Kongu Vellalars or Kongu Vellala Gounders are a highly conservative group of people more prevalent in the down south areas of Madurai, Dharmapuri and Coimbatore districts. It is a well established fact that South Indian marriages are a blend of grand rituals and extravagant celebrations. A Kongu Vellalar Tamil matrimony is filled with a number of rituals that have a latent but profound meaning to it.
Here are some of the unique and interesting rituals followed during a Kongu Vellalar Wedding.
The Sangam Style Wedding
Most South Indian castes have opened their doors to accepting the chanting of Sanskrit slogans while conducting the wedding. However Kongu Vellalars stress upon having all rites and rituals being performed only in Tamil. The three day celebration has several rituals and every one of them is performed in Tamil, as it was done during the Sangam Age.
What is most unique about a Kongu Vellala Gounder wedding is that it does not require a priest to conduct the ceremony nor does it have the sacred fire round which couples take the oath of togetherness. Instead an elderly person from the community, called the “Arumaikaarar” chants wedding songs in Tamil and conducts the rituals of the wedding. Owing to their agricultural roots, the Arumaikaarar uses the red boiled rice to ward off the evil eye by rotating his rice filled fists in circular movements and then throws the rice on the sides of the couple seated in front of him.
The Guest list
Family, friends and acquaintances are usually on the guest list for any marriage. But in a Kongu Vellalar wedding, it is made certain that a barber (Naavidhar), a washer man (Vannar) and a carpenter (Kammalar) attend the wedding.
Duties of the guests
The barber is made to sing songs and invite the other guests to the wedding. He is also responsible for grooming the boy before the day of “Muhurtham”. The Vannar takes up the task of erecting the “Pandhal”, a colourfully decorated temporary shelter to lodge the bride and the groom before the actual marriage ceremony. The Kammalar is the wood artisan who makes kitchen essentials like plates, the salt box, the spoons and a five-room wooden box to store the spices. These wooden accessories are then given to the bride as part of the “seedhanam koduthal”.
While “tying the knot” is the crux of the Muhurtham in any South Indian wedding, the knot is already tied and handed over to the groom in a Kongu Vellalar wedding. The Arumaikaarar passes the holy thread to the groom which he places around the neck of the bride. Before the couple leave the marriage platform, they are presented with a new pair of footwear symbolizing the start of a new phase in life. This is another unique practice in the Kongu Vellalar wedding.
In a world where everything is fast tracked for the sake of being succinct, Kongu Vellalars still believe is carefully performing every ritual that leads to the union of the bride and groom in matrimony.