Earlier I wrote on how we arrange marriages here in my place and culture. So let me close that loop with the event that happens when all the chips fall in place for the future bride and groom, yes the Wedding. Even thinking of it makes me feel very tired. Its that long. Earlier it used to be a week’s event. Now it has reduced to a day and half or a maximum of a two day event. But again, it depends on a lot of things, like monetary buffer, the halls, the caterers, the kind of wedding the bride and groom wants etc etc. But in general its a 2 day event. There are all kinds of weddings in Hinduism, based on the caste and culture. I ain’t even going to explain it, but will give you a gist of what happens in Iyer caste. A detailed list is there in here (the same old Wikipedia). But if you really want to see some pictures and a detailed account, I saw a link that does that.
It is this event where you have all the relatives (the ones you speak, don’t speak; you see, don’t want to see), everyone, who descends with small gifts and huge expectations that they will be treated like royals (especially the groom’s side). We have some funny and nice traditions among the whole list. Here are some.
Before the groom is tied to the bride, he is given an option where he can run like hell not back to his bachelor-dom but to a state which is supposed to be a state next to marriage, i.e the life of a recluse. That is called Kaasi yaatra (where Kasi aka Varanasi is a place famous to become a recluse or a yogi or a sanyasi…however you want to name it). The groom is supposed to contemplate on that particularly nice option and the bride’s father is supposed to bribe him 😉 OK not actually bribe but convince him with his girl’s qualities and how he will be happy being married to her and all. And then the groom is supposed to feel good about it and come back to the marriage hall with his father in law. Sounds funny right ? But that is one of the procedures actually. Fair is fair (exchange rates and so forth – Courtesy: A Good Woman).
There is another tradition where the bride and groom are made to sit in a swing (called Oonjal in Tamil) and women stand around and sing relevant Carnatic classical songs and giving them something to eat (banana, sugar or something like that) and specific relatives (old ladies actually) are given rice balls to ward off evil effects and these old ladies take that opportunity to throw that ball on whom so ever they choose to take revenge on. No wonder their husbands are never near by.
Even the garland exchanging ceremony is funny because the bride and groom are supposed to be lifted by their respective maternal uncle’s and each has to make sure the other party doesn’t succeed in garlanding their team leader (bride / groom). First of all, there must be some maternal uncle, and then he must be strong enough to lift the bride or groom and then hold them enough for the game to see who is successful in garlanding and who succumbs to the pressure and gives up and thrusts their neck towards the garland admitting defeat and submitting themselves to the other. You might think that it is easy for the groom. But nope, because guys usually weigh more than the gals, so the uncle(s) wont be able to hold them long and they are ones who eventually end up giving their necks 😉 to the bride.
The procedure where they actually tie the knot is a very teary affair, not because it is emotional, that comes later of course, but because we have to sit before a small fire that is burnt with lot of herbs and wood etc evoking the Fire God to precede the bride and groom and bless them. With all that silky dresses and heavy make up and jewelry, it is really a very sweaty and teary affair, no doubt. And the final act of giving away the bride is done by the father. The bride sits on the father’s lap and then is given to the groom who accepts it graciously after saying some chants (actually they are promises that he will take care of the woman the way her father has been taking care of her and all that stuff)
After all that emotional processes there comes a time in the evening where everyone is relaxed and there enjoy something called Nalangu. Where there are two teams, that of bride and groom (nope, they are not in the same team yet) and everyone is ready to play. It can range from putting a gold ring in a pot full of milk and asking both bride and groom to go at it together and see who emerges the winner with the ring, to singing competition, to feeding each other, to exploding papads on each other’s heads (the other can try to escape) and so on and so forth. This is done mainly to diffuse the tension of the previous two days and to let the two new people to start their new life with some fun.
No wonder after two days of the events, people (including the newly married couple) sleep like dead for a week 🙂 (they may not say it , but what choice do they really have). If you ever get a chance,do attend one. It is always good to be part of these as long as you are just a visitor and not part of any of those families or worse being the bride or the groom 🙂