Tamil Brahmin Wedding Customs & Rituals- South Indian Wedding Series

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We all have been talking about a lot on bridal makeup, its time to know how marriages are performed in different parts of  the world.As I have stayed whole my  life in North India I had no idea about South Indian weddings and when I met Sandhya we thought of an idea to cover all the rituals and customs of various wedding in India and abroad .As Wise She is read by millions from different parts of the world it will come out as a beautiful platform to share wedding rituals 🙂 – Anamika 

Wedding is that word  which brings out a gamut of emotions. If you are the Bride or the Groom, it is a life changing experience; it is that giant leap to a completely unknown territory. If you are the cousin or a relative, it’s the season to dress up like there’s no tomorrow, it’s the season of fun and frolic!

All of us have been to weddings of different cultures and each are unique in their own way. In this series, I’ll try my best to cover South Indian Weddings. I wanted to start with my comfort zone, and so I chose Tamil Brahmin or Tam-brahm weddings as a starter.

Let me describe to you a typical Tamil Brahmin marriage that is celebrated in the Vedic style, where importance is given to the traditions and rituals which have been passed on over centuries.

Tam-Brahm marriages are traditionally fixed by the parents; the compatibility of the bride and groom is decided by comparison of their horoscopes – which indicate the planetary positions at the time of their birth, and are said to predict their character accurately. Once the marriage is finalized, a small engagement ceremony is held, to solemnise 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. The parents of the bride and groom decide the date of the marriage in the presence of the priest, with both the families watching.  The priest then reads out a Lagna Pathrigai, specifying the date, time and venue of the marriage and this serves as a sort of commitment for both families. The bride’s family brings fruits and sweetmeats and the groom’s people in turn serve snacks and dinner and present a sari to the bride. This ceremony is performed by the Groom’s side.

Tamil Brahmin Weddings - Viratham

Kalyanam: Commencement of marriage ceremonies

The bride’s family arrives at the marriage venue or ‘kalyana-mandapam’ one day prior to the wedding. The venue is decorated with ‘kolams (attractive designs made with rice powder paste) and flowers.

In anticipation of the arrival of the groom and his family, the bride’s family keeps ‘chandanam’ (sandalwood paste), ‘kumkumam’ (vermilion), rose water, sugar candy, garlands and a platter for the ‘aarthi’ (traditional welcoming ritual). A vessel containing ‘thiraattupal’ (sweetened khoya) is also kept ready for the groom’s mother.

On the groom’s arrival the ‘nadaswaram’ (traditional instrument) is played and the ‘aarthi’ is performed in his honour.

Viratham: Ceremony observed to obtain blessings from departed elders

This is a ceremony performed separately by bride and groom’s side. The rituals followed for the groom are far more elaborate than those for the bride.

‘Charadu’ – A Sacred yellow thread is tied on the wrists of the bride and groom and they are not permitted to leave the marriage venue. The ‘palika’ ceremony (sprinkling of nine varieties of grains) for the prosperity of the couple’s new life together is conducted simultaneously with the ‘viratham’.

To culminate the function, an ‘aarthi’ is performed.

Tamil Brahmin Weddings - Viratham

Janavasam & Nischaiyartham: Inviting the groom to the ‘mandapam’

This is a very important aspect of the marriage where any differences between the families are sorted out. The ceremony traditionally takes place in a temple. The bride’s family brings turmeric, betel leaves, nuts and clothes for the groom. The bride’s brother then garlands the groom, and sugar candy is distributed to all present. The groom is then escorted to a decorated car and the family leaves in a procession for the ‘mandapam’.

Once the procession reaches the marriage venue, the bride is led outside by her close friends to get a glimpse of her future husband! ‘Aarthi’ is performed and a coconut broken to ward off evil. The groom is then led to the ‘medai’ (an elevated place in the ‘mandapam’ where all the ceremonies are performed). Members of both families sit opposite each other and a ‘lagna patrigai’ is written and read aloud by the ‘pujari’. ‘Thamboolams’ (platters of betel nuts, dry fruits, nuts, coconuts, turmeric and ‘kumkumam’) and gifts are exchanged.

The cone shaped ‘parupputhengai’ (a special sweetmeat) is an important part of all these ceremonies.

Wedding Arrangements:  Preparations for the actual wedding ceremony on the day of the wedding

Early morning on the day of the wedding, the bride’s family sends toiletries, a mirror, a basket filled with sweetmeats and a ‘nadaswaram’ to the groom’s family.  The priest usually ties the traditional ‘dhoti’ or ‘panchakatcham’ for the groom and apply ‘vibhuti’ or sacred ash in three horizontal lines on his forehead.

Kashi Yatra: The groom embarks on a mock pilgrimage

Tamil Brahmin Wedding - Kasi Yathirai

After much ado the groom accepts and returns to the ‘mandapam’ to get married! Off late,

some families actually have autos waiting outside the mandapam giving the boy one last chance to actually run away!Dressed in the traditional ‘panchakatcham’, holding an umbrella, a fan, a walking stick, and a towel containing ‘dal’ (lentils) and rice tied to his shoulder, the groom embarks on a mock pilgrimage. As he steps out of the ‘mandapam’, the bride’s father pleads with him not to go to ‘Kashi’ (a sacred pilgrimage site in the city of Benaras) and marry his daughter instead.

Tamil Brahmins Garland Exchange or Maalai Mathinal Ceremony

Unjal  Unjal:The couple exchange garlands

On entering the ‘mandapam’ the groom discards his walking stick and all the other paraphernalia and is garlanded by the bride. The groom in turn garlands the bride.

 The couple is then made to sit on a decorated swing and the women folk smear their feet with a little milk, ‘kumkumam’ and ‘chandanam’. A pot of water and a lamp set inside a measure containing rice are carried by the bride’s mother and other elderly ladies around the swing and the couple is fed a mixture of bananas, milk and sugar. After the traditional ‘aarthi’ the bride and groom are escorted for the next ceremony -the ‘kanyadhanam’.

Kanyadhan: Giving away the bride

AmidstTamil Brahmin Wedding Kanyadhanam the chanting of ‘mantras’ (Vedic chants), the priest ignites the sacred fire. The groom is gifted a ‘muhurtha veshti’ (a 4 metre long silk dhoti) and a ‘anga-vastram’ (a 2 metre long silk fabric to be used as a shawl). The bride is seated on her father’s lap for the ‘kanyadhanam’.

The bride and groom together hold a coconut dipped in turmeric, while the bride’s mother pours water onto the coconut. This is the actual ritual of ‘kanyadhanam’.

Mangalyadharanam: The groom ties the sacred ‘taali’ (mangalsutra) on the bride

The ‘kanyadhanam’ is followed by the ‘mangalyadharanam’. The ‘taali’ or ‘mangalsutra’ is placed on the bride’s head along with a miniature piece of jewellery shaped like a yoke Mangalyadharanam  and the groom performs a ‘puja’ with ‘kumkumam’ and flowers. He then ties the first knot of the ‘taali’ around the bride’s neck and his sister ties the other two.

Tamil Brahmin Taali or Mangalsutra

 Sapthapathi: Seven steps around the sacred fire

The bride’s sari ‘pallu’ and the groom’s ‘angavastram’ (shawl) are tied in a knot and the couple hold hands. The groom places his foot under the bride’s and helps her to take the seven steps around the fire. Then he places the bride’s foot on a grinding stone near the fire and slips silver rings or ‘metti’ on her toes.

 The couple is then shown the ‘Dhruva Nakshatra’ or Pole Star, a symbol of permanence and the ‘Arundhati Nakshatram’ or symbol of purity and virtue.

Laja Homam: The bride makes an offering to the sacred fire

The bride’s brother slings a bagful of puffed rice or ‘laja’ over his shoulder and keeps giving fistfuls of it to his sister to offer as a sacrifice to the sacred fire. After this ritual the couple circulate and are blessed by all present.

Laaja Homam

 Sesha Homam: Blessing for healthy offspring

This is a symbolic ritual to invoke blessings for healthy offspring. The groom ties a thread around the bride’s hip. This ceremony used to be performed just before the nuptials but these days it is a part of the marriage ceremony itself, so that the couple is ready for the wedding reception.

Gruhapravesam: The bride is welcomed into her marital home

 If the grooms’ family lives in the same town the bride is taken to her new home and made to sit on a ‘manai’ (low wooden plank) and fed milk and bananas. Her in-laws also present her with a sari and she is asked to light the ‘kuthuvailakku’ (sacred lamp in the ‘puja’ room).

If the groom’s family does not live in the same town, this ceremony is performed in the ‘mandapam’ after completion of all the marriage rites.

Seer Bakshanam: Sweets sent with the bride to her marital home

The bride’s parents prepare several sweets and savouries for the bride to take back with her to her husband’s home. These are known as ‘seer bakshanam’ and are stored in decorated containers by the groom’ family and later distributed amongst friends and relatives.

 Thus ends the Grand Tamil Brahmin Wedding, which lasts a little over two days.

I hope you liked the post, as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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101 COMMENTS

  1. so Jaanu is another janani huh ?? nice to know .. congo Jaanu .. u also put up in chennai only or some where else ??
    Sandy awsm article babes .. i am just showing this to mom and asking her if she wants to subject me to this ?? she’s grinning and nodding .. we tam-brahms are a crazy bunch .. but its only little over 2 days .. my parents had a very traditional 5 day wedding .. *already sweating over my fate and planning an escape* ..

    • Nandri hai Janani 😀 I asked amma the same damn thing – two and half days for wedding? She says yes 😛 Yea di, 2 and 1/2 days only, first day is your viratham and engagement, day 2 is muhurtham and reception, day 3 or half – that’s called kattu sadam koodai or something 🙂
      You don’t try to escape, stay put and we’ll bomb the guy 😀

    • earlier some 40-50 rs ago we also use to had 4-5 days long wedding but the amount which we have started spending in marriages it will be almost impossible.

  2. I’m a TamBrahm and love our wedding style! It’s not only fun for the bride and groom, but for the close relatives too 😀 Marriage is light years away, but it was nice to read since my cousin bro is all geared to get married soon!! 🙂

  3. Ya ana, mine is a tamil brahmin iyer wedding 🙂 There will be lots of saree changing, of fun. Throughout the wedding we will be having a maximum of 8 saree changes

  4. The feeling rite befire marriage is really bittersweet! In a week il complete two yrs of marriage! Jaanu .. Congrats an enjoy these days! They will not come bk again

  5. Oh 1st time i got to knw so much about a south indian especially tamil brahmin wedding..

    Congozz Sandy and Janani1 have a blessed life ahead! :-* :hug-makeup: :hug-makeup:

    Mine is going to be a Gujju cum catholic wedding.. me n him decided wedding will be gujju ishtyle and reception catholic style ..Me in white gown n he in a suit! 😀 :yippee: :beauty: :tap-dance: :hug-makeup:

  6. Hi sandhaya,
    Nice post….
    I am a Brahmin from Bihar… And after reading your tam-brahm wedding rituals I s so much able to relate them with our… 🙂
    There are little difference but all the indian wedding rituals are more or less same 😉

      • I have no clue about Bihari weddings actually.. My best friend is Bihari and he got married last year, I missed going to Patna for the wedding thanks to work commitments and I still regret it 🙁
        Ana, Bihari grooms don’t touch their in-laws feet? 😮

      • they touch in-law’s feets Anamika….
        even the ritual of groom touching brides feet on the grinding stone is also same for us…. there is alot of similarities just the name of the rituas are different and the engagment ritual is different for us 🙂

  7. Wow u have explained it so well Sandhya..Oriya marriages are quite taxing too. My Oriya marriage ceremony started at 7 in evening and ended at 2 in the night…my poor Gujju patidev had no energy to have a gujju style wedding after that 😀

  8. Nice post…….. Shivalli Brahmin Wedding (Coastal Karnataka) is also 90% similar to Tamil Brahmi Wedding described in this post…

  9. iam frm hyderabad, mine is andrapradesh- arya vysya wedding………….it includes every thing, al the rituals are same for us also…nd my marriage is very near..after 13 days..on nov 30th…iam excited as wel as tensed abt these rituals…but one cannot enjoy in there marriage…but if it is cousins wedding v can njoy a lot…

  10. TFS, but even a gonna share mine definetly.. as mine can be elope kind of wedding.. so u ppl as definetly like it.. . And I may iss all thses ofcourse :-((

  11. Late to d party I guess 😀 am a tamil brahmin iyer and hats off to u Sandya for d detailed description :drunk: but I have no intentions to get married 😛
    Jaanu congrats on d marriage 😀 gettin married in namba chennai?

  12. Hi , I loved reading this post. I am a tam brahm and getting married in february. I was completely taken aback reading this post. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this wonderful post

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