Marriage

Ideal partners for marriage is cross cousins and marriage is absolutely prohibited among first cousin. This is in sharp contrast to the practice prevalent among the Tamils of South India. Cross cousin marriage is encouraged on two counts: to foster the already existing bond and to keep the properties within the circle of close relatives.

wedding 003 MarriageThe parents of the bride are bound to give dowry to the bridegroom. This system, which has been a well-established institution in many countries (e.g. Greece and Rome) and epochs (e.g. even in modern Europe) and which originated perhaps for the purpose of providing support for the wife on the husband’s death, has turned out to be a real burden on the bride’s family because of the size of the dowry. The amount of the dowry varies in direct proportion to the educational qualification and grade of economic status. One wonders whether the custom of cross-cousin marriage in Jaffna is a device to counteract the evils of unreasonable dowry demand.

The ceremony of marriage need not take place in a temple. Well before the appointed time, the brother of the bride goes to the house of the bridegroom accompanied by relatives, servants (if any), barber and washerman. The bridegroom, after a bath, goes in procession to the home of the bride (or to the temple). The Hindu priest chants mantras, and lights the sacred fire, a custom unknown to the ancient Tamils. The bridegroom ties the tall, sealing officially thereby the marriage contract. After performing a few others religious rituals such as going round the fire, stepping on a grinding-stone (ammi mitithal) and pointing at the star called aruntati, a symbol of chastity, the new couple drink milk and eatplantain behind closed doors.

The marriage festivities last usually for four days.

Christians get their marriages solemnised in churches. The tying of tall and the giving of koorai are considered important ceremonial acts.

Another practice, related to the period after marriage may be mentioned here. After the menses, the married woman gets a clean cloth from the washerman for her bath. The young wife is considered lucky if she gets the first sight of her husband after the bath. If, on the other hand, she happens to see a deformed person, it is feared that a child conceived in this period will be deformed. The appropriate time for conception is considered to be the fortnight after bath following menses. The woman who wants to have a baby is advised to take an oil bath during that fortnight. The fact that formally temples conducted festivals throughout the night during the fourteen days of the waning moon is pointed out as an example of how couples were helped to practice natural birth control as this fortnight is considered most favourable for conception.

It is the practice in Jaffna that people visiting the house of a woman in confinement takes betel and arecanuts as presents.

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