24 March 2009

Ashwini's wedding

It had taken a long time for my landlords to find the right match for their youngest daughter. They had scanned the matrimonial ads, made inquiries through their friends and family members and even spent 3 months in the US (where their daughter lives) to screen potential candidates. In the end she found her future husband herself: a former university mate who also works and lives in the US. Finally a date was set!

Though I had been invited to many South Indian weddings, I had only attended the reception which was always a bit of a disappointment. What typically happens is you arrive for the reception and join the long line of people waiting to greet the couple. Once it's your turn, you go up on stage where the newly married couple is standing, congratulate them and hand them your gift. A photographer then takes your picture with the happy couple. You then proceed to the dining hall where you are served lunch or dinner (depending on the time of the reception). Then in true Indian fashion, you leave immediately after having eaten.

My landlords had told me the date of the wedding months in advance and asked us to attend all three days of the wedding. Finally I would have the chance to see what happens during a South Indian wedding!

On the first night, there was a mendhi party. All the women have their hands painted with these intricate designs.

On the second day the engagement ceremony was held. Here the bride sits beside her father while her mother stands behind her. The priests chant prayers in Sanskrit. This was an Iyer Brahmin wedding which follows special rituals. During the ceremony I asked the women sitting next to me to explain some of the rituals to me. I didn't get a more detailed answer than: "This is our tradition." Finally she admitted that though she is familar with all these rituals, she doesn't really know the significance of them.

When I arrived for the wedding ceremony on the morning of the third day, I found the couple seated on a swing outside! I was told this was another traditional wedding ritual. The bride's mother wears her sari draped in a special way worn by Iyer women on special occasions.

The father's role in the wedding ceremony is very important. The bride sits on her father's lap, holding a coconut, while the groom stands in front of her.

An emotional moment when the father 'gives away' his daughter to her husband-to-be.

Playing of the nadaswaram during the wedding is considered auspicious. When an important moment of the ceremony was taking place, someone would gesture to the musicians who would speed up the music to a climax.

The groom has already tied the bridal 'thali' (necklace) around his bride's neck. Next they will walk seven times around the sacred fire, after which they are a married couple.

Priests, colourful saris and wedding paraphenalia.

The wedding ceremony took about three hours!

The house was decorated with colourful lights for the three days of the wedding!


Tracy said...

SO beautiful! That is my dream, so be invited to an Indian wedding one day!! Thanks for sharing~~xo

shubha said...

the sanskrit mantras that are chanted have amazing meaning.they cover every aspect of marriage,which includes a woman's duties,her role as a wife,mother,her powers,a man's duty to earn,protect,etc and their duty together to create a family and how to live a wholesome life.
most of the things we see like bangles,coconuts,rice,etc are all symbolic representing fertility,wealth,woman's beauty,etc.

meenakshi said...

Lovely! I've linked to our World Heritage Society group on Gaia

That "Masala" girl... said...

Hey, Wow i googled Iyer weddings images and i came upon this.. My cousins wedding pictures :) Wow! I'm not sure if you remember me Isabel but i remember you from ashwini's wedding... :)

Isabel said...

Hi Sandhya, Yes, of course I remember you! You live in Dubai, don't you? It was your father who so patiently explained all the rituals to us during the wedding! Best wishes, Isabel