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Wedding procedure

ENGAGEMENT

Usually nichayathartham will take place in groom's house. Bride's parents will come there with thamboolam, fruits, flower, sweet,(like Murukku, mullu murukku laddu, mysore pak, milk halva). Groom's parents will receive them. This consists of a preliminary Ganapathi Pooja followed by honouring the parents of the groom by the parents of the bride and vice versa and announcing the final agreement by the bride’s parents that they are willing to give their daughter in marriage to this groom. The groom and his parents accept the proposal . The groom’s parents give her a silk sari during this time. She receives this and changes whatever sari she wears with the new one. The groom’s sister ties in some families Thamboola in the end of this sari.Please note that the proposal was initiated by the groom through the intermediary of the elders and not by the bride’s parents as is common now. This system must have changed from Vedic times in the recent past. In this function elders from both families meet each other and bless the groom and the bride for a happy future. There is also a custom of giving articles for washing and make up as well as two dolls by the groom’s party to the bride during this occasion. It is called for Vilayadal or playing. This is supposed to be given by the groom’s sister. Sometimes along with this she also presents a silk sari.

Pandakkal

the pandalkal muhurtam or the auspicious moment for defining the sacred space of the festival by the ritual of erecting the pandalkal or pandal pole. This is done in front of the shrine of the Sambandha Vinayagar who is freshly anointed with vermillion and showered with abhishekas for the occasion. Here on the ground the pandalkal decorated with mango leaves and flower garlands is firmly planted inside a pit which has been dug and consecrated earlier with bhumi puja ritual. After the pole is erected, diparadhana and arathi are performed.

Receiving of the Grooms party

This is a very important function of yester years and used to be done at the boundary of the village. The bride’s parents receive the groom and his family with coconuts and Nadaswaram and lead them to the place where stay has been arranged. With the concept of village undergoing change, nowadays the groom’s party is taken to their place of stay and is received in front of the mantap by the bride’s parents and relatives. They are received besides the usual coconut, flowers and Thamboola with two conical structures called “ Paruppu Thengai Kutti”.

Vritham

The marriage ceremonies begin with the Vratham performed separately by the bride and the groom. For the bride, it means the tying of the KAPPU – the holy thread on her wrist which is meant to ward off all evil spirits. It symbolises a kind of the protective armour for the bride. For the groom, the various Gods – Indra, Soma, Chandra, Agni. From there on, the groom prepares himself for a new chapter in his life as a householder or Grihasta. The days of his bachelorhood or brahmacharya are now over and the acceptance of this is all what the Vratham is about.

‘PAALIKAI’ SEEDS SOWING (Palikai Talitthul)

This is fertility rite. Paalikais are earthen five pots prepared a day earlier – pots spread at the base with mango leaves (mavilai) and sand , five kinds of pre-soaked cereals are ceremonially sown in these pots by Five Sumangalis(Married ladies).

KASHI YATRA

After the Vritham the groom wears for the first time in his life the 8 yards Dhoti called Soman in the Pancha Kacham (which incidentally means big Veshti one part of which goes in between the legs) fashion. He also wears an Uttariyam.It is normal for him to carry a fan, an umbrella, a bamboo fan, a grantham (any book nowadays), wear new slippers and also a small bundle .He wears (collyrium) Kan Mai, garland and sees himself for the first time in the mirror after the poonal. He also wears double poonal (sacred string) indicating the fact that he is ready to become a grihastha. He usually walks away from the marriage Pandal and is stopped by the father of the bride .The groom informs the bride’s father that he is going to Kasi. (Which indicates that he is still learning and is going further to learn). The bride’s father first tells them that he is already an accocmplished Vedic Scholar and requests him to stop his travel for learning and offers him a coconut and offers his daughter in marriage to him and requests him to come back and become a grihastha. The groom accepts this request. This is not a Vedic ritual as no manthras are uttered. Another important indication is that the negotiation is between the groom and the bride’s father again.

MAALAI MAATHAL

The bride and the groom are lifted to the shoulders of their respective uncles; and in that position the two garland each other thrice for a complete union. A garland worn by a person, should not be used by another, ordain our shastras. Here the exchange of garlands symbolises their unification – as one soul in two bodies. It is inward acceptance by each of the very fragrance of the other.

OONJAL/UNJAL

This is another very interesting ritual, which is not Vedic and entirely managed by women relatives. This is also called Kannujal.The silk Sari to be worn by the bride during this occasion was supposed to be purchased by her maternal uncle. The bride keeps her fingers folded in to the palm in a conical form and the groom holds her hand (It is interesting to note that the Pani Grihanam which means holding of hand, which is a Vedic ritual takes place much later after the oonchal. Hence some elders feel that Oonchal ceremony should not be held at this time). The groom leads the bride in front of the Oonchal (A swing) and they stand together facing east, Then the mother of the bride, mother of the groom, paternal aunts of the bride and the groom and one of the uncles wife’s or maternal aunts (altogether five people in some families seven people) one by one sprinkle milk on the feet of the groom and bride (symbolizing washing their feet with milk) and wipe their feet with the edges of their silk sari. After this function the groom and bride are asked to sit in the swing, ( It is told that the bride’s feet should not touch the ground and only the groom’s feet should touch the ground while sitting in the swing, symbolizing that He is the controller of the family) the same relatives then wave colured rice balls (normally coloured red but in some cases coloured yellow and red) all round them in a circular motion and throw them in different directions. This is a ceremony meant to ward off evil from the groom and bride. After this the same relatives give a mixture of sugar, milk and banana to the bride and groom. Once this is over the bride's paternal aunt walks round the swing with a lamp kept on a plate and lit on cooked rice, fed by ghee and with five wicks kept on a brass plate called Thambala .She is followed by the bride’s mother, grooms mother, grooms paternal aunt, brides or grooms uncle’s wife alternatively carrying a pot of water and a lit lamp normally kept in a vessel. (So that wind does not put it off). While all these is going on the women invitees sing mellifluous tunes composed by several poets for the occasion. Most of them remind of the puranic marriages of either Vishnu or Shiva. Once the function is over a pot of water is handed over to the groom and bride so that they can wash their feet. The priest waves a coconut round the bride and groom and breaks the coconut.

VARA POOJA

The feet of the groom is washed by bride’s father to welcome the groom as Mahavishnu Svarupaya varahaya ie maha vishnu himself and the bride as Lakshmi . Then the bride’s father and the bridegroom’s father facing each other, solemnise the final betrothal ceremony, the vedic priest chanting the relevant hymns-in which the Ghotras & names of the bride, the bridegroom, as well as the names of their three generations of ancestors, are recited in presence of friends, relatives, and invitees.

KANYA DAANAM

Bride sits on the lap of her father. Her father should face north with the brides mother on his right side. The groom stands facing the west.. The father of the bride holds the Thamboola (Betel leaf and areca nut) in his palms and the bride should place her palms holding coconut on her father’s palms. The groom should join his palms and get prepared to receive the bride’s palm holding coconut and GOLD COIN from her father. While her palms are being transferred, the bride’s mother should keep on pouring water over her daughter’s hand, which should made to fall on the ground (This is called Dhara in Sanskrit. In Tamil this ceremony is called Dharai Varthu Kodukkal). Gently the bride’s palms are transferred to the groom’s hand. This ritual symbolizes the transfer of ownership of the bride to the groom.

MANGALYA DHARANAM

The groom ties the mangalya arranged on a yellow string round the neck of the girl only the first knot is put by him and two more knots are put by his sister. (The groom’s sister is normally given a suitable present for tying the two knots). The bride is normally sits facing east and sits on a bundle of grain-laden hay. The groom recites the following prayer while tying the Mangalya: - :”This string is holy and giver of good things in life. It also is going to elevate my life. Hey, beautiful maiden, I am tying this around your neck and pray that you would live for hundred years.”

PAANI GRAHANAM

This means "holding hands". The groom holds the hand of the bride. The Manthras say: The Devas have offered you to me in order that I may live the life of a householder ( GRIHASTA ); we shall not part from each other even after we grow old.

SAPTHAPADI

Holding the bride’s hand, the bridegroom walks seven steps with her. This is the most important part of the marriage ceremony, and only when they walk seven steps together ( i.e. perform SAPTHAPADHI) is the marriage complete legally. The belief is that when one walks 7 steps with another, one becomes the another’s friend. The manthras recited then, mean: "Ye who have walked seven steps with me, become my companion, where by I acquire your friendship. We shall remain together inseparable. Let us make a vow together; we shall share love, share the same food, and share the strength, the same tastes. We shall be of one mind, we shall observe the vow together. I shall be the SAMA, you the RIG: I shall be the Upper World, you the earth; I shall be the SUKHILAM, you the HOLDER – together we shall live, beget children, and other riches, come thou, O sweet-worded girl? "

PRADHAANA HOMAM

A crucial part of the wedding is the homage paid by the couple to AGNI, the fire- God. They circle around the fire, and feed it with ghee, and twigs of nine types of trees, as sacrificial fuel. The fumes that arise, are supposed to possess medicinal, curative and cleansing effects on the bodies of the couple. AGNI, the mightiest power in the cosmos, the sacred purifier, the all-round benefactor, is deemed as a witness to the marriage (AGNI SAAKSHI ).

LAAJA HOMAM

This shall comprise the bride’s own offering to the sacrificial fire. As she is forbidden to do it herself, her brother helps her. He gives her a handful of parched rice grains which she hands to bridegroom who on her behalf, feeds it into the fire. Through this food offering, the bride seeks a long life for her husband, and propagation of the family. Participation of the bride’s family members indicates the continuance of links between the two families, even after marriage. The couple circle around the fire, three times, and the feeding of the fire with parched rice, is repeated thrice.

TREADING ON THE GRINDSTONE

Holding the bride’s left foot toe, the bridegroom helps her tread on a grindstone kept on the right side of the fire. The Manthras says: "Mount up this stone. Let thy mind be roc-firm, unperturbed, by the trials and tribulations of life? "

ASEERVADAM

This means literally blessing. The groom spreads his Uttariya over his shoulders and his wife stands by his side. Than the elders and learned people in the gathering throw Akshathai (meaning that which never ends but in reality rice coloured by turmeric) at the couple with Vedic prayers to the almighty to give him all that is good in life. They pray for his and his wife’s betterment.

PAALUM PAZHAM

Then the wife and husband visit first the husband’s house and then the wife’s house .In these houses the female relatives gather and give the husband and wife a spoon each of banana pieces put in milk. Since the husband’s house is normally in some other town, the husband and wife are nowadays taken to the place allotted to the groom’s party and the husband’s relatives give Palum pazhamum there

LUNCH

The lunch normally prepared on the marriage day is a very grand one with umpteen courses. The wife along with her relatives invites the groom and his family for the lunch with a pair of Paruppu Thengai Kutti.Normally a special area is reserved for the lunch of the groom’s relatives. In the olden days before each banana leaf of the groom’s family guests , they used to keep a lit lamp. The husband and wife sit together for their lunch side by side. Lot of mirth and fun is derived by all concerned when the newly married couples are asked to exchange their half eaten food or when they try to feed each other. This is possibly to make them loose their inhibitions and make them realize that they have some very special rights. SPECIAL LUNCH PROVIDED BY SHREE CATERERS.

NALANGU

After Lunch, Just to relax, there is a program called NALANGU to increase the attachement between wife and husband. The bride anointing the groom’s feet with colour paste, fanning him, showing him a mirror, breaking papads over each other’s head. Wrenching the betel pack from each other’s hands. Rolling the coconut from one to another as in playing ball and so on. During these events women sing songs, making fun of the bride, the groom and the in-laws. These events bring out the qualities of the bride and the groom’s sporting spirit, kindness, co-operative nature thus surfacing the hidden traits for the other to note, thus bringing about better understanding and compatibility.

MANGALARATHI

A solution of chunamb and turmeric powder is prepared on a plate to ward off evil eye. This is done a number of times during the entire wedding ceremony, and at the end.