A Kerala Nair wedding ceremony is very simple. The ceremony takes just a couple of minutes. But prior to that there are some rituals to be followed. The Malayalee month Chingam is considered to be the most auspicious month to conduct the weddings. The months of Midhunam, Karkatakam and Kanni are generally avoided. A traditional Kerala Nair marriage is conducted with the following steps.
A marriage proposal moves forward with the horoscope matching. Though in the modern world, few do not believe in this old theory of horoscope matching for a happy and lasting marriage, many others still believe in their ancestors’ thinking and they would not like to take chances with their children’s lives, foregoing this step. Today more marriages are arranged through the online match making sites, and many of these sites do have facilities for horoscope matching on their sites.
Meeting the girl (Pennu Kanal)
Once the horoscopes are matched, the boy and his parents or other elders come to see the girl officially. It can be a simple affair or a large celebration, where the prospective bride and groom and their families consent to the marriage.
Meeting the boy’s family (Veedu Kanal)
The girl’s parents also visit the boy’s family to know more about him and his family, where their daughter is going to spend the rest of her life. This custom is called Veedu Kanal.
Engagement (Vivaha Nischayam)
Once both the families are satisfied with the alliance, the marriage will be officially announced in the presence of the elders and close friends, which is called “Vivaha Nischayam”. It may be a simple affair or a large celebration, according to their wish and convenience. In some areas, the wedding rings are exchanged during this function, and in some other areas exchange of rings are done during the wedding ceremony.
Ayana (Prewedding day)
On the evening before the wedding, the families and close friends of both the bride and the groom, gather in their respective houses, to bless them. A traditional dinner will be arranged for them. The bride will be dressed in one of her best saris, bejewelled, and her hands will be decorated with mehendi. Mehendi is not a traditional ceremony of Kerala Nair wedding; it is a new practice followed from other communities.
Namaskaram (Blessing from the elders)
On the Wedding day, the elders take the sacred “Thali” (mangalyasutra) to the temple to get blessed. This thali is going to be tied around the girl’s neck by the groom on the wedding day symbolising the marriage. After taking the blessings of her elders by touching their feet, the bride is taken to the wedding venue, with her family members and friends. It could be a temple, or her ancestral home, or a kalyana mandap.
Thalikettu and Pudavakodukkal (Wedding)
On the wedding day, the groom and his family arrive at the venue of the wedding. Usually it is arranged in the girl’s place. They are received ceremoniously in the midst of the traditional music (Nadaswaram and thayil). The bride’s brother washes the groom’s feet on a wooden plank and the aunts perform aarathi (pooja) and receives him. The groom and his people are escorted by the young girls holding the traditional brass lamps. The boy sits in the mandap on the right side of the decorated canopy. The bride is then escorted to the mandap amidst the traditional music and takes her place facing the east, with the groom facing her. At the auspicious moment (muhurtham) the bride ties the”thali” around her neck, in a sacred yellow thread, to the beating of drums, and gifts her a sari. This ritual is called Thalikettu and Pudavakodukkal. His mother also ties her a chain, accepting her as her daughter-in-law. The bride and groom exchange garlands. This is followed by her father keeping his daughter’s hand in the groom’s hand, handing over her to her groom in holy matrimony. This sacred ritual is called Kanyadan. Holding her hand, the groom goes around the fire three times.
The newly married couple will take their parents’ and elders blessings together and then will be lead to a room and to give Milk and Banana by the bride’s mother and relatives.
After the wedding ceremony, the guests will come to wish them with gifts. Then they will be given a grand feast called “sadhya”. It will be a traditional vegetarian lunch with varieties of dishes and payasam, served in plantain leaf.
At an auspicious time, the bridegroom takes his bride escorted by his people, and few members from the girl’s family, to his house. They are received there ceremoniously. The bride enters the house, holding the traditional brass lamp in her hand, and keeping her right foot in. After some time the girl’s people return home, leaving her in her new home.
In some families, they hold a Reception party in the boy’s side where his friends and relatives are invited, to meet the newly wedded couple. Many of them come with gifts to bless them. Usually it will be arranged in a Hotel. During this time, the guests are served with a grand dinner.