29 June 2007

Wedding at Pachaiamman

Today I went to Pachaiamman Temple situated on the south east slope of Arunachala to meet with one of the Temple Trustees. I didn't realise when making the programme that the day would be a very auspicious one and that many of the Mandapams and Temples would be the venue of marriages. Here is the Raja Gopuram at the entrance of the Temple with Arunachala in the background.

Inside the Temple compound the statue of Pachaiamman (the green Goddess in the centre) sits looking out over her domain. Pachaiamman means 'Green Mother' and there are several stories connected with this Goddess which explains the history of her name. In one story, the sage Gautama Rishi in readying his Arunachala ashram to receive the Goddess, prepared a 'parnasala' (a holy seat). For this purpose durbai grass was used (a variety of pale yellow green grass used for yagnas). When the Goddess arrived and came to the 'parnasala', the durbai changed colour from the pale yellow green to an intense green. Another story of how the Goddess received the name Pachaiamman, is that during her journey from Kanchi to Arunachala, while staying at Vazhapanthal, Amman sat under a covering of lush green banana leaves; hence her name.

And in this her Arunachala domain, she sits watching over her guardian warriors. A legend of Pachaiamman (an aspect of Parvati) has it that after completing her penance at Kanchi, the Goddess started off for Arunachala. She travelled with 7 rishis and 7 virgins (Sapta Kanniyars) as part of a protective entourage. Halfway from Kanchi to Arunachala, the entourage stopped and made camp at the village Vazhapanthal. At that place the local king tried to molest the Goddess and the 7 rishis became as munishwaras (guardians) and killed the king. In the Pachaiamman Compound there are 14 statues of Pachaiamman’s warrior guardians set out in two lines, with two representations of each warrior.

When I arrived at the Temple a marriage was in progress. The ceremony was performed inside the Goddess shrine and afterwards the wedding entourage came outside into the compound to perform the rest of the wedding ritual. In the below photograph, the groom is putting on wedding 'toe rings' onto the toes of his new wife.

And here are the young couple.

The below shows the wonderfully extravagant hairdo of the bride; a lot of work went into that!

The following shows in more detail the intricacies of the bride's hairdo.

As in Western weddings, the bride and groom receive presents on the same day of the wedding ceremony. In India the favourite presents are usually to do with the kitchen. Sounds familiar!

Next the sister of the bride with whom I was having a nice chat. I had never attended a wedding at Pachaiamman Temple, and it seems a wonderful venue for such a function.

Below are the statues of Lord Munishwara's vahanas (vehicles) in the form of an elephant, a dog and five horses. I rather like the incongrous inclusion of the cotton candy seller!

Now that the function is over, time for tiffin. And snacks of sambhar rice with kurmar, bhajis and sweet kesari bath was served to all wedding guests on banana leaves in the Temple compound.

Once the wedding was over, the Compound emptied out quickly and suddenly everything was back to normal, the Hill and Pachaiamman silently watching over us all.

1 comment:

Divya said...

So wonderfully colorful!