More and more couples are choosing ancient temples over wedding halls to tie the knot

The echo of the nadaswaram competes with the chants of the temple priests performing their daily rituals; devotees walk around some chatting, some singing and few others looking at the crowd gathered around the mandapam within the Kapaleeshwar temple, in Mylapore. Karthikeyan, an employee at a private bank, ties the last of the three knots of the mangalsutra around Brinda’s neck, and they are now officially married.

Karthikeyan and Brinda belong to a new generation of people who prefer ancient temples rather than state-of-the-art halls for their wedding. “We invited just a few close family members for the wedding, which took about half an hour and then we all headed out to Saravana Bhavan for breakfast,” says Karthikeyan who tied the knot last September.

“This generation thinks differently,” says Jothi Mahalingam, manager at the Pallava-period Sri Parthasarathy Swamy temple, Triplicane. “People these days like to go back to their traditional roots.” Mahalingam, who has been with the temple for 32 years, adds that, people believe that married life will be prosperous if it begins in a temple, and in the last eight years he has seen a steady increase in the number of weddings conducted here.

Maniratnam’s movie Alaipayuthey, did rekindle an interest in temple-based weddings among many; in the crisp light of morning, surrounded by friends, exchanging rose garlands was beyond a ritual; it was an adventure many people hoped they’d have. “We’ve never had such a wedding, here,” says Mahalingam. “The weddings that have taken place in this temple, are joyous celebrations involving families.”

“To have a wedding at the temple, there are several rules and regulations,” says the man at the ticket counter at Sri Kapaleeshwar temple. “You will need to submit birth certificates, address proof, age proof, a tahsildar-attested document stating that it is the first marriage for both bride and groom, and most importantly a letter of consent from both parents,” he says and points to a notice board that lists out all the requirements. “We only accommodate two weddings in a single day, so you need to book your dates at the earliest,” he adds. He also goes on to explain that most temples ask for more or less the same set of documents.

Sudheer and Kavitha also got married at Sri Kapaleeshwar temple, in 2011. With a gathering of just 30 people, they tied the knot in the temple, followed by a simple archanai. “We are both atheists, and our parents are not. We did not want a full-fledged traditional wedding, and opted for a simple temple ceremony,” says Kavitha. The ceremony was 20- minutes long, and she recollects getting a certificate from the temple, which helped them register their wedding.

The trend of choosing unusual locations for weddings is definitely catching up among the urbane population. Shrilekha Venkateshwar, a wildlife conservancy worker has booked the Sri Marudeshwar temple in Thiruvanmiyur for her wedding scheduled in August this year. “The thought of getting married in a temple that dates back 1,000 years, gives me immense happiness,” she says.

She does admit that co-ordinating with temple authorities is a challenge, and that there has to be a more structured process. “It would be good if there was just one ‘marriage co-ordinator’ at the temple, who would guide us through each process — paperwork, rituals and decoration.” Shrilekha adds that though her paperwork is approved and she has paid for the service, she now needs to meet up with the priests and check their requirements for the rituals.

“We have found a very small mandapam located about 50 metres from the temple and have booked it just to cater breakfast. It’s beautiful in its own way, the mandapam was built in 1857, and I feel elated to be able to serve my guests there,” say Shrilekha.

Although they face several logistical issues, more young couples are adopting for weddings at temples which certainly have more character and charm than air-conditioned mandapams. The draw lies in the architectural beauty and the history of these temples and these couples are ready to face any kind of challenge to wed here.