An Extraordinary Wedding

WeddingAs I grow to feel at home in Chennai, each day is a new adventure for me. Sometimes it is the food, sometimes it is the people. This time it’s a tradition. I came across this extremely unusual tradition, called the Marapaachi, followed in Tamil Nadu weddings. The weddings have a bride’s side and, of course, a groom’s side! There is a ceremony of Maalai Mantrutha, or as we may call it ‘exchange of garlands’. The ritual of the oldest woman tying a sacred thread around the bride’s neck is called Mangalya Dharanam. The groom places the bride’s foot on the grinding stone, in one such ritual. And, of course, the fun part of the wedding – Nalangu, where the bride and groom break pappads over each other’s heads and challenge each other to “find treasure” in the pot of coloured water, is lighter side of such traditions.So, what makes this wedding different from any other ordinary wedding?Surprisingly, this is no ordinary wedding. In fact, it is a wedding between two wooden dolls! The word `Marapaachi’ actually comes from the word `mara paavai’ or wooden dolls found in Sangam literature. The ceremony that I came across was held in the honour of Maha Shivratri in which the dolls formed the divine couple of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. These special dolls are known as “golu” or, sometimes, even as “kolu”. The dolls are made from the red sander wood, which has medicinal and traditional values. The red sanders wood is grown around Tirupati and is usually passed down from one generation to another. The wedding takes place with all rituals and traditions of a wedding followed properly. Wedding songs are sung and a proper wedding feast is also held! It is believed that Marapaachi weddings bring luck to the household where they are held and to the people who attend it. While the event reawakens the young child in the adults, it also gives a better understanding of wedding ceremonies. When I came across this wedding, I felt extremely nostalgic as I remembered the many doll weddings I organized and attended in kindergarten. Sadly, the tradition is declining now and is followed in very few places. Aayushi Uberoi

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