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Tamil culture is one of the oldest cultures of India. Tamil weddings are deeply engraved according to their thousand years old traditions and customs. Bordered by the Bay of Bengal to the east, Andhra Pradesh to the northeast, Karnataka to the northwest, and Kerala to the west, the state of Tamil Nadu inspires culture from all around. Today we are going to explore the richness of Tamil weddings. Mirroring the state's culture, Tamil weddings are visual treats. The wedding ceremonies are marked by the exchange of vows, blessings, and gifts between the bride and groom and their families.
Some key elements of a Tamil wedding include pre-wedding rituals like the engagement ceremony, haldi ceremony, and sangeet ceremony. Then, the wedding ceremony is marked by exchanging vows between couples and symbolising the couple's union. Finally, the reception is an opportunity for the families and friends to celebrate the newlyweds and wish them a happy future.
Tamil marriages are a cosmological event filled with red and gold. The occasion is filled with music like live carnatic music, food and dance. The celebrations can last several days, with different rituals and customs being performed at each stage. The wedding is a sacred bond between two individuals, and the practices and traditions are designed to sanctify and strengthen this bond.
Read along to get a detailed description of some beautiful rituals practised at south Indian wedding rituals step by step! Also follow our InstaAstro app and website for more detailed information.
Several wedding ceremonies must be performed for the marriage to be declared complete. Therefore Tamil weddings may be vast if one adheres to tradition to the letter. The key Tamil pre-wedding customs are listed below.
Horoscope matching, also known as Nakshatra Porutham, is a common practice in Tamil weddings. Following Vedic principles, horoscopes or nakshatrams are matched based on twelve points or Poruthams such as Nadi, Yoni, Rasi, Gana, etc. According to the Indian calendar Panchang, they compare the bride and groom's horoscopes to determine their astrological compatibility and wedding dates.
Only if the stars align is the wedding finalised. All Tamil calendar months other than Aashad, Bhadrapad, and Shunya are suitable for Tamil weddings, commonly known as Kalyanam.
The horoscope is created based on an individual's birth date, time, and place and is believed to predict the 'muhurtha', or time and venue for the wedding. Horoscope matching evaluates various factors, such as the position of the stars and planets at the time of birth, and assesses the couple's compatibility.
Drafting a marriage agreement
Drafting a marriage agreement, also known as 'Thali Porutham', is a pre-wedding ritual in Tamil weddings. Once the Tamil Nadu wedding is finalised, the families meet at the groom's house for the first time. The meeting, known as the 'Gandharva Samskaram,' is an important ritual in Tamil weddings where the priests draft the marriage agreement and the families exchange gifts. Coconut and banana leaves are an integral aspect of all South Indian weddings.
Hence, they are present in several rituals during the course of the entire Tamil marriage ceremony. They vow a promise on a platter along with a coconut, betel leaves and a betel nut and bananas, symbolising the union of the bride and groom and their families. Therefore, it is considered a significant step towards the wedding and the beginning of a new life together.
Panda Kaal Muhurtham
This Tamil wedding ceremony includes the worship of the Lord Almighty, the supreme power of Tamilians. It takes place in an intimate setting where the close family of the bride and groom meet to perform a special puja seeking the blessing of the Lord Almighty. They pray for the wedding to occur without obstructions and ask God to bless the couple with a happy marriage. Later, both families visit a temple to offer fruits and garments called 'vastra' to the lord.
Happily married women of Tamil households are called 'Sumangalis'. They play a vital role in Tamil weddings. They wore traditional madrasi saree of nine yards. Following the Panda Kaal Muhurtham puja, the traditional Tamil bride requests each Sumangali for their blessings and presents them with a special gift, such as jewels or a saree. Then, all women of the family sit together for a special feast served on the traditional banana leaf.
In the ritual, the bride-to-be and seven other married women of her family create the rangoli of flower decoration using rice flour and coloured powders on earthen pots. The pots are filled with navadhaanyam, a mixture of nine different types of grains, and a bit of curd.
The Kolam, or traditional south Indian sand art designs, are believed to bring good luck and are prepared at a special spot within the house. The pots filled with navadhaanyam and the Kolam are tamil wedding symbols of prosperity and fertility. They invoke blessings for the bride and groom and their future life together. Pallikal Thellichal is an integral part of Tamil wedding culture and is celebrated with great joy and excitement.
The vrutham ceremony is performed in Tamil Hindu weddings. A yellow thread dipped in 'haldi' or turmeric is tied to the wrist. The tying of the yellow thread signifies the transition of the bride and groom from their respective bachelorhood or brahmacharya phase of life to the domestic or garhasthaya phase.
It symbolises the couple's commitment to each other and their new responsibilities as husband and wife. The tie of the yellow thread is done by the bride and groom's respective families and is considered an auspicious and sacred moment in the wedding ceremony. It is also to ward off all evil spirits.
This custom is also known as nanndi shradh and purpose is to seek blessings from ancestors. These are to make marriage healthy and prosperous. This ceremony occurs at the bride's home in the vicinity of both families. Once the groom's family arrives, the groom is greeted with a dab of sandalwood and vermilion paste applied on his forehead. Then, together they perform a puja to appease the ancestors.
Once the puja concludes, ten brahmin pandits are invited to a traditional Tamil vegetarian feast. An array of dishes are made at the house and served by the bride's mother to all the guests. Towards the end of the ceremony, all the brahmins are presented with two-piece garments known as veshtiangavastram and other delicacies.
This ceremony also marks the end of all pre-wedding rituals. Nishchayathram is often referred to as the tamil engagement ceremony. It is a pre-wedding ritual where the bride and groom's families formally come together to agree to the marriage. During this ceremony, the families exchange gifts and discuss the wedding arrangements.
The Nishchayathram ceremony is an important tradition in Tamil weddings, as it signifies the start of the wedding preparations and the formalisation of the alliance between the two families. To commemorate the day, the bride is gifted Kanchivaram sarees by her to-be mother-in-law. Likewise, the groom is gifted with traditional Tamil attire to wear at the wedding.
MangalaSnanam is a Hindu wedding ritual performed the morning of the wedding. It is typically performed by the Sumangalis or married women of either household. The couple then takes a sacred bath in the morning on their wedding day. The bath is said to purify the body and soul and remove any negative energy or influences. Later, all the family members take turns applying a paste of sandalwood and turmeric. This is typically known as the haldi ceremony in Indian weddings. After a bath, the bride and groom adorn the traditional Tamil attire.
Gauri Puja is a prayer to the goddess Gauri, who is considered the embodiment of fertility, purity, and marital bliss. The puja involves the bride and groom offering prayers and offerings to the deity, seeking her blessings for a happy married life. The Gauri Puja usually takes place on the morning of the wedding and is performed by the bride's family.
The Kashi Yatra is a wedding tradition in Tamil weddings where the groom symbolically renounces worldly pleasures and declares his intention to lead an ascetic life. In this ritual, the groom acts out, leaving for the holy city of Kashi (Varanasi), carrying a staff and a begging bowl. The bride's family tries to persuade him to stay and get married, offering him various material possessions and worldly comforts.
Ultimately, the groom relents and agrees to get married, signifying his acceptance of householder life and responsibilities. This tradition symbolises the groom's understanding of the balance between spirituality and material life.
The groom's feet are washed with sandalwood and milk as a sign of respect from his in-laws. This ritual emphasises the importance of family ties and the continuation of family values. The Pada Puja is typically performed on the day of the wedding.
Maalai Maatral ceremony
The Maalai Maatral ceremony usually takes place in the presence of family members and friends. The bride and groom stand on either side of a decorated stage, and the exchange of flower garlands is often accompanied by music and singing.
In this ritual, the friends and family members support the swing on which the bride and groom sit. It is called Oonjal. During the Oonjal ceremony, the bride and groom are traditionally offered a meal of sweet rice pudding (Kheer) and fruits.
Kanyadanam is performed at Tamil weddings. This ritual symbolises the transfer of the responsibility of the bride's care from the father to the groom. This ceremony is traditionally conducted right after the oonjal ceremony. First, the bride steps off the swing and sits on her father's lap. Then, they both join their palms to hold a coconut in their hands. As the father transfers the coconut from his hand to the groom's, it signifies the transfer of responsibility. The bride's happiness and safety now rest in the hands of the groom. During this ritual, prayers are offered to the gods seeking their blessings for the couple's happy and prosperous life together.
The exchange of gifts and blessings between families marks the Muhuratham ceremony. Several traditional elements trickle in during this Tamil wedding ceremony. The exchange of gifts between the families, especially the nine-yard saree from the groom's parents, symbolises the couple's integration into each other's families.
The couple's dedication to cooperating to meet life's obstacles is symbolised by the positioning of the grass ring and yoke and the pouring of water. Last but not least, the groom tying the Thaali with the assistance of his sister symbolises the sacred tie of marriage.
The word 'Saptapadi' signifies 'seven steps,' During this custom, the bride and groom take seven vows or promises to each other while walking around a sacred fire seven times. These vows symbolise the seven promises of marriage, including love, trust, faithfulness, and support. Each step represents a deeper level of commitment to each other, and the seven vows are considered unbreakable.
Finally, the wedding rituals end with the groom supporting the bride's left toe as she steps on a grindstone that is kept close to the ritual fire. This represents their divine unity, which will be rock-solid. Every time she ventures outside, the grindstone, compared to the front door of her new house, reminds her of her duties to her new family.
The traditional ceremony of Bidaai is called the Sammandhi Maryathai in Tamil weddings. As the bride leaves her parental home to join her husband for a new venture, she bids a teary goodbye to her family and friends. It is a significant moment for the bride's family. Post this; the two families exchange gifts.
Grihapravesham and Valeyadal
This ceremony is considered sacred in Tamil weddings as it is regarded as the oncoming of a goddess into the groom's home. Hence, it takes place with great pomp. First, the groom's mother performs an 'Aarti' and washes her feet. The bride is later introduced to the family members through a series of games and fun activities. This is an ice-breaking ceremony to familiarise the bride with her new family. It is known as Valeyadal.
It is customary in all Indian weddings for the newlywed couple to visit the bride's family once all the Tamil wedding rituals are over. In the case of Tamil weddings, this ritual, which marks the end of all post-wedding ceremonies, is conducted three days after the wedding. First, the bride's parents formally invite the couple for a feast at their home. An array of delectable dishes are prepared and fed with laughter and joy. The couple then departs from the house with new garments and gifts presented to them and blessings by the family. Finally, they set out to embark upon a new life, their marriage.