Iyer matrimony - Traditional Iyer marriage

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Iyer Matrimony

Iyer Marriages - Tradition
Marriages are made in heaven and solemnized on earth! A Tamil Brahmin marriage is an elaborate, colourful ceremony marked by traditional rituals which are filled with fun.

Once the match is finalized, an engagement function is held on an auspicious day in the groom's house and the two parties exchange the marriage agreement placed on a plate along with bananas, coconuts and betel leaf. Usually the girl is presented with a silk sari by the groom's family and the groom is presented clothes by the girl's family.

Iyer Matrimony - Iyer Matrimonial information, profiles of brides and grooms

A couple of days prior to the marriage the bride's family performs ‘The Paalikali Thelichal Karappu’. According to this ritual clay pots are decorated with sandal paste and kum kum powder, filled with little curd and nine types of grains and watered by 5-7 married ladies from both sides. After the marriage, on the next day, these pots with now sprouted grains are thrown into a nearby pond by the newly wed couple. It is believed that the fish in the water will eat the sprouted grains and bless the newly wed.

Sumangali Prarthanai is where both the families pray to the souls of sumangalis (women who precede their husbands in death) to ensure that the bride also remains one. The ceremony is held before the marriage at the bride's place and after the marriage at the groom's .A number of married women are invited to a feast and gifted with usually saris.

A small private bathing ritual is performed in some families by the parents, usually on the Friday preceeding the marriage. A wooden seat is placed in front of a kolam. The girl is given an oil bath with til sesame oil. and is gifted a green sari. After her bath she wears that and green and red bangles. The bride's mother gives her the entire trousseau. In the groom's house the father pours oil on the groom's head and gifts him clothes and toiletries. The boy and girl are confined at home till marriage.

On the day prior to the marriage, the groom's party arrives at the venue. This marks the commencement of the actual marriage rituals. They are received with Nadaswaram (music), and a tray containing offerings of flowers, pan supari, fruits and sugar nuggets.The bridegroom is welcomed by a sprinkle of rose-water. a tilak and a garland by the bride's brother. The bride's mother feeds him mava (a sweetmeat made of thick condensed milk) from a new vessel and garlands him. The groom's mother distributes the mava among the relatives. Older married ladies perform an arti.

A ‘Vritham' is performed for a problem free marriage. Traditional Vedic hymns are recited by the parents of both and officiated by a priest for blessings of the family deity and all their ancestors

Naandi Shraartham

As a symbol of the souls of the ancestors of both sides, 8-10 Brahmins are invited., their blessings are sought and they are honoured with gifts of pan-supari, fruits, flowers, coconuts, sweets and dhoti-angavastram .

One of the most vibrant functions is the Janavasanam.

The groom travels in an open car with all other relatives walking in front and behind. with trays of flowers, fruits etc.,and visits the nearby temple where an ‘archanai' is performed. The bride's party reaches there carrying 5 varieties of sweets and clothes for the groom. One of the sweets must be the traditional conical sweet Parupputenga. On return is the


With the parents of the bride, the priest performs Ganesh Pooja. The bride sits in the venue and the groom's party presents her a new sari after applying a tilak. The pallav of her sari is filled with fruits, pan supari, turmeric, kumkum, coconut and flowers and tied around her waist. An arti is performed

Early in the morning of the marriage day, an auspicious hour is chosen for a ceremonial bath for the bride and the groom. called the Mangalasnanam

The bride and groom sit on low wooden stools around rangolis, separately between their respective parents and are anointed with turmeric, kumkum and oil. The ladies perform arti.

The bride's mother gifts a 9 yard maroon sari to the bride and a dhoti to the groom to be worn for the actual marriage ceremony.

After bathing and dressing the bride prays privately to Gauriamma.

The Kashi Yatra is a lighthearted ritual with the groom pretending to get angry and threatening to go to Kashi on a pilgrimage. He carries a walking stick, an umbrella, a fan, a coconut, a small packet of rice and dal, and a dhoti. The bride's parents plead symbolically, for his return. The bride's brother woos him back offering his sister's hand in marriage. The groom is then escorted back by the bride's brother shading him with the umbrella.

On his return the groom is seated and the bride's mother washes his feet in water, chandan and kumkum .

The bride is brought in and both are hoisted by their maternal uncles on their shoulders and exchange garlands three times.

The bride and the groom are then made to sit side by side on a swing for the Oonjal ceremony.

Small balls of cooked rice, coloured yellow and red with turmeric and kumkum are lightly dipped in milk, which is sprinkled on the bride and groom's feet. Married ladies, from the bride's side circle the rice balls around the bride and the groom thrice in clockwise and anticlockwise direction and then throw them in all four directions to ward off evil forces. A mixture of milk and banana is given to the bride and the groom.3 times. They then take the remaining balls and circle the couple along with older women holding alternately, a lamp and a water urn.

Oonjal Pattu songs specially worded for this occasion are sung through out.

Marriage is at the auspicious hour (mostly in the mornings) and takes place in a decorated mandapam with a sacred fire. The bride wears a silk saree, flowers on her hair and jewels given to her by her parents and the groom's family.

The groom wears the sacred thread, a white zari bordered dhoti and drapes a silken shawl on his shoulders.

The father of the bride welcomes the groom and washes his feet. The groom's family presents the bride with the 9 yard marriage sari, which symbolizes energy, passion and fertility. The action also signifies “henceforth in this lifetime I (groom) will buy you, your clothes”. The groom's sister helps her to tie it. In Chennai, the Iyengars follow the ritual where the bride and groom hold hands and enter the 'mandap'ceremony. The couple together holds a coconut dipped in turmeric and the bride's mother pours water onto the coconut.

The girl's father is made to sit on a sack of paddy which symbolizes material and spiritual plentitude in the marriage. The girl is seated on father's lap. Then the yoke of a plough is touched to the bride's forehead. This symbolizes that just as two bullocks are required to carry the plough and work and till the fields, so also will she and her husband remain side by side to go through life. The bride's father gives away the bride to the groom. This is called the Kanyadaanam

The priest performs the havan and the paanigrahan whereby the boy accepts the girl for time and promises to look after her.


The thali (mangalsutra) consists of two pieces, one from each family, traditionally dangling on a yellow thread. It contains images of either the Shiva Lingam (in the case of Iyers) or the Namam and Sudarshana Chakra (in the case of Iyengars).

The elders bless the thali and then the groom ties the first two knots of the mangalsutra around the bride's neck (while she is sitting on her father's lap). The groom's sister ties the third knot. In Iyengar marriages the bride, wears the saree in 'katche seera' style and groom ties the first knot of the 'taali' around the bride's neck and his sisters tie the other two knots.

Saptapadi constitutes the chief element of the marriage. The groom holds the bride's right hand with his right, his shawl is tied to her sari pallav, and they go around the sacred fire seven times.

He takes hold of the right foot of the bride and makes her take seven consecutive steps where the bride touches her feet to a grinding stone (ammi). This symbolizes that their union be as stoic, solid and steadfast as stone.

While taking each step, groom has to recite a Vedic verse (mantra):

First Step - " let Vishnu follow thee in the first step for plenty in food".

second step - "let Vishnu follow thee in the second step for strength."

third step - "let Vishnu follow thee in the third step for religious vow".

fourth step - "let Vishnu follow thee in the fourth step for the attainment for happiness".

Fifth Step - "let Vishnu follow thee in the fifth step for cattle welfare",

Sixth Step - "let Vishnu follow thee in the sixth step for good seasons."

Seventh Step - "let Vishnu follow thee in the seventh step for observance of the Somayaga and other sacrifices".

This completes the marriage ceremony.

Then the bride is taken to the north side of the sacred fire and is asked to put her right foot on the ‘ammi'.

The groom holds her right toe and puts toe rings She also looks to the star Arundati who symbolizes faithfulness.

There is an arti and everyone showers rice and flowers on the couple and blesses them.

The marriages are held only at the brides house, in the case of the Mukkulathars, Nadars, and Chakkilians, and in some others at the groom's residence.

The bridegroom's party proceeds to the brides house in a ceremonial procession, carrying turmeric, coconuts, plantains, betel leaves, flowers, dry fruits, saree for the bride including the thali and a thread dyed yellow with turmeric. The marriage canopy is a temporary thatched super structure using coconut leaves knit together .

Under the canopy, a marriage platform is erected. On the platform until the marriage is solemnised, The bride sits to right of the groom. The groom's sister assist the groom in tying the thali around the bride's neck. Three knots are supposed to be made. At this juncture conch shells are blown and nadaswaram is played in a high pitch.. After the tying of the thali she sits at the groom's left. Both of them face east. Coconuts are broken and prayers are offered to the gods.

The peculiar custom amongst the Thevars and Ahmudiyars is the 'Kulavaiyidal'. It consists of women folk assembled at the marriage, raising a kind of a shrill voice which is known as kulavai. Flowers and coloured rice are thrown on the heads of the bridal pair. The couple exchange their garlands and the groom then takes the right hand of the bride and goes around the sacred fire or bridal platform thrice. After wards, the bridal pair prostrate before their parents and elders for their blessings to have good progeny and long life.

Several castes engage Brahmin priest to officiate at marriages. Nadars and Kongu vellalas engage their own elderly men to officiate as priests.

Some castes have a 'Nalungu' ceremony, the bride sing a suitable song and invites the groom to the ceremony. She applies Green turmeric and reddish paint to his feet. The groom reciprocates the same. Then she applies sandal paste to his body. He adorns her with flowers, she shows him a mirror. Both of them play a game with a ball of flowers and eat some sweets. For each part of the ceremony, a suitable song is sung.

Among conservative Vaishnavite non-Brahmins, offerings are made to the deity in the forest as a part of the marriage time-table. The bride is taken away by her uncle to whom she belongs by custom. Later he releases her to the groom.

Age does not mar the beauty of Iyer marriages nor the customs stale their infinite variety!

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