The Telugu Marriage ceremony is the traditional marriage ceremony followed by the Telugu people in India. The marriage rituals conducted by the Telugu speaking people during the marriage ceremony are different from those conducting in the neighboring southern states of India. The rich and varied cultural heritage of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states of India can be seen in the marriage ceremony conducted there.
Marriage is considered as the strongest of social bonds to spiritually merge two souls opening the doors to their household life. Telugu Marriage is bind by seven pledges made by the groom and bride. Marriage commences once the bride and groom have completed their seven revolutions around the fire. Some symbolic gestures and rituals encompass the marriage ceremony and ensure the couple are united in the presence of Panchabuthaalu (Five essentials elements for Life) namely Agni(Fire), Bhumi(Earth), Akaasham(Sky), Neeru(Water) and Vaayuvu(Air).
In the olden days, the marriage ceremony could last up to 16 days ( Padahaaru Rojula Panduga ). In the recent days, the marriage ceremony occurs up to 5 days depending on the family financial, social status and the region where the marriage ceremony will conduct. The typical traditional Telugu Marriage ceremony is organized in a unique way compared to other religions. It is a long process where in a number of rituals are conducted before, during and after marriage.
In the earlier days boy and girl used to see each other only during the marriage because everything was decided by the elders of the family. The decisions were made by the elders considering the family cast, religion, status, family background.
Later the families agreed that the consent of the boy and the girl before marriage is important. Finally it became a formal to make a boy and girl see each other and decide on the marriage only upon their opinions. The event of looking each other is called ‘Pelli Chupulu’.
Once the girl and boy agreed to marry each other then both families meet to perform rituals to make the engagement official. A marriage date and time (muhurtham) is decided by the astrologer based on the couple horoscopes. The couple then blessed with all the elders of the families and is given gifts including jewellary and clothing by their new family. The bride will be given the new clothes, gold and also silverware by her future mother- in-law.
Once the formal marriage engagement is over then starts the way to the preparations for the marriage, which are done in the colorful, most elaborate and vivacious way. The marriage ceremony is help under the marriage pavilion (Kalyana Mandapam) decorated with fresh flowers with accompany nadasvaram which is a traditional Telugu marriage music. Earlier groom rides to the bride’s place where the marriage is supposed to take place. This is called ‘Gajarohana’ which is faded out these days. All the rituals which are conducted throughout the Telugu marriage ceremony hold the Telugu religious significance and each moment in ceremony is connected with the other and given special importance. Pre marriage pujas will be held by some people so that the marriage is organized without any hassle.
Snatakam is usually performed by the groom before house-holder activities are handed over to groom. This takes place at bridegroom’s house before muhurtam(marriage time). As a part of the marriage custom groom wears a silver thread on his body. This all will happen just few hours before the marriage.
After snatakam, groom is eligible for the higher studies and is eligible to go the place called Kashi to study further or become sanyasi. However, as a pre marriage ceremony groom just pretends that he is going to Kashi and says he is discarded all the relationships, pleasures and properties and is no more interested in getting married and leading a family life. Then the bride’s brother stops the groom by convincing him by saying some inspirational words about family life and they tease each other quite a lot and finally groom agrees to marry the bride.
In this marriage ceremony all the relatives and the well wishers of the families gather at the bride and groom’s respective houses and smear them with turmeric paste (Nalugu – mixute of turmeric powder and flours) and oil. This process is done to cleanse their skin so that the natural glow is radiated after they take bathe. This is the starting of the ceremony. They are given a new set of clothes to wear and are blessed by elders and the astrologers. After this ceremony the bride is not allowed to go out of the town until the marriage ceremony is finished.
Oil is applied to both bride and groom at their respective houses. Thereafter, all the family members and well wishers get together to perform Aarti. They pray for the couple to be granted the wisdom to lead their family life happily.
Just before the marriage ceremony, the groom attends the God Ganesha and Goddess Gowri puja which is conducted at the mandapam. Where the bride does the Gowri puja at the house with all her family members and relatives just before going to the marriage mandapam. This is time when the bride’s gotram will be changed from her paternal gotram to the groom’s gotram, this is called Pravara. All the elder couples of both families attend and witness the Pravara while the bride is performing the Gowri puja.
After all the rituals done by the bride at her house, she will be taken to the marriage mandapam in a bambooo basket. Her maternal uncle brings her to the marriage mandapam. Kanyadanam is the ceremony where the bride’s family hands her responsibility to the groom. Bride and groom are not allowed to see each other until the completion of the kanyadanam. The bride’s parents wash the groom’s feet as a gesture of respect because on the day of marriage the groom is considered as the Lord Vishnu Swarupam (indication) who has come to marry their daughter who is considered as goddess Lakshmi Devi. Then the groom is made to chant ‘Dharmecha Arthecha Kamecha Mokshecha Nathi Charami‘ 3 times and give the bride’s father assurance that he shall remain for ever her companion in joy and sorrow.
The groom holds the hand of the bride. The mantras say: The gods/goddesses have offered you to me in order that I may live the life of a householder (Gruhasta). We shall not part from each other.
The priest chants some slokas from the vedas. Thereafter they will give the paste made from Jaggery and cumin seeds to bride and groom and ask them to place the paste on each other’s head. This custom is known as the Jeelakaraa Bellam. This indicates that the relationship of the couple is unbreakable and inseperable. This ceremony should be done exactly at the marriage muhurtham time. Once this ceremony is done all will relax and complete the other ceremones slowly. The high importance is given to the jeelakarrabellam in entire marriage ceremonies. Once again the Pravara i.e changing of the bride’s gotram from here parental gotram to groom’s gotram happen on the mandapam infront of the groom and all the members attending the marriage. Henceforth the bride is no more belongs to her father’s gotram and belongs to the groom’s gotram. As a part of the Madhuparkam ritual the bride wears the white saree with red border and the groom wears the a white dhoti wth a red border. White symbolizes the purity and red represents the strength.
Ten married women gather with the bride and six out of ten women hold the plates containing the sacred rice ( mixture of rice and turmeric powder ) while the other four members hold the small lit lamps on their respective plates. Here in this ceremony rice represents abundance and the lit lamps symbolize the light.
Now the bride sits beside the groom and the curtain is removed they are now allowed to see each other. Mangalasutram is the thread contains two golden discs. The groom then ties the mangalasutram around the bride’s neck. This mangalasutram represents the physical, mental and spiritual union of the couple. In the Telugu marriage the groom ties three knots of managalasutram.
During this ceremony, the bride and groom exchange the garlands and shower the pearls, rice, flower petals on the each other’s head. Then the married people witnessing the marriage occasion come forward and bless the couple by sprinkling the flower petals and rice coated with turmeric powder.
As a part of saptapadi ritual, the groom’s scarf is tied to the bride’s saree pallu (edge of saree ). The groom and bride walk seven steps together around the fire, while taking their oaths of caring, guiding, loving, understanding and protecting each other.
During this ceremony the groom adoms the feet of the bride with silver toe rings. This shows that the man bends to the woman in order to claim her as his. And in order to ward off the evil eye, the bride is adorned by a string of black beads to her mangalasutra. These beads along with the silver toe rings symbolize that she is a married woman. After this ceremony the pot with some decoration and filled with water is put on the marriage dais. And the priest leave the ring in the pot. The groom and bride now asked to search for it. The groom puts his right hand in to the pot and the bride uses her left hand to search for the ring. Whoever wins in this competition is said to be the dominant person in their family life. This will have some fun with supporting teams to the bride and groom. The bride is now asked to cook on the sacred flame of the Agnihotram symbolizing that she is now responsible to take care of the health of her husband and family.
This is the time when the bride is traditionally handed off to the groom and the his family. This is the last event of the marriage occasion.
Once the marriage ceremony is over, the bride enters the groom’s house formally. She is given a hearty welcome by her new family members.
After the marriage ceremony is over, the bride is taken to the groom’s house with some musical arrangements. This is called the gruhapravesam of the bride to her new life. As she steps into her new house she is welcomed by the groom’s family members and closest relatives.
This is the very popular pooja in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana India. This is performed by the bride and groom after the gruhapravesam in groom’s residence. This pooja usually done by the couple while entering into their new house.
Uniting the Mangalasutram is done after sixteen days from the marriage. This ritual is done by the groom or the elder members of the family. A few black beads are put between the two gold plates of the mangalasutram so that they do not clash with each other. The uniting of managalasutram signifies that the harmony between the two families. After the ceremony is over the bride takes a bath and wears a new saree.