So last weekend, I did the Sumangali Prarthanai which is usually done by a married woman in each family or clan when there is a major ceremony happening in a family like weddings or thread ceremonies. Some families (like my mum) also do this on an annual basis.
The Sumangali Pooja is a typical brahmin function, I can’t say I have seen other communities doing this. In our community, this pooja is done to invoke to seeking the blessings of the ancestral women of the family who enjoyed a long and prosperous family life and left this world as sumangalis (those who died before their husbands) and any young unmarried girls in the family. Every family will differ slightly in the way they do this function, but by and large, the procedure should be more or less similar. Unlike most other functions or religious poojas, this function is a 100% ladies function. The men in the family are only for decorative or helpful purposes and have no real role to play. Usually, the oldest woman present will take the mantle of the master of ceremonies and lead the function as she will be the most knowledgeable of all present.
Usually, these days people have around 5 Sumangalis and 2 young girls, though you can have any odd number like 3, 5, 7, 9 or even 11 and 13! You can invite both married women from within your family or outside for the function. The day before the function, all the invited sumangalis are given sesame oil, shikhakai, and turmeric and henna in advance or in the early hours of the day of pooja. The tradition is they have to apply mehendi and take oil bath and also apply turmeric while taking a bath which is considered very auspicious. They will come home the next day by taking oil bath and wear a 9 yards saree which has been made madi (means they have to wash and dry it separately without touching other clothes or even with their hands). These days, especially in places like Singapore, where a saree is getting rarer, people may not be comfortable wearing a nine-yard saree, so sometimes, they wear a normal six-yard saree or even other clothes, come to the host’s house and then change into the nine-yard saree.
Generally, if a daughter is getting married on the girl’s side they will do it compulsorily before the wedding and keep the daughter who is going to get married as one of the pondugal. But in the boy’s house also they do the sumangali prarthanai but they can either do it before the wedding with their family members or they can either do it once the daughter in law comes into the house. This function should also be done only once a year by a family. So in our case, since I just did the function, if S’ cousin gets married anytime in the next one year, his mum (S’ aunt) can’t do it before the wedding, as it’s usually done. The ideal day of the week for this function is a Friday, but these days with people working and children in school during the week, Fridays are not practical so most people do it on a Sunday. The inauspicious time of Rahu Kaal is also to be taken into account when choosing the time. On Sundays the Rahu kaal is in the afternoon, so this function which ends at lunch is perfect to be done on a Sunday.