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  • Writer's pictureanusha gopalakrishnan

Big Fat Indian Wedding

Hey everyone! I'm back and excited to share that I haven't given up on my blog (at least not yet!). Now that I'm back in Amman, I'm aiming to be more regular with my posts.

Just got back from a wonderful four-month vacation, where I cherished every moment spent with my loved ones, especially my parents and grandparents. But the highlight of my trip? Attending a spectacular Big Fat Indian Wedding!

In early November 2023, Tevan and I returned to Malaysia to join in the celebrations for his sister's engagement and wedding. We made it just in time for the engagement ceremonies. Fueled by the excitement of being back home, we dove straight into whatever tasks needed our attention – there was simply no room for jetlag.

I believe many of us have indulged in enough Bollywood or Kollywood (yes, it is a legit south indian film industry) movies to understand that Indian weddings are extravagant, elaborate, and indeed, multi-day affairs. Beyond the grandeur, Indian weddings are deeply rooted in tradition and cultural importance.

Within the Indian community, weddings carry immense cultural significance. They involve numerous pre-wedding ceremonies and rituals, each imbued with beautiful meanings.

In this post, I want to take you through a condensed version of these wedding celebrations and the accompanying pre-wedding rituals. Picture intricate floral decorations, vibrant sarees, a plethora of delectable sweets, rhythmic music, and above all, boundless love and joy.

To provide context, this is a Hindu wedding involving two Malaysian South Indian individuals.

Disclaimer: This is not an arranged marriage. It's worth noting that not all Indian marriages are arranged; we've certainly come a long way! Oh, and just to clarify, I'm related to the bride in this story – I'm married to her absolutely "Rizz" brother (for all of you old farts unfamiliar with the term, here's a link for you). Come on now, don't roll your eyes, I'm just quoting my witty Gen Z niece wink.

Now that you're up to speed with all the important details, let's dive into the exciting part!

The Engagement

In South Indian culture, the engagement ceremony is known as “Nischayathartham”. This ceremony is an important pre wedding ceremony which takes place at the bride’s place. It is basically an announcement that the soon to be bride and groom are officially of the market drumroll.  It is also a moment where both families pledge their mutual commitment to support and celebrate the forthcoming union. 

As a symbol of their commitment, the bride and groom exchange rings or other gifts. The rings are typically blessed by a priest or elder before the exchange. The priest also performs prayers, seeking the divine blessings for the couple's future happiness, prosperity, and well-being.

The ceremony itself takes about an hour after which the guests are treated to a scrumptious dinner while love songs play in the background amplifying the mood of the event.   An extremely pleasant wave of nostalgia washed over me as I watched the happy couple – bringing me back memories of my own engagement day.   I was feeling all the feels since we were both adorned in our engagement fits or costumes. Indulge me for a moment—I can't help but celebrate the fact that our attire from long ago still fits perfectly, without needing any alterations! I for one see it as a definite triumph!

Registration of Marriage

The civil ceremony took place a few days after the engagement. I am a little fuzzy on the exact timeline to be honest.

This ceremony typically takes place at the National Registration Department office or at an approved location where the couple officially ties the knot.  And that is cause for celebration, in my books at least.

To my surprise the venue actually had pretty decent décor which led to a full-fledged photo taking session.  Tevan and I also shamelessly took a couple of cute photos for the gram – how else will people know that we were there or if the event even took place.

A hot cup of bru coffee specially bru-ed with love courtesy of the groom’s family was waiting for us right after the ceremony (There were other things too of course!) Love filled the air accompanied by the delightful aroma of this brew, enveloping us all in a cozy warmth. The memory of this special day will always be intertwined with this sweet scent.


Pre-Wedding Rituals

In the days preceding the wedding, a series of rituals and traditions are observed, each carrying profound cultural significance.

The pre wedding rituals begin three days before the wedding. The first and most sacred ritual is the Panda kaal muhurtham which is a short ritual which is performed by families of the soon to be wed couple by erecting a bamboo pole at the entrance of their home.  During this ceremony, a bamboo stick is first cleaned with water, milk, turmeric, and sandalwood paste.  It is then decorated with flowers, mango leaves, and turmeric powder. The bamboo stick is then placed in a pot filled with water and sand, symbolizing the start of a new journey for the couple. This ritual is performed to seek divine blessings for a peaceful and joyful wedding.  It was my first time participating in this ritual so I observed closely as to what the women were doing to ensure I was doing the rituals correctly. Stained my nails in the process but other than that I did fine (I think). Lol

This is followed by the nalunggu ceremony which technically is a pre cleansing ritual which is performed thrice; twice leading up to the wedding and once on the wedding day.  The bride and the groom are made to sit on mats or these days on rather fancy seats and three brass bowls are kept near them containing turmeric paste, vermillion, scented oils and a mixture of lime and turmeric in water (Aarti). Married women come forward and rub turmeric paste on the bride-to-be.  It is rubbed on her face, arms, hands, and legs and in turn the bride awards these women with little gifts.

Tevan's family opted to condense all the pre-wedding rituals into a single day to ensure the convenience of friends and family who wished to participate in the forthcoming wedding festivities. The morning ceremony was an intimate gathering, attended by close family and friends, who came together to offer their blessings and celebrate the bride-to-be. The atmosphere was filled with love and joy.

Contrast to the morning ceremony, the event in the evening was a grand affair graced by extended family and friends. The beautifully decorated venue hummed with guests laughing and chatting away.  Weddings have a way of getting people together, in more ways than one.

Then came the anticipated moment – the bridal entry. The bride looked stunning – the pre wedding glow evident on her face as she made her way to the dais.

The rhythmic beat of the dhol marked the end of the ceremony, signaling the commencement of festivities. Guests danced till their hearts out to the dhol beats; everyone was having a great time and it showed on their faces.

I have to say I admire how Indian weddings seamlessly blend tradition with joy and celebration.

And it was two more sleeps before the Big Day!

The Wedding

Finally, it was D- Day and we were on our way to the capital, Kuala Lumpur as the weddings in South Indian culture takes place at the groom’s place.

On the day of the wedding, we were greeted by a beautiful day as we headed to the temple for the ceremony. Emotions soared and anticipation filled the air as we entered the wedding hall. Picture a hall brimming with people adorned in vibrant traditional attire, accompanied by romantic melodies echoing in the background, setting the perfect mood for the occasion; you could practically sense the love in the air.

The climax of a South Indian wedding ceremony is reached when the groom ceremoniously ties the thalli or mangal sutra, a sacred thread, around the bride's neck, symbolizing their unity.

Months of preparation lead up to this profoundly significant moment of love, accompanied by the families of the couple showering them with rice and flower petals, wishing them eternal happiness. Weddings have a remarkable ability to evoke a plethora of emotions, and this day was no exception filled with joy laughter and of course a few happy tears.

However, this doesn't signify the conclusion of the wedding rituals; not for the immediate wedding party, anyway.  While guests can happily leave after a satisfying meal courtesy of the newlyweds, the immediate wedding party cannot put our feet up just yet as we have a full day ahead filled with additional rituals, which I won't delve into in this post.

If there was anyone more excited about the wedding than the bride and groom, it had to be our dear friend Lyuda from Turkmenistan. Fortunately for her, her visit coincided perfectly with the wedding, and she was absolutely thrilled to be part of the wedding celebration.

The bright red saree and the matching accessories that I picked out for her complemented her radiant complexion. Here's a picture of her; doesn't she look absolutely stunning??

The Hindu culture captivated her deeply as she observed every ritual with keen interest. She had numerous questions about the traditions, many of which we were unable to answer.  It’s truly wonderful when someone demonstrates an interest in your cultural heritage.

Making mental note to self: Learn more about the significance of the many indian rituals.

I trust that this post offered you a glimpse into the beauty of a south Indian wedding.  After days of celebration, the wedding festivities have drawn to a close, marking the beginning of a lifelong journey for the newlyweds. I wish them a lifetime filled with happiness, and may their love for each other continue to shine brightly.

Till next time, toodles!


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