All posts by Rajini Shankar

Karadaiyan Nonbu in South India and Karva Chauth in North India!

Tying saradu Mother-in law tyng the Karadaiyan  Nonbu Saradu for her daugher-in-law

Karadaiyan Nombu in South India, is also called ‘Savithri Vratham’ and is the most important festival for married women in South India, the Tamil Brahmins. This  fast  was maintained by Savithri for her husband Satyavan, who was  to be whisked away by God of Death, Lord Yama! It is believed that the lady was so deeply devoted and loyal to her husband that she could pray and fast for her husband right amid the woods, and, and retrieve her husband from  the merciless clutches of Lord Yama! The first day of the month of ‘Panguni’ after the month of ‘Masi’ usually on  14th March of every year, is observed as this Vratham or Karadaiyan Nonbu. The word ‘Karadaiyan’  is derived from the naivedyam offered in prayer, first eaten and then served to their husbands, by married women. The sweet and salted versions are called ‘Thithippu  Karadai’ (sweet version)  and ‘Uppadai’  ( the salted version) .

karva chauth blog lady Karva Chauth fasting by  Radha

Karva Chouth in North India is akin to Karadaiyan Nonbu in South India: Similar to Karadaiyan Nonbu in South India, there is a fasting festival for all married women in North India, very popular and of great significance in UP< Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttaranchal, Haryana and Punjab. The only difference being the month that it is celebrated and the fasting time and method by the women. While in South India on ‘Karadaiyan Nonbu’ the married women fast, for the longevity of their husbands, till the  time for puja (  may be anytime as stipulated by the pujari or pandit), and can comfortably  have liquids or milk or tea, not so strictly followed like the North Indian women ; the North Indian women fast for the longevity of their husbands from sunrise to moonrise, without even drop of water!

V0045106 Savitrī pleading with Yama for her husband, Satya Savithri asks God of Death Lord Yama to spare  Satyavan

 Savithri  Satyavan story and Karadaiyan nonbu: Impressed by the Piety, dedication, and exemplary oratory skills of Savithri a beautiful and accomplished woman, Lord Yama offered her three boons and she cleverly asked for restoring the eyesight of her blind father-in-law, a Hundred sons to her father, and a Hundred sons to her, by her husband Satayavan, who was to die 3 days after their marriage, thus tactfully got her husband back, with strict fasting and prayers.
Karadaiyan Nonbu fasting in South India: Is observed at a particular time on that day, which has to be religiously followed by all the Tami Brahmin married ladies. The unmarried girls too pray for getting good husbands. Fasting is observed by married women, not spinsters.

karamani Karamani symbolic of Savithri’s fasting in the woods

Karadai and Karamani in Karadaiyan Nonbu:  The sweet and salted version of Karadai or the Prasadam or the only meal Item for the ladies who observe the Fast or Vratham, is made from rice flour, jaggery , cardamoms and chopped coconut pieces, while the salted version is made with rice flour, coconut, asafetida and chillies and curry leaves.

Coconut cut pieces Karadai blog Coconut pieces in Karadai for Karadaiyan Nonbu

The most Important Ingredient in Karadai is the herb called ‘Karamani’ a red lentil that is symbolic of Savithri’s fasting in the woods, where herbs are aplenty.

Velladai Sweet karadai, with jaggery and butter at the center            uppadai Uppadai or Salted version of karadai

Adai naivedyam

Karadaiyan Nonbu Naivedyam : Besides Karadais, the fasting Naivedyam on ‘Karadaiyan Nonbu’ also consists of white unsalted butter, Vetrilai ( betel leaves), Pakku ( supari), pazham ( bananas) and coconut.

Karva chauth mehendi North Indian lady all decked up on Karva Chauth day!

Ritual differences in Karadaiyan  Nonbu in  South India  and Karva Chauth in North India: In North India ,the married women eat early in the morning before sunrise and the special meal or sweet dishes are usually made by the mother in law , they bathe and pray and wear bright red saris wear jewelry apply  mehendi or henna in their hands, and thereafter, do not even drink water, till they see the moon. UP the ladies take milk, sugar etc in the  morning so they can withstand thirst all day
Sargi 1 Cashews, lamp and silk dupatta Sargi for Karva Chauth
Sargi 2 Sargi for Karva Chauth milk, sweets and lamp

The plate that is to be taken for evening puja before the moon appears is called ‘Sargi’ in Punjab and in. The puja plate usually has a lamp, sweets and some dry fruits and fruits, once the moon is spotted the fast is broken by consuming water fed by the husbands,  and some sweet given to regain lost energy.

In South India, on Karadaiyan Nonbu day,  the women bathe and adorn themselves in silk saris ,  some in Madisar or nine yards, wear jewelry  and bangles, and mehendi application is more optional. They do the puja at the time specified by the solar calendar, pray for the longevity of their husbands, offer the naivedyam to Goddess Kamakshi Amman,

Kamakshi amman blog Goddess Kamakshi Amman Karadaiyan nombu blog pic 1 karadai placed with butter and Nonbu saradu on plantain leaves
wear the yellow thread with jasmine slung at the center, around their necks as if newly married, and eat the  hot karadais with butter melting on them ,all placed on a plantain leaf… While wearing the  ‘Nonbu Charadu’ or the yellow thread,  they chant the following  ‘Urugadha Vennayam oru adayum vaithu nonbu notren oru nallum en kanavar piriyamal iruka vendum’ which translates thus ‘Just like the melting butter over steaming adais, the woman and her husband must remain bonded for life, inseparable!’

Karva Chauth in North India – the name: ‘Karva’ means pot , and Chauth ( means fourth in Hindi), which is observed on the fourth day of the dark days after full moon day or Poornima. The women pour water from the pot ( Karva) into the soil and do puja and then using a sieve they see the moon and the faces of their husbands through it.
karva chauth moon
North Indian ladies look the moon through the sieve on Karva Chauth

The women then enjoy singing and eating a sumptuous meal with an elaborate menu along with their families.

The beginning of Karadaiyan Nonbu, in South India, yellow thread at a marriage hall : The first time a  woman wears the  yellow thread is when she first gets married at a hall, amid Vedic  chanting and music, and blessings of all, when her groom ties the thread around her neck.

This can be witnessed at any South Indian Wedding, at any  of the Kalyana Mandapams or halls in Chennai.
The spirit and essence of Karadaiyan Nonbu and Karva Chauth is one: Fasting by married women for the welfare and longevity of their husbands.

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Saptapadi or Seven steps in Hindu marriage!

Saptapadi or Seven steps in Hindu marriage!

Holding hands in saptapadi

Saptapadi or  seven steps is the most important rite of a Hindu marriage ceremony. The word Saptapadi means “Seven steps”. After tying the Mangalsutra, the newly wed couple take seven steps around the holy fire, that is called Saptapadi.

In a Hindu marriage , the most Important rite is the tying of the Thali or Mangalsutra, by the groom around the neck of the bride, but the marriage is incomplete without the ‘Saptapadi’ or ‘Seven steps’!

Round the fire
The Seven Steps and their significance:

  • With the first step , the couple invokes the Gods for plentitude of food.
  • With the second step , the couple prays to the Gods to give them both mental and physical strength and a healthy life free from ailments.
  • The third step is for the fulfilment of spiritual obligation for the couple and for the successful performance of their spiritual duties.
  • The fourth step is for the attainment of happiness in all walks of life.
  • The fifth step is to pray for the welfare of all living entities in the entire Universe.
  • The sixth step is for bountiful seasons all over the world.

The seventh step is taken invoking the prayer and sacrifice for universal peace.

The variations in Sapdapadi or Seven steps: During  Saptapadi or seven steps, some communities, the groom holds only the little finger , while taking his bride round the fire seven times, in gentle steps, in still others, he holds her right hand cupped fingers all together. The most sacred and critical Seven Steps.

Husband and wife only after the Sapdapadi: The man and woman who tie the knot, are declared husband and wife, only on completion of the ‘Saptapadi’ or ‘Seven steps’.

The sentimental and deep values of Sapdapadi  in Hindu marriage: When a wedded couple takes the seven steps or rounds holding each other’s hands firmly, around the fire, they not only evoke the Almighty’s blessings and pray for each other ‘s health and well-being, they pray for their families, and the whole Universe. The ritual embraces all the elements of nature, fire, water and seasons, spirituality and universal peace.

The Implied elements of true partnership in ‘Saptapadi’: The couple during Sapdapadi, agrees to be with each other in times of pain and pleasure respect each other’s likes and dislikes, family values. The partners agree to be perfect companions through all walks of life.

The Saath pheras or seven steps in the North: The North Indian weddings have a similar , very Important ritual where the couple goes around the fire seven times, called ‘Saath Pheras’ Or ‘Seven rounds’ where they pledge to be with each other in all times of pleasure and difficulties, not quarrel and part ways, also pray for their families. The difference in the North Indian customs is that the ‘Dupatta’ or the bride’s head cover, is tied to the Dupatta of the groom and they walk in close proximity around the Agni or fire. The priest or pundit chants very effective mantras as they go round the fire.

Saath pheras blog
Saptapadi followed by Metti or toe-ring slipping: This most important rite of a Hindu marriage is followed by the groom bending down, lifting his wife’s feet one by one,  and slipping the silver toe-ring (another symbol of marriage), into her second toe of each feet.

Metti saptapadi blog

The essence remains the same in Saat Pheras and Saptapadi: Whatever be the differences in rituals between a North Indian Hindu wedding and a South Indian Hindu wedding the essence of ‘Saat Pheras’ and ‘Sapdapadi or Seven steps’ is one and the same evoking blessings for the well -being of the couple, their families and the whole Universe.

Mangalasutra designs in South India

Mangalasutra designs in South India

Coorgi MangalsutraIyer and Iyengar Thaali

‘The sacred knot’ or the Mangala Sutra, also known in the South as ‘Thaali’ is the most Important symbol of an Indian  married woman in the North, West, East and most significantly South India, in both Brahmin and non-brahmin weddings. While the toe-rings, the red sacred powder, ‘Kumkum’ also are equally Important, the sacred thread or chain called ‘Mangala Sutra’ is the one that actually transforms the hitherto ‘Single’ status of the girl to a ‘Married woman’ or ‘wife’ of someone’!

Marathi MangalsutraMushti Kanti Mangalore

We normally refer to a wedding like this ‘The two have decided to tie the knot’ figuratively it refers to the sacred bonding for Life, together in pain and pleasure, in disease and well-being. Specifically though the turmeric dipped sacred ‘Thaali’  (in the South), is the first , sentimental , Vedic-rich Intimate touch  of the groom and the bride, when normally, the bride’s father gives away the bride in holy matrimony, to the man who becomes her husband, her partner and protector , for Life! This ritual is called ‘Kanyadan’ or ‘Kanyadaanam’ ( Tamil), which means giving away the daughter by the father. At weddings, especially in the South, it is the most awaited moment, by the bride’s parents, groom ‘s parents, as well as all the kith and kin present at the wedding Hall. The moment of hysteric and feverish excitement, with tears welling the eyes of the bride’ s mother , her close friends, and the bride herself are worth a watch! also there is a drastic twist in the note played by the musicians on the Nadaswaram, the beats  on the accompanying pair of drums ( called the ‘Thavil) have a particular moment of loudness ( as signalled by the Pundit or Poojari or the vadiyar who conducts the rituals). And yes! it has been tied around the bejeweled and heavily garlanded neck of the bride, and everyone is clapping, wishing each other, congratulations pouring from all the sides , and well-wishers and elders sprinkle rice grains soaked in haldi, or turmeric and Vermilon ( Kumkum or red sacred powder), to offer their love, blessings to the newly wed couple! Soon after the three knots are tied ( In  Brahmin Weddings, the first knot is tied by the groom and the rest 2 are tied by the sisters of the groom , further strengthening the bond with the new addition to their family). If the groom has one sister, she ties both the knots, and if he has two sisters they share the remaining two. If the groom is a single child with no siblings, then his cousin sisters get the right to tie the remaining knots!

Syrian Christian thaliTelugu Thaali

Soon after the thread with a holy pendant in gold ( the thaali) is tied, the groom puts around his brand new wife’s neck , yet another gold thaali where the chain is in pure gold with some opting for traditional designs, and others going for fashionable patterns of the chain, but the pendent or the locket remains the same for each caste conforming to its specifications! It is Indeed Interesting to understand and examine the differences in the Mangala Sutra patterns of different regions across India!

Before we examine the differences in the designs, it is critical to understand the Importance of ‘The Mangala Sutra’ or ‘Thaali’
Thaali being tied

The phrase ‘three knot tie’ literally means’ ‘an auspicious thread which is knotted around the bride’s neck’. It is usually a gold pendant strung from a yellow thread prepared with turmeric, a string of black beads or simply a gold chain. It is comparable to the wedding ring of the West. A married woman is expected to wear this thread and is the most important part of a Hindu marriage ceremony.

It is called Mangala Sutra in Maharashtra, தாலி (thaali) in Tamil, ತಾಳಿ (thaali) or ಮಾಂಗಲ್ಯ (Mangalyasutra) in Kannada and thaali (తాళి), maangalyamu (మాంగళ్యము), Mangalasutramu (మంగళసూత్రము) or pustelu (పుస్తెలు) in Telugu. Konkanis (Goansand others) wear three necklaces around their necks referred to as “Dhaaremani” or “Muhurtmani” (big golden bead), “Mangalasutra” with one or two gold discs and “Kasithaali” with gold and coral beads. In Malayalam it is simply referred to as “Thaali” in general and “Minnu” by Syrian Christians.

A ‘Thaali’ ( or “Minnu”) is also worn by the brides of Kerala’s Syrian Christian community. An engraving of the holy spirit is a distinguishing feature of the Syrian Christian Minnu. According to tradition, the families of the bride and the bridegroom contribute a piece of gold and melt it with the help of the family goldsmith. This is then used to make the rest of the necklace. The process of tying is assisted by a sister of the groom, as it is with other Hindu communities. During the wedding ceremony, the Minnu is held on and tied using a braided thread made by twisting together seven threads taken from the Manthrakodi (wedding saree).

The practice of wearing a mangala sutra is mainly followed in western Indian and south Indian states.
The Kashmiri Pandits have the distinction of being one of the few Hindu communities that does not have the Thaali as part of its wedding ritual.

Adi Shankara and Mangala Sutra

In his  famous book Soundarya Lahari  Adi Shankara has mentioned that as per Hindu cultural ethos, the Mangala sutra symbolizes the inseparable bond between a husband and a wife. During the wedding ceremony, the bridegroom ties the Mangala sutra to the neck of the bride uttering- “May you live long by wearing this sacred Mangal sutra, the reason of my life”. Married women are entitled to wear a Mangala sutra throughout their life as it is believed that the practice enhances the well-being of her husband and family. It is also believed that the Mangala sutra protects the marriage from any evil. Three knots symbolize three different aspects of a married woman – the first knot represents her obedience to her husband, the second to his parents and the third represents her respect for God.

Design Variations in Mangala Sutra region-wise: It is very Interesting to see the differences in the design patterns of Mangala Sutra chains across our country. While the Maharashtrian ‘Thaali’ or ‘Mangal Sutra’ is Intricately woven around black beads, and has two gold Inverted cups with  pinkish or red tiny stones on them at the centre , as a locket ( with the chain of varying length as per Individual choice), the South Indian Brahmin Thaali’ in Iyers  (followers of Lord Shiva), has a ‘Shivalingam’ on one said of the dome shaped pendant, and  next to it the figure of Madurai Meenakshi amman or goddess who symbolizes a perfect and holy matrimony with her husband Lord Sundareswarar, and in Vaishnavites or the Iyengars the dome shaped pendant is the same, but has the figurines of  ‘Sangu’ ( conch shell) and ‘Chakram’ ( the wheel), these symbolize the elegant arms of Lord Vishnu, and also has Goddess Lakshmi who is his wife.  The Chettiars are a Shaivite sect of merchants in Tamil Nadu, the central pendant (thaali) depicts Shiva with his consort Parvati.  The Mangalorean ‘Thaali’  has most definitely black beads woven on a gold chain and is alternated with either rounded or oval shaped Corals ( red, precious beads). The ‘Thaali ‘ of the Karnataka brides is similar with black beads and gold with a pendant, and may either have corals or not. The ‘Karnataka’ Mangal Sutra of the Smartha and Madhwa Brahmins bear a striking resemblance to the Maharashtrian Thaali,  since  Pandharpur, Belgaum, etc are on Maharashtra border, so  most customs are similar, like the  green glass bangles, along with her gold bangles, worn  by the bride on the wedding day. The ‘Coorgi’ thaali is very very majestic and typical band-like chain with huge rounded beads that symbolize the ‘Malanad  or Kodagu Warrior ‘ community.  The Thaali is called ‘Pathaak’ and it is tied by the bride’s mother around the bride’s neck. The Kerala bride usually wears a simple ‘Thaali’ in gold with a tiny leaf as its pendant, and the figurine of baby Krishna at the center ( Krishna is the undisputed Lord for the Keralites). The Syrian Christians of  Kerala also adorn a thaali besides the wedding ring, but with a cross at the center.

The essence of Mangala Sutra or Thaali:  Whatever be the design or figurines Inscribed on the sacred chain worn by a bride on her wedding day, called the ‘Mangala Sutra’ or ‘Thaali’ the underlying essence is the bonding of the bride  with her spouse for life, in the best or worst situation.
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