Sunday, December 07, 2014

A long overdue blog

Sometimes I forget that my blog is my favourite place to write. The cathartic effect hasn't faded even after close to a decade of blogging. 

The process of getting married is an experience. I'd also advocate it if you manage to find someone right enough for you. 

I wanted a ceremony without leaving out even one ritual. Now a demand like this in this day and age is usually met with consternation. 

Something I haven't really worn on my sleeve is my love for rituals. To know the why-s and how-s. Mom found a scholar in the true sense and I wanted a no-ritual-left Iyengar ceremony. 

Rahul and his family preferred a registered marriage. They'd rather have had a simple court wedding or a temple wedding and so did Rahul. He believed that it is not fair that the girl's family should have to spend on an expensive wedding. Mine was ritualistic and was not a show of wealth. I remember people asking me "You are getting married at Savera ????!!!!" Apparently for my 'status' only a 7 star would befit. I must place on record here how much of a support Savera was for all our religious demands. They made food without onions. Complete madi thaligai. 

My dream wedding would have been at home. Not in a hotel, or a mandapam. But at home. If I'd owned my home I'd have had  few people over and gotten all the ritualistic havans and the auspicious veda ghoshas in my residence so that my house could benefit from the positivity. And have a reception at a hotel. (Though inopportune to mention in this context, people somehow conduct shraardhams at home and  somehow every other auspicious ceremony and its associated veda ghoshams happen in a building built by someone else.) However because one needs to invite a lot of people a mandap or a hotel today, makes sense. Nonetheless I couldn't have my wedding at the house we were renting. 

Prior to my wedding, around April, I undertook a fast of 12 days - the austere Payovrata - for Lord Vishnu. A time when I subsisted on Cow's milk alone. My in-laws were horrified. My mom had given up. The vaadhyar who was to officiate my wedding did his best to gently dissuade me, saying such a terrible fast with less than a 3 weeks to go for my wedding wasn't advisable. (Plus it was only my mother and I doing the rounds of distributing the wedding invites. I went about the exercise for about 5-6 days during my fast and took it easy for the final leg after my mother protested. There would have been no way mom could have completed this inviting round all alone. Plus, for all the support the industry had been through the years, we only thought it right to invite as many as we could personally. I did miserably fail to invite a few important people, though. Recordings did continue during this time)
The Vaadhyar said, from his sthaana, he has the right to advise (something my mother said she would do beyond a point because it is wrong to advise someone against undertaking a fast. Only the aacharya could she said.)

The Payovrata is to be observed only in the month of Phalguna (Panguni) during the waxing moon. I thought if not now, I would have no idea what I would be doing in April 2015. April 2014, I was very much in India and no hectic concert schedule. And I could do this Payovrata. I had first come to know of the Payovrata from Amar Chitra Katha (Tales of Vishnu) and I dreamed of doing this for years. Each time I would realize just after Phalguna. Some years I would forget. I realized this was my chance. After almost 13 days of fasting, your stomach cannot take any solid food easily. My mom-in-law came home and helped with my paarana. And sternly advised me to never undertake a fast like this again and put my health on line. She said none of this is necessary and simple devotion is enough :) I am more like a rakshasi with devotion :p

Coming back to some minute details - my wedding also involved no idlis - because it is 'paththu'. Our vaadhyar said this concept was introduced recently and if we could do away with it nothing like it. Right from homa kundam to the choice of wood for the palagai on which we sat was chosen and made with care. No iron nails were used in the making of the palagais.

My mom called a goldsmith and got him to melt the gold during a muhurtam as close to the wedding as possible (the maangalyam is to be bought/forged in a muhurtam as close to the wedding date as possible as it is reportedly not right to keep a "thaali waiting" or one shouldnt hear any sad/bad news while the maangalyam for the bride is stored in the house. This is the reasoning I was given when I wanted to know the reason why) and forged the thaali. This was wrapped thereafter in that pink-colored paper and kept safe. 

I had always wanted a shankh and a chakra as mogappus on both sides of my mangalsutra and thankfully my mom gave in to this demand as well. I wear the metti and the mangasutra all the time and hence it was made long enough so that it can be pinned inside a garment if I end up wearing a gown. My mom didn't buy the Aandal Kondai that one gets in the market. She said she didn't want readymade ones. And got the conical piece designed by a jeweler in silver and plated it. My hair was gathered in a small side bun and the Aandal Kondai piece was fixed. I didn't think of all this. I also realized that the kind available in the market was too big for my head and unwieldy. This piece had to be changed a couple of times and redesigned but the silversmith was surprised at the effort and kind enough to do the iterations.

The saris were made to order from a store in Kanchipuram, who have been in the business for generations. Mom had always had this idea that buying a 9 yard from stores in the city may mean that they would have been leased out to models on some occasion. And she didn't want a sari that someone else may have worn. She gave the design to the store and asked them to make the koorai the way she wanted it. The thari had to work in super speed to get my sari done. The veshtis came from the same store.

Someone who was the greatest support through this entire exercise was this man called Thanigai. He was our chauffeur for 2 months. In him I found a brother I never had. He looked out for me when I was fasting and looked out for my mother. He was calm, composed. And at times advised me on how to adjust once I got married, in my new home. His lessons included "how to argue with your husband in a way that he wont know it is an argument" :)
He brought the koorai and the veshtis in the ceremonial manner from the store and took it to a temple along with my mother in Kanchipuram. In my life I'll never forget Thanigai anna.

I wanted to do it all and told Rahul that he doesn't have to follow the customary rituals as I do and he is free to do what he pleased. He however was kind enough to oblige even though he is not a believer in such hectic-ness, pariharams just because someone says so and the like :) 

There was fasting involved during my wedding as well, wherein I and Rahul ate only fruits, milk or more saadham (not even curd rice) until the day after the wedding. Yup. We didn't have the ceremonial Kalyana Saappadu that all brides and bridegrooms partake of. This was also met with shock and surprise from most relatives and friends as they hadn't heard of a 'bizarre' concept like this, apparently :) My vaadhyar warned me of enough number of times that everyone may not accept what I was asking for.

There was another ritual that involved a bullock cart and a horse drawn carriage. We couldn't manage it. The bride brings the agni for the first 'homam' from the one started at the residence to the location where the wedding ceremony is officiated, traveling in a bullock cart. Mantras are chanted specifically for the bullock cart and even for the wheels so that they don't creak. (Yes, you, the reader, please don't gape!!) And the groom was to arrive in a horse drawn carriage for another ceremony. Rahul did have a janavasam of sorts around the hotel precincts. Something the management was kind enough to consent for us. He said he had fun in this one. 

Once we were married we could partake of proper kalyaana saapadu only the next day, which has to be ceremoniously prepared by my mother (mother of the bride), the bridegroom and the grooms family partake of it on the day after the wedding. My mom was exhausted and nonetheless it wasnt like there were a million people back at my home who would help her cook for 8 people the day after the wedding. Thankfully Savera fed us that day. The traditional sammandhi virundhu after that came from Sangeetha :) 

The consummation of the marriage also does not happen on the night of the wedding ceremony as is common and happens only on the following night, after a homam. {Please ask learned vaadhyars you know for more details :)} Our vaadhyar suggested that people (other than closest family) don't touch us unnecessarily until the homams on the day after the wedding are complete (maela padaama paathukkongo-types). This would not have been possible if we'd decided to have the reception on the same day. Hence we had our reception the day after the wedding. 

I heard enough of 'Indha maadiri kaelvi padaadha vishayathellam yaaru onakku kathu kudutha? Edhukkaaga oor paer ariyaadha rules ellam follow panre?' Apparently some people even refused to have the wedding lunch in protest, since the bride and the groom didn't eat. My vaadhyar was also questioned. Enna, neenga ipdi dhaan kalyanam pannindela? Thankfully my Vaadhyar's wife was present (they are a very young couple) and she explained in detail to those who interrogated about her own wedding and what she does on a daily basis.

My vaadhyar is the type who eats nowhere except at his own residence. His food has to be cooked by his wife and he'd apparently told her before he got married to her that he would not take her out to dinner and all that and if she was OK with it. She is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. She is in her late 20-s and wears a madisaar everyday. Incidentally she draped my koorai. 

Sadly enough, traditional vaideeka rituals are not followed by most. Most people don't even know these rituals exist. Let's face it. To most even with complete families, it is a hassle. People wont agree to go through so much trouble. Edhukku idhellam will be a standard response.

However priestly families still follow this tradition. Yes, logically, it is perhaps not necessary to go through such a strict ritualistic wedding like mine, because truth be told, I don't lead the life of a Brahmani. I am not on the path to realising Brahman, though I do hope that I will, one day, taking the path of music. Naadabrahmam after all. 

My mother too, had to face some flak for this because people believe she is the one who drives the religiousness in me. Little do they know :) She spent her savings on this exercise because she was too proud to use the money I'd earned. And thankfully God has kept us well enough to keep us from taking loans from people.

Now post my wedding and knowing my religiousness and fasting procedures, Rahul has come to know firsthand :) I did tell him that I have very hectic beliefs, but I am sure he didn't really believe me :p

I later realized that the vaadhyar community was quite surprised as they hadn't expected someone in the film industry to follow norms like I did. While I attended other ceremonies shortly thereafter, the officiating vaadhyars would come to me and say that they'd heard of my wedding and the manner in which was conducted. And blessed me. I hope those blessings will count if and when I face tough times.  

I'd only told my mother that I wanted an extremely religious wedding. She went from pillar to post looking for the most learned vaadhyar that she could find. 

Other than this I neither indulged in a Mehendi ceremony nor a Sangeet. I had no time. No time to pamper myself and all that jazz. I even forgot I needed to hire a make-up artiste and found 2 different people the last minute who were available. They of course gawked when I said I was getting married within a week.  You could ask now - Why not a wedding planner? No point simply because of the tremendous ritualistic aspect involved. Savera took care of most of our needs.

My Mehendi was pretty weird affair. My mom was out slogging like a donkey doing last minute work and I was starving. Our closest friends were helping her. No one was attending on me, like I had seen in other people's weddings and I was starving. Or like I myself had done for friends. I decided to wash off my mehendi within an hour of applying it because I was both hungry and thirsty. I went in, made some coffee and sat looking at the dull orange colour on my hands and swept and mopped the hall off the mehendi dust. The stickiness was getting to me. I got an earful from mom saying thodappam thodalaama and all that. But then, I was no princess and I hated the unclean floor. Mom and I have been sweeping and mopping our floors and doing dishes all our lives and it made no difference. The colour deepened, thankfully. Simultaneously the sweets for the seer-thattus were being made at home. Technically there were people. But somehow it seemed like there weren't. 

One of the fun, beautiful sessions after the maangalya dhaaranam was having Chinna Ponnu over. The afternoon of the ceremony, she sang traditional, naattupura wedding songs that had the family in splits and everyone was up dancing. Chinna Ponnu has such a lovely heart. She started with Vaazhthuren Vaazhthuren... and continued the song as is sung in the villages. 

A couple of days back, the gentleman who printed my wedding invites happened to tell me "I'll never forget the amount of effort your mother took in printing the cards. How many trips she made here!" It was her idea that we donate the wedding gifts (rather urged people to make that as cash/cheque donations) to 17000ft of Ladakh. The first cheque incidentally came from the printer who printed our wedding invites.

The reception was well attended. Everyone who wasn't shooting came. And for that I am grateful. 

A lot of important events in our lives happen carrying a mixed bag of joy and sadness, at times regret. I have a similar bag stashed away. It wasn't happy-happy jingle bells all the way for everyone involved. But I have come to know that this is what makes an Indian marriage. I learned true friends from the others. I saw people who did their bit to see that my wedding would be called off. Words spoken leading to enough and more misunderstandings, leading me to even question the foundation of what my relationship was to be built on. Probably during a wedding is when you see who really wishes well for you and who wishes the sky should shatter on your head if possible.

And I also saw people come in, play the role of brother and sister, uncle and aunt, made my mother feel like she wasn't alone and saw this marriage through. A very close friend had come down from Australia and she was a huge support. Some people stood by like rocks. Maybe they would have been family in a previous birth. They know who they are and I am grateful.

This was also a ceremony that saw my father give me away during Kanya Daanam. I had wanted my mother to do so.  (a vaideeka ritual I'd asked, hadn't I?. And somehow destiny made sure that it was perfect as ritualistically only the father can give away his daughter)

Whatever that could go wrong went wrong. Everything that could go right went right. 

In the end, it is all worth it when you are married to the right person. I am happy today. 

I pray and I hope that this feeling grows and that I will be able to say this at the end of a fulfilling life. And I hope Rahul would be able to say that too. 

19 comments:

Mim said...

Commenting first time.. And mostly because I love the fasting thingie you did!

Been on fasts regularly for the last three years..started with the orange juice only for 3 days as recommended by paramahansa yogananda,,,


And now beautifully culminating in The ekadashi dry fast where I go without water...

Have to tell you that the world keels over to go my way... Amazing power that!

And way too much has been said about food and food porn and food selfies, am exhausted to see the temptation in 2 and 3 dimension!


and fasting which is a natural thing gets tonnes of bad press is just so unfair... Awesome that you did that Paal fast and are ACK inspired! Lol!

My boys are ACK avids too... Wonder what gems they are getting out of it!




Anonymous said...

Thats nice to hear ..and wonderful...I m amazed by your beliefs.:) -Banusree Mahalingam

Anonymous said...

Im waiting for this article since the next day of your wedding. You are awesome...#inspiring. -@Siri

Rajesh bharadwaj said...

Nice to know about your marriage, your Amma, yOUR traditions.... Yes, you and Rahul make a wonderful couple. I wish for Lots of Good luck and Loads of happiness to both of you.

Ananda Kumari Chidambaram said...

Though its very late to say, but still, wanted to tell you, I am really happy for you and Have a happy married life dear.

Kothai said...

Nice to read the post and re-live all the moments that happened :)

All that tampered u n aunt during the wedding preparation n during wedding vanished with ur word that you are happy now. We can wish only this happiness to a wonderful person like u.

God bless u ever ma :)

Kalyan said...

You made sure that everyone get a feel of the marriage ceremonies through this post. All the very best.

Deepa said...

Thanks for sharing this in length with us Chinmayee !! It is good to know that we have such vaadhiyaars who know the rituals..we just have to seek :)
Wishing you and Rahul a very happy and contented life. As you dig up more and more such traditions please blog them.

Ananth said...

Wow Mrs. Chinmayi, what an education about rituals. Reads like a master's thesis. All the best!

Aishwarya Kothandaraman said...

Very nice post Chinmayee :) Happy to know you had followed all the rituals happily:) Wish you a great happy married life..

Karthik Rajagopal said...

It was an interesting read... I love the way you write... I became your fan after listening to Sara Sara Saarakaathu... Now following your blog :)

Anonymous said...

Nice to read your marriage story..but pls mention about ur love story with rahul

Anonymous said...

Awesome marriage rituals ! My best wishes :)

Anonymous said...

You have had a beautiful wedding....The effort you have taken just reflects your sincerity...and Im sure your sincerity will bring peace , contentment and bliss in your married life..God bless

Shuba Venkat

Vamsi Chada said...

Great to hear your story. Fits a movie story line. Congratulations on your marriage and all the best. Keep singing and like samantha says " your voice is mesmerizing and haunting, somehow when you speak for her"

Anonymous said...

Pretty much I had the same wedding except of Iyer :) My cousin brother is all about rituals and he made sure all the rituals were performed. Nowadays the sesha homa is performed in the afternoon(how on earth do they see arunthathi in full sun) but we had ours in the night and then only we had food(we ate all the non-pathu items whole day while others were eating the full wedding feast). But I feel having a ritualistic wedding is the best thing and I feel proud that each and every mantra we chanted is more of promises and what we do in daily lives. I really liked one of the mantra in which the groom asks is new wife, if I bring someone whom I may not know for lunch or dinner, would you feed them/ The bride would say "yes". Anyway I'm glad you had a good wedding and have a Happy Married life!

Raghupriya said...

Having known your Mum since TG Music College days I know that she was not only very focused on her Hinduism but steeped in tradition, so your blog made fascinating reading and I am so pleased, not that that is necessarily important to you, that sampradaya means that much to you as it is something we as a family hold very dear to ourselves even though we are many generations removed from India having gone to SA more than 100 yrs ago.
I certainly see her smile in your photos and her quirkiness in your blogs and her enterprising nature which you have definitely inherited! I still remember her telling me about how your granny prepared pickles by burying them in the ground in a clay pot for several months so that it would 'woorify!' properly. She insisted that no pickle tasted quite like her grannies did!
Haven't been on this blog for more than a year so the blog of your marriage was lovely to read especially on a cold cold night in the UK!
Fasting certainly has many benefits, some spiritual and some health.
I fasted for 9 years every saturday. From 6pm friday to 6pm saturday. Dry fast. No food ,liquid including no water. Absolutely nothing. The one time I broke this rule was when I attended Rajam Iyer's daughters wedding and out of respect for maami
I found it very difficult to convince her of my vritham.
Interestingly at that wedding I met one of his disciples who had never eaten any food not prepared by his wife and ofcourse did not eat at the wedding!
Do convey my regards to your Mum and every best wish for a happy married life.
Having known some of the tribulations your Mum has undergone, it is heart-warming that the Goddess Lakshmi has showered her blessings on her through you. She must be immensely proud and can look back on a job well done as they say!

Anonymous said...

Would be happy to know where you picked up the saris , andal kondai etc. A wedding coming up and wld like some pointers.

Anonymous said...

Nice information! I also wanted to know the best collection of sarees during the weeding pujas and mahalakshmi stotram