South Indian Weddings are grand events: hundreds of guests, sumptuous food, dance and music, numerous rituals, and, of course, lavish costumes. Even though many of the main rituals are common in Hindu weddings across India, South Indian wedding traditions are slightly different from those in North India. In the south too, each state, and sometimes regions within states, have their own unique rituals and traditions.
Let’s have a look at the different traditions, wedding attire and accessories followed in the five South Indian states.
Pre-Wedding South Indian Traditions
There are minimal ceremonies in Kerala. After the alliance is accepted, the two families meet to fix the date and have an engagement ceremony where this is announced. Usually, on the previous evening, a party is held at the bride’s and groom’s house. In some communities, there is a tradition of ladies from the groom’s house going to the bride’s house with the wedding sari, blouse, and all accessories for the bride.
The two families pray to their deities to seek blessings for the new couple a day before the wedding, either at home or in a temple. This is called panda kaal muhurtam.
The bride performs a sumangali prarthana for a happy married life. Traditional designs are made with rice flour, called ‘kolam’. A cotton thread stained with turmeric is tied around the waists of the bride and groom to ward off evil. The formal engagement is done a day or so prior to the wedding, with the groom’s family coming to the bride’s home with sarees, jewellery, and other gifts.
The rituals and ceremonies take place over 2–3 days and have much in common with Telugu and Tamil weddings.
The Nischaya Tamulam is the official engagement ceremony, with both parents exchanging betel leaves and the bride and groom receiving gifts from their new families.
The Naandi shastra is performed in both houses, where a copper pot filled with water and a coconut placed on top is placed in the house to signify the commencement of the wedding ceremonies. The bride goes to pray at a temple with her close female relatives and offers bangles to one of them.
A couple of days prior to the wedding, the bride and groom have the Pellikuturu and Pellikoduku ceremonies, where the ladies in their families apply a paste of flour, turmeric, and aromatic oils to their bodies and bathe them in turmeric water.
Most of the new generation incorporates the North Indian traditions in their wedding like Mehandi, Sangeeth, and Haldi Ceremony.
South Indian Wedding Traditions of the Wedding Day
In Kerala, the groom and bride seek the blessings of family elders in their respective homes before they set out for the wedding.
In Tamil Nadu, the bride and groom are smeared with a mix of turmeric, sandalwood, and vermillion by the married ladies of their families and bathed in holy water; this is called Mangala snanam. After changing into her Indian wedding saree as bridal attire, the bride performs the Gauri Puja to seek the blessings of the goddess.
Grooms in Karnataka visit all the nearby temples and seek blessings from all the deities.
Telugu brides and grooms undergo the auspicious Mangala snanams on this day, early in the morning. Following this South Indian wedding tradition, they change into their wedding attire.
At the Venue
In Kerala, the groom is escorted to the stage by ladies from the bride’s family carrying various auspicious items, such as flowers, incense sticks, and lamps in ‘thaalams’, accompanied by musicians playing traditional instruments.
If you are prefering a minimal wedding, then you can opt hindu temples where you can use the mandap as it is with the blessings of almighty. Once the groom is seated in the mandapam, the ladies then go to bring the bride in the same manner. Of course, all eyes are on the bride, and everyone drinks in her beautiful attire and jewellery.
Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada grooms will grab a stick, an umbrella, and some food and pretend to run away to Kashi—his last chance of remaining a bachelor. He’s chased by the father of the bride, who convinces him that he will be better off married to his daughter. In Karnataka, it’s the maternal uncle who does this. In Telugu weddings, the bride’s father and brother persuade the groom not to go to Kashi but to enter the life of a householder instead.
The groom is dressed simply, in a cream-coloured silk shirt, or kurta, and a dhoti, or mundu. Telugu and Kannada grooms also wear a cloth turban. For the wedding receptions, grooms dress more elaborately, in bandhgalas, sherwanis, opulent kurtas with stitched pleated dhotis, and so on.
Kerala brides are bedecked opulently in as much jewellery as the bride can carry, and she dazzles on that day in gold, red, and other vibrant colours. In some communities, the groom gifts a ‘pudava’ or bridal sarees to the bride at this time. Kerala brides are typically dressed in off-white or cream-coloured veshti-mundu, a two-piece garment, or Benarasi silk sarees with gold borders; the borders are sometimes in dark shades of red, green, maroon, violet, etc. with gold motifs on them.
Brides of Tamil Nadu are usually draped in either the traditional 9-yard'madisaar' saris or heavy Kanchipuram sarees in jewel tones. Telugu and Kannada brides are traditionally dressed in rich colours like red, green, maroon, violet, and even in white sarees with red border.
Black and white are considered inauspicious and are generally never worn by brides.
Modern brides are choosing Kanchipuram sarees in shades of red, pink, or pastels. Some of them prefer the latest South Indian bridal look for their wedding while other introduces contemporary style. They wear yards of fragrant jasmine garlands in their hair, which is either braided into a thick plait or put up in a unique coiffure that suits the bride’s face. The blouse is often cut low in the back with a string and elaborate tassels at the end, and it has embellished sleeves. Nowadays, brides also check out modern saree blouse designs to pair blouses like puffed sleeves, bell sleeves, and so on—a bit of modern chic for the modern bride!
Many brides opt to wear lehengas or shararas for their reception, even in South India. Though traditionally, south Indian brides prefer gold jewellery, diamond jewellery is slowly gaining popularity, and many are choosing the minimalist yet elegant look of diamonds.
The Wedding Ceremonies
There are a few minutes of rituals performed by a priest; the bride’s father performs the 'kanyadaan'—or gives the bride away to the groom. The groom ties the ‘thaali’ around the bride’s neck. The bride and groom go around the lamps in the centre, and the wedding is complete. A lavish sadya, or banana leaf meal, is served to all the guests.
Tamil Nadu Weddings
At the mandapam, the groom’s feet are washed by his father-in-law with a mixture of milkwater, vermillion, and sandalwood paste. After the pada puja, the couple exchanges garlands three times, following which they are seated on a swing, with married women from both families singing traditional songs and feeding them milk and bananas.
The bride’s father performs the kanyadaan, and she receives saris and gifts from her new family as a welcome. The ‘thaali’ is tied by the groom and fixed by his sister, and then the 'saptapadi' is performed—seven rounds around the holy fire. The guests are served a sumptuous meal, and then the bride takes leave of her family.
Pada puja is performed, then a cloth is held between the bride and the groom, and they are not allowed to see each other till the exact 'muhurtham' or auspicious time. Then the cloth is lowered, and they garland one another. This is followed by kanyadaan and saptapadi, after which the ‘thaali’ is tied around the bride’s neck. Immediately after this, the couple comes out to look for a star in the sky; this is supposed to bless them.
Ganesh pooja is first performed at the mandapam, asking for the blessings of Lord Ganesha to bless the couple. The bride performs the Gauri puja, seeking her blessings. Her maternal uncle then brings her to the stage. In some communities, she is seated in a straw basket and carried onto the mandapam.
A cloth curtain is held between the bride and groom. The jeeraka-belam ritual is an important and interesting ritual in Telugu weddings. At the muhurtham, the auspicious time, the groom and bride place a paste made of jaggery and cumin on each other’s’ heads, moving their hands above the cloth curtain. This is followed by the tying of the mangalsutra around the bride’s neck.
Next is the talambralu ritual; a large plate filled with polystyrene balls, coloured rice, and beads is placed between the couple, and they shower each other’s’ heads with this mixture.
The pradhanam ritual takes place next, where the bride and groom try to find the golden ring placed inside a pot filled with milk and water. The couple garland each other, kanyadaan is performed, and they go around the holy fire seven times, come out, and try to find the two stars Arundhati and Vasishta in the sky.
Celebrate Your South Indian Wedding with Khuuba Sarees
South Indian wedding traditions have some rituals in common with North Indian weddings: kanyadaan, Gauri puja, saptapadi, applying turmeric, mangala snanam, and, of course, the exchange of gifts, especially sarees, kurtas, and lehengas!
Kanyadaanam, the tying of the thaali or mangalsutra, and going around the sacred fire are South Indian wedding traditions common to all the states.
One common feature of South Indian wedding traditions is that only vegetarian food is served on the day of the wedding, as several spiritual ceremonies are performed, and no alcohol is served either. In families where it is common to consume alcohol and meat, these are served at private parties on the days preceding the ceremony.
South Indian weddings are a platform for everyone—not just the bride and groom—to be dressed in their finest silk sarees, brocades, and jewellery, where everyone adds to the grandeur of the function by being dazzlingly beautiful.
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1. How many days is a South Indian wedding?
Traditionally, it takes more than 15 days of wedding celebrations in South Indian weddings. But now, it is reduced to two to three days of celebrations.
2. How many events are there in South Indian weddings?
Mangal Snanam, Gauri Pooja, Kanyadaan, Kashi Yathra, etc. are the main rituals followed in the South Indian wedding.
3. What is the difference between North Indian and South Indian weddings?
South Indian weddings follow traditional rituals while North Indian weddings are usually filled with dance parties.