1. Kaasi Yaathrai,
2. Kannikaadhanam (giving away the bride),
3. Maangalya Dhaaranam,
4. Maalai Matrudhal (exchanging garlands),
5. Sapthapadhi and
6. Poriyidal (offering of puffed rice in the homam) are all the part of our marriage function, according to Manu Dharma Shaasthraas) with certain changes in the vedic manthraas.
The function is normally conducted in a big Pandhal (an open air tent). For erecting this Pandhal, they install four bamboo poles at four corners of the Pandhal. Four Vedaas are symbolized in these four bamboo poles.
The main priest who conducts the whole proceedings of the marriage rituals and formalities symbolizes Brahma, the creator.
The various stages/steps in a wedding in Tamil Naadu is given briefly in the following paragraphs.
1. Sri Vigneswara Pooja – On any auspicious occasion, it is customary to pray Lord Ganesaa (Vigneswara , Maha Ganapathi, Vinayaka are the other names by which Lord Ganesaa is called) for a smooth and uninterrupted proceedings of the function.
2. Punyaahavaachanam – Prayer to Lord Varuna to purify the water and other materials we use during the marriage celebration.
3. Arasaanikkaal Nadal – Five elderly married ladies offer prayer to a branch of the Arasu (Holy Fig tree) tree, and tie sacred raksha (protection from all evils) to the bride and the groom. The groom and the bride are also given new clothes to wear.
4. Kaasi Yaathrai – As described earlier. Some people prefer to pray Lord Vinayaka instead of Kaasi Yaathrai.
5. Mana Pongal – Offering Pongal (rice pudding) in five plantain (banana) leaves – In South India it is customary to eat on a banana leaf. In modern days, these leaves are substituted by the dinner plates.
6. Pooja to Sacred Waters – Five beautifully designed earthen ware pots are filled with water. The water in these pots are symbolic of the waters from the holy rivers in India. Prayer is offered to these waters.
7. Upaveetha Dhaaranam (wearing the sacred thread)- The groom and the father of the bride are inducted into wearing the sacred thread. Any one who is doing an auspicious thing must wear the sacred thread first, irrespective of the caste. Then only they are entitled to partake in the rituals. Some follow the tradition of wearing a raksha (kaappu) after the upaveetha dhaaranam.
8. Kannikaadhaanam (Giving away the bride) – The person giving the bride away introduces the bride with a brief introduction of her genealogy (of three generations). Similarly, the person accepting the bride introduces the groom with his side of genealogy (of three generations). Then the father or the person giving the bride away hands over the bride (with three drops of water) to the groom. The water drops are symbolic of the transfer of total responsibility of the bride to the groom.
9. Paada Pooja – The groom does prayer at the feet of his parents (pranaams) to get their blessings for a happy and prosperous married life.
10. Kaappu Kattudhal (Raksha Bhandan) – The groom ties a Kaappu (Raksha – a sacred yellow thread) on the left hand of the bride. This is for the protection of the bride from all evils.
11. Maangalya Pooja – The Maangalyam is considered sequel to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth). The Maangalyam is worshipped first with a small pooja and shown to the audience individually to get their blessings.
12. Maangalya Dhaaranam – As described earlier.
13. Homam – Described earlier
14. Sapthapadhi – described earlier
15. Poriyidal – offering of puffed rice in the homam.
16. Aasirvaatham – People who are older than the groom sprinkle Akshadai (rice mixed with turmeric powder) on the couple and give their blessings.
17. The priest unties the Kaappu from the groom’s hand and the groom unties from the bride’s hand.
18. Mangala Aarthi – described earlier.