Mudaliar community is one among the oldest communities from South India. The word Mudaliar refers to the one who leads the other citizens.The caste names such as Sengunthars, Vellalars, Agamudayars Thondaimandala Saiva Vellalar, Arcot/Thuluva Vellalar, Thondaimandala Kondaikatti Vellalar, Kaikolar, Muthali/Mudali from Kerala, Hyderabad and Bangalore Mudaliars, Nanjil Mudaliars, Gatti Mudalis of Taramangalam and Sri Lankan Mudaliyars use the title Mudaliars.
In the beginning, they have chosen agriculture as their primary profession and now most of them have moved into their own businesses, government jobs, private sectors, research and politics. They also have travelled and settled into places all over India and in overseas countries. The community consists of vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians.
The wedding ceremonies among different Mudaliar communities are very elaborate. The following are the most important and common rituals followed by them during the marriage.
Nichiyathartham or the Engagement:
Nichiyathartham will take places when the parents of the groom express their liking for the bride and convey their proposal for arranging of the marriage to the bride’s parents. The suggestion if agreed by the bride’s parents will lead to Nichiyathartham or signing of a memorandum by both the families. On the Nichiyathartham day grooms family as a custom will present the would be bride with jewels, sari, different fruits and dry fruits in 21 plates along with other items such as sugar cubes, flowers, fruits, turmeric, coconut and betel leaves and nut.
During the Nichyathartham Lagna Pathrikkai or the marriage contract form is read. It will mention the auspicious day and time fixed for marriage and both the parents will affix their signature as a sign of agreement.
Bride’s family will present the Pathrikkai along with gifts to the groom’s family and the occasion is known in Tamil as Thambulam Mattruthal. Elders from the family of bride will use the occasion to mention the gifts such as jewels, land or house property and vehicle if any that the bride will carry to the house of groom on completion of the marriage.
Signing of the contract will signify that the engagement is complete. Then both the sides will start the other marriage related works such as fixing a wedding hall, cooking arrangement and printing and distribution of invitation and others. A traditional mudaliar marriage will be performed for three days..
As per the established custom the groom’s family will buy the wedding and reception silk saris for the bride. The family of the bride will buy the wedding suit and other dresses for the groom. Some of the affluent families will also buy cloths and other articles that are to be presented to their relatives during the marriage. Most of the time, both the families, will make the purchases on reciprocally convenient dates well before the marriage day.
Pandakkal is an important wedding ritual after the Nichyathartham ceremony. Both the families will perform Pillayar Pujai (Ganapathi Pooja) to invoke the blessings of the elephant god for the long-lasting union of the couples. The brides as well as the groom’s family will put up a fabricated structure standing on four legs known as Kalyana Pandhal before their house to denote the beginning of the auspicious occasion.
Nine elderly married women will decorate the bamboo pillars with dots of turmeric (manjal) and vermilion (kumkum) in odd numbers. Also in nine separate vessels nine assorted varieties of pulses are kept soaked in water. The vessels are properly covered with husk for quick germination. The vessels are kept in upside down condition to enable the pulses to sprout after germination. After a few days the vessels are kept in turned up and right state to enable the sprouts to come over the surface and grow. The occasion is known in Tamil as Mozhakattuthal. The sprouts, which signify the beginning and growth of a new relationship between the families, will be carefully nurtured till the day of marriage.
Nalangu or Beautification of the bride:
Women from both the families will dominate the crowded Nalangu ritual. Over a wooden board a banana leaf is kept and uncooked rice is spread over it. The bride is asked to sit over the arrangement. Three small-sized stools placed close to the bride will have a) sandalwood paste, vermilion and rose-water, b) betel leaf, nut and flowers and c) Arthi – red colour water prepared using a mix of turmeric and lime. Each of the married women invited for the marriage from the bride and groom side will smear the sandalwood paste over the hands of the bride, place little vermilion on her forehead and sprinkle rose-water on her head and perform Arathi to signify her blessings to the bride.
Maapilai Azhaippu or the receiving of the Bridegroom:
During the Maapillai Azhaippu, the groom and his family are taken on a procession and the bride’s brother or uncle will garland them. The practice of taking the groom in a car, from the temple to the place of marriage, preceded by the playing Nadaswaram an Indian instrument and western band still prevails in small towns and villages. Gifts will also be carried by the uncle or brother of bride to the home of the groom before the marriage to invite him for the marriage. The women from the bride’s side will receive the groom with the traditional Arathi. A simple Nalangu is performed separately for both the groom as well as to the bride on their arriving to the place of marriage.
A Pandaal or Pandakal using four bamboo sticks is erected before the wedding hall. It is beautified using banana tree stalks, tender coconut, mango leaves and flowers. On the day of wedding, the bride and groom will separately reach the pandaal or pandakal before sunrise. Elders from both the families will apply sesame oil and green gram flour on their forehead and turmeric powder on their hands. The bride and groom will have Mangala Snaanam (oil bath) on this day, to welcome their marriage. The clothes worn by the bride and groom before taking the mangala snaanam are given to a washerman or washerwoman.
Arasan Kal or Installing of a bamboo stick before the marriage platform
The Arasan Kal ceremony is performed to offer prayer to the sacred Fig Tree (Arasu) and to respect the king as in olden days. Five elderly married women who are living with their husbands (Sumangali) will conduct the ceremony. After offering prayers to the Fig tree (Arasu) the women will cleanse an erected bamboo stick kept before the marriage pandhal with milk, smear the sandalwood paste over it and apply vermilion on it. They will also tie a silk scarf around it and finally perform Arathi. The bamboo stick represents the King (Arasan) who in the olden days used to grace the marriage occasion and bless the couple. The pooja is conducted to honour the king.
The groom will then wash the feet of his parents and request their blessings for a happy married life. His parent’s will in-turn blesses him.
According to Hindu sashthira an unmarried bachelor has option to choose either the married life (Grihasta) or the life of a Sanyasi renouncing the worldly pleasures. The groom will mockingly act that he prefers to become a Sanyasi and to leave for Kasi instead of the marriage hall. He will carry a handheld bamboo fan known as Visiri, an umbrella and slippers and pretend to move. Immediately the father of the bride will step in and persuade him explaining the benefits of married life and promise him that he will marry his daughter to him. In some of the families the brother of the bride will complete the persuading act and request the groom to marry his sister. The groom who will be reluctantly returning to the marriage hall is received by performing Arathi.
Mahalakshmi Puja and Pada Puja
The bride will perform Mahalakshmi Puja to the Mangalyam, supposedly to carry the form of Goddess Mahalakshmi, to receive her blessings. Then she will do Pada Puja to her parents seeking their blessings.
After performing the Mahalakshmi Puja the bride will wear the new cloths presented to her by the groom’s family and groom will wear the dress provided by bride’s family. Both the bride and the groom after wearing the garlands will enter the marriage altar (pandal) for continuing the marriage ceremony.
The priest chosen to carry out the marriage proceedings will perform Ganapathi Homam to invoke the blessings of God Ganapathi to help the couple in joining of their marriage life. He will also arrange to do Upanayanam ceremony for the groom and tie the sacred thread around the chest of the groom.
As per the tradition parents of the groom will cook rice in five or seven clay pots specially bought for the occasion when the groom and bride will be busy with their dressing. The parents will offer the cooked rice Pongal to all the deities who have made their symbolic presence at the marriage altar. The eldest sumangali women of the family will then greet the couple with garlands and take them to the altar.
The priest selected to perform the marriage ceremony will lit the sacred fire called homam as a witness for the marriage proceedings. The bride as asked by the priest will tie a sacred yellow thread known as Kanganam, attached to a piece of turmeric, around the wrist of groom, to signify the bestowing of right to him to touch her. After some time groom will tie the Kanganam on the wrist of the bride.
The father of the bride will perform the ceremony among the chanting of Vedic verses thus agreeing to give his daughter in marriage to the groom. During the ceremony the parents of the bride will place the hand of the bride carrying a coconut in the hands of groom thus announcing symbolically that their daughter will become dependent of the groom.
The tying of the Mangalyam thread around the neck of the bride by groom is the vital aspect of a marriage. The thread consists of 108 strings dipped in turmeric with a gold pendant resembling the tooth of a tiger placed in the middle of it. During the olden days the tiger tooth shape of the mangalyam was actually made of tiger tooth taken from the tiger killed by the groom.
At the predefined and most auspicious time known as subha-muhurtham the groom will tie the first knot of the Mangalyam around the neck of the bride and his sister will complete it with two more knots. Such an arrangement symbolises that the bride becomes a part of the groom’s family. During the tying of the knot the traditional Nadhaswaram and melam combination known as mangala vadhyam is played. All the elders present at the dais will shower Akshadai a combination of rice and turmeric paste and flowers over the couple, bless them and offer prayers for their successful marriage life.
After the Mangalya Dharanam, the couple will exchange their garlands three times. The exchanging of garlands signifies that they have become married couple. Uncles from the groom’s side and the bride’s side will tie a piece of gold over the groom and brides forehead to showcase their relationship. This ceremony is known as Pattam or wearing of pattam.
Agni the god of fire is symbolically represented in the Homam conducted during the marriage. Immediately on completion of Mangalyatharanam the homam is performed using branch-lets of nine types of trees and ghee as fuel of sacrifice. The homam signifies that the Agni stands as witness for the marriage (Agni Saakshi). The bride and groom will then offer their prayer by going around the sacred fire (Agni) three times. The brother of the bride will place the puffed rice in the hands of the couple and offer it to the sacred fired as sacrifice. After completing the homam the couples as directed by the priest will view the place in the sky where the star Arundhathi is supposed to be located. Arundhathi the mythical goddess is known for maintaining the moral virtue and chastity.
Sesha is arranged to receive the blessings of the elderly people who attend the marriage. A piece of white cloth is kept in a spread condition before the bride and groom inside the Pandhal and uncooked raw rice is kept over it. Each of the elderly members of the family will take a handful of the rice, bless the couple with the rice in their hands and drop it in front of the couple.
To promote goodwill and friendly approach between them both the families will exchange gifts and new cloths among them after the wedding. In some of the families such exchanges take place before the marriage.
On conclusion of all the marriage rites the bride and groom are taken to their new home where they will be starting their life as a couple after the marriage. Groom’s family will welcome the bride with traditional Arathi and a ceremonial lunch party will be given to all the members of the family invited for the occasion.
On the evening of the wedding day a reception is arranged and invitation is given to all the relatives and friends of both the families to bless the couple and attend a grand dinner.
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