Aishwariya & Ramprasad
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 cast 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.
I will list out and describe the various rituals and functions of the marriage of Iyers soon in my coming post and 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 Iyers 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.
I have made some effort 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. (Reference 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 individual’s 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 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 will be published soon.
- Nichayathartham (Engagement)
I come from a Tamil Brahmin Iyer family( Now should I say orthodox?). Parents are from a typical background valuing every bit of a tradition that was left by their parents and religiously follow every bit of it without questioning any. This particular post is about me and my engagement.
To start with is the engagement ceremony, which is not just an exchange of rings. It is the authentic ceremonies for the family – tying the to-be-bride and the groom in a lifetime bond. The engagement ceremony – known as Nichayathartham among Tamil-Brahmin marriages are traditionally fixed by the parents; The families after examining the compatibility of the bride and groom both physical and mental and the longevity of their wedded life also which indicate the planetary positions at the time of their birth, and are said to predict their character accurately from the horoscopes. 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.
Once the marriage is finalized, a small engagement ceremony is held, to solemnize the forthcoming marriage in the presence of witnesses.
Traditionally, this is a ceremony performed by the elders in the family, with the bride and groom, being spectators. They have no role to play here.
A simple ceremony which was preceded by a Vigneswara pooja and exchange of thamboolam (Coconut, betel leaf, fruit) before elderly people of both families, by the brides and grooms parents is called Nichayathartham (Engagement). The parents of the bride and groom decide the date of the marriage in the presence of the priest.
Later the reading of Lagna Patrika, specifying the date, time and venue of the marriage and this serves as a sort of commitment for both families (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.
The bride’s family brings fruits and sweetmeats and this ceremony is performed by the Groom’s side. While the bride’s brother greets the groom, the groom’s sister greets the bride.
Apart from what is described, mutual garlands of the groom by the bride and a big feast for large number of invited guests etc form a part of this function.