There are a few instances when you get a feeling that you are about to witness something special. The grand Chettinadu wedding of Akshey & Sowmiya actually went above a notch and ended being one of the most amazing weddings I’ve ever been to. Although I have been fascinated by the Chettinadu culture for years, I had never witnessed an authentic Nagarathar wedding. So when Akshey’s father Mr.Venkatesh Ramakrishnan, a renowned novelist whom I have had the good fortune of knowing since 2013, invited me to Devakottai to be a part of the wedding celebrations, I booked my tickets right away and packed all my camera bags, ready to go.
Anyone who knows Mr.Venkatesh can vouch for his infectious enthusiasm and his warm persona. Akshey is no different and we hit it off right from the moment we got in touch to make plans for the photoshoot. But little did I know that their whole family had the same warmth and cordiality.
Right after I arrived in Devakottai, I was urged to the dining hall and was fed a sumptuous Chettinadu breakfast. Mr.Venkatesh & Akshey pretty much introduced me to all their relatives and I started getting treatment like a VIP. Later did I realize that that is how they treat their guests. Right from the fun uncles, naughty kids and shy ladies, everybody I met radiated happiness and warmth. Right then I knew I was about to witness an amazing experience of the Nagarathar wedding.
The event itself was spread over 2 days and happened at the Groom’s and Bride’s bungalows across Devakottai and Kandavarayanpatti. First day of the celebrations were at Akshey’s century old bungalow where all his relatives gathered to perform pre-wedding formalities which included welcoming bride’s relatives, assembling the “Thaali” and just plain good fun. It was fun to hear the constant uttering of “Vaanga, Vaanga” by the ladies and gents of the house who were welcoming the guests assembling at the house. And by the way, the guests were pampered with 4 meals through the day all prepared in a big kitchen in-house. The highlight of the day however was the assembling the huge gold “Thaali” containing 34 pieces of gold.
The next day was even better with Akshey being welcomed to Sowmiya’s house with an elephant, firecrackers and traditional music and western music bands. The most interesting ritual was the “pon edukki kaatradhu” where the bride is supposed to be seen for the first time by the groom. (Psst…I know for a fact that they have met each other beforehand). The wedding took place in Sowmiya’s beautiful ancestral home which was brimming with relatives and well-wishers. The wedding in itself was quick with the groom tying the thaali, following by some of the post wedding rituals like the Naathanar sadangu.
The evening saw the Pen Azhaippu where the bride is brought into the groom’s home for the first time. Somewhere in between I managed to sneak in the couple for a quick photo shoot on another bungalow that belongs to the family. And boy was I surprised with their chemistry. I had my doubts with this being an arranged marriage but Akshey and Sowmiya did surprise me there. With him being the outgoing happy-go-lucky chap and Sowmiya, poise personified, it couldn’t be a better match.
Oh and by the way, it was awesome to catch up with Gopu anna, the human wikipedia that he is, his brother Jayaram and the young at heart Mr.Vaidyanathan. By the time I took leave and was waiting for my train to Chennai to arrive, I couldn’t help but wonder if the elders of the house did “Dhrishti Kazhitthal” to not just the couple but to the whole family as well.
Here are some moments from the wedding.