Five Day Hindu Marriage- Part 1(Post No.3329)

Compiled and Edited by London Swaminathan


Date: 7  November 2016


Time uploaded in London: 14-30


Post No.3329



Pictures are taken from various sources.




Please see the first part posted yesterday.


A wife is a Gift from Gods was posted yesterday. Please read that and continue here: –


Rev. J E Padfield continues……………….


“I am now chiefly describing the customs of the Brahmins, who are more particular in ceremonies than other castes except, perhaps, the Vaisyas but at the same time, though the inferior castes may leave out various items of the ritual, the mode of procedure is very much the same amongst all orthodox Hindus.


Many marriages are arranged, especially between near relatives, when the boy and girl are mere infants, but when that is not done, the parents begin to look around for a suitable person when the proper time for marriage is drawing near. In such a case, if the father of marriageable boy hears or knows of a suitable match, he will select a fortunate day and then proceed to visit the parents of the girl with a view to preliminaries and to talk the matter over. He is ways careful to take with him his son’s horoscope, as the girl’s parents will want to see whether the youth was born under combination of the planets as to augur well for the future of the proposed pair.


The horoscope is document drawn up by the family priest at the birth of every boy, and a girl, showing the date and even the moment of the birth and the state of the planetary system at the time. This document always carefully preserved for future reference. If the horoscope is favourable, preliminaries are talked over and financial arrangements made. Sometimes, particularly if the expectant bridegroom should be unpromising or old and a comparative stranger, the friends of the girl, on his sending a go-between, may try to drive a bargain and squeeze money out of him.


Sometimes when a rich old man loses his wife, the parents of a young girl will take means of intimating to him their willingness to give him their daughter for a consideration. This however, is considered very improper and is against the letter of the law.


“Let no father who knows the law, receive a gratuity, however small, for giving his daughter to marriage; since the man who through avarice, takes a gratuity for that purpose is a seller of his offspring” (Manu, iii. 51)


Notwithstanding it is not uncommon for the bride’s parents to demand a sum of money, sometimes comparatively large, from the boy’s friends before they will consent to a match. This is very like selling the girl and is the thing guarded against the above quotation. The dowry given by the parents of the bridegroom to the bride, in the shape of jewels, which goes with the bride when she goes to her new home, is besides and over and above the money in question. The name given to the arrangements for this money gift to the girl’s parent is one which means bargaining; and when there are several applicants for her hand, it often becomes very much like an auction in which the highest bid is held out for.


My Comments:–

REVERSE VARADAKSHINA: In Kalidasa and Sangam Tamil literature we see this type of Stri Dhana (dowry). But when the female ratio in the population was high the boys demanded dowry unlike the olden days. Now the wheel is turning a full circle. The girls are demanding lot of things or putting too many conditions before marriage because they have become a rare commodity now. For every 1000 men in India we have only 900 to 950 women only)


Rs 700 Dowry/Varadhakshina !

“I quote a case that is said to have recently (year 1908) happened in South India. which is, I am informed, only one of many that are of more or less frequent occurrence in one part or another. A certain poor Brahmin agreed to give his daughter, nine years of age, to the son of one of his own caste. The sum of money agreed upon in this case was Rs. 700 which was handed over to the girl’s father and the ‘prathanam’ or betrothal ceremony, actually took place. Within a couple of months, a more wealthy suitor appeared on the scene, and offered Rs. 1,000, which sum was duly paid over, and a second prathanam was performed. The matter came to the ears of the first party and he took legal steps to stay all proceedings, and obtained an injunction from the Law Court, pending the hearing of a suit. The case duly came before the Court, and it resulted in the girl’s father having to refund the Rs. 700 to the first suitor for his daughter, besides paying the costs of the proceedings. After this the girl was finally married to the son of the one who gave the larger sum.


This unlawful custom of a father’s receiving money in return for thus giving his daughter appears to prevail mostly amongst Brahmins. Ordinarily, amongst other Hindus, there is an interchange of gifts by way of dowry from the bride’s father to the bridegroom, and from his father to the bride. These dowries usually take the shape of jewels clothes, brass and copper household vessels and the like. The nature and value of these mutual gifts is all settled at the interview between the parents and friends before the prathanam (betrothal). Jewels are also given to the bride by her father to be her sole property; and, in some cases, if a young wife dies without issue, these jewels are returned to him.


When a marriage is arranged between a young couple, preliminaries are settled to the satisfaction of parties concerned, a suitable day is fixed upon for the formal engagement, or betrothal. The day fixed upon must be a lucky one, and it is not settled without consulting either an astrologer or the priest.


Nischayathartham -Betrothal

At the pre-arranged time, the father of the boy with a friend or two, not the boy himself proceeds to the house of the girl’s father, who then calls together a few friends, and his priest. It is also the proper thing to have musicians at this entertainment. The boy’s father then produces certain presents he has brought for the girl, such as jewels, cloths and ring. These things are handed over to the girl in the presence of them all, and she is arrayed in all the finery. The ring, which is of a peculiar shape, is carefully kept all through life. It is put on the third or ring finger, and the elders present are called upon to bless the girl which they do saying

“may you like Lakshmi be happy and prosperous”.


At the close of the ceremony, betel is distributed to the guests and rose-water is sprinkled over them.  After this, when, with the aid of the astrologer, a suitable day for the marriage has been fixed, the friends depart and the betrothal is complete. Like an ‘engagement’ amongst Europeans, this prathanam is not necessarily a binding ceremony, that is, it possible for in the event of any obstacle arising, for this betrothal to be broken.



Auspicious Five Months!


The time chosen for the actual performance of the marriage should be in one of five months beginning from February. It is not that marriages cannot be performed at other times during the year but this is considered the most propitious time. It is probable that this idea took its rise from convenience, for during the period in question, there is little agricultural labour to be done and, as the crops also have been harvested, money is in hand for the expenses that must be incurred.


Proceeding to Bride’s Place

At the time fixed upon, the bride’s father has his house cleaned up and decorated, and a pandal, or a large open booth, is erected in front and at the back of the house to accommodate the guests and friends. Permission must be obtained from the authorities to erect these pandals, and a tax is levied for the permission. The bridegroom’s father sets out from his abode to go to that of the bride. He takes with him the bridegroom, a great part of his household, his own purohita/priest and other friends. It is made a great holiday and these visitors always have a band of musicians with them to cheer them on the journey.


Five Gods in Five Vessels as Witnesses!

On approaching the home of the bride the party array, themselves in their best finery, the band strikes up and all await the coming out to meet them of the bride’s parents and friends. Before going out to meet the party, the bride’s father, if the parties are Brahmins, proceeds to the north-east of the village in search of some earth from the hillocks made by white ants. This he takes home and, having prepared a space in the room where the chief marriage ceremony is to be performed five earthen or metal vessels with it and places them in a row. In these and vessels he plants nine different kinds of grain sprinkles them with milk and water, repeating a mantram. The grain thus treated quickly sprouts during the days of the ceremonies.


Five of the gods are invoked and requested to be present as witnesses at the ceremony namely Indra (the god of storms Varuna (the god of the waters), Chandra (the moon) Yama (the god of death), and Brahma. This ceremony confined to Brahmins. The saying of the mantram is a necessary part of the proceedings.


The mantra is

Bhumir Dhenur Dharani loka dharinii

The earth like the cow bears all things and supplies all things.


The bride’s father and friends, with the family and priest, go out in a body to meet the bridegroom and his party. When they meet there is a mutual exchange of civilities, such as gifts of betel, sprinkling one another with rose-water, and then rubbing upon the hands, neck and chest of each other some sandal wood paste.


Finally, the guests are conducted to a lodging, previously prepared for them. This lodging must not be in the bride’s house, for that would considered very improper. The marriage ceremony may commence on the evening of the arrival of the bride groom and the whole affair lasts for five days.


Auspicious Bathing


The hour for the ceremony of the actual marriage has to be carefully fixed so as to be at the most propitious time. It may fall during the day or the night time. A little before the time fixed upon, party assembles in the apartment near the place where the grain is sprouting. The bridegroom is then duly bathed. This bathing is called blessed or fortunate bathing (MANGALA SNANAM). After this, seated on a slightly raised platform, previously prepared for the occasion, dressed in his ceremonially pure clothes and facing the east, he prays to Ganésha (the god of obstacles) to be propitious. An image of Ganesha is placed there, if one can be procured; otherwise they place a lump of turmeric  made into a paste to represent him.


After this he performs a ceremony of purification called punyahavachanam.  Meanwhile the bride in another part of the house, has been going through much the same kind of thing. She has been bathing and worshipping Ganesha and also Gauri the wife of  Siva, or Laksmi, the wife of Vishnu. Which one it is depends on the religious sect of the parties.


To be continued…………….



Three Beautiful Tamil Hindu Weddings

Tamil Actress Sneha on her wedding day

By London swaminathan

How did the ancient Tamil Hindus celebrate their weddings? There are three beautiful wedding scenes in Tamil literature: Akananauru, Silappadikaram and Divyaprabandham.

Two thousand year old Sangam Tamil literature describes Tamil Hindu weddings in two beautiful verses in Akananauru (verses 86 and 136). The poets bring the wedding ceremony in front of our eyes. Anyone who reads those poems can visualise that day. It is like a live running commentary.

In the first verse (86), poet Nallavur Kizar describes the food and the dress. There was a huge heap of rice cooked with black gram (Pongal). There was a wooden shed (pandal) with fresh sand from the river banks spread. Since they believed in astrology and auspicious days ,it was celebrated on the day when Rohini star was with the moon. Since they were orthodox Hindus they lighted lamps even though it was celebrated in the day time. Bridegroom and bride were adorned with flower garlands. Some women were carrying the pots on their head, others bearing new, broad bowls, handed them one after another, while fair elderly dames were making noise. Mothers of sons, with bellies marked with beauty spots, wearing beautiful ornaments, poured water on the bride, so that her black hair shone bright with cool petals of flowers and rice grains (probably yellow rice called Akshatai). They blessed her saying ,’do not swerve from the path of chastity, be serviceable in various ways to your husband who loves you and live with him as his wife. They greeted her ‘Dirgha Sumangali Bhava: in Tamil– Per Il Kizaththi Aguka’–.On the night after the marriage ceremony was over, the neighbouring ladies assembled and sent her to the arms of her lover, to which she went with trepidation ( This is the Shanti Muhurtham alias First Night).

Picture shows Soundarya Rajinikant’s wedding

In another verse136, poet Vitrutru Mutheyinanar says, white rice well cooked with plenty of ghee was served generously to the elders. Since Tamils believed in astrology, the poet remarks, the omens shown by the birds were propitious. It was a bright morning. The moon was in faultless conjunction with the Rohini star. The marriage house was decorated. They worshiped God. The big drums sounded with wedding tunes. Excited women were peeping without a wink with their flower like eyes at the bride who had been bathed. The image (to be worshiped) was made of big flower petals. Clear like a gem that has been well washed, was placed on the soft Vagai flower with the double leaf and the Arukam grass. It was decked with cool, sweet flower buds and white thread clothed with holy cloth, so as to look grand. The bride was seated on the fresh sand under the Pandal ( A thatched shed made over a row of wooden poles). The bride was perspiring with loads of ornaments. They fanned her to dry the wet.( I have used the translations given in History of the Tamils by  PT Srinivasa Iyengar).

Though tying the knot (Thaali=sacred yellow thread around the neck of the bride) is not mentioned  a few other verses hint at it. But no priests, no fire ceremony or no circumambulation of the sacred Fire were mentioned. One can understand it when one understands the caste differences that existed in those days. Since the Tamil epic Silapadikaram mentions the fire ceremony etc we can’t conclude it was never done. Most of the scholars put Silappadikaram event in the Sangam age. But the writing of the epic was dated between 3rd century and 7th century.

What is very clear in the above two Sangam Tamil verses is the Tamils believed in God and astrology. They used lot of vegetarian food and flowers during weddings. Ornaments and decorations, respect for elders are all like modern day weddings. The bride wore a thread (protective Kaappu) and new dress after a shower. Music was part of Tamil Hindu weddings.

(In part 2 Wedding Scenes of Kannaki and Andal are discussed).

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