Sunday, July 12, 2009

Iyer Marriages - Rites & Rituals - 4

Iyer Marriages - Rites & Rituals - 4

17. Agni prathisthapam (Vedic)

This means raising of fire. Fire has been the basis of modern life. For centuries the only method of raising the fire was by churning wood.(since there was no match box).Due to it being extremely essential in day to day life, a married man was supposed to maintain fire perennially in his house with the help of his wife. This is a Oupasana .He daily remove the ashes surrounding the fire worships the fire and maintains it. During this holy ritual a new fire is supposed to be raised by the groom with the help of the priest .He is supposed to take a part of this fire and maintain it in his home for life.

18. Madhu Parkam and Vara Pooja (Vedic)

Once the bride's father gives away his daughter to the groom and he accepts her, the bride's father becomes happy and again does honours to the groom by washing his feet and then offering him a mixture of honey and curd called Madhu Parkam.He also is supposed to give him a cow (the basis of a happy home in earlier times. In fact wealth was counted by the number of cows one has). Nowadays cow is substituted by token presents.

While the bride's father washes his feet, the groom prays, " Let this water poured over my feet destroy my enemies and take care of my family.

The bride's father then tells the groom" You who are the personification of Maha Vishnu, please take your seat and accept all these good things that I give you"

After this the mixture of curds, honey and ghee is given to the groom. In some families they also add popped rice and fried rice flour. The groom tells the following prayers: -

"Hey, God of Knowledge, who is responsible for the gleam in people in general and the lustrous strength of Brahmins, Hey Vedas who add luster to the God of Knowledge, Hey Vedas who are themselves the strength of all, I pray you to make all people love me like this, please make me own several herds of cattle."

Hey Madhu Parka, which has come to me, please give me luster, fame and milk like qualities. Let all people love me. Please give me cattle wealth.

19. Looking at the bride (Vedic)

This is a ritual, which symbolizes, announcing to everybody his intention of marrying the maid who has been given to him. He looks at her part by part and talks to her and requests her to become a part of his family.

First he prays to the Gods thus:-

"Hey, Varuna, Let not anything bad befall on the sibs of my bride. Hey, Brahaspathi, please remove all bad physical and mental qualities in her that would bring bad luck to her husband. Hey, Indra please remove all the physical barriers in her that would prevent birth of children and also equip her with good qualities so that she can bring up the children properly. Oh, All Gods, please shower her with all good qualities."

20. Vivaha sankalpam, Kanya samskaram and Mangala snanam (Vedic)

a. Kanya Samskaranam

This means refining of the bride or civilizing the bride. The marriage rituals really start from this point only. The groom realizes that his marrying the bride and taking her away would make her parents sad. He feels that they should not become sad and tells them: -

"Though the bride has been brought up with love and care, it is not proper for you to shed tears at this time. She is full of life and is going to lead a happy life. Instead of this you all should be happy because me and this girl are going to lead a life full of love Also this act of giving the bride is going to repay your debts to your ancestors. Shedding tears now will displease them."

Then he addresses the maid he has chosen to marry and tells her what he expects of her and also refines her and removes all that is bad in her by a prayer: -

"Hey maid, Please be the one who is not giving a harsh stares at the husband. Please be kind to my brothers. Please always go in the most proper way and please always keep your body clean.

I will be praying for long life for all the children, which you will beget for me. Since this requires the worship of the devas, you should also have a desire to worship them. I also beseech you to be always good to all my family members and the animals like the cows and horses owned by the family."

After this the groom takes a dharbha grass and gently moves it over the eyelids of the bride and throws the dharbha behind her reciting a mantra praying the devas once again to make her behavior kind towards him.

b. Mangala Snanam and Vivaha sankalpam

This means holy bath and marriage preparations. This is done in a few steps.

They are: -

1.Prayer to the Brahmins to bring water that is holy for giving bath to the bride.

Normally this holy water is brought by even number of learned Brahmins (normally 2 or 4).

The groom prays to them: -

"There are lots of sins that are transferred to the water. Hey, Brahmins bring that holy water which has not been spoiled by death and that water which will not destroy her children in her womb and that water which is devoid of any bad effects."

2.Prayer when keeping the dharbha ring on the head of the girl.

The groom then keeps a thick ring (normally meant for keeping the mud pots stable) on the head of the girl and recites the following prayer. He also prays his relatives to surround him and the bride.

"Hey, Deva called Aryama, like the stand made of dharbha kept on the head of this maid is round, with your blessings let er and my brothers and mother surround this fire and witness these ceremonies. Her relatives and mine also should surround this fire and will witness the marriage between us and pray for our welfare. Let their prayer be granted by your grace."

3.Prayer when keeping the yoke on the ring.

Then the groom keeps a model of a yoke (meant to tie two bullocks) on the Dharbha ring and recites the following prayer. He reminds Indra of the way he cured a girl called Abala (Abala literally means "strength less". In fact in Sanskrit all girls are called Abalas)

"Hey Indra, In he same way as all the bodily defects of Abala disappeared and she became similar to the sun, please remove all the bodily defects of this girl and make her shine like Surya."

(Abala was a girl who had leucoderma and was cured by pulling her through the hole in the yoke used to tie the horses in Indra's chariot, three times)

4.Prayer when keeping gold in the hole in the yoke

(Normally the hole in the stick is covered with the mangalya made of gold and kept on the head of the bride.)

The groom prays "Hey maid, let this stick covered with gold and the holy waters brought by the Brahmins wash of all the defects in you which would bring bad effects on me and which are not visible .Let it thus bring good to you. Let these unite your body with mine later when we love each other."

5.Prayer for performing holy bath to the bride.

This consists of 5 prayers by the groom.

They are: -

a. These waters shine like gold, and have an unblemished luster. This water itself is pure and is capable of purifying others .Let these waters remove all the blemishes in this maid. Was it not in these waters in which several hundreds of holy theerthas (Holy river waters) are present? Let the God of all, use this water and make you pure.

b. This water in which was born Lord Surya, this water in which was born the fire, this water which is as blemish less as gold and this water which purifies all others, let it , Oh maid, remove all your sorrows, and let it also give you eternal pleasure.

c. These waters in which God Varuna remains in the middle and watches all the good and bad one does, these waters that wear fire in the middle and these waters of purest colour, let it give all the pleasures of this world to you, Oh, Maid.

d. These waters which gods drink from the sky, these waters which exist in the sky in various shapes, these waters which have raging fire in the middle should give you pleasure both of this world and the world thereafter., oh, maid

e. Oh maid, who is going to marry me now, let these waters see you with its welfare giving eyes, let it with its holy body touch your skin and let these waters which give rise to the innate principle of the ghee, give you all the pleasures of this world.

6.Prayer while giving new clothes to be worn by the bride.

The bride till this point wears the cloths normally worn by unmarried women, (Sari), Now the groom gives her a new cloth which should be worn by her in future.

The groom prays while giving new clothes to the bride:-

"Similar to the fact that this maid is surrounded by the new clothes on all her sides, Let You , Indra , who worship elders who do service to God, be attracted by my prayer and be kind enough to give all that is good to this maid."

With this prayer the groom hands over to the bride a nine yards sari, which is called Koorai Pudavai.( Till recently it was a custom for the groom's parents to pay for the Koorai Pudavai.It was invariably in the colour of Lac. But nowadays the bride's family purchases Koorai Pudavai). The sister and lady relatives of the groom dress the bride in this new cloth. Possibly this is the last chance for them to examine the bride in secret and find out whether she has any defects.. Koorai in Tamil means roof and this name must have been taken from this sloka, where the cloth is supposed to cover her allover One author feels that it must have come from the word "Kroora" which means "cruel" Possibly it hides her from the cruel looks of other males by bringing her under the protection of marriage.

21. Mangalya Dharanam (Puranic)

Mangalya means that which gives good things and Dharanam means "wearing". The bride has to wear two mangalyas one given by her father and another by the groom's father.The shape and content of Mangalya varies from family to family. Normally before marriage the gold for making mangalya is melted on an auspicious day by the gold smith. Lot of importance is given in the present day to the Mangalya. Before being tied it is circulated among the audience for their blessing and good wishes. This mangalya is a piece of gold in which is inscribed Shiva Linga or Shiva Linga as embossed on a Thulasi madam or Goddess Meenakshi depending on the custom of the bridegroom's family. The groom ties the mangalya arranged on a yellow string round the neck of the girl only the first knot is put by him and two more knots are put by his sister. (The groom's sister is normally given a suitable present for tying the two knots). The bride is normally sits facing east and sits on a bundle of grain-laden hay. The groom recites the following prayer while tying the Mangalya: -

:"This string is holy and giver of good things in life. It also is going to elevate my life. Hey, beautiful maiden, I am tying this around your neck and pray that you would live for hundred years."

It is important to note that this prayer is in modern Sanskrit and is not taken from Veda, It also is important to note that this ritual is not prescribed by the Vedas. Possibly this custom originated in later years. But as of today, according to general people, it is one of the very important functions of marriage. After the mangalya Dharanam is over, the elders shower flowers and yellow coloured rice on the groom and bride. It is also common nowadays to congratulate the bride's parents and groom's parents after this ritual. A sweet sherbhat (sweet scented water) is served to all the people in the mantap once this ritual is over. But really the marriage ritual is has just begun and is far from being over.