Over the summer, during my two-month long trip to India, I got my first experience of a typical Malayali wedding. It was my uncle’s wedding. In case you do not know what that means, it is a wedding of the people originating from Kerala, a southern state in India. People from Kerala are called Malayalis and they speak the language Malayalam, the only language whose name is a palindrome (a word that is the same forwards or backwards) ! Below, I provide a step-by-step insight, on a wedding like no other!
1. Bride’s family welcomes groom and family
Before the groom is introduced, the bride’s family welcomes them. This is done in a process where relatives of the bride wash the groom’s feet and circulating an “aarti lamp” for over the groom. This is a way to bless the groom with good luck.
2. Groom is introduced
The groom and family is introduced. This is done with the groom, his family and relatives taken in a procession to the wedding mandap by the bride’s family with all their female members taking a plate with lamp and flowers, called “thalum”. They walk towards the wedding mandap which where they sit. The mandap is well decorated with lots of flowers and the name of bride and groom is written distinctively. Once they reach there, the groom is taken around the mandap for three couple of rounds and then made to sit on the right seat.
3. Bride is introduced
Just like how the groom is introduced, the same thing is done for the bride. The bride is brought to the mandap in the same manner and she sits on the left side of the groom as per tradition.
4. Groom ties first knot of necklace on bride
At the assigned time for the wedding, which is also called as “muhurtham”, the first step in the wedding is the groom tying the wedding necklace also called as the “thaali”. The groom ties the first knot of the thaali around the bride’s. The Groom’s mother and/or sister ties second and third knot. This signifies the mother and sister strengthening the bond with family blessing and welcoming the bride to the groom’s family. Then all the family members serve bride and groom with a spoon of drink consisting of banana, milk and sugar as a ritual.
5. Groom and Bride put garlands on each other
Then, the groom and the bride put garlands around each other. These are very big garlands made of flowers and are very heavy as well.
6. Three/Seven rounds in a circle
Following the garlands ritual, the bride & groom combo go three/seven rounds in a circle around the mandap holding each others hand. Each round signifies their wow to be together for several births. Its a unique ritual that bonds them for eternity.
7. Exchanging gifts
Then, the two families exchange a gift of clothes. The groom’s family gives the bride a nice sari ( A traditional dress worn by women in India), and the bride’s family gives the groom a nice Kurta/Mundu (A traditional dress worn by men in India). This would be the dress that they would wear when the first go to the groom’s home. Both the families may also shower many other gifts as they wish at this time.
8. Marriage Certificate
Finally, the couple signs the marriage certificate. The specials thing about Malayali weddings is that the authorities who certify the marriage come to the wedding, have the couple sign the sheet there itself, and certify the marriage at the wedding hall. This reduces the hassle the couple would have to undergo to go the registrar to get the wedding certificate. This reduces the strain on the groom and bride, who must be tired after the wedding is over, and just want to go home. The wedding is performed under the guidance of the community elders and no priest involved. I thought this is unique among the many different Indian weddings.
9. Photo Session
After all this, the couple poses for pictures with their relatives and friends. Now-a-days, it is the photographers who dictate how each picture must be taken. It has also become a trend to have fancy albums and wedding videos as a lifelong memory. Speaking of which, I too made a wedding video for my uncle and aunt. I must say, it was a gargantuan task to make a video.
10. The Feast (Sadhya)
The last part, and probably the most important part, is the feast, called “sadhya” in Malayalam . Sadhya means “banquet”. A Malayali wedding is incomplete without a grand sadhya.
Anyways, on to the description of the feast: It consists of rice, pickle (one or more of the mango pickle, lemon pickle, etc), sambar (a typical South Indian curry made of lentils and vegetables), parippu (or dal, a popular Indian curry), papadum ( a thin, crisp baked or fried), rasam (a South Indian soup), erisheri (A dish made from coconut, plantain, and yam), kaalan (a dish made of yogurt, coconut and a special kind of plantain called “nendra kaya”), avial (a thick mixture of uniformly & vertically cut vegetables, coconut, yogurt, seasoned with coconut oil and curry leaves), thoran (a coconut based vegetable usually with carrots, beans, cabbage, etc.), olan (a dish that is prepared from white gourd, pumpkin, beans, coconut milk and ginger seasoned with coconut oil), pachadi (a traditional Kerala dish usually served as a side dish for meals, made using a vegetable or a fruit), banana chips, and inji puli (ginger and chilli pickle made in a sauce of tamarind, jaggery, oil and mustard). There are usually two to three varieties of dessert or sweet dishes called payasam. We had two payasams – a palada pradhaman (ada or processed rice flakes, milk, sugar and spices); vella payasam (rice, jaggery, coconut, ghee and nuts). All this is served in a banana leaf. You also have a side of small bananas or plantains. If you think this is too much of food, well, it is not. You cannot stop eating this delicious meal. Each item is served in specific order by the servers and you can find lots of pictures on the web.
11. Welcoming the bride at the groom’s home.
After the sadhya, the bride is welcomed to the groom’s home with a traditional process where all the females come with a lamp and take the bride and groom inside the home. The bride is introduced to the groom’s family members and relatives and made to feel comfortable. They again serve a spoon of the banana, milk, sugar drink. After this process, it is up to the families to celebrate the wedding as per their choice.
This is a typical malayali wedding. Someone who attended this wedding had written on a Facebook post that this was a “Priestess, Smokeless and of course Flawless wedding!”. I am attaching a snap of my family having the sadhya. I wish my uncle and aunt a very happy married life. I hope you enjoyed reading about the malayali wedding and must now have an idea of how much fun I had during the summer of 2016 in India.