Sunday, July 12, 2009

Iyer Marriages - Rites & Rituals - 6

Iyer Marriages - Rites & Rituals - 6

32. Aseervadam and Phala Dhanam(Puranic)

This means literally blessing. The groom spreads his Uttariya over his shoulders and his wife stands by his side. Than the elders and learned people in the gathering throw Akshathai (meaning that which never ends but in reality rice coloured by turmeric) at the couple with Vedic prayers to the almighty to give him all that is good in life. They pray for his and his wife's betterment. A pair of paruppu Thengai Kutti is used at this occasion also. Once this is over, , then the husband and wife do namaskarams to their grand parents, parents, uncles , aunts and also to each of the elders present and get their blessing. Each of them put the Akshathai thrown at them and collected from the groom's Uttariya on their heads. Nowadays, possibly due to lack of time all the elders stand together and the couple are only asked to do one namaskaram.

Once this ritual is over the husband and wife are ready to accept gifts from all their relatives and friends. The first to give presents are always the bride's parents. This always includes a silk sari from the bride's parents and a Veshti for the groom. The bride's and groom's paternal aunts and maternal uncles follow them. Then the other relations and friends give their presents. Each present in the olden days used to be given with a mantra in the form of blessing and used to be always termed as "Ayiram Kodi Gatti Varahan". This means billions of solid gold coins. Once the presentation ceremony is over the husband and wife return the presents to their paternal aunts. Normally it is slightly more in value than the presents given by the aunts. Only Thamboola is given back to the maternal uncles.

Phala Dhanam or giving of cash presents to all the guests used to take place after the Aseervadam. Normally this used to be a quarter of a rupee and used to be given by the brides family. But as on today this has been discontinued and cash gifts are now given in some marriages only to the near and dear of the groom.

After this an Arathi is taken. This consists of water in which turmeric and lime is mixed, waved in a circular fashion by one female representative of the groom's side and the other from the brides side, along with a suitable song. The groom puts two coins as gift to these relatives. This in reality should bring to an end the pre-lunch rituals of the marriage. But nowadays the rest of the Vedic rituals, which are supposed to be carried out in the groom's house, also are compressed and carried out before lunch.

33. Palum Pazhamum (Loukika)

Then the wife and husband visit first the husband's house and then the wife's house .In these houses the female relatives gather and give the husband and wife a spoon each of banana pieces put in milk. Since the husband's house is normally in some other town, the husband and wife are nowadays taken to the place allotted to the groom's party and the husband's relatives give Palum pazhamum there.

34. Lunch (Loukika)

The lunch normally prepared on the marriage day is a very grand one with umpteen courses. The wife along with her relatives invites the groom and his family for the lunch with a pair of Paruppu Thengai Kutti.Normally a special area is reserved for the lunch of the groom's relatives. In the olden days before each banana leaf of the groom's family guests , they used to keep a lit lamp. The husband and wife sit together for their lunch side by side. Lot of mirth and fun is derived by all concerned when the newly married couples are asked to exchange their half eaten food or when they try to feed each other. This is possibly to make them loose their inhibitions and make them realize that they have some very special rights.

35. Nalangu (Loukika)

This is another ritual of teasing the husband and wife and makes them to get much nearer. The wife along with her friends goes to the husband and invites him for Nalangu.She has to sing a Pathiyam for inviting him (The word must have derived from Padyam which means poem) He agrees and come with all his relatives mainly female and the reply from him is again given in the form of a pathiyam sung by one of his female relatives on his behalf. The groom and his relatives sit on one side and the wife and her relatives sit on the opposite side. The wife stands and then applies Nalangu (a mixture of Oil and Kumkum) on the feet of her husband .She then puts a sandalwood and Kumkum on his forehead. Then she combs him and breaks a chutta appalam (disc like eatable) and puts it over his head. Then she holds a mirror for him to see himself. After this all these rites are performed by the husband to the wife but he would be sitting down.

Once this is over the husband takes a coconut and gently rolls it towards his wife. In olden days the couple used to get a brass coconut from the bride's father as a present. She catches it and rolls it towards him in return. While all these are going on the relatives gathered round sing melodious songs. In the olden days there were two types of songs called Pathiyam (in praise of the groom or bride or description of mythical marriages) and Yesal (gentle reminder of the deficiencies of the husband and wife). There were instances when this has lead to a quarrel. They composed most of these compositions. But in recent yesteryears only film songs and classical music are sung.

At the end of the Nalangu, the husband is asked to hold the coconut with one hand and the wife is asked to pry it out using both her hands. Once she succeeds or accepts defeat, the wife holds the coconut with both hands and the husband is asked to pry it using one hand. The relatives tease them a lot.

36. Thozhi Pongal, Maravanai and Kattil (Loukika -special to Kerala Iyers)

This ritual was in practice only among Kerala Iyers. On the day of marriage in the evening the bride goes along with her maternal uncle to the houses of friends of the wife and bid farewell to them. Depending on how rich the family is the journey of Thozhi pongal was performed even on an elephant. The family members of the friends receive the couple and bid them farewell with Thamboola. The bride's uncle normally presents the sari that the bride wears. Nowadays, a grand reception is arranged instead of the Thozhi pongal.

Another grand function, which has disappeared, is the Maravanai. This was a grand procession in which the bride and groom are taken round the village. Some male relatives used to wear the make up of women and some female relatives that of men and dance in front of the procession. Since marriage of those days was conducted for 4 days, this was held on the third day. With shrinking of the marriage ceremonies to a single day, this ritual disappeared.

People of the olden days also tell of a function called Kattil.The bride and the groom go to each and every house of the village. They would be received with fanfare and made to sit on a cot. The lady of the house used to give the bride and groom coconuts and Thamboola.

36. Journey towards the husband's house

According to Vedic rituals the husband and wife are supposed to return to the husband's house the same day.(but nowadays they only go to the quarters reserved for them)It was a custom for the bride's family to give packed food for the groom's party during this occasion. (this packed lunch is given nowadays in the next day morning)They used to go in back in a bullock cart during the olden days. There are several prayers to be recited by the groom during this occasion.

a. To lift the bullock cart

The mind, word and body hold the earth. The sun Gods hold the sky. The Sun Gods live in fire sacrifice (yaga). The soma latha holds the heaven. Like this I should be able to hold this cart safely.

b. To tie the bull to the cart

i. Men tie big horses or bulls in these carts, so that it will have strength to run and cross things which are permanent. This would continue till the time when the stars and sun shine in the sky.

ii. We will call Indra on every occasion when we are forced to tie the horse or the bull, so that we complete our journey safely.

c. Prayer for the wife to occupy the cart

Hey lady, climb in to the cart which is made of soft wood and in which leaves with out thorns are spread. This has also shine like gold because of the decorations done for this occasion. It also has stable and good wheels. Please carry with you all the wealth and articles (for making my life pleasant) from your parent's house in this cart.

Hey Lady, you who climb in this glorious cart should drive away all quarrelsome people and climb on my head.(i.e. you will become my ruler).Like Virat , you should beget for me ten sons. You should become the queen of your father in law, mother in law , sister in laws and brother in laws.d. Prayer before starting the cart

I spread a blue and red string before this cart so that I can escape all the bad things wished by others on me. I pray that if the enemies of my paternal family hatch a conspiracy so that my new wife should not get along well, that this should be defeated.

I pray that the thieves who are planning to steal the material, which this girl brings from her house, should not succeed.

I have reached that path that does not have danger from thieves and in this path I have my servants to help me.

e. Prayers while traveling in the cart

Let Aswini devas make the water available on my way healthy and of good quality. Let them give me ten sons and wealth.

Let this boat made of wood take both of us safely to the other shore. Let it also give luster to us and long life (if there is necessity to cross a river)

There are similar prayers to cross a burial ground, forests and rivers.

f. Prayer while showing his home to his wife

The husband should first take all the wealth and materials brought by his wife inside his house and then tell her:-

Hey. Lady, this is my home and please see it well. Please see all the material brought by you and which has been kept in this hose without hatred and with peace.

Then he prays God Savitha that all the wealth that he has brought should increase steadily.

37. Griha pravesam

The husband should enter the house first and spread the hide of a bull in the central hall with the neck side pointing towards east. While spreading he should pray:-

Let the pleasure-giving hide be properly spread. Hey God who is the god of the new moon day, let this girl become fertile, let her live with the blessings of God Bagha.

Then the wife steps with her right leg in to the house with the following prayer:-

I who am capable of becoming mother to sons, am entering my husband's house where his relatives, brothers and their children live and which is protected by capable watch and ward, happily. I am reaching this house, which has lot of cooked rice over which the ghee flows. After this the couple perform the Pravesa Homa.

38. Pravesya Homa

Literally this means homa performed while entering the groom's house. This is performed before lunch on the day of marriage itself nowadays in the kalyana mantap.

This consists of 13 prayers after reciting each prayer ghee is poured in to the homa fire .The fire is normally lit in the north eastern corner of the house .The wife keeps touching the husband with a dhurbha grass during the entire homa. The prayers are:-

1. My wife has reached my home from her home along with the cows and horses received by her from her house. She should have a husband who will live long, and she should become eligible to reach heaven by giving birth to many sons, She should also become wealthy and daily pray this Oupasana Agni.(fire maintained in every house hold throughout) .Hey Agni, please fulfill all these and for that I am giving you this ghee.

2.I believe that in whichever house Oupasana agni is maintained, there will be never any dearth. Bagha who looks after the house and gives wealth and food to us should increase our wealth and give us children.

3.Hey Indra, Hey Agni, Hey Prajapathi, please see to it that the children born to us do not die before us.

4.By the offering that I make you, oh, Agni, I should steadily improve in life. Hey Indra, Hey Agni, please accept my offering and make the life given by you to me, improve further.

5.This wife should get more and more happiness out of the ghee, which has been taken out of the milk. Let the house and wealth of ours improve further. Let us both not depend on anybody else for sustenance.

6.Oh couple (addressing themselves) you should always live in this house. You should always be together. You should live for 116 years. Indra should always be interested in looking after you both.

7.Oh wife , you who is going to be looked after me, should be not worried and be attached to me. Brihaspathi has given you to me. So you should beget children for me and live up to 100 years.

8.This wife was made by God Twashta.The same God made me her husband., Hey wife, the reason of my becoming your husband was because of God Twashta Let him give us both different types of wealth and give us long life.

9-13 These are same as the last four prayers of the pradhana homam.

Then a prayer for increase of cattle wealth , begetting valorous children and wealth which never diminishes is made and the homa comes to an end.

39. Gandhrava Pooja

The wife was believed to be under the protection of a Gandharva called Viswa Vasu .He is made to enter a decorated stick and Pooja is performed to this stick.

40. Prayer for getting children

Then the couple are supposed to sit on the hide of the bull and recite the following prayer: -

Hey, Cows, Increase in this house. Hey horses, increase in this house. Hey Servants , increase in this house. Let this house get lot of wealth so that we can perform charity.

Then a boy child of a lady who has only male children and none of whose children had died is selected and asked to sit on the lap of the wife with this prayer:-

By moon, the crops have grown and because of that the gods have benefited. Because of moon the earth has become hard and the plants and trees are able to stand on the earth because of this. Similar to this moon god being among the bevy of stars, this child has been kept on your lap.

Then fruits should be given to the child with the following prayer:- Hey fruits, you were the cause of increase of children. Like you are fertile, this maid also should become fertile.

Hey wife, in this house, let you be happy because of children. Let God grant you several children. You are the queen of this house. Hold this post in a just manner. Please join your body with mine when we both wish. Then when we become old , help me perform all religious sacrifices.

Hey elders bless this lady to have large number of children, unlimited wealth and bless her to live with her husband till ripe old age..

41. Showing of Dhruva and Arundhathi

After the above rituals the husband and wife are supposed to observe penance of silence till night when the stars come at night.

Then the pole star is pointed out to the wife and the following prayer:-

Hey Dhruva, you are in an unchangeable place and are the origin of all stars. You give stability to all other stars. Like the cattle tied to a tree cannot roam round, the stars are tied to you. Kindly protect me from my enemies.

(Normally no prayers are recited but the wife asks the husband "Sir, Have you seen the Star Dhruva " in tamil.)

After this the husband points out the star Arundhathi that is a part of the constellation of great bear. She was the wife of the sage Vasishta. She has been cited as an epitome of wifely devotion. He then recites the following prayer:-

When the great seven rishis made Arundhathi as the greatest among the wives of the great sages, the other six sage wives acknowledged her position. By seeing her , let my wife become the eighth one.

42. Post marriage rituals

These have long gone out of practice and many of them are never carried out and hence only the rituals are described:-

Before retiring for the night together for the first time, they have to pray the Oupasana Agni again. This is called Stalibhaga Then they also perform a rite called Nandi Sraddha, which is the worship of their ancestors Then the wife offers her husband Betel leaf and Areca nut to chew. This is called Thamboola Charvanam,.

The husband and wife should sleep on the bare floor for the next three days with the stick in which the gandhrawa Viswavasu is put . Then on the second, third and fourth days the Gandhrva Viswavasu is woken up with a prayer asking him to leave them and give the wife permanently to the husband is made by the husband .He is requested to go to another girl who is in her fathers house and not married. Then the husband again worships the fire (this ritual is called Sesha Homa). He prays the fire God (agni) to remove from his wife all those bad aspects in her, which lead to the destruction of her husband, wealth and cattle. He also prays that she should not be attracted by any other males. There are other general prayers to the Agni.

After the homa, with the remaining ghee he should rub the chest of his wife and his own chest and pray Gods that they should be always together. He prays "Let Viswa Devas makes our hearts closer. Let The God of water make us close together. Let Vayu and Brahma make our hearts closer. Let Goddess Saraswathi make both of us to speak with each other." He then prays God Twashta and Lord Indira to occupy his body and make them parents of many sons. He also prays God Prajapathi and Aryama to make them both live with love till they are old.

He finally prays Lord Surya to make his wife accept the seed that he has to sow. (Vedic authorities steeped in Vedic ritual also say that the groom has to another Homa Called Rithu Mathi Prayaschitta Kooshmanda Homam.This is performed to get away from the sin of marrying a girl who has attained puberty. But in the recent past this homa is not performed).Phala Dhanam at the groom's house , similar to the one at the brides house , used to take place in earlier days.

The sumangalis in the house again apply the nalangu on both of them and lead them to their nuptial chamber.. The room is decorated with flowers and lot of fruits is also kept there. A lamp and a matchbox and a God's picture are also kept in the room. The Sumangalis spread a mat on the bed in the nuptial chamber.

The bride once she enters the room is supposed to light the lamp and pray for a happy life. The elderly married female relatives used to gather outside the nuptial room and sing bawdy uninhibited songs for some time. This was again to make the bride understand the facts of life.
There are also prayers to be chanted in the nuptial room, when the husband and wife are alone. He tells her that she should embrace him and derive happiness because of it. Then he prays for virility for himself for a long time and capacity for himself to produce several children. He tells her that similar to the fashion of making fire on a stick by rotating a stick on it he would be making lots of sons in her. He prays that all their children should be long lived. He also compares her to earth which has fire in the middle and receives the rain from the sky to produce the plants. (she should receive the seeds from him similarly) .He also tells her that they should worship gods daily and get good children.

Thus comes to an end the Iyer marriage ritual.