Monday, June 17, 2013

An Indian Marriage Ceremony (Phoebe, ILR'14)

Our group was lucky to be invited to a marriage ceremony on our last weekend in Mysore. This was a perfect way to end our two week stay in Mysore. We had all learned about Indian marriage and the customs that it involves. So naturally, we were all excited to have an opportunity to experience a South Indian marriage.
Female members of the group in their saris. Madame Sindhu and staff of
VIIS who helped the ladies wrap their saris are included in the photo.  
Three male members of the group- in their Indian shirts!

We had to look our best at the ceremony. The girls went out shopping for saris and bangles to match. We all got very glamorous, bright and beautiful saris. Mme Sindhu, Director of VIIS, arranged for a tailor to stitch our saris for us.

The marriage ceremony took place in a large auditorium in Mysore. We were welcomed by the family of the bride, who are relatives of Madame Sindhu. Before the beginning of the ceremony, we were served food on a plantain leaf. This is to ensure that marriage guests are well-fed and comfortable throughout the actual ceremony.

 Groom being led into the auditorium by family members.
Afterwards, we were led outside; where rituals were performed around the groom before he was led into the hall to begin the ceremony. The groom is surrounded by family and friends, who throw rice on his head to bless him. They also make marks of bindi on his forehead. After the rituals were complete, we took our seats in the auditorium, and the ceremony began.

The groom sat on the stage, dressed in a gold suit and hat to match. His bride was brought to him, her face concealed with a white cloth. When the cloth is lowered is the first time the groom sees his beautiful bride. She was dressed in a very elegant sari and adorned with jewelry from head to toe. Henna was also painted on her hand- in the same pattern as the other female members of the bride’s family.

A priest guided the new couple through the completion of the marriage rituals. During this time, family, friends and well-wishers took turns to offer blessings to the couple. They sat across from each other with a coconut in hand. We had the opportunity to offer blessings too. The peak of the ceremony arrives when the groom puts a necklace on his bride’s neck, a symbol of their marriage. There is much variation among different families and castes in India, but at this marriage, the necklace is the equivalent of a ring in western culture. The drummers at the ceremony played their best rhythms at the loudest tempo and everyone roused in applause. The couple was married.

Afterwards, a performer, traditionally called “kashi” treated the guests to a spectacular performance. This was nerve-racking at times as he performed antics that seemed dangerous in an enclosed space. At a point, someone will throw coconuts in the air and the performer slashed it with his sword. He was able to burst most open in mid-air—only missing a few. He proceeded to do the same with limes- this time missing more than a few. In any case, it was fun to watch. The group even got a shot with him! After all of this was over, we were served lunch, with ice-cream for dessert. It was delicious and a fitting end to a day filled with much celebration.

1 comment:

  1. Fertility Rituals

    Marriage is one of the biggest fertility rituals Known in Indian culture. When two people get married. they are said to enter grihasta ashram where they are expected to bear children. satify their sexual urge, earn money and follow religious practices. Hindu marriages profess the idea of coming together of the energies and paving way to a new creation.

    Offering of Grains

    Throughout India, one thing that remains common to all communities is offring of grains in wedding ceremony. Mostly rice, puffed rice or whole grains, these grains are fed to the sacred fire in different ceremonies.

    Importance of Shiva's Bael leaves

    Holy Bael leaves are proffered in several ceremonies before the wedding and after it. In many communities in india, before the wedding day arrives, Bael leaves are placed in earthen pots which are topped with different kinds of cereals. After the wedding, the sprouted seedlings are then released in a flowing river or a pool. This ritual is performed to invoke blessings of Lord Shiva upon the married couple and pray for their progeny.

    Vishnu's pious Lotus

    As per mythology, at the time of creation of the universe, while lord Vishnu was pondering over the creation of mankind, a pious lotus rose out of his navel. On that lotus was seated Lord Brahma who paved way to the creation and illumination of the universe. Thus, lotus remains symbolic of procreation, birth and fertility. It is Therefore, offered during wedding puja to the gods to confer potency upon the couple. Also, At the time of a Hindu wedding, the bride and the groom are given the stature of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu because they represent the eternal companionship and exemplify how a relationship between husband and wife should be.

    Nose ring

    Usually seen as a piece of accessory, almost all brides sport nose ring on their wedding day. In some communities, girls are told to get their nose pierced before they tie the knot.

    Sacred coconut rituals

    Across India, since time immemorial coconut has enjoyed its association with human fertility in a sacrosanct manner. In Gujarat, there is a ritual of bride presenting a coconut in a customary way to the groom at the time of the marriage. Here coconut is symbolic of the progency of the couple that the bridegifts the groom. Of all the fruits, coconut is most closely related to human skull because of the three marking on its base that resemble human facial features.

    The mantras of virility

    During saat pheras in a Hindu marriage, there are several mantras that are chanted for progency of the couple. While the first phera is for a long lasting companionship, in the second Phera, "Kutumburn rakshayishyammi sa aravindharam", the bride promises the groom that she will fill his with love and will bear children of him.

    The History

    There was a time when potency was considered as the be all and all of all activities. The earliest ritual of fertility among Hindus can be dated back to the Harappan civilization where it has been discovered that people worshipped clay figurines of a mother goddess who represented fertility. Several phallic symbols representing gods in sitting position wearing bull's horns (Bull being a universal symbol of male potency) have also been found at the sites of indus Valley Civilization. As the world evolved and ancient civilizations paved way to the modern societies, marriage started being considered as a mandatory ceremony before women could conceive. Also, the idea of marriage was propelled by the thought of having the family legacy move ahead; so that families could get heirs.