. Apart from Sumangalis a kanya is also invited. There is lot of variation of this pooja, which almost differs from family to family. No priest is called and no Sanskrit sloka is recited. It is a custom in certain families to hold it after the marriage so that the daughter or daughter-in -law participates as a Sumangali in this Pooja.

3. Pongi Podal (Loukika)

Female elders were extremely important in an iyer family especially the father's sisters (aunt) and mother's brothers' wife (Mami). Before the marriage these relations used to invite their nephew (or niece) for a traditional feast in which Pongal Chadam (rice cooked with Dhal and turmeric), which is the sign of prosperity, is prepared. Also all the dishes that their nephew (or niece) likes are prepared. This is a sort of farewell feast by these elders to the bride or groom who are going to form a family themselves.

4. Yatra Danam (Puranic)

Iyer marriages always take place in the bride's place of residence and so there is a need for the groom and his parents to travel to the bride's place. So before starting a Vigneswara Pooja is performed and dana is given to Brahmins to ward of evils. It is also customary to break a coconut before the party departs to ward of evil eye.

5. Receiving of the grooms party (Loukika)

This is a very important function of yester years and used to be done at the boundary of the village. The bride's parents receive the groom and his family with coconuts and Nadaswaram and lead them to the place where stay has been arranged. With the concept of village undergoing change, nowadays the groom's party is taken to their place of stay and is received in front of the mantap by the bride's parents and relatives. They are received besides the usual coconut, flowers and Thamboola with two conical structures called " Paruppu Thengai Kutti" made of dhal , jaggery and coconut. This sort of reception with Kutti happens five times during the marriage ritual. Though still called Paruppu (dhal) , Thengai (coconut) Kutti, these are nowadays made of cashew nut or Laddu or Lozenges of various other sweets.

This Nadaswaram troupe continues to play till the marriage ceremonies over in the mantap. Off and on, when important rituals take place, the priest's signal for Getti melam, which means faster and louder playing of the drum. This is supposed to prevent bad words or words of ill omen from being heard at the marriage hall.

6. Vara Prekshanam or Kanya Varanam (Vedic)

This is a ceremony in which the groom sends learned Brahmins as his emissaries to the groom's father and requests him to give his daughter in marriage to him. The mantras recited are from Rig Veda. This consists of several parts: -

a. Requests to the Brahmins to Go on his behalf

Hey Elders, You have decided to help me based on my request. Please go with a contended heart to request a bride for me. You would be all blessed by the devas who will get their share in the yagas to be performed by my wife and me after marriage.

b. Prays for a safe passage to the elders

Let the path of these elders who are my friends be devoid of stones and thorns. Let Aryama the deva unite the bride and me. Let the family that we are going to build be holy and well joined. Let the path these elders take be the shortest and straight one. Let the Deva Aryama help these elders in their endeavor.

7. Janu Vasam (Loukika)

This is a very important function of the iyer marriage. In the present day it consists of getting dressed in western clothes by the groom at the nearby temple and from there coming to the mantap in a grand procession to accept the bride. The bride's brother presents the dresses for the occasion to the groom before the januvasam and arrangements are made to take them to a predetermined temple. A special Pooja of the deity is also arranged It also is an indirect exposure of the groom to the general public. If some body knows some thing negative about him (like he is already married or he is a bad character), they get a chance of telling it to the bride's father. The procession nowadays is in a car preceded by a grand nadaswaram and some times bursting of crackers. In the olden days the procession used to be even on elephants.

This procession also has some very interesting implication. According to the Vedas, once upanayanam is over for a Brahmin boy, he becomes a Brahma charin or one who walks in the way of Brhama.It was a time for him to learn Vedas and other necessary knowledge. It was customary during those times that he used to wear one white short cloth up to the knee, never shave or have a hair cut, never wear a garland or scents, never wear sandal paste and in fact lead a saintly life. Janu means knee and vasam is cloth. Janu Vasam is really a procession in which the groom is brought to the bride's house as a brahmachari. He was expected to wear only a cloth up to the knee. Ofcouse now it is not like that.

8. Nischayathartham (Loukika)

This is an important item of the marriage ritual and is normally held in the previous evening to the marriage and after the Janu Vasam. This consists of a preliminary Ganapathi Pooja followed by honouring the parents of the groom by the parents of the bride and vice versa and announcing the final agreement by the bride's parents that they are willing to give their daughter in marriage to this groom. The groom and his parents accept the proposal . The groom's parents give her a silk sari during this time. She receives this and changes whatever sari she wears with the new one. The groom's sister ties in some families Thamboola in the end of this sari. Please note that the proposal was initiated by the groom through the intermediary of the elders and not by the bride's parents as is common now. This system must have changed from Vedic times in the recent past. In this function elders from both families meet each other and bless the groom and the bride for a happy future. There is also a custom of giving articles for washing and make up as well as two dolls by the groom's party to the bride during this occasion. It is called for Vilayadal or playing. This is supposed to be given by the groom's sister. Sometimes along with this she also presents a silk sari.

There is a tendency nowadays of holding the marriage reception after this Nischayathatham. Under normal circumstances there seems to be nothing wrong but many of the rituals reserved for the marriage like Garlanding of each other and pani Grahanam take place then. Though some elders frown at this tendency most of them accept it. But if the marriage does not take place after this pani grahanam and Mala Dharanam, for some reason or other, it will be really tragic as these are part of the Hindu marriage ceremonies.