Tying the Thaali

23 August 2016

A look at the rituals and ceremony of a traditional Hindu wedding with Abbi, who recently married her husband, Viki at the Sri Sakthi Easwari Temple.

Traditional Hindu weddings are often associated with a splash of fabulous colours, in-depth rituals and drool-worthy laddoos. The details that go into a Hindu wedding make for a beautiful ceremony that involves a merge of culture, years of tradition and sacred rituals. We spoke to Abbi about her recent traditional wedding to husband, Viki, to learn a little more about the ceremony.

The ceremony is completely ritualistic and centred around family traditions. In ancient times, they could be carried out for a couple of days due to symbolic rituals and the joy of celebration. Today, many couples prioritise the rituals that are practical and meaningful and cut back on the length of the ceremony due to time, relevance and finances.

The traditions start before the actual ceremony, with the meeting of the parents and then the decision of the date. One of the bigger superstitions in Hindu weddings is picking the right date to ensure a happy and everlasting marriage as certain months are seen as inauspicious. “The date is selected by a priest based on the zodiac of the couple and in accordance to the Hindu calendar,” explains Abbi.  Once decided, the excitement (and stress) of planning begins!

Three days before the wedding, Abbi tells us that the bride and groom are not allowed to leave home. Ancient traditions tell us it’s to avoid wandering spirits but in more modern times, it’s really to ensure the couple is well rested and ready for their big day. On the day of the wedding, the couple sit opposite each other on a raised platform known as a mandap, creating a sacred space for the ceremony. A priest and respective relatives gather on the platform and the ceremony takes place with a set of prayers, promise of everlasting unions, and a set of rituals. While many, there are some rituals that are particularly meaningful to couples. “The one with the most importance to me would be the ritual where the bride’s parents place their daughter’s hand in the groom’s hands to signify ‘giving’ her hand in marriage,” says Abbi. She continues  to explain that “there’s a ritual where the groom guides the bride’s feet along nine steps and onto a grindstone which symbolises a holy union as solid as a rock – this is a ritual most common within the South Indian community.”

To bind the union of the couple, the groom ties a sacred chain known as the Thaali around the bride’s neck, a symbolism similar to that of exchanging rings. The priest then offers his blessings and the couple is given blessings from their parents, siblings, extended family members and friends then, the celebrations begin! Food, dancing and of course, those delicious laddoos.  

If you’re new to Hindu weddings and attending as a guest, a helpful tip is to avoid dressing in black, keep your outfit modest, or stay safe and go with a traditional attire while basking in all that is cultural and beautiful. With so much to be happy about, Abbi’s favourite part of her ceremony (aside from getting married, of course) was meeting all her loved ones at once. “You’re being celebrated by the people closest to you, decked in your finest. What can beat that?”

By Rowena Jo

Photos courtesy of Dhivager Rathakrishnan

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