The married woman who are being invited for the sumangali prarthanai must be in numbers like 5, 7 or 9. These women are called as “ Pondugal”. This number includes kanya-girl child – at least one or two. The kanya-girl child has to be above 3 years and must have the ability to eat on her own. The girl child must not have attained puberty (generally). Daughters who are about to be married can also partake in the function. Daughters-in-law and their sisters-in-law (the family that is conducting the sumangali pooja) do not generally sit along with other women. They have the prasadam separately. Pregnant women are generally not included under the definition of “pondugal”.
As per the family practice, the evening before the sumangali pooja, the women have to be invited home along with vermilion (kungumam), turmeric (kasturi turmeric), oil and shikakai powder. The women should be invited for partaking the Prasad and taking part in the pooja. This can also be done on the same day morning – provided time permits.
On the day of the sumangali pooja, the home has to be cleaned by the women in the household and the doorstep must be decorated with rice flour rangoli along with kaavi.
The new saree must be dipped in water and dried in the east-west direction; once it is dried, the saree must be nicely wrapped and arranged on the wooden board along with the blouse piece. Rangoli must be laid on the wooden board before saree and blouse are kept on it. On this, one has to place a small hand mirror, flowers and other auspicious items as per one’s choice.
In some households, there is a practice of keeping the saree in a pot that is called as “poovada paanai”. This is a pot made of vengalam that also has a lid attached to it. The plaintain leaf that is kept alongside the pot must face the East direction only. The plaintain leaves (on which food is served) for the women (pondugal) must face north or west direction.
All the leaves must be laid in a single room. The edge of the plaintain leaf must be to the left of
the woman seated.
Cooking practices must be followed as per the family custom. In some households, black pepper is used in cooking. In some households, the items that are prepared during “samaradhanai” are offered. Red chilli, Coriander seeds, Chana Dal and Moong dal can be used in cooking but asafetida must be avoided at all costs. Pepper rasam and butter milk kuzhambu are must. Payasam must contain jiggery. Chutney made of ginger and curry leaves must definitely be there as part of the menu (actually this is called “thuvaiyal” and not “chutney”). Appam, vadai, til ladoos can be made.
The cooking must definitely not be outsourced. (Stay away Swiggy, Food Panda, Zomato, Mast Kalandar). Cooking must be done at home. Provision for a cook can be made. But care must be exercised not to hire a cook who does not belong to the community.
The women partaking in the function must take an oil bath and wear nine yard sarees. The women are asked to stand facing the East, their feet are washed in turmeric water, then they are offered sandal paste and kumkum and formally invited for lunch.
If you know the names of the ancestors who passed away as “sumangalis” you can call their names loudly. If the names are not known, you can call them as “ Lakshmi, come”,
Mehandi powder and turmeric must be definitely given. The daughter of the house must sit close to the leaf that is laid near the saree. Once everyone has sat down, the items must be served beginning with the leaf laid out in front of the saree. While serving the food, one should circumambulate around the women and then serve the food. Do not serve the food in such a fashion that serving ends in the Western direction.
Otherwise the process of serving is not vastly different. After serving the items in the plaintain leaf laid in front of the saree, sambar, rasam, butter milk, curd and paanagam must be kept in separate cups. After initial serving is done, the daughter-in-law of the house must do the naivedyam to the leaf in front of the saree along with camphor and lamp.
The husbands, brothers and sons must offer flowers and akshadai to the saree propitiating it as the ancestors of the family. All the family members can pray to their ancestors. Then water must be offered to all the women and finally to the saree. Ask all women seated to eat food to their heart’s content.
After partaking of the feast, water should be offered so that the sumangali women can wash their hands. The women then are asked sit facing the Eastern direction. They are given paanagam, butter milk and dried ginger-sugar paste followed by betel leaves, areca nut, coconut, turmeric and blouse piece. Flowers and daskhina are also offered in some cases.
The food that is offered to the saree can be partaken by a family member. Only after the women have taken the food other members in the family should partake the food. The saree is generally given to the daughter of the house or any needy Brahmin woman.
Rice and moong dal, jaggery, cardamom and ghee can be taken to the village amman temple and the sarkarai-pongal can be distributed to the public. Abhishekams can be performed on amman.
In this manner, all Tamil Brahmins should perform the sumangali pooja at regular intervals sincerely and religiously. This will lead to good health, peace and prosperity. Always do the poojas with lots of devotion, faith, patience and commitment. When we do that, the deceased sumangali women in our household will bless us during the religious functions in our home. Their soul will always hover around our homes to protect us and our families at all times.