The more I read about Tamil Hindu weddings, the more I want to read.
Such a drive is furthered by ardent readers of my blog who open up very interesting discussions after having read my posts.
One which really inspired me to write this piece was based on a discussion I had with one of my readers after they had read my ‘Time to Tie the Knot’ blog post, for which I collaborated with London’s Western Jewellers.
The question which they had posed to me was what my knowledge and understanding was of the Ammi Mithithal tradition in Tamil Hindu Weddings. My mum educated me briefly about this over the past few years but this was a mere starting point. I decided to do more reading around the area. The reason for being so keen is because I want to know the significance of it. This is part of my culture and religion, and so I should be willing to learn about it rather than just follow the instructions the priest gives me on the day of wedding (which still remains a myth in my life right now for those inquisitive ones amongst you all!).
What does Ammi Mithithal mean?
This quite literally means placing one’s foot on a grindstone. In a Tamil Hindu wedding ceremony, this takes place during the Saptapathi ritual, where the bride and groom take seven steps around the Agni (central fire) where each step denotes a promise made by both the bride and groom – Sapthapathi will be explored in further depth in my future blogs!
What does Ammi Mithithal involve?
After taking their steps around Agni, the couple reach the grindstone. The groom holds the bride’s right big toe and helps her tread and place her right foot on the grindstone. As the bride mounts the stone, it symbolises how she and the marriage should be rock firm, and undisturbed by difficulties of life.
Interestingly, this particular ritual symbolises numerous other things including the fact that by touching the bride’s feet, the groom acts with more humility and respect for his bride. This I found particularly interesting because many are always made to believe that Tamil Hindu weddings are centred around and dominated by the groom when it comes to the symbolisms. This ritual connotes the complete opposite. It actually shows how women are just as righteous as men in marriage, as is always depicted in the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi.
Straight after the bride mounts the Ammi, a Metti (toe ring), is presented on both her second toes; this is the only visible jewellery worn by the bride after marriage which denotes she is married. (If you followed my previous blog about the Thali, you would remember that the Thali should actually be hidden underneath the woman’s clothing!).
These Mettis are made of silver and not gold, because of the significance gold holds in the Tamil culture and Hindu religion. Therefore there is a common practice that gold should not be worn as a form of accessory for anything below the waist. However, traditions are changing with more gold and diamond based Mettis coming to the fore.
My mum and I have numerous conversations about wedding rituals and the significance behind each stage of the Tamil Hindu Wedding ceremony. Interestingly she told me that historically men were the ones to wore the Metti post-marriage. This was because in ancient society, people walked bare feet and women were supposed to look down and walk, hence when she saw a man’s feet adorned with a Metti per foot, she would know straightaway that he was married. Do you not think it is interesting how things have changed so much now!?
Traditions are continuously changing and who knows what the Tamil Hindu Wedding rituals will look like 100 years down the line? All I know for now is that understanding what we practice and doing so properly is where the real joy and culture lies.
I started off this blog educating myself and hopefully all of you. I will continue doing so because there is no end point to educating oneself about one’s own culture, religion and traditions…so keep supporting folks!