Marrige Customs & Rites
Their marriage customs are unique amongst other communities in Tamil Nadu and usually do not accept the officiating of Brahmin priests.
This indirectly says that, they are one of the oldest and civilized communities in India.
Gounders marry outside their Kootam (Gotram) and are renowned for their elaborate three-day-marriage extravaganzas. Only some kootams give and take very high dowries, whereas today that is fading away. Their marriage rituals follow the Kshatriya pattern and necessarily involve service castes participation.
Kongu Vellalar Marriage Kongu Vellala Gounders-Ceremonial Rites in Marriages Who perform rites? Arumaikaarar Arumaikaari Naavidhan (Barber) Vannaan (Washer man) Potter (Vetkovar) Paraiyars (Men from paraiya caste) Kammaalar Pandaaram Maadhaari (shoemaker) Porutham paarthal (Examination of the agreement of horoscopes) Sagunam paarthal (Being guided by omens) Mutual visit to the houses of bride and bridegroom Betrothal (Nichayadhaartham or nichaya thaamboolam) Invitation for marriage Kongu Vellalar Marriage Kongu Vellalar Marriage.
Rituals and customs Kongu Nadu is an ancient one. From the very beginning, Kongu Nadu was part of Tamil Nadu. Kongu means honey; Kongu means fragrance of a flower. Since the country (Nadu) was full of flowers and abundant honey in mountain areas, the country was called by the name ‘Kongu Nadu'. The Kongu Vellalars are sons of the soil. They live in one third land area of Kongu Nadu. Even though all the people who take to agriculture are called Vellalar, the word ‘Kongu Vellalar' refers to only Kongu Vellalar gounders.
Kongu Vellalar Marriage:
The Vellalar were of great assistance to the king by being in various positions and ranks in the army. They also got the title 'Kamindan' from the king for their meritorious service and loyalty. Later the title got modified as ‘Gounden'. To streamline the living together of the boy and the girl, certain regulations and procedures were created. The procedures and habits as per certain regulations later became ‘rites'. The performance of all the rites collectively in a sequence is called marriage.
Kongu Vellala Gounders-Ceremonial Rites in Marriages The various rites being performed nowadays in the marriage ceremony of Kongu Vellalar community are unique in nature. Each and every rite is performed for some specific reason. The original rites performed centuries ago in Kongu Vellalar marriage ceremony which resembled ‘Sanagam’ age rites have undergone minor changes and modifications from technology and consequent changes in customs, habits and facilities. Some rites have ceased to exist because of their having become obsolete.
The rites which are being performed nowadays in Kongu Vellalar marriage ceremony reflect the superior character, rich culture and high tradition of Kongu Vellalar community.
Who perform rites?
All the ceremonial rites relating to Kongu Vellalar marriage are performed by ‘arumaikaarar’, arumaikaari, naavidhan (barbar), washer man (vannaan) and such others who are closely associated with the occupation of Kongu Vellala Gounders.
An ‘arumaikaarar’, who is a respected elderly member of the community, is the prime person for performing the marriage rites of Kongu Vellalar. The arumaikaarar is also used to be called ‘arumaiperiyavar’, 'seerkaarar’ and ‘pudavaikaarar’. The aruamikaarar should have wife and child/children.
On the specified day, the three arumaikaarars, after planting the ‘Muhurthakaal’, will go to an anthill of white ants, offer prayer, gather sacred earth in three baskets and bring the same to the wedding place.
A women gets the name arumaikaari after the performance of certain rites on her by an arumaikaarar at the time when her son or daughter has attained age for marriage. The rite relating to this is called ‘Ezhudhingam’, as mentioned by Dr. R.Venketeswaran in his research paper titled ‘Vennandhur Vattaara Kongu Vellalar Vaazhviyal’. The arumaikaari (the women who has undergone the process of ezhudhingam) along with the arumaikaarar will perform all the rites relating to women.
The rites being performed on men or women who wish to become arumaikaarar or arumaikaari respectively clearly point out that only those who are respected elders, who are well experienced and who are having spouse and child/children, are qualified to perform the rites of a marriage ceremony.
Next to arumaikaarar, the naavidhan (barbar) plays an important role in conducting the rites of the marriage ceremony of Kongu Vellalar. The naavidhan is called ‘Kudimagan’. The Kudimagan’s important works in the conduct of the marriage are to invite all relatives for the marriage, to perform each and every rite of the marriage ceremony along with the arumaikaarar, to recite the ‘mangala vaazhthu’ song and to announce and call the relatives concerned before performing each rite.
Vannaan (Washer man):
The marriage pandhal (a temporary shed with a roof made of plaited coconut leaves) will be decorated with colorful clothes on all sides including the top by the washer man. Cloths will be laid down on the path to enable the newly wedded couple to walk on the same when the couple comes to the decorated marriage platform.
The vetkovar is one who makes earthen pots. The Sangam works praise the potter as a vessel-making king. The potter will make and supply earthen pots required for performing the marriage rites. There was an agreement between Kongu Vellalar and potters to the effect that the potters will receive paddy and money from the Kongu Vellalar in return for the post supplied, as mentioned in ‘Madurai Pattayam’ (grant inscribed on copper plate).
Paraiyars (Men from paraiya caste):
The paraiyars will beat the Kettle –like drums and make loud musical noise during the marriage of kongu Vellalar.
The `Kammaalar` are artisans who work in wood. The kammaalar will make and supply all the agricultural instruments and tools required by the Kongu Vellalar.
They will also make and supply things such as wooden plate, ladle, salt box, special box with five compartments used to keep spices for cooking, which are required for performing the rite `madaikalam vaithal` in the marriage ceremony.
The pandaarams used to perform pooja for village gods. The pandaarams are also very good in cooking and they undertake the work of cooking also in Kongu Vellalar marriages.
The maadhaari or sakkili people are also involved in Kongu Vellalar marriages. These people make new chappals for bridegroom as well as bride and give them for a consideration. Wearing of new chapples made and supplied by the maadhaari is also a rite in Konge Vellalar marriage ceremony.
Porutham paarthal (Examination of the agreement of horoscopes):
Tholkaappiyar says that there are ten aspects of agreement (porutham) to be looked in to between the boy and girl. They are birth, quality of family, strength, age personality, attachment, humility, compassion, knowledge and wealth.
Sagunam paarthal (Being guided by omens):
Apart from seeing the horoscope, there was also the practice of taking guidance from omens (sagunam paarthal) in temples of respective ‘kuladheivams’. Keeping flowers in front of god and watching the movement of the flower, listening to the voice and sound of lizard are some of omens, which are looked at before taking a decision on matrimonial matters. Only if the omen is good and positive, the green signal for the marriage will be given.
'Mullai paattu’, a Sangam Tamil poem, says that aged women will worship the God with paddy and flowers, praying for permission to take the decision on marriage alliance and hoping that good things will happen in future by this deed.
Mutual visit to the houses of bride and bridegroom After coming to a decision that the proposal for marriage is satisfactory and can be gone through, the bridegroom’s family members and close relatives will visit the house of the bride and see for themselves the state of affairs, the house, the land, quality of living, status and other such things and in the same manner, the bride’s family members and close relatives will visit the bridegroom’s house. Only after knowing and evaluating all these aspects and getting themselves satisfied with all relevant matters, will consent be given to the next stage called betrothal (nichayadhaartham).
Betrothal (Nichayadhaartham or nichaya thaamboolam):
After taking a decision that the marriage can be conducted, an auspicious day will be chosen and on that day, the bridegroom’s family along with relatives and friends will go to the bride’s house. The bride’s parents as well as bridegroom’s parents are called ‘Sambandhi’. A plate containing fruits, betel and areca nut will be kept on a tripod. Persons from bride’s side and the bridegroom’s side will sit opposite to each other, with the tripod kept in between them and start holding discussions. The bridegroom’s side will tell the bride’s side that they have come to request their consent for the marriage alliance and the bride’s side will reciprocate by giving their consent with pleasure. Then the two sides will exchange plates containing coconut and fruits. The girl will be called and given a plate containing new dresses and presents. After receiving the same, the bride will enter the dressing room and come out after wearing the new dress given by the bridegroom’s side. The bride will be asked to keep in her lap betel, areca nut, turmeric, lemon, etc. and pay regards and respect to the elders present on that occasion to grace the betrothal function. By mutual consent, the date and time and the venue of the marriage are fixed. Thereafter, the bride’s family hosts a feast called ‘parupanchotru virundhu’ (feast including rice and dhal) to mark the end of the betrothal event. In this context, it is to be pointed out that the bridegroom’s side will not take food in bride’s house unless and until the marriage is fixed and confirmed. This has been mentioned by Pulavar T.P.Chinnasami in his book ‘Thirumana Sadangugalil Panpaadu’.
Invitation for marriage:
Nowadays marriage invitation cards are printed and mostly sent by post. Only close relatives and close friends are invited personally by handing over invitation cards. In those days, the kudimagan used to go to each and every house in person for extending the invitation for marriage. The kudimagan will also specify the number of invitees in each house for the marriage. Even if person from the bride’s family or bridegroom’s family invited personally, the invitees will not attend the marriage unless the kudimagan comes in person and extends the invitation. Such was the importance attached to the extends the invitation. Such was the importance attached to the kudimagan’s invitation in those days in Kongu Vellalar marriages.
Rites before marriage:
As soon as the marriage is fixed, the relatives will voluntarily come forward to involve themselves in all the work relating to the marriage in bride’s house and bridegroom’s house. The relatives consider it an honour to go to the marriage house and do the works relating to the marriage. Work such as steaming paddy, cutting firewood, serving food to guests, erection of pandhal for the marriage is carried out only by relatives. All these actions and deeds show that in Kongu Vellalar community, the relatives are given due respect and that they render help voluntarily, bound by strong love and affection. The Kongu Vellalar marriage is an ancient one. It has unique qualities. The various rites in Kongu Vellalar marriages are conducted by an elderly person of the Kongu Vellalar community itself, called ‘Arumaikaarar’. Raising of sacrificial fire and chanting of vedic hymns do not find a place in the marriage ceremony of Kongu Vellalar. The marriage rites reveal the fine qualities and rich traditions of Kongu Vellalar community. Wide publicity is given for the celebration of temporary structure (pandhal), cutting firewood and the loud beating of musical instruments. The events and rites such as ‘pariyam’ idudhal, betrothal, kulam kodhudhal and muhurthakaal naattudhal serve as evidence for the marriage. The rite “Aarathi eduthal” (a plate containing water mixed with turmaric and lime waved before newly married couple), “Senjoru aindhadai suttrudhal” (waving rice balls before newly married couple), and ‘Arugumanam seidhal’ are performed with a view to eliminating the blight caused due to evil eyes. Fasting and ‘Kaappu Kattudhal’ are rites which mark the determination of the bride and the bridegroom to enter into a new life . Tying of thaali by the bridegroom around the neck of the bride and exchanging of garlands in the presence of all gathered for the marriage ceremony mark the completion of the wedding. The blessings for the couple through mangala vaazhthu song are also considered to be the blessings of the people present for the marriage ceremony. ‘Tharrai varthal’ and ‘Kaithalam pattrudhal’ are rites which point out the rights and responsibilites of the bride and the bridegroom. Events such as steaming of paddy (nel vega vaithal), Cutting firewood and erection of pandhal (temporary structure) indicate the closeness among relatives. The rite ‘thaayudan unnal’ (‘thaayudan unnal’ is a very good quality) adds glory to the women community. The rite ‘inai cheer’ is a rite which shows the admirable quality of protecting the rights of women. Coming closer of relatives (bride’s family and bridegroom’s family) is made known and exhibited by rites such as ‘Kai Korvai’, ’seer koodai’ procession and ‘pudhy kalandhunnal’. The rite ‘paadha poosai seithal‘ signifies the respect shown by the bride and the bridegroom for their parents. The rite ‘naattukal valhipaadu shows that any important event or activity is commenced only after paying regards and respect for community leaders and obtaining their blessings. When other communities have opened their gateway for Aryan and priestly rites, Kongu Vellalar community has not accepted the above rites for purpose of following. The main purpose of today’s marriage movement is that all the marriage rites should be performed only in Tamil. This is being followed fully in Kongu Vellalar marriages. In each and every marriage, it is natural that certain rites take place. Marriage with out rites means marriage without irrational and foolish rites. Most of the rites of Kongu Vellalar marriages resembles those in marriages of the Sangam age.
Rich culture, high tradition, customs and habits of Kongu Vellalar, who are the indigenous clan of Tamil Nadu, are revealed in the various marriage rites. The Kongu Vellalar is comparable to the best in the world. The Kongu Vellalar, who were the chief architects of agriculture, can feel very proud of their unique and ancient culture, known extraordinary hard work, hospitality, helping nature, harmonious living with nature as well as othercommunities, courage, respecting women, high standards of living, prosperity and support to deserving.
The Kongu Vellalar marriage can be said to resemble the ‘prajaapathyam’ type marriage of the Aryans. In Kongu Vellalar marriage, the bridegroom’s family goes to the bride’s house, propose the marriage and request the consent of the bride’s family for the alliance. After obtaining consent from the bride’s family, the marriage takes place.
Kongu Vellalar Marriage Rites and Marriage Venue:
In the Past, kongu Vellalar marriages took place in bride’s house. In those days, it was the practice that only very close relatives were invited for the marriages. However, nowadays relatives, friends, neighbors and other known persons are being invited in large numbers for the marriages. For want of sufficient space and other needed facilities, the marriages are not held in the houses, but held in marriage halls which have come up in large numbers to suit the budget and requirements of all categories of people.
Marriage Season Dr Sasivalli, in her book ‘Thamizhar Thirumanam’ has stated as follows: Ancient Tamils considered spring (April-May) Season, day with moon and rogini and early morning time suitable for conducting the marriages. With passage of time, changes and modifications took place in season, day and time.
Kongu Vellalar do not conduct marriages in the tamil months of Aadi and maargazhi. Generally, they do not choose even Chithirai for conducting the marriage. Marriages are held mostly in the months of Vaikaasi, Aani and Asvani taking into consideration the fact that the season will be good during these months and also jasmine flower of lovable fragrance which is required in large quantities for the marriage, will be available in plenty during this season. The marriages of Kongu Vellalar are celebrated for three consecutive days The First day event The first day event is called ‘Naal virundhu’. On this day, close relatives of the bride and bridegroom will host feast for the bride’s family and bridegroom’s family respectively. The Second day event On the second day, marriage arrangements will be done by brining together all relatives. Events such as erection of pandhal (temporary shed), cutting of ‘Muhurtha Kaal’, hairdressing of bridegroom by kudimagan, informing the marriage event to village community by drum beating, hosting of feast for the relatives in the bride’s family as well as bridegroom’s family, bridegroom leaving for the bride’s house will take place on the second day. The marriage event will take place in bride’s house. The Third day event The mukurtham will take place on third day. The bride and the bridegroom will be seated on the marriage platform on completion of appropriate rites. The thaali (mangala naan) will be tied by the bridegroom around the bride’s neck and mangala vaazhthu song will be recited.
The marriage events will come to a close with the serving of grand feast to all relatives, friends and neighbors. The marriage events will be performed by a respected elderly person of the community itself called arumaikaarar. This section explains the various events of the marriage ceremony. All the rites are performed only in the Tamil language.
Kongu Vellalar Marriages in Tamil Literatures Kongu Vellalar had held high positions such as chieftains and army generals. Hence rites relating to government administration and war find their places in Kongu Vellalar marriages The events such as bridegroom riding a horse in olden days, giving gifts and presents including weapons are examples of the above. The main occupation of Kongu Vellalar was agriculture and they excelled in it by their hard work and dedicated efforts. Hence agriculture related rites such as boiling paddy and seer koodai formed part of the marriage rites of Kongu Vellalar.
‘Mangala vaazhthu’ song:
The mangala vaazhthu song, which is, recited only in kongu Vellalar marriages. This song explains in detail and in sequence all the events related to a marriage from the beginning to the end. The song has been written in such a way that it describes the marriage events in a grand manner as if it is taking place in a king’s family. The Status, life, style, culture, and nature of society and relationship of Kongu Vellalar are very well brought out by the above song. The mangala Vaazhthu song is qualified to be spoken literature.
The art of marriage Kongu Vellalar strives their best to lead a successful and prosperous domestic life after marriage.