Sumangali Prarthanai or Pondugal Idal is a ritual for hosting married women carried out by Tamil Iyer Brahmin households as part of the pre-wedding ceremonies. Sumangali is a term in Tamil that is used for a married woman whose husband is still alive.
It is considered auspicious for Tamil Brahmin Iyer brides to seek the blessings of the sumangalis to enjoy a long-lasting marriage. In the Iyer marriage ritual during Sumangali Pooja, the female ancestors who have passed away as sumangalis are remembered and their blessings are sought. In the bride’s family, the sumangali pooja is done before the wedding and in the groom’s family, the ritual is performed immediately after the wedding.
What Happens During Sumangali Pooja?
Five or seven sumangalis along with two kanyas (girls who have not attained puberty) are called for the pooja and they are offered nalla yennai (gingelly oil), seeyarkai powder (herbal powder shampoo for hair), manjal (turmeric), and kumkum (vermillion). 9-yard silk sarees of green, red, or yellow are offered to them along with the invitation and the ladies arrive at a predetermined auspicious time.
Once the sumangalis arrive, they are given manjal thanneer (turmeric water) to wash their legs. After that, they are given kumkum, flowers, and chandanam(sandalwood powder) and requested to be seated for the pooja. To make the event more lively they even sing sumangali pooja songs.
After the pooja is performed, the sumangalies are treated to a feast and the sarees are given as gifts to appreciate their presence. After the Pondugal take it, they are given Vethalai and Paaku, Seepu, Kannadi, poo, a coin, and a blouse piece. These items are not taken directly in hands but are received in the Pallu of their Saree (the free end of the saree). All the gathered ladies of the family will do a Namaskaram (a gesture to greet seeking goodwill) to all the Pondugals and the Kanyas who in turn bless the family and the bride.