Kannaki and Andal Weddings

Kannaki & Kovalan pictures from Poompuhar Art Gallery;Picture courtesy: Vijayan

Three Beautiful Tamil Hindu Weddings- Part 2

( Please read first part before reading the second part: swami )

We saw, in the first part, the beautiful descriptions of two weddings that happened 2000 years ago in Tamil Nadu. Another beautiful wedding scene is in the Tamil epic Silappadikaram. This is the most famous epic of the five Tamil epics. The wedding scene of Kannaki- Kovalan is quite a contrast to the scenes from the Akananuru. Here we see the ceremony of going round the fire, Vedic Mantras etc. This is like a typical Tamil Brahmin wedding that is celebrated today. But Kannaki and Kovalan were the daughter and son of two big Tamil merchants. They were not Brahmins. They lived in a city famous for its maritime trade.

The author of the epic was poet Ilango. Like I mentioned in the first part, the wedding was celebrated sometime in the second century AD. But no linguist will date the epic at 2nd century AD. The style of the language, Sanskrit words and knowledge of various fine arts copied from Sanskrit sources—all point to fifth or sixth century AD. Since Vashista Mahrishi’s wife Arundhati is referred to as the chaste woman in Sangam Tamil literature in several places, fire ceremony may have existed in Sangam Time. Seeing Arundhati star in the night of the wedding day is part of Hindu wedding ceremony.

Let’s look at the wedding now:

“Fair maidens seated on an elephant’s neck were sent forth, to invite to the wedding all those lived in the great city. As they went forth into the streets, drums were beaten; mirudangams were sounded; conches were blown; and white umbrellas were lifted high in the sky as if in kingly procession. O, how enchanting was their entry into the pavilion, glimmering with the pearls beneath the canopy of blue silk and with dazzling pillars, decked with diamonds and beautified by overhanging garlands! This was the day the moon moving in the sky approached the star Rohini, when Kovalan who walked around the holy fire in accordance with scriptural injunctions as directed by the revered priest, approached his bride, divinely fair, resembling the star Arundhati. How fortunate were those who enjoyed such a splendid sight!”

“ Lovely maidens bringing spices and flowers, spoke and sang, and looked bewitching. Women with full breasts and glowing tresses took with them sandal paste, frankincense, perfumes and powders. Ladies with lovely teeth bore lamps, vessels and Palikai pots of tender shoots. These maidens who looked like golden creepers and whose hair was decked with flowers, showered blossoms on the bridal pair, saying May you live a flawless life, with a love that knows no separation, and held in close and un relaxing embrace”.

“Then they led Kannaki, the Arundhati of this vast world, to the auspicious nuptial bed with the prayer that the royal tiger emblem, engraved on this side of the Himalayas, might remain forever on the golden crest of the mountain.”

All the three weddings narrated so far were on Rohini star day. But in Kannaki-Kovalan wedding we see the class difference in the ancient Tamil society. The first two were done on sandy floor under a thatched shed. This one was in a dazzling hall decked with diamonds.

Rohini in the Vedas:

Rohini star is an auspicious star according to the Vedas (Vedic Index, Vol. I, page 415).  It is in Brihat Jataka as well. Rohini was the favourite of the 27 wives of the moon. Palikai pots are part of Hindu ceremonies even today. The Bodhayana Grihya sutras mentions five palikais for purpose of marriage.

Andal’s dream of a divine wedding

Andal, one of the glorious Tamil poetesses, lived in the seventh century AD. She fell in love with Lord Vishnu and in her dream she saw her wedding. It is in Varanam Ayiram of Divya Prabandham. This is sung in all Vaishnavaite Brahmin weddings even today. The beauty of Varanam Ayiram is all the steps in today’s wedding ceremony are described in the same sequence.

Arrival of the bridegroom, Betrothal ceremony, arrival of the bride, bridegroom’s sister’s role, the red colour special sari, grasping the hand (Pani Grahanam), Havan/Fire Ceremony, Chanting of Vedic Mantras, Walking around the fire in seven steps (Saptapati), Puffed rice Homam (laja homam)- all these are described in beautiful Tamil verses. This is a wonderful Tamil verse, that too coming from a wise girl, who lived 1300 years ago. Tamil women must be proud of Andal.

Avvaiyar,Andal and Karaikal Ammaiyar are proof for the good education of women in ancient India. Though we have a score of Vedic poetesses and nearly the same number of Sangam Tamil poetesses, Andal’s place is unique in Tamil literature. Her Tiruppavai and Nachiyar Tirumozi were the most popular parts of 4000 Divya Prabandham verses.

Picture shows Saptapati in a Bengali wedding

Varanam Ayiram shows the role of dream in Tamil culture. Lord Vishnu come to marry our poetess Andal with thousand (Ayiram) elephants (Varanam). That is why this piece is called Varanam Ayiram. Purna Kumbham (Holy water pots), Toranams (Decorative streamers),Wedding dais decoration with betel nut trees, Kurai Pudavai (sacred red colour sari that is worn by Hindu goddess), Kankanam (Kaappu mentioned in Akananauru verse), Lighting the holy fire, Walking in seven steps around it in a circle, Stepping on a grinding stone (ammi) to show their steadfastness, Kunkumam (red colour powder) and sandal paste, wedding procession around the city—all these are beautifully described by Andal. This is every girl’s dream in the world. Whoever reads this will get married in a grand ceremony like this is the belief of Tamil Hindus.



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