A red silk saree meandered along her curves. Her palms dazzled with bright marudhani, and the clinking glass bangles moved back and forth flirtatiously. Chunky jumkis danced every time the coy damsel lifted her head to peek at the groom who was waiting eagerly for her arrival.
“Soon, it will be your turn to be the bride,” said my friend, assuming that I looked forward to it.
“No! I never wish to get married. Every breath of mine breathes poetry and hymns in praise of God. I wish to tread a spiritual path, free from the entanglements of the mundane world,” I told her with conviction.
“You seem different. Every woman of marriageable age would weave dreams of being garlanded by a handsome man. I’m sure once you meet a suitable match your heart will melt.”
I chose not to argue with her. My friends could never fathom my goals or aspirations.
My father had been speaking with the family astrologer frequently. I knew it would be just a matter of days before the pandals were erected in our house too.
One day I saw my father entering the house hurriedly and calling out to my mother.
“Mangalam! The astrologer has found a suitable alliance for our daughter. The muhurtham date would be fixed soon. The whole village shall be mesmerized by the lavish wedding.”
It was a sign of impending doom for me. Every damsel would be happy to count the days before the anticipated day of her wedding, but I considered it as the darkest day of my life.
It was the day of the wedding. My house was resplendent with elaborate floral decorations. I was dressed in bridal finery. With tear-laden eyes, I sat without speaking a word to anyone.
“The Groom is now seated in the mandapam. You will be summoned any moment,” said one of my friends.
I was in a state of deep despair. There was a Ganesha idol nearby. I prostrated before the idol and began to shed a deluge of tears.
“O Ganesha, Remover of all obstacles! I want to dedicate my life to doing service to God. Marriage is the major obstacle to achieving my goal. I am willing to sacrifice my beauty and youth to avoid the wedding. Please rescue me!”
There was a knock at the door. I knew it was time. My friend had come inside to accompany me to the mandapam.
She looked at me and cringed with fear.
“You…, you are an old woman in bridal attire. Who are you?”
I was perplexed. I turned to catch a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. My hair had turned grey, wrinkles flooded my face, and my skin was sagging at many places. I was glad that Ganesha had answered my prayers.
“She has been cursed,” remarked everyone, staring at me in disbelief.
On the contrary, I had been blessed. Holding my head high, I walked out to pursue my dreams.
Marudhani : Henna
Muhurtam: Auspicious time of the wedding ceremony
Pandals:A temporary fabricated structure erected for the purpose of a ceremony
The above story is based on a true incident from Avvaiyar’s life. Avvaiyar in Tamil translates to “Respectable old woman”. Avvaiyar was a poetess from the medieval period and a revered saint who lived in the southern part of India. Being an ardent devotee of Lord Ganesha, it is believed that she was granted the strange boon in order to avoid marriage and tread a spiritual path. She was the court poetess of the Chola monarch who lived in the southern parts of India. Her works, Ātticcūṭi and Konraiventhan, Moothurai, Nalvali and Vinayar agaval composed in Tamil language are read even now and enjoyed by everyone.
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