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Castes and tribes of southern India (Volume 1) online

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on dharbha grass, and say : " Oh ! dharbha, a giver
of royal power, a teacher's seat, may I not withdraw


from thee." The boy then pours some ghl on to the
sacred fire. A cloth is thrown over both the teacher
and the boy, and the latter asks the former to recite the
Savitri. The following Gayatri is repeated into his
ear : " Let us meditate on that excellent glory of the
divine vivifier. May he illumine our understandings."
The boy touches his own upper lip with his right hand,
and says : " Oh ! Prana, I have become illumined,
having heard the Savitri. Protect and guard this
wealth that has entered me, the Gayatri or Savitri."
He then takes the palasa staff, and the teacher says :
" Up with life. Oh ! sun, this is thy son. I give him
in charge to thee." The boy then worships the sun
thus : " That bright eye created by the gods, which
rises in the east, may we see it a hundred autumns ;
may we live a hundred autumns ; may we rejoice a
hundred autumns ; may we live a hundred autumns ;
may we rejoice a hundred autumns ; may we be
glad a hundred autumns ; may we prosper a hundred
autumns ; may we speak a hundred autumns ; may
we live undecaying a hundred autumns ; and may we
long see the sun." The ceremonial is brought to a
close on the first day by the boy begging rice from his
mother and other female relations. A basket, filled with
rice, is placed in a pandal (booth), and the boy stands
near it, repeating " Please give me alms." Each woman
pours some rice into a tray which he carries, and
presents him with some money and betel leaves. The
rice is placed in the basket. On the second and third
days, the boy puts palasa sticks into the sacred fire, and
pours ghl thereon. On the fourth day, the new cloth is
given to the teacher.

The wearing of the sacred thread is a sign that the
boy has gone through the upanayanam ceremony. It is


noted * by the Rev. A. Margbschis that " the son ir of
Brahman parents is not reckoned to be a Brahman (i.e.,
he may not take part in religious ceremonies) until he
has gone through the ceremony of assuming the sacred
thread ; and I have heard Brahman boys wearing the
thread taunting a boy of Brahman birth, and calling him
a Sudra, because he had not yet assumed the holy thread."
The thread is composed of three threads of cotton
secured together in one spot by a sacred knot of pecu-
liar construction, called Brahma Grandhi. The knot in
the sacred thread worn by Vaishnava Brahmans is called
Vishnu Grandhi, and that in the thread of Smarthas
Rudra Grandhi. In the preparation of the thread, cotton
sold in the bazaar may not be used ; the bolls ought to
be secured direct from the plant. Here and there
Brahmans may be seen in villages, removing the cotton
from the bolls, and preparing it into pads for spinning
into thread. Those who teach students the Vedas
may be seen spinning the thread from these pads.
The spinning rod is a thin piece of bamboo stick
weighted with a lead or soapstone disc about half an
inch in diameter. The thin thread is kept in stock, and
twisted into the sacred thread whenever it is required.
Three or more people usually take part in the twisting
process, during which they chant Vedic verses. In the
Srutis and Sutras, it is enjoined that the Yagnopavita
(sacred thread) is to be put on only on occasions of
sacrifice. It ought really to be a vestment, and is a
symbolical representation thereof. Ordinarily the
thread is worn over the left shoulder in the position
called Upavitham. In ceremonies connected with the
dead, however, it is worn over the right shoulder in the

* Christianity and Caste, 1893.


position called prachinavlthi. At the time of worship-
ping Rishis and Ganas, the thread should be over both
shoulders and round the neck in the position called

The grass girdle and deer-skin worn by a youth at
the Upanayanam ceremony are removed on the fifth day,
or, among the orthodox, kept on until the first Upakar-
mam day. They, and the palasa stick, should be
retained by the Brahmachari till the close of his student-
ship. Nambutiri Brahman lads of eight or nine years
old, who have gone through the Upanayanam ceremony,
always carry with them the palasa stick, and wear the
grass girdle, and, in addition to the sacred thread, a thin
strip of deer-skin in length equal to the thread. Round
the waist he wears a narrow strip of cloth (kaupmam)
passed between the legs. He may cover his breast and
abdomen with a cloth thrown over his body. He is
thus clad until his marriage, or at least until he has
concluded the study of the Vedas.

The marriage rites in vogue at the present day
resemble those of Vedic times in all essential particulars.
All sections of Brahmans closely follow the Grihya
Sutras relating to their sakha. The marriage ceremo-
nies commence with the Nischyathartham or betrothal
ceremony. The bridegroom being seated on a plank
amidst a number of Brahmans, Vedic verses are repeated,
and, after the bestowal of blessings, the bride's father
proclaims that he intends giving his daughter in marriage
to the bridegroom, and that he may come for the purpose
after the completion of the Vratam ceremony. For this
ceremony, the bridegroom, after being shaved, dresses
up. Meanwhile, the Brahmans who have been invited
assemble. The bridegroom sits on the marriage dais,
and, after repeating certain Vedic verses, says : " With


the permission of all assembled, let me begin the
Vratams Prajapathyam, Soumyam, Agneyam, and Vais-
wadevam, and let me also close them." All the Vratams
should be performed long before the marriage. In
practice, however, this is not done, so the bridegroom
performs an expiatory ceremony, to make up for the
omission. This consists in offering oblations of ghi, and
giving presents of money to a few Brahmans. The
bridegroom is helped throughout the Vratam ceremonies
by a spiritual teacher or guru, who is usually his father
or a near relation. The guru sprinkles water over the
bridegroom's body, and tells him to go on with kandarishi
tharpanam (offerings of water, gingelly, and rice, as an
oblation to Rishis). A small copper or silver vessel is
placed on a leaf to the north-east of the sacred fire, and
is made to represent Varuna. A new cloth is placed
round the vessel. The various Vratams mentioned are
gone through rapidly, and consist of offerings of ghi
through fire to the various Devatas and Pitris. The
Nandhi Sradh, or memorial service to ancestors, is then
performed. The bridegroom next dresses up as a
married man, and proceeds on a mock pilgrimage to a
distant place. This is called Paradesa Pravesam (going
to a foreign place), or Kasiyatra (pilgrimage to Benares).
It is a remnant of the Snathakarma rite, whereat a
Brahmachari, or student, leaves his spiritual teacher's
house at the close of his studies, performs a ceremony of
ablution, and becomes an initiated householder or Sna-
thaka. The bridegroom carries with him an umbrella, a
fan, and a bundle containing some rice, cocoanut, and
areca-nut. He usually goes eastward. His future father-
in-law meets him. and brings him to the house at which


the marriage is to be celebrated. As soon as he has
arrived there, the bride is brought, dressed up and


decorated in finery. The bridal pair are taken up on
the shoulders of their maternal uncles, who dance about
for a short time. Whenever they meet, the bride and
bridegroom exchange garlands (malaimaththal). The
couple then sit on a swing within the pandal (booth), and
songs are sung. A few married women go round them
three times, carrying water, a light, fruits, and betel,
in a tray. The pair are conducted into the house,
and are seated on the marriage dais. The marriage, or
Vivaham, is then commenced. A purohit (priest) re-
peats certain Vedic texts as a blessing, and says :
" Bless this couple of .... gotras, the son and
daughter of . . . . , grandchildren of . . . . ,
now about to be married." At this stage, the gotras of
the contracting couple must be pronounced distinctly, so
as to ensure that they are not among the prohibited
degrees. The bridal couple must belong to different
gotras. The bridegroom next says that he is about to
commence the worship of Visvaksena if he is a Vaishna-
vite, or Ganapathi if he is a Saivite, for the successful
termination of the marriage ceremonies. The Ankurar-
pana (seed-pan) ceremony is then proceeded with. Five
earthenware pans are procured, and, after being purified
by the sprinkling of punyaham water over them, are
arranged in the form of a square. Four of the pans are
placed at the four cardinal points, east, west, north, and
south, and the remaining pot is set down in the centre of
the square. The pan to the east represents Indra, the one
to the west Varuna, the one to the south Yama, and the
one to the north Soman. While water is being sprinkled
over the pans, the following synonyms for each of these
gods are repeated :

Indra Sathakruthu, Vajranam, Sachipathi.

Yama Vaivaswata, Pithrupathi, Dharmaraja.



Varuna Prachethas, Apampathi, Swarupinam.
Soman Indum, Nisakaram, Oshadisam.

Nine kinds of grains soaked in water are placed in
the seed-pans. These grains are Dolichos Lablab (two
varieties), Phaseolus Mungo (two varieties), Oryza saliva,
Cicer Arietimim, Cajanus indicus, Eleusine Coracana,
and Vigna Catiang. The tying of the wrist-thread
(pratisaram) is next proceeded with. Two cotton threads
are laid on a vessel representing Varuna. After the
recitation of Vedic verses, the bridegroom takes one of
the threads, and, dipping it in turmeric paste, holds
it with his left thumb, smears some of the paste on it
with his right thumb and forefinger, and ties it on the
left wrist of the bride. The purohit ties the other thread
on the right wrist of the bridegroom, who, facing the
assembly, says " I am going to take the bride." He
then recites the following Vedic verse : " Go to my
future father-in-law with due precautions, and mingle
with the members of his family. This marriage is sure
to be pleasing to Indra, because he gets oblations of
food, etc., after the marriage. May your path be smooth
and free from thorns. May Surya and Bhaga promote
our dhampathyam (companionship)."

The purohit again proclaims the marriage, and the
gotras and names of three generations are repeated.
Those assembled then bless the couple. The bride's
father says that he is prepared to give his daughter
in marriage to the bridegroom, who states that he
accepts her. The father of the bride washes the feet of
the bridegroom placed on a tray with milk and water.
The bridegroom then washes the feet of the bride's
father. The bride sits in her father's lap, and her mother
stands at her side. The father, repeating the names of
the bridegroom's ancestors for three generations, says


that he is giving his daughter to him. He places the
hand of the bride on that of the bridegroom, and both
he and the bride's mother pour water over the united
hands of the contracting couple. The following sloka
is repeated : " I am giving you a virgin decorated with
jewels, to enable me to obtain religious merit." The
bridegroom takes the bride by the hand, and both
take their seats in front of the sacred fire. This part of
the ceremonial is called dhare (pouring of water). Much
importance is attached to it by Tulu Brahmans. Among
Non- Brahman castes in South Canara, it forms the
binding portion of the marriage ceremony. After the
pouring of ghi as an oblation, the bridegroom throws
down a few twigs of dharbha grass, and repeats the
formula : " Oh ! dharbha, thou art capable of giving
royal powers, and the teacher's seat. May I not be
separated from thee." Then the bride's father, giving a
vessel of water, says " Here is Arghya water." The
bridegroom receives it with the formula : " May this
water destroy my enemies. May brilliancy, energy,
strength, life, renown, glory, splendour, and power dwell
in me." Once again the bride's father washes the feet of
the bridegroom, who salutes his father-in-law, saying
" Oh ! water, unite me with fame, splendour, and milk.
Make me beloved by all creatures, the lord of cattle.
May fame, heroism, and energy dwell in me." The
bride's father pours some water from a vessel over
the hand of the bridegroom, who says "To the ocean I
send you, the imperishable waters ; go back to your
source. May I not suffer loss in my offspring. May
my sap not be shed." A mixture of honey, plantain
fruit, and ghi, is given to the bridegroom by the bride's
father with the words " Ayam Madhuparko " (honey
mixture). Receiving it, the bridegroom mutters the


following : " What is the honeyed, highest form of
honey which consists in the enjoyment of food ; by
that honeyed highest form of honey, may I become
highest, honeyed, an enjoyer of food." He partakes
three times of the mixture, and says : " I eat thee
for the sake of brilliancy, luck, glory, power, and the
enjoyment of food." Then the bride's father gives a
cocoanut to the bridegroom, saying " Gauhu " (cow).
The bridegroom receives it with the words " Oh ! cow,
destroy my sin, and that of my father-in-law." Accord-
ing to the Grihya Sutras, a cow should be presented to
the bridegroom, to be cooked or preserved. Next a
plantain fruit is given to the bridegroom, who, after
eating a small portion of it, hands it to the bride. The
bride sits on a heap or bundle of paddy (unhusked rice),
and the bridegroom says " Oh ! Varuna, bless her with
wealth. May there be no ill-feeling between herself,
her brothers and sisters. Oh ! Brihaspathi, bless her
that she may not lose her husband. Oh! Indra, bless
her to be fertile. Oh ! Savitha, bless her that she may
be happy in all respects. Oh ! girl, be gentle-eyed and
friendly to me. Let your look be of such a nature as
not to kill your husband. Be kind to me, and to my
brothers.* May you shine with lustre, and be of good
repute. Live long, and bear living children." The pair
are then seated, and the bridegroom, taking a blade
of dharbha grass, passes it between the eyebrows of the
bride, and throws it behind her, saying " With this dharbha
grass I remove the evil influence of any bad mark thou
mayst possess, which is likely to cause widowhood."
[Certain marks or curls (suli) forebode prosperity,
and others misery to a family into which a girl enters


* In the Yedic verse the word used for my brothers literally means your


by marriage. And, when a wealthy Hindu meditates
purchasing a horse, he looks to the presence or absence
of certain marks on particular parts of the body, and
thereby forms a judgment of the temper and qualities
of the animal.] The bridegroom then repeats the
following : " Now they ought to rejoice, and not cry.
They have arranged our union to bring happiness to
both of us. In view of the happiness we are to enjoy
hereafter, they should be glad. This is a fitting occasion
for rejoicing." Four Brahmans next bring water, and
the bridegroom receives it, saying : " May the evil
qualities of this water disappear ; may it increase. Let
the Brahmans bring water for the bath, and may it bring
long life and children to her." A bundle of paddy, or a
basket filled therewith, is brought to the pandal. The
bride sits on the paddy, and a ring of dharbha grass
is placed on her head. The bridegroom repeats the
formula " Blessed by the Surya, sit round the sacred
fire, and look at the dharbha ring, my mother-in-law and
brother-in-law." A yoke is then brought, one end of
which is placed on the head of the bride above the ring,
and the following formula is repeated: "Oh! Indra,
cleanse and purify this girl, just as you did in the case of
Abhala, by pouring water through three holes before
marrying her." Abhala was an ugly woman, who wished
to marry Indra. To attain this end, she did penance
for a long time, and, meeting Indra, requested him to
fulfil her desire. Indra made her his wife, after trans-
forming her into a beautiful woman by sprinkling water
over her through the holes in the wheels of the car
which was his vehicle. Into the hoJe of the yoke a
gold coin, or the tali (marriage badge), is dropped, with
the words " May this gold prove a blessing to you.
May the yoke, the hole of the yoke, bring happiness


to you. May we be blessed to unite your body with
mine." Then the bridegroom, sprinkling water over
the yoke and coin, says : " May you become purified
by the sun through this purificatory water. May
this water, which is the cause of thunder and lightning,
bring happiness to you. Oh ! girl, may this water
give you health and long life. A new and costly silk
cloth (kurai), purchased by the bridegroom, is given to
the bride, and the bridegroom says : " Oh ! Indra,
listen to my prayers ; accept them, and fulfil my desires."
The bride puts on the cloth, with the assistance of the
bridegroom's sister, and sits on her father's lap. The
bridegroom, taking up the tali, ties it by the string on
the bride's neck, saying : " Oh ! girl, I am tying the
tali to secure religious merit." This is not a Vedic
verse, and this part of the ceremony is not included in
the Grihya Sutras. All the Brahmans assembled bless
the couple by throwing rice over their heads. A
dharbha waist-cord is passed round the waist of the
bride, and the following is repeated : " This girl is
gazing at Agni, wishing for health, wealth, strength and
children. I am binding her for her good." The bride-
groom then holds the hand of the bride, and both go to
the sacred fire, where the former says : " Let Surya
lead to Agni, and may you obtain permission from the
Aswins to do so. Go with me to my house. Be my
wife, and the mistress of my house. Instruct and help
me in the performance of sacrifices." After offerings of
ghi in the sacred fire, the bridegroom says : " Soma
was yc ur husband ; Gandharva knew thee next ; Agni
was yjur third husband. I, son of man, am your fourth
husband. Soma gave you to Gandharva, and Gandharva
gave you to Agni, who gave to me with progeny and
wealth." The bridegroom takes hold of the bride's


right wrist, and, pressing on the fingers, passes his
hand over the united fingers three times. This is called
Panigrahanam. To the Nambutiri Brahman this is a
very important item, being the binding part of the
marriage ceremonial. Some years ago, at a village near
Chalakkudi in the Cochin State, a Nambutiri refused
to accept a girl as his bride, because the purohit inad-
vertently grasped her fingers, to show how it ought to
be done at the time of the marriage ceremony. The
purohit had to marry the girl himself. The next item
in the ceremonial is Sapthapathi, or the taking of the
seven steps. This is considered as the most binding
portion thereof. The bridegroom lifts the left foot of
the bride seven times, repeating the following : " One
step for sap, may Vishnu go after thee. Two steps for
juice, may Vishnu go after thee. Three steps for vows,
may Vishnu go after thee. Four steps for comfort, may
Vishnu go after thee. Five steps for cattle, may Vishnu
go after thee. Six steps for the prospering of wealth,
may Vishnu go after thee. Seven steps for the seven-
fold hotriship,* may Vishnu go after thee. With seven
steps we have become companions. May I attain to
friendship with thee. May I not be separated from thy
friendship. Mayst thou not be separated from my
friendship. Let us be united ; let us always take
counsel together with good hearts and mutual love.
May we grow in strength and prosperity together. Now
we are one in minds, deeds, and desires. Thou art Rik,
I am Samam ; I am the sky, thou art the eanh ; I am
the semen, thou art the bearer ; I am the mind, thou
art the tongue. Follow me faithfully, that we may have
wealth and children together. Come thou of sweet

* A hotri is one who presides at the time of sacrifices.


speech." The bridegroom then does homam, repeating
the following : " We are offering oblations to Soma,
Gandharva, and Agni. This girl has just passed her
virginity. Make her leave her father's house. Bless
her to remain fixed in her husband's house. May she
have a good son by your blessing. Cause her to beget
ten children, and I shall be the eleventh child. Oh !
Agni, bless her with children, and make them long-lived.
Oh ! Varuna, I pray to you for the same thing. May
this woman be freed from the sorrow arising out of
sterility, and be blessed by Garhapathyagni. May she
have a number of children in her, and become the mother
of many living children. Oh ! girl, may your house
never know lamentations during nights caused by
deaths. May you live long and happy with your
husband and children. May the sky protect thy back ;
may Vayu strengthen your thighs ; and the Asw T ins your
breast. May Savitri look after thy suckling sons.
Until the garment is put on, may Brihaspathi guard
them, and the Viswedevas afterwards. Oh ! Varuna,
make me strong and healthy. Do not steal away years
from our ages. All those who offer oblations pray for
the same. Oh ! you all-pervading Agni, pacify Varuna ;
you who blaze forth into flames to receive oblations,
be friendly towards us. Be near us, and protect us.
Receive, and be satisfied with our oblations. Make us
prosperous. We are always thinking of you. Take our
oblations to the several devatas, and give us medicine."
The bride next treads on a stone, and the bridegroom
says : " Oh ! girl, tread on this stone. Be firm like it.
Destroy those who seek to do thee harm. Overcome
thy enemies." Some fried paddy is put in the sacred fire,
and the bridegroom repeats the following : " Oh ! Agni,
I am offering the fried grains, so that this girl may be


blessed with long life. Oh ! Agni, give me my wife
with children, just as in olden days you were given
Suryayi with wealth. Oh ! Agni, bless my wife with
lustre and longevity. Also bless her husband with long
life, that she may live happily. Oh ! Agni, help us to
overcome our enemies." Again the bride treads on the
stone, and the bridegroom says : " Oh ! girl, tread on
this stone, and be firm like it. Destroy those who seek
to do thee harm. Overcome thy enemies." This is
followed by the offering of fried grain with the following
formula : " The virgins prayed to Surya and Agni to
secure husbands, and they were at once granted their
boons. Such an Agni is now being propitiated by
offerings of fried paddy. Let him make the bride leave
her father's house." For the third time, the bride treads
on the stone, and fried paddy is offered with the
formula : " Oh ! Agni, thou art the giver of life, and
receiver of oblations. Oblations of ghi are now offered
to you. Bless the pair to be of one mind." The
dharbha girdle is removed from the bride's waist, with
the verse : " I am loosening you from the bondage of
Varuna. I am now removing the thread with which
Surya bound you." Those assembled then disperse.
Towards evening, Brahmans again assemble, and the
bride and bridegroom sit before the sacred fire, while
the former repeat several Vedic riks. They are
supposed to start for their home, driving in a carriage,
and the verses repeated have reference to the chariot,
horses, boats, etc. After ghi has been poured into the
fire, a child, who should be a male who has not lost
brothers or sisters, is seated in the lap of the bride, and
the bridegroom says : " May cows, horses, men, and
wealth, increase in this house. Let this child occupy
your lap, just as the Soma creeper which gives strength


to the Devatas occupies the regions of the stars."
Giving some plantain fruit to the child, the bridegroom
says : " Oh ! fruits, ye bear seeds. May my wife bear
seeds likewise by your blessing." Then the pair are
shown Druva and Arundathi (the pole star and Ursa
major), which are worshipped with the words : " The
seven Rishis who have led to firmness, she, Arundathi,
who stands first among the six Krithikas (Pleiads), may
she the eighth one, who leads the conjunction of the
(moon with the) six Krithikas, the first (among conjunc-
tions) shine upon us. Firm dwelling, firm origin ; the
firm one art thou, standing on the side of firmness.
Thou art the pillar of the stars. Thus protect me
against my adversaries." They then proceed to per-
form the Sthalipaka ceremony, in which the bride
should cook some rice, which the bridegroom offers
as an oblation in the sacred fire. In practice, how-

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