Where is the Matchmaker?
Indians are fond of weddings. It is during this life changing event alone when new connections are made and families come together and celebrate the event as one big event. In India there are matchmakers in the elders of every community who bring in marriage proposals to the bride’s family. I am taking about the arranged marriage system. They give a bio data of the prospective groom and his family. It also includes the horoscope of the groom. Astrology has a big influence in the Indian society. And as such an astrologer is consulted to match the horoscopes of both bride and groom. Only if it is a perfect match, a formal meeting is arranged to see the bride in her parental home. The groom visits with his family to see the bride and decides whether or not to accept the proposal. Well, with the passage of time the prospective groom is also allowed to have a few words with the bride before he gives his consent. If both of them agree, the marriage is fixed. A date is set aside for the big day.
This is the process that goes behind an arranged marriage in India.
Preparation for the Wedding Day
The engagement ritual is performed with a few relatives. Both the families exchange fruits, betel leaves, coconuts, jasmine flowers, sweets etc. The bride is also gifted a silk saree which she has to wear on the same day and join the rest for a small meal.
After the commencement of the formal engagement, wedding invites are selected and both the families give out the invites individually. They are invited to an elaborate two day marriage function with festivities and pujas being performed the night before. In the southern part of India, invitations are handed out personally by the family. Some communities do not allow the engaged couple to see each other till the wedding day. However, it is not longer followed today. They have become liberal and allowed to speak to each other and even let to go out.
Kanjeevaram is the place in south India where rich silk sarees are traditionally hand woven by skilled weavers. Every bride takes a trip to this place before marriage. Sarees with rich gold zari are draped over the prospective bride to match the color on her so that she looks her best. Apart from the wedding saree, different ceremony demands a different saree for the bride and is therefore bought accordingly. Some are to be gifted to close family members too. Matching silk blouses are then stitched with perfect fit.
South Indian weddings Jewelry
Jewelries have a special place in South Indian weddings. Several sets of gold jewelry are bought for each ceremony. If one can afford diamond, it is bought too. The perfect jewelry set consists of bangles, necklace, ring and a pair of earrings.
The caterers, florists, musicians are tested and booked in advanced. The menu for the rehearsal dinner will be different from the elaborate marriage feast during ‘muhurtham’.
The actual marriage is termed as Muhurtham. The groom ties a mangalasutra (a gold pendant threaded onto a thick turmeric thread) around the neck of the bride with the Hindu priest seated in front of a fire in the flower bedecked mandap and chanting mantras. Family and friends shower them with rice mixed with turmeric which signifies blessing the couple in Hindus. A traditional live music to herald the event known as Nadaswaram is followed to signify the tying of the mangalasutra.
The marriage feast is also of a unique kind in the south. Variety of eatables is traditionally prepared for the marriage. It includes three to four varieties of sweets along with deliciously prepared rice items such as pulav, puliyogare (tamarind rice), pooris, chutneys, vegetable paliyas, pappads, vadas, kootus, curd rice, pickles, etc. It is served on a large plantain leaf and here is the fun part, everyone eats with their hand. A designer packet containing a large coconut, betel leaves and nuts are handed over to elders as a sign of respect.
Various games are played between the bride and groom as they exchange garlands. They are also made to sit on the large swing as the women and children sing along.
Reception is a grand affair too. The mandap is converted into a stage where the groom and bride are seated. Gifts are given to welcome them to the married live and photographs and videos are recorded to capture the auspicious day. Food is usually an elaborate buffet with sweets and savories along with dosas and rice baths.
The bride is welcomed into her new home the next day. A measuring jar filled with raw rice is kept on the threshold of the main door and the bride is asked to kick it slowly with her right foot and then enter with the husband. It is a symbol of welcoming the Hindu Goddess Laxmi in the form of the bride.
These are the rich traditions and customs that run behind a wedding in the Southern part of India. Unlike in other parts of the world, family is given much importance in a wedding in this culture rich country.