Each time I hear
the phrase "Arranged marriage", it brings to mind the song of Apache
Indian's of the same name. He goes on to describe the girl he wants to get
married to "me want gal, to look after me, to make me roti...".
Arranged marriages, which are so the norm here in India, always seems to faze
the non-Indians. One simply can't fathom how practical strangers can be married
to each other and settle down for a life together. No matter how westernised
our country may have become, arranged marriages are still how a majority of
the weddings in our country are carried out.
The first stage is the search for horoscopes - through friends, marriage brokers
as well as the horoscope matching centres, parents start procuring the horoscopes
of eligible boys / girls. The horoscopes have to be matched according to various
parameters. Once a horoscope matches, then the parents of that girl / boy
are contacted and the horoscopes will be exchanged. If both sides find the
horoscopes compatible, then the second stage begins - 'seeing' the girl.
After choosing a nalla naal (auspicious day), the parents of the boy visit
the girl and her family and if both sides are pleased with the state of affairs,
they things like how much silver, gold etc will be given by the girl's family
to the girl. then they fix the date for the engagement (nitchayadaartham).
After the engagement, the boy and girl are allowed to go out - sometimes chaperoned,
sometimes not, depending on the individual families. During the engagement,
the rough date for the wedding is fixed.
The wedding will usually take place 3 - 4 months after the engagement.
Hindu Weddings (South Indian Brahmin) - Religious
significance and practices
Marriages in South Indian Brahmin families are performed according to Vedic
rites as prescribed. The rituals other than marriages such as Upanayanam,
Namakarnam are normally religious functions only. In the case of marriage,
however, there is a social content also. Social aspects of marriages are (a)Reception
by procession of the groom (Janavasam or Mappilai ashaippu) (b)Exchange of
garlands (Maalai matruthal) (c) Oonjal ( Swing on which the young to be married
are made to sit and rocked gently.) (d) Nalangu (Passing coconut shape brass
ball between the couple).
In the olden days marriages used to be performed on four days apart from the
afternoon on the day previous to the first (Muhurtham) day and the period
till afternoon of the day subsequent to the last day of the marriage. Religious
rites will be performed both morning and evening of the three days subsequent
to the marriage day. The intervening time are spent in social functions. Nalangu
forms part of these functions. Processions of bride & bride groom separately
except on the last day when the two used to sit side by side while on procession
It used to be in a carriage drawn by two horses. With the advent of cars the
processions were in open top cars. On the third day normally the procession
used to be in a palanquin fully decorated. Nathhaswaram plays an important
part in marriages, from the evening of the day before the muhurtham till the
afternoon of the day before the last day. These functions enable both the
brides' and the grooms' party to know each other better.
Normally marriages used to be conducted at the residence of the bride. Big
pandal is erected in front of the house. It may cover neighbours house fronts
and major portion of the street. The whole village used to be involved in
the arrangements. Personal assistance for the bride's family used to be just
for the asking. This is another social aspect.
With the disposal of the family members in various parts of the world and
also due to lack of space in the cities and towns marriages are conducted
in Kalyana Mandapams now-a-days.
The main events of the Hindu Brahmin wedding are:
The bride and grooms party less the bride assemble at a nearby temple where
the groom is offered new dress befitting the occasion and then he is taken
in a procession in an open car to the mandapam. This function is becoming
The groom has to perform certain religious rites relating to bramacharya asramam
and for entering grahastha asramam.
The groom is supposed to proceed on a long tour. On the way he is stopped
by the bride's father, who requests the groom to abandon his tour and accept
his daughter as his wife.
Exchange of garlands ( Malaai matruthal):
The groom accepts the proposal and he is brought to the mandapam where the
bride awaits in brilliant clothes and ornaments, flowers. In addition to a
big garland she will be wearing three garlands. The groom will be in two garlands
besides the big one. The bride removes one of the three garlands and puts
it around the neck of the groom. The groom in his turn removes one of his
garlands and puts it round the bride's neck. This is done three times. In
performing this both the bride and the groom are helped by their respective
This function used to be full of fun and frolic in the olden days. The girl
and the boys used to be young. The uncles lift them on their shoulders and
it is the skill, how the garland is put around the neck of each other. Now-a-days
it is enacted in a lack lustre way. The awkwardness being felt by the couple
especially the bride owing to their age stands out. This may also fade away
as "Janavasams" did.
The couple is made to sit on the "Oonjal" which is rocked gently.
The spectators ( relatives and friends) get a chance to exhibit their talents
in music. Suitable songs are sung. In the olden days these rendering used
to be repeated in the nathaswaram. This doesn't happen now, probably due to
lack of time, while these go on the couple is offered milk and plantain and
the ladies from both the families (particularly elders) throw coloured rice
balls in four directions to ward off the evil spirits.
Kannika Dhanam :
After the couple is led to the platform where preliminary religious rites
are performed, the groom is referred to by the father of the bride as "matavishnuswarupi"
ie., resembling Lord Maha Vishnu- After washing his feet the groom is invited
to accept the bride as " Kannika Dhanam" In this the bride sits
on the lap of her father. Her hands twined upward are placed on the upward
turned hands of the groom. A coconut, betel leaves, nuts are placed on the
hands of the bride. In the olden days gold coins used to be placed. (This
is because any Dhanam is to accompanied by some Sambavanai in cash.) This
aspect no longer exists. It is possible that this " Sambavanai"
turned into "dowry" which used to be taken in advance. ------- is
not offered in kannika dhanam now-a-days. Water is poured on the brides’hands
by her mother. Then the father releases his hand from that of his daughter
thus placing the hand of the bride over the hands of the groom who accepts
Mangalya Dharanam :
The bride is offered new clothes by the groom, after his accepting her. While
the bride is away changing the dress prayer is offered to the "Tirumangalyam"
before giving. It is taken around the hall to get the blessings of elders
in the assembly. Now -a-days every individual touches these as their blessing.
Actually the intention is the old couple has to bless the new ones to be.
As soon as the bride comes with the new dress, she sits on the lap of her
father. The groom has to perform some religious rites and then he ties the
Mangalyam around the neck of the bride. He puts one knot. His sister standing
behind the bride completes the three knots. Flowers are showered on the couple.
(supposedly, for these flowers normally lands o0n the heads and shoulders
of those (relatives) who stand round and covering the couple.
There is a paradox in this. Although the mangalyam as well as tying it are
considered sacred no vedic mantras are recited for this. Only a sloham is
There is a misconception these days that this tying of the mangalyam completes
the marriage. They start dispersing and in doing so they go and shake the
hands of the bride and groom. This prevents very important religious functions
of the marriage. Immediately after tying of the mangalyam the couple sit beside
the homagundam. "Panigraharam" is then performed with the recital
of mantras. this is an important function because the groom grasps the hand
of the bride officially after accepting her as dhanam. In fact if one sees
the invitations issued by the father of the groom the boy one will see that
the invitation like anupasanam, lagya homam etc., are performed. Then Saptha
Sathi is performed.
Saptha sathu :
In this function the groom lifts the right foot of the bride and helps her
to stand over a stone placed on the north side of the homa kundam to the recital
of mantras. Then the couple comes round the homa kundam fire. This is performed
seven times. The marriage is complete only after the performance of this Saptha
No one is expected to intervene from the tying of the magalyam and saptha
sathi by shaking hands.
After panigrahanam the groom performs aupasanam for the first time. This recital
is one every individual is required to perform daily in the morning and evening.
To enable such performance the "agni" from this homam is placed
inside a mud pot in which rice husks are already placed. The fire has to be
rekindled every time aupasanam is performed and after the aupasanam the fire
is again placed inside the pot. This is not being done since no one (perhaps
a few) performs aupasanam these days. A pot is, however, carried when the
groom leaves for his home.
Arundhadhi darsanam :
The groom is to take the bride now his wife) outside the pandal/mandapam after
night fall and show her arundhathi shining in the sky as a bright star. This
is to show her the faithful devotion and "---barlthu surushai---"
as an example.
The Protestant marriage ceremony over the years has adopted more Indian customs
and traditions to suit their lifestyle. Like for example the bride does not
wear a white dress but adorns a saree of any vibrant colour with elaborate
workmanship in it. A veil is a must for the bride as she has to cover her
head. Even the bridesmaid need not wear dresses and can wear sarees while
the men must be in formal suits – tie and jacket a must while in attendance.
The church has to be booked as soon as a date for the wedding is fixed by
paying a token sum of money. Usually the church which the bride or the groom
belongs to is booked for the marriage ceremony. The Christian weddings usually
take place only in the evenings and days like Wednesday, Friday and Sunday
are most preferred.
Before the marriage can take place a 3 week engagement period is a must. During
these 3 weeks the match between the bride and groom will be announced to the
congregation. This time period is maintained so that if anybody objects to
the union then they can present a written complaint to stop the marriage.
The bride is presented by her father as the groom waits at the altar to receive
her. The whole service begins with the marriage ceremony where the bride and
groom are first asked whether they agree to this union and then they repeat
the vows. The bride and the groom each wear a lily garland sideways- with
their one hand on the outside. And then the groom ties a thali around the
bride’s neck- a golden cross hangs from the thali. After this they wear
the garland around their neck- hanging in the front. Then the holy communion
for the bride and groom is conducted where they are given the symbolic bread
and wine. Then the bride and groom sign the marriage certificate with two
witnesses, however the parents of either the bride or groom are not allowed
to sign as witnesses, it is usually the uncles or friends. Then a certificate
of marriage is issued by the pastor of the church and it is signed by the
highest authority thus sanctifying the union. If requested a special service
can conducted for the newly weds by the priest.
With this the marriage ceremony comes to an end and the bride and groom exit
to the wedding march played on the pipe organ. It is customary that they take
a ride in a car before the reception festivities begin.
The church decorations can be left to the sexton who will put the usual streamers
and others. But if you are particular then you can buy all the necessary decorations,
enlist the help of your all those eager relatives and deck the whole church
to match your taste.
The reception is conducted in the hall which is available on the premises
of the church or in a hotel.
Tamil Catholic Weddings
A Tamil Catholic's pre-wedding preparations have certain things in common
with that of the Hindu weddings. Much like their Hindu counterparts, parents
start spreading the word around to their friends and family members that they
are looking for a suitable match for their son / daughter. When they hear
of a girl / boy fitting their expectations, they set up a meeting with the
parents of the boy / girl to talk further.
Once the two families meet and they like each other, then they finalise the
wedding talks in front of their family elders. Next, the two families register
the match in their own local parish churches. At this time, they must get
a certificate from their Church. This certificate contains details like the
Church the family's registered with, details of their confirmation / Holy
Communion etc. Once these details have been registered, the baans are read
in the two Churches. If anyone has anything to say against the match, they
speak up at this time.
The banns are read out for three weeks and after the third week, the wedding
date is finalised. If the reading gets no objection, it signifies that the
match has got the complete blessing of the Holy Church. On the wedding day,
the bride and groom are decked in all their finery and are brought to the
Church by their families.
The brides don't wear the wedding gowns like their western counterparts -
they wear special lace sarees or silk sarees and wear a veil and also a small
crown on their head. The groom is dressed in a tuxedo. In the presence of
the priest, they exchange their wedding vows. Instead of exchanging rings,
the groom ties a thaali (mangalsutra) around the bride's neck. After this,
the priests reads out certain passages from the Bible.
The wedding is solemnly registered in the Church register, citing the name
of the couple as well as the date. Two witnesses also sign the register, along
with the bride and groom. The couple cut the wedding cake and with this, the
ceremony in the Church is over. Next, the parties proceed to the reception
- city style
An uncle of mine from my native town, landed up one fine day, like all relatives
tend to do without announcement. Though I didn’t appreciate his expression
which seemed to communicate, "today is one of the finest days of your
life. I am giving you the great privilege of being my host." Nevertheless,
I received him with warmth and affection. As I wondered about his sudden visit,
he explained. He was also making it the finest day in the life of a friend
of his, by attending the marriage of his friend’s son.
"I don’t know how to go about in this mad place. All of you must
accompany me to the marriage." He declared in a commanding manner that
is his normal style.
"I think that won’t be necessary. Nowadays here, we don’t
take families to marriages unless they are very close." I informed him.
He ignored me as he scanned the invitation card and frowned at the marriage
programmed according to which the reception was fixed first and wedding the
"Nowadays the reception is more important and attending the marriage
is not compulsory. And the reception timing is given as 6p.m but we need not
go that early." I ventured.
"I never go late to marriage functions. Besides, I am going to meet my
childhood friend," he announced.
At 6 p.m., we were at the marriage venue, only to find that they were still
unfolding the chairs. As we helped ourselves, my great uncle soundly cursed
the marriage party for their hopeless punctuality. Around 7 p.m. both the
marriage parties arrived . My uncle was greeted warmly by his friend and his
wife for a brief while. After that they vanished from the scene to spend the
rest of the evening with the would-be -couple. Around the same time, in one
corner of the reception hall one small stage was created in five minutes and
a music party started testing the mikes. The orchestra leader wished us loudly
and spoke eloquently about his troupe and about the wonderful time we were
going to have.
" Is he a man or a woman? Why does he have such long hair and rings in
his ears?" My uncle enquired disgustedly. I explained to him that this
was the latest fashion trend for singers in orchestras. That was the last
piece of quiet conversation we had. Thereafter, we our voices were drowned
in a noise called "music". It appeared as though the orchestra had
descended with the sole aim of making the gathering deaf for the rest of their
"What’s that long queue towards the stage?" My uncle asked
me with great difficulty, shouting his question into my ears.
"That’s the queue for wishing the couple and giving the gift. Shall
we join the line?" I shouted back into his ears.
"No! I won’t! Let them call me." He seemed to have become
displeased by the inattention being paid to him by his friend. His friend
was all busy sharing the video-limelight with his son. Some men were roaming
around aimlessly. Several jewel-bedecked women were walking along pretending
to be very busy but in reality enjoying the display of their jewels and sarees.
No one took notice of us. Finally, when the music gave us brief respite, I
convinced him that it was the order of the day in this city not to expect
to be called personally to the reception-stage. He cursed for sometime and
finally relented after some more persuasion. As we neared the couple, a teenage-girl
behind the bride-groom literally dragged the gift packet and put it on a table
and then we were made to stand along with the couple in front of the video
and shake hands. It all happened in a trice and by the time we came down the
stage, my uncle was fuming.
"What sort of marriage is this? No courtesy at all. Neither the groom
nor my friend enquired about my arrival, where I am staying. Let me thrash
it out with him, when he comes for inviting me for dinner"
"Uncle! Nobody is going to invite us for dinner. We have to find our
way to the dinning hall ourselves ". My uncle was aghast.
"Then I won’t take any marriage dinner." Between micro-seconds
of the breaks of music, I explained a little more on the latest trends of
marriage in the city and the futility of searching for a hotel at that hour.
He relented stating that he would settle all the scores with his friend leisurely.
In the dinning hall, my uncle faced some more not-so-pleasant scenes. We missed
three rounds as he insisted on waiting outside. Finally like all others, we
stood inside the dinning hall behind those who were already eating quickly
occupying their seats, as they started getting-up. Then we sat there still
inspecting the left-overs and the leaves. For a few minutes there was some
lull and the action started again. The next round of dinner being served at
cyclonic speed. I could do nothing but watch uncle in sympathy. He simply
could not keep pace with the servers who were fast disappearing.
"Why are they serving samples of all items?" He enquired.
" They are not samples. That’s how dinner is served here"
As usual we were promptly ejected out of our seats as we came to our last
item. By the time we came out, uncle was all heat and steam . He directly
headed for his friend and burst-out.
"That’s it. I am bloody- well not going to turn-up for the marriage
The music of the orchestra was not relenting. I really don’t know what
his friend had heard, but I could barely hear him reply.
"Oh! Thank you, thank you so much. It’s all my pleasure."
Courtesy 'Eve's Touch'
Bridal Make Up
Marriage, one of the most special occassions in a woman's life, naturally
imparts a special glow to the bride, who will definitely want to look her
best on that day. While friends and relatives used to help the bride to dress
up today there is wide choice of professionals for taking care of every aspect
of her appearance, from special bridal outfits to make-up and hairdo.
A couple of major advantages of opting for professional attention are their
working to a plan and attention to detail. Each bride is dressed and made
up according to her taste and preference in line with which a detailed plan
is laid out. Gone are the days when make-up consisted only of rose powder,
kajal and bindi. No longer also are routine sets of make-up and hairstyles
used anymore. They are chosen carefully taking into consideration a bride's
face structure and suitability. With rising awareness about make-up, different
concepts of beauty and individuality, women of today know what they want.
First the make-up is completed and only then is the hairstyle decided. Mrs.
Krishna, owner of Shy's Nest beauty parlour, on V K Iyer Road , Mandevelli
says, "After putting on the make-up we decide the best suited hairstyle.
This way we give the make-up the time needed to set (ice cubes are rubbed
over the face to help the make-up set) and also we will be able to choose
the correct hairstyle according to the way she looks."
The face is first thoroughly cleaned and then a concealer applied in areas
where the skin colour is patchy or not uniform. It is mainly used to conceal
dark circles and other blemishes in the skin. Pancake is then applied next
to the skin texture giving the face a uniform base on which the next layer
of make-up can be built upon. According to the skin tone, the correct shade
of foundation is smoothed over. It should beapplied in such a way that it
blends in with the skin colour. The concealer, pancake, and the foundation
are applied both on the face and neck. Next the eyeliner, the mascara and
the eye shadow are applied and then compact and translucent powder added to
hide the shine, as touch-up. The lips are outlined with a lip liner and then
filled out with lipstick. To give the bride a special glow, light touches
of 'glitters' are added over the eyebrows, cheekbones and the chin.
Mrs. Krishna lists some absolute no-no's in bridal makeup, "Eye shadow
colours must suit the skin colour, so daring colours like blue and green must
not be used. They tend to give a weird look to the face. Maroons and browns
are the best lipstick shades for our skin types, therefore pinks should be
avoided, as they clash with our dusky skin colour". She says that gold
tones are the best for our skin types, they highlight the face and make the
bride look luminous and attractive. The make-up will last for 4 hours and
the bride is advised to blot out the beads of sweat and not rub or wipe it,
because then the make-up will be removed from that spot, and the original
skin colour will show as a patch.
Hairstyles range from the simple French braid to the complex buns and rolls.
Readymade hair switches are also available for elaborate hairstyles. Pearls,
rhinestones, flower buds, golden lace, satin ribbons, jewelled hair bands,
are used for decorating the hairstyle. The hair ornaments differ from beautician
to beautician. As Mrs. Krishna says, "we choose the hairstyle according
to the hair type and the bone structure of the face. For example, some brides
still insist on wearing a long plait which may not suit them. So I arrange
her hair in a more suitable way, but if she still insists on a plait, then
I do it for her."
It is better that the bride has a trial session with the beautician before
hand. This will help her to select the correct make-up and hairstyles, saving
time. Usually bridal make-up is a whole package consisting of make-up, hairstyle
and tying the sari, both in the Gujarathi style and the regular way. The entire
process can take anywhere between 45 minutes to 2 hrs. Many of the beauticians
also come to the marriage hall and dress up the bride. Apart from beauty parlours
many women also operate from their houses. In these cases, you should definitely
check the credibility of the person and also examine the brand of cosmetics
she uses. "All the products of the same brand must be used, only then
they will blend in perfectly. Another advantage is that in case of an allergic
reaction, we will know which brand to avoid. If we use products of different
brands, then it becomes difficult to recognise the cause of the reaction,"
says Mrs. Krishna.
Story of the Saree
by Jyotsna Kamat
The Indian Saree (a.k.a. Sari, Seere, Sadi) boasts of oldest existence in
the sartorial world. It is more than 5000 years old! It is mentioned in Vedas,
the oldest existing (surviving) literature (3000 B.C.) Patterns of dress change
throughout the world now and then but, the Sari has survived because it is
the main wear of rural India. 75% of the population (now a billion as per
official estimate) wear versatile sari. We can certainly call this cloth versatile
because it could be worn as shorts, trousers, flowing gown-like or convenient
skirt-wise--all without a single stitch!
Saree (original--Chira in Sanskrit, cloth) is of varied length. From 5 yards
to 9.5 yards tied loosely, folded and pleated, it could be turned into working
dress or party-wear with manual skill. For day today dress of middle class
women, 5-6 yard sari is comfortable to manage household chores. Working class
tucks the same length above the ankles and if they have to work in water or
fields, they would tuck the front pleats between the legs to the back, and
tie the upper portion round the waist. This left them free movement of hands
One Saree. Many Incarnations
A nine yard Saree used to be a connoisseurs pleasure with Saree embellishments,
embroidery and gold designing. At the same time it was as safe a dress as
trousers. It was worn in the similar way as working Saree. But, some pleats
covered the ankles as well. A gold silver or cloth belt was fastened which
kept pallu, (upper cover) pleats and folds in tact. Jhansi's Queen Laxmibai,
Belawadi Mallamma and Kittur Chennamma fought enemy troops on horseback, wearing
Saree this way. Tight tucking of the front pleats in the back was called Veeragacche
or soldier's tuck.
Generally the climate of Indian subcontinent is warm and humid. Saree and
its male counterpart dhoti was most suited for this land. Earlier there was
hardly any difference between Saree and dhoti because men also liked to flaunt
colorful Sarees with brocaded borders (see: Sarees for Men!). They could perhaps
be interchanged in needy times. Only the upper portion of the Saree-length
which covers the chest, left shoulder and at times head, is missing in Saree
Styles in wearing Saree vary from region to region. Gujarat style and Bengali
style are different. So are Mangalorean, Kannadiga, Kodava, Tamilian, Malayali,
etc. The Saree is worn in at least 10 to 15 styles throughout the India, though
the ways of wearing above used to be common. In Maharashtra and North Karnataka
region, wearing a nine yard Saree (without a petticoat -- long underskirt
--which was superfluous) was in vogue till 20th century. My mother who was
a good swimmer, used to wear a nine yard Saree tightly and swam in river Kali
or Arabian sea along with my father. Wearing swimming costume could just not
be dreamt of. But the versatile Saree was good enough to move through the
Some people think that Indian Saree is influenced by Greek or Roman toga which
we see on ancient statues. This is not correct. Saree is essentially Indian
and designed to suit local conditions. Cotton was cultivated in India centuries
before Alexander the Great landed on the borders of India and Indian cloth
(chira or Saree) was a wonder to Greek eyes. In fact, Herodotus and other
ancient western historians thought there were cloth-growing trees in India!
Raja Raviverma, the distinguished painter of 19th century, toured the entire
sub-continent in search of the ideal female-wear. He wanted the best dress
for the various goddesses he was asked and commissioned to paint. He selected
the a yard Saree which drapes the body beautifully at the same time exhibiting
contours of female anatomy--bust, waist, hips. Most of the female deities
he painted are in this style.
Woman Wearing SareeFrom a Wall Painting in Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh14th
An old or worn-out Saree is equally utilitarian. Grandmothers used to stitch
quilts folding soft and worn-out Sarees and putting bright new cloth on cover,
for children which kept them warm. Worn-out thicker Sarees were used as bed
covers or blankets in the cradle (as the babies wetted it frequently). For
village women, folds of Sarees serve as pouches, bags and haversack to carry
grocery and at times babies as well. Some used to make a stand-by cradle out
of Saree length for the baby. Tying the ends to a nearby tree. White Sarees
could be turned into towels, napkins, diapers etc., even after they are worn
Dhoti is an abridged version of the Saree sans pallu (the throw of the Saree).
Many Hero-stones (memorials for dead heroes) show the dhoti worn like breeches
or shorts with Veeragachche; dagger and other weapons
were tucked in dhoti folds.
With globalization, the dress of Indians is also getting westernized. But
being most utilitarian, and multi-purpose Saree is still reigning in rural
India and for all rituals and ceremonials it shines supreme to this day. Colorful
Sarees are worn as pugrees, turbans and tribals haunt invariably women's Sarees
in dances. Yakshagana dancers wear Saree designed clothes.