Next Bridal Shower Theme: Try it the Ancient Tamil Way!
"Although I liked certain elements of the ancient Tamil bridal shower such as herbal baths and blessing of elders, I was not comfortable with other customs, especially ones where being faithful and loving was seen as the sole responsibility of women."
Supanki Kalanadan
Researcher, lawyer
Canada
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The following article is part of the #whatthethirumanam series by @whatthepottu on ancient Tamil wedding customs. 

Yes, our ancestors had their own version of bridal showers! 

Prior to the wedding day, the women of the village would typically gather at the bride’s house giving her a special herbal bath with flowers. The women would sing songs and provide marital advice. There is also literature that point to four older women blessing the bride to have children and to be loved by her husband, advising her to be always faithful in the relationship. 

Ancient Tamils wore special anklets called Silambu. It appears that certain anklets were only worn by young girls. So prior to the wedding day, a ceremony called “Silambu Kazhi Nonbu” was conducted at the bride’s house. It appears that the removal of the anklets symbolized the coming-of-age of the bride— she is no longer a young girl, but a grown woman with new responsibilities. 

There are different theories as to the reasoning behind this anklet ceremony. Some scholars argue that in ancient Tamil society, only young unmarried girls wore anklets and this was to signify their marital status. Others say that married women also wore anklets but there were different types of anklets (depending on age, marital status, etc). And some others say that anklets, like bangles, were symbols of fertility and these rituals were symbolic rituals to bless the bride with fertility.  

When I was researching ancient Tamil wedding rituals and how to conduct one that fits with contemporary times, I was not comfortable with some parts of this particular pre-wedding ritual.  

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As I liked certain elements, I added this ritual to the wedding that I conducted, but with modifications.  Can you guess why I decided to make modifications? 

Although I liked certain elements of the ancient Tamil bridal shower such as herbal baths and blessing of elders, I was not comfortable with other customs, especially ones where being faithful and loving was seen as the sole responsibility of women. So, for the wedding that I conducted, I requested that we perform this custom for BOTH the bride and the groom. We didn't have a separate bridal shower (although you could do this) but conducted the ceremony right before we began the marriage rituals. So, we invited both aunts and uncles to come up on stage and bless the couple by showering them with some drops of water (symbolizing the herbal bath) and flowers. As you can see from the photos in this article, the aunts conducted the ceremony for the bride and the uncles for the groom. I also spoke about the importance of celebrating our ancestral practices, but not being afraid to alter it according to the values of today. Although the wedding that I conducted was all females on the bride's side and all males on the groom’s side, I do not reinforce this gender distinction. I just tell couples to choose people who they want blessings from, irrespective of gender identity.  

I ended the ritual with a Bharathiyar’s quote –the Tamil revolutionary poet who stood up for gender equality:⁣⁣

“கற்பு நிலையென்று சொல்ல வந்தால், இரு கட்சிக்கும் அஃது பொதுவில் வைப்போம்.”⁣⁣

Loosely translated:⁣⁣

When it comes to chastity (or we can think of it as faithfulness today), it has to be equal between both parties.⁣⁣

What did you like about the ancient Tamil bridal shower described above? Would you change anything?

Sources:  

  • தமிழர் திருமணம் by சசிவல்லி⁣

  • Bangle Tradition in the IVC Symbology by Sukumar Rajagopal

  • சிலம்புகழி நோன்பு by ⁣⁣⁣முனைவர் மோ.கோ. கோவைமணி

Photo credits: https://www.instagram.com/ramyaj.images/

To learn more about ancient Tamil customs and practices follow @whatthepottu:  https://www.instagram.com/whatthepottu/?hl=en

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Our MTD couple was captured by our UK photography partner Photon Image by Daran.

Supanki Kalanadan
Researcher, lawyer | @whatthepottu
Canada
I am a lawyer, mother and a passionate Thamizh enthusiast! I felt motivated to share ...
I am a lawyer, mother and a passionate Thamizh enthusiast! I felt motivated to share ...
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