Sunday, July 12, 2009

Iyer Marriages - Rites & Rituals - 3

Iyer Marriages - Rites & Rituals - 3

Research & documentation By P R Ramachander

9. Vritham and Kappu Kettal. (Vedic)

As mentioned under Januvasam, the groom is still a brhamacharin in the ascetic garb. He is unshaved, uncut and supposed to lead a strict life as prescribed. His Guru when he was initiated in this life of penance is his father. So it is essential that before he gets married he has to take permission from his father (Guru) to end his Brhama Charya Vritha and marry and lead a life of a Grihastha.This function is Vritham. This function could also be performed in the groom's house before he departs to the bride's house for marriage.

The bride's family lead by the maternal aunt of the bride normally invites the groom with a pair of Paruppu Thengai Kutti.

During this time the groom's father makes him perform all the samskaras like namakaranam, Choulam, Annaprasanam etc which for some reason have not been performed and also make the groom do the duties as a brahmacharin which he has not performed like Khanda rishi tharpanam, Prajapatyam, Saumyam, Agneyam, Vaiswadevam etc and complete the samavarthana(life of a brhma charin). It is necessary according to religious beliefs that he has gained expertise in Vedas by this time.

Simultaneously a Raksha (Protection) in the form of a sacred string is tied in the wrist of the bride after reciting Vedic manthras to protect her from all evil spirits and also those Gandharvas, who were holding charge of her till then.

There is a custom of giving oil for bath, green gram for oil bath, sweets to eat after he takes a bath, to the groom before the Vritha by the aunt (Athai) of the bride. Nowadays this has been enlarged to include a shaving set, toilet articles like soap scent etc. Earlier days all these were supposed to be given during the early morning of the marriage at the groom's quarters with accompaniment of Nadaswaram etc. But nowadays, it is mostly handed over to the groom's party the previous night.. This is a purely Loukika custom.

10. Sprinkling of Paligai (Puranic)

Pali means row of trees and this ritual would have been planting of trees by the groom's and bride's families for the upkeep and happiness of the groom and the bride. In modern days, this consists of sowing germinated seeds of nine kinds of pre-soaked cereals in 5 mud pots (layered with green grass and bilva leaves) by married women (Sumangalis) relatives of the groom and the bride. They first sow the germinated seeds and pour milk with water over it. It is a custom nowadays to have five such pots for each side. Five sumangalis (three from the groom's relatives and two from the bride's relatives in case of the groom's side and three from the bride's relatives and two from the bride's side in case of bride's side) sow the germinated grain and pray for long happy married life for the couple as well as several children to brighten their homes.

In Kerala ,these germinated plants in the mud pots are supposed to be left in the river nearby after 4 days. There is an opinion from a learned referee that , rather that the germinated seeds should be eaten as is the custom in Karnataka . But during modern times, this is rarely done and nobody bothers about the germinated seeds.

11. Para Desi Kolam and Kasi Yathrai (Loukika)

After the Vritham in the olden days the groom used to have a haircut and a bath. This is in memory of those times when he used to grow hair during the time when he was a brhmachari. Slowly this custom vanished. Nowdays after the Vritham the groom wears for the first time in his life the 8 yards Dhoti called Soman in the Pancha Kacham (which incidentally means big Veshti one part of which goes in between the legs) fashion. He also wears an Uttariyam.It is normal for him to carry a fan, an umbrella, a bamboo fan, a grantham (any book nowadays), wear new slippers and also a small bundle .He wears (collyrium) Kan Mai, garland and sees himself for the first time in the mirror after the poonal. He also wears double poonal (sacred string) indicating the fact that he is ready to become a grihastha.

He usually walks away from the marriage Pandal and is stopped by the father of the bride .The groom informs the bride's father that he is going to Kasi. (Which indicates that he is still learning and is going further to learn). The bride's father first tells them that he is already an accocmplished Vedic Scholar and requests him to stop his travel for learning and offers him a coconut and offers his daughter in marriage to him and requests him to come back and become a grihastha. The groom accepts this request.

This is not a Vedic ritual as no manthras are uttered. Another important indication is that the negotiation is between the groom and the bride's father again indicating that the arranged marriage of those days was arranged by the groom with the bride's parents.

12. Malai Mattal (Loukika)

In the olden days the groom used to go inside the mantap and come out later for the malai mattal. But nowadays he is received by the bride at the entrance of the mantap. Normally the maternal uncles of the groom carry him in a cradle to the mantap. Though in marriages this still takes place, in many cases, the maternal uncle simply accompanies the groom. The bedecked bride waits at the entrance of the mantap to receive the groom. Both the groom and bride apart from the normal garland wear 3 sets of garland(called Mattu Malai), which is not in the usual form but in the form of "U" put around the neck. At the entrance the bride is lifted up by her maternal uncles and the groom by his maternal uncles and one after another the garlands are exchanged. Lot of mirth and fun takes place during this ritual. When the bride tries to garland the groom either he is moved away or lifted too much high so that she will find it difficult to garland him. The bride's party also tries to move the bride in critical time so that the groom has to virtually chase the bride to garland her. The women relatives sing various songs in the background.

13. Unchal and Pachai podi (Loukika)

This is another very interesting ritual, which is not Vedic and entirely managed by women relatives. This is also called Kannujal.The silk Sari to be worn by the bride during this occasion was supposed to be purchased by her maternal uncle. The bride keeps her fingers folded in to the palm in a conical form and the groom holds her hand (It is interesting to note that the Pani Grihanam which means holding of hand, which is a Vedic ritual takes place much later after the oonchal. Hence some elders feel that Oonchal ceremony should not be held at this time). The groom leads the bride in front of the Oonchal (A swing) and they stand together facing east, Then the mother of the bride, mother of the groom, paternal aunts of the bride and the groom and one of the uncles wife's or maternal aunts (altogether five people in some families seven people) one by one sprinkle milk on the feet of the groom and bride (symbolizing washing their feet with milk) and wipe their feet with the edges of their silk sari. After this function the groom and bride are asked to sit in the swing, ( It is told that the bride's feet should not touch the ground and only the groom's feet should touch the ground while sitting in the swing, symbolizing that He is the controller of the family) the same relatives then wave colured rice balls (normally coloured red but in some cases coloured yellow and red) all round them in a circular motion and throw them in different directions. This is a ceremony meant to ward off evil from the groom and bride. After this the same relatives give a mixture of sugar, milk and banana to the bride and groom. Once this is over the bride's paternal aunt walks round the swing with a lamp kept on a plate and lit on cooked rice, fed by ghee and with five wicks kept on a brass plate called Thambala .She is followed by the bride's mother, grooms mother, grooms paternal aunt, brides or grooms uncle's wife alternatively carrying a pot of water and a lit lamp normally kept in a vessel. (So that wind does not put it off). While all these is going on the women invitees sing mellifluous tunes composed by several poets for the occasion. Most of them remind of the puranic marriages of either Vishnu or Shiva. Once the function is over a pot of water is handed over to the groom and bride so that they can wash their feet. The priest waves a coconut round the bride and groom and breaks the coconut.

14. Vara Poojai and initiation of the ceremony(Vedic)

The Vedic ceremony of marriage only starts at this juncture. After the Oonchal the bride and the groom are taken to the Mantap and the Vedic rituals start. First the bride's father welcomes the groom and washes his feet with water. The groom then starts the vivaha rituals with the permission of the learned Brahmins. He first prays the Brahmins to permit him to start the Vedic rituals. The Brahmins permit him to do so. He then performs the Vigneswara pooja and prays God to help him complete the rituals without any problem.

15. Telling of Pravaram (Vedic)

This is really an announcement about whom the bride is going to wed and whom the groom is to the people who have gathered there. The gothra to which the bride belongs, name of her paternal great grand father, her paternal grand father and her father are repeated in a sonorous loud tones by one priest. They ask the bride's father whether he agrees to protect the dharma of his family. He agrees. Then another priest similarly introduces the bridegroom by telling his Gothra, names of his paternal great grand father, paternal grand father and father. The groom Okays the information given and agrees for the marriage ceremonies. This is repeated thrice. Possibly this is a ritual to give a chance to the audience to tell any thing negative about the information repeated. This was necessary as the groom is a traveler in search of knowledge approaching the bride's father in a different village.

16. Kanya Dhanam or giving away the bride (Vedic)

The Hindus consider gifting of their daughter to a suitable groom as a very holy deed. In fact it is supposed to be superior to many other holy deeds like giving alms, giving food etc. In the beginning of this ritual the bride would be sitting facing east on a bundle made of paddy stalks and holds in her hand a coconut. She also holds a small gold coin called Pudu panam. (But nowadays, she sits on the lap of her father.).Her father should stand facing north with the brides mother on his right side. The groom stands facing the west.. The father of the bride holds the Thamboola (Betel leaf and areca nut) in his palms and the bride should place her palms holding coconut on her father's palms. The groom should join his palms and get prepared to receive the bride's palm holding coconut from her father. While her palms are being transferred, the bride's mother should keep on pouring water over her daughter's hand, which should made to fall on the ground (This is called Dhara in Sanskrit. In Tamil this ceremony is called Dharai Varthu Kodukkal). Gently the bride's palms are transferred to the groom's hand. This ritual symbolizes the transfer of ownership of the bride to the groom (Note: They are still not married and the ritual of the marriage would be performed by the groom. It is obvious that the Hindus thought that the daughter is owned by her father till then and will be owned by the groom later.)

While transferring the bride her father should tell the following prayer: -

a. I am giving to you as a gift, my ever playful gold like daughter who came to my house to give redemption to my ancestors and who would make me reach the heavens in future, bedecked in gold to you, who is the personification of Vishnu.

b. I am giving her to you so that you can get children through her and do all your prescribed religious duties.

The groom replies: -

I accept her by the grace of Sun who made this world with my hands protected by the Aswini Devas with the permission of the Sun God.

It is considered normal for the bride's parents to cry after this ceremony. This is because the transfer of ownership of the bride is complete.