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.



A Wedding in Chennai

OMG, what a hectic time it was – meeting people, helping make arrangements, endless debates on what to do and what not to do, having fun pulling each other’s leg, eating 3 meals a day for 3 days where each meal is high on calories, the list goes on.. Yes, that was my niece’s wedding in Chennai last week. Completely ignoring the teachings of my disciplined mind on diet, I binged on delicious sweets and savouries on offer. My daughter who was also a partner in the crime reassured me saying that it doesn’t matter what one eats occasionally – what matters is what one eats regularly otherwise.

A Hindu wedding is essentially a Vedic ritual. The rituals beautifully blend all aspects of life to be led by the couple – religious, moral and spiritual. We do see variations in the way of celebrations from region to region due to cultural differences. Marriages are also the time for joyous celebrations with music and dance.

The wedding I attended last week had all the ingredients of a typical Iyengar wedding and a few surprises. The surprise element was reserved for the very last day. All the guests left the hall after the reception leaving behind only the near and the dear along with the just-married couple. That was the time when everyone moved to the dance floor and began dancing with gay abandon! I guess dancing is infectious and we found even the most unlikely dancers give up their inhibitions and started dancing. Everyone enjoyed dancing. I was perhaps the only exception. My major problem with dancing is the very high decibel sound which completely unsettles me. My second reason is that it’s hardly pleasing aesthetically. The steps are hardly synchronized as everyone dances according to his whim.I wish people wanting to dance practice their steps for a few days before the wedding.


The wedding day started off with Kumara Bhojanam – a ritual where the groom sits with another Brahmachari(bachelor)and eats. The origin or significance of this is not clear. I asked the priest and he had no answer. Someone suggested why not ask the super guru, the Google. Google says Kumara bhojanam is a ritual performed during Upanayanam. It’s supposed to consist of bland food which will help maintain his vow of celibacy during the period of learning scriptures. That logic obviously doesn’t hold good for a young adult to be married. So, my question remains unanswered. If anyone knows, please respond.

Then we have Kasi Yatra. The groom has two options – either get married or become a Sanyasi. Being an escapist or due to the fear of the unknown, the groom chooses a life of an ascetic dressed like a sanyasi complete with an umbrella and a staff. Now the bride’s father approaches the groom and advises him to choose the path of a grihastha and lures him with his beautiful daughter. Instantly, the groom accepts the offer and the rest of the rituals begin.

One ritual worth mentioning is the exchange of garlands which is popularly known as Malai Mathardu in tamil. It’s supposed to be done three times signifying complete acceptance and union between the couple. This ritual has its fun part too. The bride pulls away as the groom tries to garland her. In another variation, the groom and the bride are lifted on the shoulders by their respective uncles bringing out spontaneous smiles on everyone’s face. This followed by yet another interesting ritual called Oonjal. The couple would be seated in a beautifully decorated swing which is moved gently to the accompaniment of equally gentle and soothing music sung by musically talented ladies.


Published in: on February 21, 2016 at 5:20 pm  Comments (1)  

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