Nichayathartham or the Engagement ceremony is one of the Tamil Iyengar pre-wedding ceremonies where the groom and bride families come together and commit the wedding.
What Happens & Where
Though the nuances of this Tamil Brahmin Iyengar wedding ritual vary as per family traditions, the general format of the ceremony remains the same. A Vedic priest is called upon for conducting the ceremony. Earlier, it used to take place at the bride's place, but nowadays this ritual is done in the Kalyana Mandapam itself.
The groom’s father and the bride’s father start the nichayathartham. Initially, Vigneshwara (Lord Ganesh) pooja is carried out by the bride’s father as every religious and auspicious function begins with the worship of Vigneshwara who also symbolises Brahma, the creator of life. The priest then writes the "Lagna Patrikai” which specifies the date and time of marriage. The Lagna Patrikai is exchanged between both parents along with thamboolam which includes vethalai(betel leaf), paaku(betel nut), flowers and fruits. This serves as the commitment from both families for marriage. In most cases, the nichayathartham is conducted with close family members of both the bride and groom.
Once the exchange of thamboolam is done, the bride is invited to the mandap and sits down with her father. The bride takes the blessings of her to-be father-in-law and he hands over the nichayathartham saree to her along with thamboolam. The groom’s sister takes the bride to her room to change into the Nichayathartham saree. When the bride arrives in the new saree gifted by her to-be in-laws, the groom’s sister makes her sit down, applies sandalwood paste, vermilion(kumkum) and gives her sugar. The groom’s sister will also garland the bride and bless her with flowers. Later, the groom’s sister will tie a bag filled with thamboolam and manjal onto the thalapu(end) of the saree. After taking the blessings of her to-be sister-in-law, the bride officially becomes the ‘bride’.
The Exchange of Rings
The priests bless the couple by saying mantras and the traditional South Indian wedding saree and dhoti are handed over to the groom’s father. Both the bride and groom seek the blessings of the elders present. The exchange of rings takes place after the blessings. Once the ceremony is complete, sweets and dinner are served to all the relatives present.