Tamil Matrimony in Focus: Vratham and Pallikai Thellichal ceremonies

The long pre-Tamil matrimony rituals are far from over. The next two rituals are as important as the first two. And we are just getting started.
After the meeting of the families, come the Vratham or the fasting. Usually takes place one day prior to the wedding; this is performed by the bride’s and groom’s family.
This is also the time when Vedic hymns are chanted conducted by the Vaadyar – the priest. And it is performed to make sure that Tamil matrimony will be blessed by their ancestors and their deity.
Vratham is also known to be the ritual signifying that a formal ceremony is about to take place – the Tamil matrimony. As a traditional prayer, it involves meticulous activities for both families. Rice grains are involved in this ceremony, which is layered on cloth with kalasam of silver, copper, brass, or clay. It is also done in a special hall as there is prayer, hymns and a formal priest.
The priest who presides over the ceremony is given dakshina. Satyanarayana Vratha Katha (legend about the efficacy of the vratham) is recited and listened to with immersed attention by all including those gathered to witness the vratham.
The bride ties a holy thread, usually a family heirloom, on her wrist known as “Kappu”. It is believed that doing so will ward off evil spirits that can affect the Tamil matrimony and their marriage.
The groom also performs a ritual by offering prayers to the deity. This symbolizes acceptance of the next stage of his life.
The Pallikai Thellichal ceremony, also done one day before the wedding, involves filling of clay pots with nine varieties of grains. It is also known as Karappu and it is more rooted in folklore.
These ceremony before the Tamil matrimony involves seven clay pots. The clay pots are very special as they are formed using kumkum powder (or earthen pots) and sandalwood paste (as decoration). The nine natural grains are mixed with a curd inside the pots. Then married women from the bride’s family pour water from either side of the pot. Singing of traditional songs follows this event.
The grains are allowed to sprout, done by soaking them in water for one to two days. These clay pots will then be stored in the pond, so that the fishes can feed on these sprouted grains. This symbolizes blessings and abundant marriage for the couple.
Here are some important items in this ceremony:
1. 7 (earthen) clay pots – this symbolizes the origin of the family, as this clay pots need to come from the earth.
2. 9 types of grains – this symbolizes prosperity and abundance for the marriage of the couple.
3. Odd numbered married women – this symbolizes guidance of the wise women for the new married woman in their family.
The humble tradition of Tamil matrimony is not just focused on performing each ritual, but it is truly about honoring traditions, and praying for the blessings to come.

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