Monday, February 23, 2009

Maangalya dhaaraNam – part 2

 Similarity in marriage practices!

One of the popular notions is that Mangalya dharanam or tying of the thaali

was a practice prevalent in Tamil culture only.

This practice spread to the north from Tamilnadu and its adjoining states.

But this notion is not supported by the practices as revealed in Tamil texts.

Nor can it be said that Vedic marriage of the type of Sita kalyanam

was not part of Tamil culture.

Vedic marriage as described in Valmiki Ramayana was also practiced in Tamilnadu.

Thol kappiyam talks about the same 8 types of marriages.

It also talks bout the PuL nimittham

the sakuna indications as done in Vedic marriages.


From Choodamani nigandu,

we come to know that though marriage types were eight,

the choice of groom was done only by two methods  (1)

They were 'ara nilai inbham' and 'mara nilai inbham'


The former is about the marriage of the two

having similar characteristics in terms of age and kulam

and conducted in the presence of relatives and friends in front of Agni.

This is Vedic marriage and the marriage of Kovalan and Kannagi.

was strictly done by this Vedic method only.

The details of this can be read in Silappadhikaram


The second type is the marriage in which

the groom wins the hand of the bride

by winning some game such as a bull-fight or a shooting game.


The bull fight was popular in Mullai lands of Tamil nadu

where the Aayar girl married the winner of her bull.

 The shooting game was popular among the soldier clan - maravar clan

who had a stake in getting the most valiant person as the son-in-law.


This is similar to Rama's and Arjuna's marriage.

The scene was that of a Swayamvaram

the girl choosing her groom – but from among the persons of similar traits

who proves himself to be supreme among others.


These two types on choice of groom, as mentioned in the Nigandu

were very much prevalent throughout  India in those days –

with no regional difference.

This is because, as is told in several places in the Tamil texts,

this entire country was known as "Naavalam theevu" or Jhambhoo dweepa

All the people moved around this Jhambhoo dweepa

and followed the same culture.(2)


In not less than 3 places in Silappadhikaram,

there is mention of Naavalam theevu referring to the whole land mass

of which Tamilnadu was also a part.

The marriage practices were the same.

The religious practices were the same.

For all the people of this Jhambhoo dweepa,

Ganges was the holy river. Vedas were the authority.


The Cheran king, Senkutuvan who went to the Himalayas

to get the rock for constructing a temple for Kannagi

had made a trip to the North even before that.

That was a pilgrimage trip he undertook with his mother

to take a holy dip in the Ganges (3)

The similarities extend to war practices

and social practices too.

Needless to say the marriage practices were also the same –

without Mangalya dharanam!!


Sita kalyanam was a 'Prajapathi' marriage whereby

the duo belonged to the same kulam, gunas, status (in every sense of the term)

and were united in marriage by Vedic rituals facilitated by

the "Prajapathi" or 'Brahma'

who guides and directs the marriage ceremonies.

In any Vedic ritual there will be a senior officiating priest

who is designated as Brahma to authorize the proceedings.

It is because of this, such a marriage is known as Prajapathi.


We find that the Kovalan – Kanangi marriage also was a Prajapathi marriage –

similar in description to Rama's marriage.

Writing his commentary on such a marriage as told in Thol kappiyam,

Nacchinaarkkiniyar justifies the name Prajapthi in Prajapthi marriage as told above.

Such a  marriage is praised by all as 'Nonbu' or  a tapas that has come true,

because it is very pleasing and joyous to see such a marriage.

The spectators, while blessing the couple with sacred rice

used to think what kind of nonbu or tapas

they must have done to see such a marriage. (4)


Another commentator, Adiyaarkku nallar coins the Tamil term 'voppu'

for this Prajapathi marriage.

This means the marriage is between the persons of the same clan having similar traits.

Since it is 'voppu', it also includes marriage within the already related ones.


Such a marriage described in Silappadhikaram was done in Vedic way.

There was PAnigrahanam but no Mangalya dharanam.

There is mention of 'ashta mangala' things such as

auspicious things that include water pots (kumba) carried by auspicious women.

There is mention of the vedic practice of growing nava dhanya

(9 types of grains – called paaligai)

 There is mention of comparing Kannagi to Arundhathi,

the sacred bath to the bride, the sacred music and so on.


Ilangovadigal used the word "mangalam" in a couple of places

while describing the marriage ceremony (5)

But that was about auspicious ornaments and auspicious decoration.

But mangalya dharanam was conspicuously absent in the description.


Not only in Silappadhikaram, we find mention of simple weddings

with or without Agni-saakshi  in Aga nanuru also.

But whatever description is given, it tallies with Vedic marriage rituals only

For instance we find in Rama's marriage, the thread ceremony done before the marriage.

A sacred thread was tied to the wrist of both the bride and the groom.

This ceremony is mentioned in Agananuru also, wherein it is stated

that a white thread specially prepared from some plants

(the process of preparing is mentioned )

is tied to the bride's wrist by her relatives. (6).

After the 'thread' ceremony only,

the bride is brought to the decorated marriage platform

and given in marriage to the groom.

The description after this is indicative of 'dattam' that Janaka did (7)


Seeing Nimitta and muhurtha formed an important part in Vedic weddings.

The same customs prevailed in Tamil lands too.

The auspicious day of the moon joining Rohini as a suitable day for marriage,

seeing Sakuna or Nimittha and

holding of the hands as  a mark of the bride being given to the groom in marriage

are found in other Tamil texts such as Kali-th-thogai.


But in all these descriptions,

the tying of the thaali or  the sacred thread around the neck is missing.


There is mention of wearing jewels – auspicious jewels -

but no mention of this specific ornament as Mangalyam.


It will be interesting to know about the love marriages in those days.

The popular opinion in Tamilnadu is that love marriages were common in those days.

They quote the 2 states of marriage, namely 'kaLavu' and 'karpu'

This is told in Thol kappiyam.

Thiruvalluvar also divided the 3rd part of Thirukkural on Kaama into these two.


But they were not like the love marriages of today.

The KaLavozukkam is not about "kaLLam"

It is defined by Parimelazhagar (in his commentary to Thirukkural)

as the relationship between a healthy (no disease and no old age) boy and a girl 

who match each other in physical looks, in tendencies,

in financial status, in age, in kulam, in characteristics and in love.

The coming together of these two without the presence of relatives 

and friends is known as 'kaLavu'. (8)


Inter-caste marriages are not suggested by this.

The marriage is between the people of same clan

but consummated  without the presence of parents.

By this it is known,

that an Aayar boy married an Aayar girl and not someone from another clan.

The mobility was not approved – a trait continuing till today

but the mobility of a girl to an upper strata was approved.

It is because marriage is about the 4 purusharthas, of which

Moksha or emancipation is the Final goal!

Every act in human life is expected to train and divert one

to spiritual growth - towards Realization of the need to get released

from  the cycle of birth.

Movement to a clan that was better evolved in such practices was acceptable

But movement to a clan that is yet to incorporate such practices

for Final emancipation  was discouraged.


These practices were the same throughout the Jambhoo dweepa

and not confined to one area as to claim that it was Tamil culture or so.


In fact the kaLavu and karpu of Tamil lands

have their Sanskrit counter parts in

King Bhoja raja's 'Shrunghara prakasham' as

'sambhogam for kaLavu and

'vipra yogam for Karpu.


We can locate a verse of kaLavu nature in Agananuru (9)

which is about a girl eloping with her lover.

The mother expresses in that verse her wish

that the lover bedeck her in all jewellery.

There is again no mention of thaali

but the girl missing the joy of getting beautified with jewels is indicated.

From this and from other verses on marriage,

it is known that bridal jewellery was part of marriage.

Such decoration is done before the marriage ceremony begins.

But there is no indication of a specific ornament to be compulsorily worn

or gifted at the time of marriage.

If the tying of the thaali is a major event of the marriage as it is nowadays,

then it would have been certainly mentioned somewhere.

But that it is not so, makes us wonder

whether this event was a later addition.

Till Silappadhikaram times,

Mangalya dharanam was not in vogue –

this is something we can say with certainty.


According to Silappadhikaram, Madurai was burnt on a Friday

with moon in  Kaarthgai star,

in the Krishna paksha, in the month of Aadi. (10)

If this date can be identified,

we can know for sure until what times,

the purely Vedic way of marriage –sans Mangalya dharanam

was in practice in Tamil lands.


(to be continued)





(1)"koorumOr paruvam nlla kulam otthadaaga thee-vEttaar

iyalil  irutthal ara nilai inbhamaagum

yEru thaan thazhuval villai ilakkam aithiduthal ellam

maarudau neriyil kootta mara nilai inbhamaamE"

Choodamani nigandu 12- 63


(2) Silappadhikaram -25-174, 29-9, &17

Manimegalai – 2-1

Paripaadal – 5-8


(3) Silappadhikaram – 25 -160-62


(4) Chapter 1 of Silappadhikaram


(5) "mangala aNi" – silappadhikram – 1-47

"mangala nal aMaLi"  1-59 (amaLi- cot)


(6) "VeN nool katti" Aga nanuruy -136


(7) "thamar namakku 'eendha' thalai naaL" Aga nanuru - 136


(8) "kaLavaavathu piNi, mooppu, irappugaL indri, engyaandrum voru thanmaiyaraai, vuruvum, thiruvum, paruvamum, kulanum, gunanum, anbhum mudaliyavattraal thammuL voppumai vudaiyaraai, thalai maganum, thalai magaLum, pirar koduppavum, aduppavum indri, paal vagaiyaal thaamE yethir pattu, puNarNthu varuvadhu" –

ParimElazhagar in Thirukkural vurai for KaLaviyal of Inbhatthu-p-paal


(9) Aga nanuru – 35


(10) Silappadhikaram 25 – 133-35


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