Nava Rasas in an Iyengar Wedding

Last week we had two big family functions. One was a typical big fat Tambram wedding and the other a relatively simpler naming ceremony of my grandson. The wedding was celebrated in Chennai with the usual fanfare that accompanies any south Indian wedding.

During a wedding celebration, one can experience an impressive range of emotions. In fact, most of the Nava Rasas are on display. I thought it will be interesting to explore a few of them here.

Shringara is easily the most prominent rasa in a wedding.. Love, romance, beauty, attraction are all in the air as one progresses from one ritual to the other.

Hasya rasa arises out of Shringara during every ritual. Laughter, comical interludes, funny remarks and exchanges – all add up to the Hasya rasa. Both these rasas are readily captured from the following photographs where the bride and the bridegroom exchange garlands. The fun part cannot be missed here as the bride and bridegroom are literally lifted and each play a game of  ‘catch me if you can’. One can see smiles all around as each tries to dodge the other.



The rasa rudra or anger is part and parcel of any marriage celebration in India. The bride’s party is literally and figuratively at the receiving end for their acts of omissions and commissions. There are always a couple of people from the groom’s side who are rigid sticklers to old traditions and they would not miss an opportunity to create a scene to insist and get what they want.

The emotion of fear or bhaya is felt constantly at the back of the mind by both the parties till the wedding gets over successfully. If a wedding celebration goes without any hiccups, it only means that hundreds of critical factors have fallen in place.

The emotion Adbhutam, wonder or amazement, finds its place as the groom ties the knot to the accompaniment of high decibel chanting of mantras and even higher decibel sounds of Tavil or drums. That is the moment everyone is anxiously waiting for and when it arrives, everyone becomes ecstatic. It’s a moment of joy as well as relief. With hundred of people focusing on the scene and the close relatives closing in to occupy vantage points to have a good view of the couple and the cameramen clicking away to glory, it’s an amazing moment to cherish. One can see tears of joy rolling down the eyes of the near and dear. One might have seen many marriages. Still in every marriage the muhurat is the most precious moment. It’s the build up of events leading up to the muhurat that makes the moment very special and exciting.



Shantam, peace and tranquility, is yet another important rasa. Don’t we experience it once the dust settles down after the wedding? The nice feeling of having successfully completed a mission and the accompanying relief is merely an expression of the emotion Shantam.

How about Karunyam or compassion. One is bound to feel a sense of sadness when one has to face the inevitable moment of separation of one’s daughter from the family. It’s the beginning of a new phase of life to the daughter as well as the parents. Anyone witnessing the farewell scene can easily empathize with the people concerned.

Is the rasa VEERA, courage or valour, seen or experienced? Well, the courage and confidence that one enjoys after completing a challenging mission is something unique. Having performed a marriage successfully, one is justified in feeling confident of facing any challenge in life without much fuss.

How about the rasa BHIBATSA? This is extreme fear or disgust, outrage. Well, one might argue this emotion has no place in a marriage hall. Imagine, though, a situation where you are about to leave the function hall and the caterers and hall managers approach you with fat bills to be cleared. Seeing that the bills have exceeded your budget will surely cause BHIBATSA or outrage or even disgust.



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