India is the land of culture and tradition. All festivities and celebrations are marked by music, dance, colors and food. Since the people of the country belong to different religions, castes, and races, the wedding rituals also differ. Thus, the rituals followed in the southern part of the country are totally different from the north.
The difference in the wedding is attributed not just to the ceremony. The way the bride and groom dress and the food served are all different in some form or other. Thus, each state has its own unique customs and traditions. But certain rituals are commonly followed by most South Indian states.
South Indian Hindu Wedding Traditions
The word “Mangala” means pure, and “Snanam” means bath. Thus, Mangalasnanam means “purifying bath.” This is the first ritual conducted on the day of the wedding. A paste of sandalwood, turmeric, and saffron is prepared and applied to the bride’s face and body. Oil is then applied to the hair. Once done, the bride takes a bath in holy water to purify her soul and body.
The Mangalasnanam is performed at the crack of dawn and is done by married women of the family.
Gauri is the goddess “Parvati” as per the Hindu religion. She is the Goddess of purity and virtue. The bride performs the Gauri pooja once she is ready. Through this pooja, the bride seeks the blessings of the Goddess for a prosperous married life. In some customs, a Gauri-Ganesha pooja is also conducted to keep the evil spirits away.
In states like Kerala, the bride and groom visit the temple instead of performing Gauri Puja. “Ganesha” temple is visited first to seek the blessings of Lord Ganesha, who is the remover of obstacles.
This ritual is done before the groom enters the venue. The groom’s feet are washed with holy water and rose water by some young family members. Once washed, the feet are dried before proceeding to the venue. This is a mark of respect given to the groom by the bride’s family.
Kashi yatra is a ritual conducted at Brahmin weddings. The groom sets out on a Kashi yatra to seek the blessings of the almighty before starting a new chapter in his life. He sets out with an umbrella, snacks, a walking stick and a dhoti. The bride’s father and uncles then convince him and bring him back to the mandap. This is the ceremony of Kashi yatra.
This traditional ritual is a fun ceremony in modern weddings where the groom runs towards his eternal bachelor life. Relatives chase him around the venue and bring him back to the mandap to continue the wedding rituals.
The actual wedding ritual varies from state to state. The groom is welcomed to the venue by young girls holding oil lamps. In some traditions, rituals like puja are conducted during the ceremony. Whereas in some other traditions, the rituals are simple and involve only tying the Mangalsutra, the necklace worn by a married woman. Once done, the bride and groom exchange garlands, signifying that they have entered married life.
“Kanya” means girl, and “danam” means gift. This ritual signifies that the bride’s father is giving his daughter as a gift to the groom. In this ritual, the bride’s father keeps his daughter’s hand on the groom’s hand along with coconut or betel leaf and pours holy water. The father is wholeheartedly giving his daughter as the groom’s wife.
Circling the Fire
Once the wedding rituals are over, the bride and groom hold hands and circle the fire seven times. Vedic mantras are chanted in the background. In some customs, couples walk around the mandap three times. This ritual can last from 5 minutes to an hour, depending on the custom followed.
Once the rituals are over, a grand feast is offered to the guests. The feast is purely vegetarian and offered in a plantain leaf. Guests get to savor authentic South Indian food, which all are sure to enjoy. No alcohol is served as part of the wedding celebration in South India.
What to Know Before Attending A South Indian Wedding?
- South Indian wedding attire is different from what you see in movies so make sure that you get help from someone who knows what they’re talking about and you’ll show up to the party like one of the natives!
- Most South Indian weddings happen during the morning time.
- The actual wedding ceremony can last from a few minutes to hours. This depends on the rituals and ceremonies followed.
- The rituals are always accompanied by loud classical music.
- The food is served in a single plantain leaf, starting with rice and ending with dessert. Once the meal is over, you should fold the leaf from top to bottom, indicating that you enjoyed the food.
- Since the food is served in a traditional manner, you should eat it with your hands. No spoons and forks are available for eating.
- Modern South Indian weddings have some fun elements that act as an icebreaker between the couples.
- Money is normally given as a gift for South Indian weddings as it helps couples start a new life. Money is gifted in odd numbers as it is considered to be auspicious.
South India comprises four states, so don’t forget that the wedding ceremony and rituals are different in each state! While there are intense rituals on the one hand, you also get to enjoy and have fun during rituals like Kashi Yatra and Mehendi. Overall, South Indian weddings across the board are more traditional weddings in all aspects, with some fun elements, rich in meaning and culture!
So if you’re getting to attend your friend’s South Indian wedding, get excited, from colors, dances, culture, food, and so much more, you’re in for a HUGE treat!