Role of Married women – Sumangli Prarthanai in South Indian Wedding
India is a mix of several cultures and traditions. One of the real celebrated wedding ceremonies are found in South India. To quote a segment for example, you may consider Iyer weddings. Usually Iyers call their wedding Kalyanam or Thirumanam in their native language- Tamil. The rituals and the ceremonies performed are all connected to Vedas.In south India, weddings are not a single day affair. They go on for good 2-3 days. As per the tradition, bride’s family organizes the ceremonies.
Men wear a wrapped skirt commonly known as dhoti and for females, Madisar is the traditional sari to be worn. Unlike north India, males in south do not dress in their western attires. It is more traditional here. For women, if they are wearing their typical madisar, they will still be found in traditional clothes with flowers in their hair.
Role of married women
There is a special ritual that needs to be performed while the wedding ceremonies are going on. One of it is called ‘Sumangli Prarthnai’. Sumangli here means blessed and prarthnai means prayer. For Wedding ceremonies, odd number of married women is invited to bless the bride. These ladies can be 3, 5, 7, 9, whatever the family wishes to have for, for the ceremony.These ladies are found wearing their traditional attire- Madisar, for some special rituals.
There are two special rituals performed by married women, on the wedding day. One is, giving a special bath to the bride, which is water and some oil for the bride and same for the groom. This ritual is performed at their respective homes.
Similarly, at the main venue, the time when the bride meets the groom for the first time, they are made to sit on a swing. Once seated, mother of the bride (in some section, mother of the groom) washes the feet of the bride and groom. If the mother is a widow then she cannot perform the ceremony.
In south, Madisar is one sari, only married women are found wearing. For the bride, while sumangli prarthanai is to be performed, she too wears the same style of sari. The length of the sari is 6-9 yards.
This form of sari is worn by ladies at the time of several auspicious occasions. One is wedding and the other is baby shower and occasions such. Original madisar is of either red or maroon color. But times have changed and ladies do wear it in other colors as well.
In Madisar sari, one side of it, the pleats, is tucked at the back. This makes the sari look almost like a pair of pants. This form brings in ease of movements. Pallu it is either taken at the right shoulder (Iyers) or the left shoulder (Iyengars). Then the pallu is tucked in front to prevent it from falling off the shoulders.
What all happens in sumangli prarthnai?
Once all sumanglis reach the venue, their feet are washed by the mother of the bride. This is the first thing done before commencing any of the rituals. Since a lady touches their feet, they also touch the head of the lady out of respect and then touch their own.
Later, a red color (kumkum) and turmeric is put on their forehead by the mother of the bride. After this, garland is given to them to put in their hair. Then rice is placed on each of their heads.
‘Sarvamangal mangalye, shive sarvathsadhike, sharanye trayambake gauri narayani namastute’ is the mantra chanted by the ladies only. This means. O Auspicious Shiva, the bountiful. I prostrate myself on thou feet. O three eyed one and the fair one – narayani ( parvathi). This mantra is chanted repeatedly to seek the blessings of lord shiva and parvathi.
The idol is placed and decorated with flowers and sweets and fruits are kept in front of the idol. Banana leaves are spread at a distance from the decorated section.
Later one sacred song, having classical base is sung by not really one of the sumaglis. This song is to bless the bride in one of their ways, by another married woman.
After all this, sumanglis are invited for a special meal. For this meal, only sumanglis are invited. They have a separate table and chair to sit on. Once they are through with their meal, they are given gifts. The gift is usually sari and a plate full of goodies for makeup. This kit commonly has a comb, kumkum, turmeric and kajal.
Wedding celebrations are indeed real engaging ones. They are fun to be a part of. Though, some of the ceremonies are mentioned, there is a series of it.
Now days, weddings in south India are two days affair. They are very unlike north India. On the first day, the ceremonies involve rituals like, prayer to remember the ancestors. This pooja is called Nandi Shrardhaam. This is performed by the families of the bride and the groom- both. Some additional ceremonies are mentioned below:-
- Post the pooja mentioned above, there is exchange of rings, and gifts by both sides. The Groom’s family gives bride some gifts, which is a sari for sure, and the bride’s family gives a set of clothes to the groom. Once gifts are exchanged, the bride and the groom dress in the clothes received. It is the tradition there.
- Now comes the time for ‘Lagna Patrika’. In this, once all the formalities for the day are fulfilled, a formal invitation is written by the priest. It can be taken as a formal announcement for the wedding to happen. Another side of the coin is, if any wishes to object, they may do so now, else observe silence forever.
- Once the bride is ready, post the special bath, given to her, by a married woman, she dresses up for ‘gauri puja’, she performs this pooja before leaving for the main venue. Gauri is the symbol of purity. The bride seeks the blessings from the goddess and then leaves.
- Kashi Yatra is one of the happiest ceremonies. In this, Groom has to leave the venue. Groom says that he is going to Kashi and going to become a saint. For his journey, he is given a hand fan and an umbrella. Later, father of the bride, along with the priest, stops him and convinces him to marry his daughter.
- After all is settled, the bride and the groom are made to sit on a swing (rituals are mentioned above), and this is now that they exchange their garlands. This symbolizes their holy union. The exchange of garland is one common ceremony in many traditions in India.
- Now is the time of kanyadaan. In this ceremony, the bride’s hand is given in the hands of the groom. The groom recites mantras, as told by the priest and performs rituals. Through these mantras the groom promises bride’s father to look after her.
- One of the most emotional ceremonies is, when the bride is made to sit in the lap of her father. This is the time when ‘mangalsutra’ is put around bride’s neck. The groom just keeps the thread around bride’s neck, and it is tied firmly by the sister of the groom.
Weddings are fun times and bring many close ones together under one roof. But, in south India, the colors are indeed different and marriages are truly blessed.
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