Monday, February 23, 2009

Maangalya DhaaraNam – part -6

Kaaradayaan nOnbu.


We have seen so far two different insights with reference to maangalya dharanam.

On the one hand, we have enough indicators for the absence of Mangal sutra in olden days. On the other we have enough indicators showing how Mangal sutra can have many meaningful connections.

Further probing takes us to a unique practice found in a small community in a small geographic region, involving the Mangal sutra.

This is the  Kaaradaiyaan nonbu, performed exactly at Meena sankramana - at the moment when the Sun enters Pisces.

Prayers for long life for the husband is done with the offer of 'kaaradai' smeared with butter and

a new yellow thread (thaali) is tied around the neck replacing the old one.

This is done by auspicious elderly woman or by oneself. (1)

An important feature is that this nOnbu is prevalent only among Iyengars of Tamilnadu.



Three issues revolve around this nonbu.

1)      If tying the thaali had not been a practice in the marriages in the past, how did this nonbu come into practice in the later times?

2)     How did this become popular only among the Sri vaishnavites of Tamilnadu?

3)   What is special about the exact moment of the sangramana? Any significance to the dishes offered?



Taking up these questions one by one,

"If tying the thaali had not been a practice in the past, how did this nonbu come into practice in the later  times?"

Since our quest is to know how the practice of the tying of the thaali came into place, we shall keep aside the first part of this question and look at the second part.

The second part asks how this nOnbu could have come into practice.

From sangam texts we come to know that a similar nOnbu was in vogue in the Tamil lands from time immemorial. The specific aim of the nOnbu was a prayer for longevity of the husband.  We can quote a host of verses from Paripaadal, Kali-th-thogai, Ainkurunooru and NattriNai that young girls and married woman, after a period of Paavai nonbu had taken sacred dip in the month of Thai, in river estuaries and worshiped Manmatha praying for a good husband and longevity for the husband. Married women have revived their prayers every year on the first day in the month of Thai (thai neeradal) for longevity of husband and happy married life. They used to say (as part of the prayer) that they had done such prayers in their previous birth and would do in their next birth too. That shows how the belief and practice was deep-rooted and had been there for ages.



The important information about this Thai- nOnbu was that this nOnbu was done by all married women including Brahmin women.  Moreover, the Brahmin women had played an important role, by acting as priestess or guides for others, besides doing it for themselves! (2)



Another nOnbu is described in Silappadhikaaram. This was also a prayer for longevity of the husband and  a long and happy married life. This was done by Brahmin women in olden days. This nOnbu was described by a Brahmin woman by name Devandhi to Kannagi.

Just prior to the home-coming of Kovalan from Madhavi, Kannagi had a dream. It was a bad dream indicating the exact events that later happened in her life  after she re-united with Kovalan.

Alarmed by the dream, Kannagi was discussing about it with her Brahmin friend, Devandhi.  Devandhi told her that the dream indicated that Kannagi  had not performed a nonbu in her previous birth, that was meant for happy life with the husband

But even then it was not late. Devandhi advised Kannagi to go the Sangam of river Kaveri (where it joins the sea), take a dip in the scared waters of Surya kund and Soma kund situated there and offer prayers at the temple of Manmatha (the Lord of Love).

This simple austerity would not only bless her with a happy married life but also would  make her be born in 'Bhoga bhoomi' in her next birth where she can enjoy un-interrupted happiness with her husband.

But Kannagi did not show interest in her advise and quipped it as something not in vogue in her families. (3)

(This shows that this nOnbu was not popular with other varnas (here Vaisyas), but was popular among the Brahmins.)



A continuing tradition is found in Thiruppavai. Thiruppavai and the Naacchiyaar thiorumozhi beginning with the Thai-nOnbu is related to the longevity of the husband. The unmarried girls practiced it for getting a good husband. Andal as an unmarried woman could not have expressed the events related to the nOnbu done by married woman. But we can not rule out the probability of a continuation of this nOnbu in a renewed way in Kaaradaiyaan nOnbu � this will be discussed in the later part of this mail.

Similarly, the nOnbu at Sangam described by Devandhi also seems to have influenced in shaping the Kaaradayaan nOnbu.

The nOnbu at Sangam was specific about holy dips at Surya kundam and Soma (Chandra) kundam.

The Sun and the Moon are personified as

the Charkra and the Shanku of Lord Vishnu.

The olden Tamil texts do identify the chakra and shanku as the sun and the moon.


Paripaadal says that

Lord Vishnu holds the Sun and the Moon as his two weapons.  (4)


Silappadhikaram also says  that the Lord at Tirupapathi stands atop the hill with the sun and the moon as his Chakra (because sun is red and round) and Shanku (moon is cool and white, and shanku is got from the waters signified by the Moon) (5)


Andal also makes a mention of this in Thiruppavai (6).

The verse "AnkaN maa-gyaalam" contains the information of how even the kings used to take a dip in the Sangam and wait for the darshan of the Lord with the Sun and the Moon.


The 'sangam iruppaar pOl vandu thalai-p-peidhOm' describes a scenario of even kings taking dip in the two kundams in Sangam and waiting at the door step of Lord Vishnu to see the rise of the sun and the moon when the Lord gives darshan to them.

Andal and her friends also were waiting to get the darshan of the Lord who has the Sun and the Moon (Chakra and Shanku) as though they too had bathed in the Sangam.

All these indicate a tradition of Vishnu devotees in the practice of a nOnbu from time immemorial that was meant for the happy married life and longevity of the husband.



When we have the background information of what was meant by the darshan of Sun and Moon and Sangam and a dip in the sangam, it becomes clear that it had reference to an austerity followed for long as a tradition


This explains the 2nd question raised in the beginning,

"How did this become popular only among  the Sri vaishnavites of Tamilnadu?"


The nOnbu directed at the Lord having Sun and the Moon as His weapons, must have been popular with Vishnu devotees since time immemorial. The worship related to Manmatha � a practice mentioned in Sangam texts and Silappadhikaaram � had continued in Andal's times too.

But later with the formulation of tenets of Sri Vaishnavism after Acharya Ramanuja, the practice would have continued by shedding the Manmatha part and also by not making it mandatory to go to Sangam or a river bank to do the nOnbu. The reason obviously is in line with Srivaishnava tenet of complete loyalty to Sriman Narayana. However a practice that was in vogue for ages which was done in the belief that one is continuing it from previous births (it must be noted that in both the instances quoted on Thai neeradal and Sangam-dip, the prayer included a reminder to God that the person had already done the austerity the previous births too) should not be discarded. So it must have continued but with changed stipulations in the wake of re-framing the nOnbu in accordance with Srivaishnavite practices.

What is of interest to our current topic is that Mangal sutra is an integral part of this nOnbu!


This was not so in earlier nOnbu � not even till Andal's times. Since the nOnbu looks like a modification of previous practices with emphasis on Srivaishnavite tenets, we can say that the ceremony of Maangalya dharanam must have entered vedic marriages around the time of or later to Ramanuja's period.

A further probe into kaaradayaan nOnbu on its timing every year, seems to further unravel the mystery around Maangalya DhaaraNam.



The 3rd question is

"What is so special about the exact moment of the sangramana? Any significance to the dishes offered?"


To find an answer, let us look at the practices in those times.

From Sangam texts we know that Thai nOnbu was done on the first day of Thai.

This gives rise to a notion that it was done on the first day of the solar month of Capricorn.

But a confusion arises about the month � whether it is solar or lunar � if we look at the other information.

If it is Surya sankramaNa or Thai sankramana, then the day must have been Makar sankaranthi.

But nowhere in the texts on Thai neeradal, is there an indication of Makar sankaranthi or beginning of Uttarayana.  But the texts do give us an information about the first day of Paavai nOnbu. From Paripaadal to Thiruppavai, the reference is to begin the Paavai nOnbu on the Full moon day of Maargazhi. The Full moon occurring on Thiruvadhirai was the first day of Paavi nOnbu according to Paripaadal. Andal also indicates the 'Mathi-niraindha nannaaL' on the first day.



This means the reference is to pourNami in the lunar month of Maargazhi.

Today the Full moon occurs in Thiruvadhirai when the sun is in Uttraadam and not when the sun enters Sagittarius.

The time lapse is there due to Precession which was discussed previously in this group (7)


Based on that, one probability is that solar snakramana coincided with Full moon of the lunar month of the same name.

This is supported by Naacchiyaar Thirumozhi, where Andal talks about her month long penance in Thai and also mentions about the first half of Maasi. This means the solar month of Thai contained Krishna paksha pushya and sukla paksha Maagha in those times. If Andal were to do a month long austerity it was for the whole of solar Thai which included the first half of lunar Maagha.

The import that we must not miss is that the austerity coincided with solar sankramana which also had the auspicious time of Full moon. But this coincidence can not be had at all times. With the precession of equinoxes happening, it is not possible to stick to Luni-solar coincidence as a pre-condition always.


When left with a predicament to choose between the two, the solar calendar takes precedence. Because, sun's movement is the controller of events. (The Yearly predictions are made on the basis of sun's movement only). In the changing position of the sun in the backdrop of the zodiac, the need was there to re-do the timing or recommend a new time which will go well with strengthening the prayer for ayush or longevity of the husband. When seen with this rationale, we are able to understand why the meena sankramana was chosen for this nOnbu.


Timing of Kaaradaiyaan nonbu.

It is believed that the timing of it is the same time as that of Savithri getting back her husband. But there is no proof for this time.

Savitthri lore is older than Valmiki Ramayana for we find a mention of it in the dialogue between Sita and Anasuya. (8)

But astrologically speaking, the Meena sangramana indicates a number of pointers for astrologer- initiated remedy for warding off any danger to the life of the husband.

First of all the entry of sun into Pisces stands for the power of Daivagna (astrologer).

Sun's entry into Pisces indicates that the time is powerful to the astrologer. That is, the astrologers gain an upper hold in the events depending on the lord of the day when sun enters Pisces.

This is also a crucial time for various reasons as analyzed from the Natural chart of the Zodiac that starts with Aries.

Recalling the role of Mangal planet from the previous post, Mars stands for the longevity of the husband,

Let us see some additional inputs also. 

Scorpio is the natural 8th in the zodiac signifying Ayur bhava for the native of Aries. But it is also the maaraka sthan for the spouse. That is why the natural 8th indicates manglaya bhava � or the life of the spouse.

The astrological rule is that Saturn is the signifactor for aayush (longevity) and Saturn with the lord of the 8th ensures longevity. (9)

But it is doubtful when Saturn is in the natural 8th house (where he is in enmity) or with Mars the lord of the natural 8th.

It is because Saturn is debilitated in Martian Aries and therefore becomes inimical in Martian Scorpio.

Though he allows Mars to exalt in his own house in Capricorn, Mars does not reciprocate the same.

Saturn is debilitated in the house of Mars in Aries!

This is a dangerous game between these two planets since Saturn stands for longevity and Mars is in constant fear for life as a planet of the soldier! If Mars is not vigilant, he will be finished by Saturn, for Saturn stands for Natural justice, exalting in the house of spouse in the 7th in Libra.


In the natural zodiac, Mars is lord of Aries.

His 4th drishti is on Cancer, the house of Moon, his friend. But there he is weak as he debilitates there.

His 7th dhrishti is on Libra, there he has no power because his master, the king Sun debilitates while Saturn only holds the balance of justice there!

His 8th dhrishti is on Scorpio, and here too if his friend Moon is not helpful and will go into debility, unable to help him in mangal things.

All these 3 places crucial for Mars, can not be rectified unless helped by placement and association of other planets.

Every aspect of pulling him through has been devised in astrology calling for the famous 'marriage- matching' conditions.

But Mars is inauspicious in 12th too, though he has no dhrishti on the 12th house of Meena. It is here the astrologers seemed to have worked out some exceptional remedies.

 For a moment to be auspicious, the power of Sun, Moon, Jupiter and the lagna lord must be there.

And Mars must have a safe passage to ensure longevity to the husband

All these can be ensured at the moment of entry of sun into Pisces.


This is how it happens.

Mars sails through a safe passage in the house of Saturn, in Capricorn by exalting there.

Then he enters Aquarius, again the house of Saturn. There is every chance for Saturn to avenge Mars for debilitating him in Aries. But Saturn is not able to do because here Mars enters into his own stars, Avittam 3rd and 4th pada.

Then he enters Rahu's stars. They also see him placed in Uccha (exaltation) and favorable signs in the Navamasa which is indicative of the Dharma done in the previous birth. As long as Mars in the 2 houses of Saturn, Saturn can not touch him.

But the moment Mars enters Pisces, that is, Poorattadhi (purva bhadhrapada) 4th pada, he will be placed in debility in cancer in the navamsa!.

The moon can not help him there. Because the state of a planet in the navamsa only determines the result of it as shown in the Rasi!

Mars will be in difficult waters if he is entering Pisces (Pisces sangramana)


So this moment of sangramana is strengthened at the instance of the astrologer whose power of word is also indicated by that moment and chosen for invoking the mystic powers of Nature so that long life is ensured to the husband.

They chose the moment of sun's entry into Jupiter's rasi of Pisces

for the Kaaradaiyaan nOnbu.

- the moment will be in the house of Jupiter in the rasi

and in the house of Moon, in cancer in the Navamsa.

Even if times are such that Mars is crossing Kumbha � meena junction,

thereby getting debilitated  in navmasa at the time of nOnbu,

the nOnbu lagna will be such that it will be in the house of Jupiter (pieces) in rasi,

and in Cancer, the house of moon in navamsa,

thereby canceling  the debility of Mars!

Thus the junction of Maasi and Panguni stands for strength of the crucial planets

that determine the auspiciousness of the time of the nOnbu.


The kind of deep thought that has gone into fixing this time for the nOnbu goes to show the high importance given to Mangal dosha in those days.

Unless the need was strongly felt to safe guard the marital life of a couple, this kind of adding new regulations could not have come into place.


Moreover the dishes offered at the nOnbu also have a connection to Mangal or longevity related issues. 

The authentication for this comes from Atharvana veda


Rice cake is offered along with butter. Because that is the remedy stipulated  by Atharvana veda (10)


Rice and barley are considered to be the two foods that protect one from weakness of the body and injuries. They are offered in the prayer in Atharvana veda. The prayer is also aimed at  requesting Agni not to touch the person, because Agni destroys body. Ghee which is generally offered in prayers, is not used, as it is made by heating. The unheated butter is offered in symbolism of asking Agni deva not to trouble the one for whom the prayer is made.


Not only on food offered, we get to see authentication from Atharvana veda on the sacred thread too - on how a thin yellow thread tied to objects of certain designs, with specific manthras invoked on it, can protect the life of one and one's partner. The Atharvana veda itself is a source for Predictive astrology. The ceremonies and symbols connected with Mangalam are traceable to Atharvana veda which the astrologers of those days would have picked up and propagated in the changing times of Kali becoming harsh on human life. The increasing incidence of wars and misery in the last 800 years created a justification for re-formulating certain customs � one such re-formulation occurring in the form of Maangalya dharanam.


 (to be continued)




Reference :-




(3) Silappadhikaaram, Chapter 9 � (55 to 64)


(4) "iru vEru mandilath-thilakkam pOla

nEmiyum vaLaiyum yEndhiya kaiyaal"

says Paripadal 13- lines 8 to 12

(5)  This comes in the first part of chapter 11 in Silappadhikaram which is full of important information of interest to researchers and Vishnu devotees.

It is given as a narration by a Vedik who is on a pilgrimage. He praises his king, the Pandyan, by recalling his ancestors who once ruled Then-Madurai that was later sub-merged.

This Vedik then praises his God Vishnu and says that he is going to Srirangam and then to Tiruppathy.

The information contained here is that people went on pilgrimage to Srirangam first and then to Tiruppathy.

The description of the gods in these 2 kshetras is indeed valuable as it tells us how these deities looked about 1800 years ago.

Of interest is the Lord in Tiruppathy, who was described as having shanku and charka in his two hands.

The Vishnu roopam in 'kidantha vaNNam' and 'nindra vaNNam' as described in Silappadhikaaram (also in all songs on Thirumaal in Paripaadal) make no room for doubt about Bhagawan's Thiru vuruvam.

This is to be compared with the description by Peyazhwaar, (3 rd Thiruvandhathi 63)

of The Lord at Thiruppathy as a mixture of Shiva �Vishnu roopam

And there is also the legend of Ramanujacharya to have restored the Vishnu roopam with shanku and charka.

The description in Silappadhikaram is older than Peyazhwar's.

Peyazhwar is connected with the other Mudal azhwars and had lived in the period after Maamallan. There is reference to Maamallai in Bhoothathaazhwar pasuram. Maamallan came after Silappadhikaram period.

So the Silappadhikaram description reveals that it was purely a Vishnu roopam in Tiruppathy in the earlier period. Differences had cropped up only later to Silappadhikaram period.


(6) Thiruppavai - verse 22




(8)  Valmiki Ramayana (2-118-10)

(9) "AyushkaarEna saninahi adhyashtamaadhipathiryadi

SambhandO vidyatE yasya dheergaayur yogamuchyate"

-         Bhaavaartha  ratnakaaram


(10)  Atharvana Veda- VIII, 2. Prayer for exemption from the dangers of death.

"18. Rice and barley shall be auspicious to thee, causing no bala, inflicting no injury! They two drive away disease, they two release from calamity.
19. Whatever thou eatest or drinkest, the grain of the plough-land or milk, whatever is or is not to be eaten, all that food do I render for thee free from poison."




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