Literally translated as ‘auspicious/purifying bath', the ‘Mangala snaanam' ritual is conducted during the wee hours of the wedding day for both the bride and the groom in their respective homes/rooms. Manjal (turmeric), kumkum (vermilion), and sandalwood paste are applied to the bride by her sumangali (married woman whose husband is alive) relatives. After this application, the bride is made to take a bath in holy water and get ready for the wedding rituals. A similar ritual is carried out for the bridegroom by sumangalis.
Why Mangala Snaanam?
Turmeric is a disinfectant as well as a natural beautifier. The holy water is said to cleanse the body and souls making the bride and groom ready for a new life together.
The holy water is obtained by an even number of Brahmins (spiritual and learned priests from the Brahmin community). The groom’s prayer to the brahmins means:
“Oh Brahmin! Bring us the holy water that will wash away all our sins; the water that is not spoilt by those who are dead; the water which will not destroy any life in the womb of my to-be wife; the water which is so pure that it takes away all negative effects from our bodies."
The Significance of Managala Snaanam in Tamil Brahmin Iyengar Weddings
Mangala snanam decorations are usually done with fresh flowers and this adds grandeur to the ritual. Vedic mantras are recited in order to sanctify the bride and preparing her for the upcoming challenges of married life. Surya (Sun God) and Varuna (Water God) are invoked to purify the bride and making her ‘spiritually ready’ for the wedding.