Iyengar Marriage Rituals – Part Three
There are many interesting rituals, which take place during the Iyengar weddings. I have mentioned some of them here:
Metti is the silver toe ring worn traditionally by married women. It is one more outer symbol to signify that the woman is married apart from the ‘Thali’ the thread of marriage. During the ritual the groom’s younger brother has to sit on the ground and put the silver mettis on the toes of the bride. I think the younger brother here is like Lakshmana was to Sita. While putting Metti, he almost bows to his sister-in-law and literally touches her feet. Thereby showing that he will respect and obey his sister-in-law. At the same time the brother of the bride puts a ring on the finger of the groom. This occasion is also used to introduce both the brother of the groom and the brother of the bride to each other to come close and to become friends.
This would remind one of Radha and Krishna on the swing or Goddess Lakshmi and Narayan on the swing. In fact, the bride and groom are almost treated like the god and the goddess and made to sit on the swing while the brides maids and the female relatives sing beautiful love songs around them. While sitting on the Unjal their feet is washed with milk and they are protected, from the evil eye, by circling a handful of coloured rice around their head and then throwing away ( the ritual of Podi Suttruvadhu). The Unjal also presents the beautiful couple together. It is hoped that they will unite and enjoy life together and life would be as smooth for them as swinging joyfully in a swing. This ritual is also meant to waive away the differences if any and to bring them together for a peaceful and happy life.
During the entire wedding ceremony there are a number of activities where attempt is made to develop an understanding between the couple and impart in them out traditional values. Arundati Partal (watching the Arundati Star). is one such ritual, which takes place before the mangalya dharanam. During the course of this ritual the groom takes the girl out in the open and shows her the ‘Arundati’ star on the horizon. Arundati was the wife of sage Vashista who became immortal as a star due to her devotion to her husband. Arundati shines in the sky near the sixth star in the collection ‘Great Bear’ (Sapta Rishi). The groom, while showing the star to the bride, requests her to be as ardent and as loving to him as Arundati.was to her husband.
Since the bride and the groom are to begin their life as householders, there is an introduction of the concept during the marriage rituals by the ritual of ammi midhithal. Ammi is the grinding stone, which is a basic kitchen implement in every Tamil household. In the days before mixies and grinders the Ammi was a most important part of idli, dosa, vada, chutney-eating Tamil households. When a house used to be built, the Ammi was one of the first things to be installed as one could not imagine entering a house without an Ammi. During the ritual the boy places the foot of the girl on the grinding stone and requests her to maintain the reputation of the house and the family. We also can say that she puts her foot firmly in the kitchen.
In the ritual of ‘Thengai Urutal’ a coconut covered with turmeric is thrown at each other by the bride and the groom. While doing so the women from the both sides of the family sing songs asserting the superiority of their families. One is reminded of a Qawali-like situation where there is a competition of wits. This is done just as a joyful intervention and to familarise the families with the strengths and weaknesses of each other.
During Nalangu, two happily married women, carry a tray filled with water with turmeric and the lime which makes the water turn red. The feet of the bride and groom are washed with this water, while the women sing and praise the qualities of the girl. These two women are given gifts and money wrapped in the betel leaf.
A ball made of flowers is rolled by the groom towards the bride which is returned by the bride while women continue to sing. This is also to familarise the boy and the groom with each other. This is a practice from the time of child marriage when the boy and girl were made to know each other by playing games.