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Traditional Telugu Brahmin marriage ceremony

"Dharmecha, ardhecha, kamecha, nati charitavyeti, data vadet, nati charatavya - Nati Charami"

"Mangalyam tantunanena mama jeevana hetuna, kanthe badhnami subhage tvam jeeva sarada satam"

These are the two most important chanting in Hindu marriages.

Marriage i.e Vivah / Vivaham (Sanskrit word), is a highly sacred event in Hindu culture. It is a life long commitment between a man and a woman. Vivaham is one of the 16 samskaras. Brahmacharya (youth) of a man ends with marriage and his Grihastasramam i.e family life begins.

Hindu marriages involve various ceremonial / procedural events. These are almost similar in all regions with slight variations in the procedure from region to region. The events take place in the form of prayers, invocations and vows that are recited in Sanskrit. The prayers that are power-packed with in-depth meaning, describe the strong bondage between husband and wife who are united in the presence of Panch Bhoota i.e the five elements, in a ritualistic manner. According to Hinduism, the Pancha Bhootas / 5 elements are Prithvi (Earth), Akash (space / ether), Agni (fire), Neer (water) and Vaayu (air).

Marriage is the happiest / memorable moment in one's life and is the most enjoyable ceremonial function with happiness and laughter all around.

Marriage is held in Kalyana Mandapam i.e a wedding pavilion. This is colorfully decorated with fresh flowers where most of the events take place. The ceremony is accompanied with traditional 'Sannai' / 'Shehnai' in classical music.

In the olden days,  marriage ceremony was performed for a continuous period of 5 to 7 days. Later it reduced to a 3-day ceremony. In the present hectic world, the entire ceremony is cut short to few hours in a single day. The traditional marriage ceremony of the Telugu Brahmin community typically starts with 'Engagement' or 'Nischaya Tambulaalu'.

In all the wedding events, in almost all the regions irrespective of the caste, mostly the bride and the groom dress up in a traditional way. The groom wears either dhoti and upper wear or sherwani while the bride dresses in pattu / silk sari and blouse with mehendi applied on her hands and bedecked in gold jewelry. She is the center of attraction of the event.

Pelli Choopulu / Match-making

In a traditional Hindu family, the parents / grandparents of the bride keep searching for a suitable alliance from their own community, for their daughter . On finding a prospective groom, the bride's parents invite the groom and his parents for an initial 'dekho' i.e for a face-to-face interaction. This is known as 'Pelli Choopulu' in Telugu. When everything is fine like horoscope matching of the bride and the groom and mutual liking of the bride and the groom and other consents, both the parties decide mutually and fix a date for 'Nischitardham' or 'Nischaya Tambulaalu'. Even to-date, horoscope matching of the prospective bride and groom is given much importance in the traditional Hindu marriages.

Nischaya Tambulaalu i.e. Engagement

Nischitardham is the important event that takes place prior to marriage. In this event parents and close relatives of the bride and the groom meet usually in the bride's house or at a convenient location like a hotel / temple. In the presence of the august gathering, the 'purohitulu' / priest writes the 'lagna patrika' and reads it out. Mainly the 'lagna patrika' contains the parent's names of the bride and the groom and the 'sumuhurtam' (the auspicious time) of marriage. 'Lagna patrika' is a pre-requisite for printing the 'pelli subhalekhalu' or the wedding invitation cards by either parties.

The event is followed by the mutual exchange of new clothes by the parents of the bride and the groom and depending on the affordability, the groom's parents offer jewelry to the bride who is their prospective daughter-in-law.

After engagement, both the parties and the bride's family in particular start planning and preparations for the wedding ceremony.

Wedding costumes

Purchasing wedding saris and gold jewelry for the bride is another important thing which is a time consuming one. A number of natural silk saris i.e pelli pattu cheeralu and gold jewelry are purchased for various occasions in the ceremony, the cost of which depends on the affordability. In addition to the bridal costume, it is customary to offer 'kotta battalu' or new clothes to the close relatives who come for the wedding ceremony. And also new clothes and gold / silver items are purchased to offer these to the groom and his family members particularly to the groom's parents and sisters during various occasions in the wedding ceremonial events.

Pre-wedding events

Pellikuturu / Pellikoduku / making of bride and the groom

Usually the wedding preparations including purchases in both the households start after installing pandiri / godhuma rayi in front of the house. The installation of godhuma rayi is done in an auspicious time / muhurtam whence all the preparations for the wedding ceremony start. Pellikuturu has to be accompanied with a 'todapellikuturu' who mainly is a sister in relation usually with the same family name. So also Pellikoduku is accompanied with a 'toda pellikoduku' who is mainly brother or first paternal cousin. However, there are amendments in case of non-availability of toda pellikuturu / toda pellikoduku. And any young boy / girl can accompany the bride and groom as toda pellikuturu / toda pellikoduku.

Pelli Kuturu (bride) and Toda Pellikuturu
Preparing the bride and the groom for marriage is a traditional ceremonial event which is known as 'Pellikuturu' / 'Pellikoduku' in Telugu language. Usually, the ceremony takes place a day before the marriage or at times on the wedding day itself, when the bride and the groom get prepared for the marriage in their respective homes. At the muhurtam time, turmeric paste is applied on the face of the bride / groom and then little oil is applied on the hair by the eldest female family member who happens to be a 'mutaidu' i.e married woman. This is then followed by 'mangala harati' when the elderly married women offer harati to the bride / groom, singing harati songs like ksheerabdhi kanyakaku. After harati, the bride / groom will have the holy shower i.e 'mangala snanalu' after which the bride / groom is dressed in first set of wedding dress with the special / traditional 'Kalyanam Bottu / Tilakam' on the forehead.

After bedecking, the bride / groom is seated in a place when all the elderly people of the family bless the bride / groom with 'akshantalu' or yellow rice grains. And finally, the bride / groom is escorted with the family members to the marriage venue / kalyana mandapam, where the next important event named 'Edurukolu' / 'Eduru Sannaham' takes place with much excitement.

Edurukolu / Eduru Sannaham or the grand reception of the groom and his party

'Eduru Sannaham' is one of the important event on the day of marriage. The bride and her party arrive the venue / Kalyana Mandapam before the arrival of the groom and his party and make all the necessary arrangements for grandly receiving / welcoming the groom and his party. 

At important point to mention, in the Indian culture, it is bride's parents who bear all the wedding expenditure and look after all the necessary arrangements for the wedding. 

This event is of social importance in which the bride's parents / family receive the groom and his party on their arrival at the venue. In the olden days, it was customary to perform the marriage at the bride's residence or in the nearby temple premises. But later on, out of necessity special marriage venues or 'Kalyana Mandapams' had been constructed to cater the needs of the marriage ceremony.

When the groom and his party arrive the venue in the cars, they are grandly welcomed by the bride's party amidst traditional music of  'Nadaswaram' / 'Sannai Melam'. The groom and his parents are specially welcomed by the bride's parents when the bride's mother applies 'kumkum' on the groom's and his mother's forehead followed by 'Harati' (waving the plate with burning camphor) to the groom which is restricted to certain sub-communities of Telugu Brahmins. 

On receiving the groom and his party, they are taken to their respective allotted rooms in the 'Kalyana Mandapam' where all the necessary items including bath soaps / soap-nuts (kunkudukai / rita),  talcum powder, body and hair oil, comb and other such stuff are placed ready in the trays for the groom. While the groom and his party rest for a while, they are offered with fresh fruit juices or soft drinks and then are invited for breakfast (in case they happen to arrive the venue in the morning). 

Usually both the parties arrive the venue in the morning itself as mostly the 'sumuthurum' is in the night time and occasionally in the morning. When the 'sumurtham' is in the morning, both the parties reach the venue, the previous day.  However, it depends on the affordability and availability of the Kalyana Mandapam.

Once the groom's party relax and refresh themselves, then starts the next event which is known as 'Totalo Digadam' where there is mutual introduction and interaction of both the parties.

Totalo Digadam or Varapooja

This is one of the most exciting events of the wedding ceremony where the bride and the groom meet face to face prior to the wedding. In this event all the relatives of both the parties gather and the 'lagna patrika' / invitation card is read out in Telugu by the priest. There is a mutual exchange of new clothes between the bride / groom and their parents. In this event, 'panakam' (flavored jaggery syrup) which is brought in two new silver / steel 'panakam bindelu' or pots is distributed to all the guests by the bride's party. Thereby these new 'panakam bindelu' are offered to the groom's sisters (mother if no sisters). 

In this event, even the 'sumuhurtam' for the auspicious event of 'sobhanam' (nuptial) is announced. There is lot of enjoyment and laughter that spreads the environment in this event as the bride and the groom sit side by side and pose for pictures and get closer to each other.

This is also known as Vara pooja in some regions and is performed after Snatakam. It differs from region to region.

Snatakam followed by Kasi Yatra


This is basically an event of the groom's party only which includes some fun activity with the groom. After the basic ritual of  'snatakam' or putting the sacred silver thread round the groom's shoulder by his parents as is done in the thread ceremony, the groom adorns the clothes of 'sanyasarama dharma'. He holds an umbrella, wears 'pankollu' or wooden sandals' and declares that he is no longer interested in the materialistic world and hence goes on 'Kasi Yatra' for accepting 'sanyasam' or sainthood. 

At this juncture, when the groom is about to begin his journey,  the bride's brother (if no brother, father) blocks his way to the 'sanyasam' and requests him to leave the thought of taking up 'sanyasam' and enter into the 'grihastasrama' (marital life) as his (bride's brother) beautiful sister is eagerly waiting to get united with the groom. Thus the bride's brother convinces the groom that as per 'dharma' one has to go through the 'grihastasrama' before accepting 'sanyasam' and thus get back the groom to the 'mandapam'. 

The event signifies that as per Hinduism 'sanyasam' is that stage of life where there is spiritual elevation of the mind of an individual which is achieved through thorough reading of the Holy scriptures through education and the same is taken up in 'Kasi' (presently known as Varanasi) which is the seat of Vedic culture. 'Sanyasam' symbolizes the spiritual elevation of man and his disinterest in the materialistic world which lays foundation for 'moksha' or salvation. 

The event is one of the most enjoyable one by both the parties with much of fun and laughter.

Wedding events

Ankurarpanam

This is basically an event in which the bride and her parent's are involved and this usually takes place simultaneously with 'snatakam' / 'kasi yatra'. In this event, while the priest chants mantras, the bride and the other women of the family sprinkle grains of 9 different kinds (known as 'navadhanyalu' in Telugu) in the earthen plates (known as 'palikalu') filled with soil collect from ant-hill. As this soil is highly fertile, the grains sprout within a short period and these sprouts are taken out and the 'palikalu' are cleaned on the 16th day after marriage which is known as 'padaharu rojula (16th day) panduga' in the bride's house.

This special event symbolizes the germination / reproduction process of human life to ensure the continuity of filial / procreation. The event is followed by the most important event of the ceremony which is known as the 'Gowri Pooja' performed by the bride.

Gowri Pooja

Gowri Devi is widely worshiped by the Hindu married women for a happy, successful and blissful married life. As per Hinduism, performing Gowri Devi Pooja is considered highly important for married women as the goddess blesses the woman with long married life.

In this ritual, the bride sits in a huge basket (known as Gowri Gampa in Telugu) that is hand woven with eco-friendly material of bamboo. The basket is smeared with turmeric paste, decorated with kumkum bottu (spots) and 'dhanyam' or unprocessed rice grains are placed in the basket up to a height of 2 inches. The bride, then, performs Gowri pooja with kumkum for at least 2-3 hours prior to the 'sumuhurtam' of marriage to seek the divine blessings. 'Dhanyam' symbolizes prosperity and is considered as Goddess Lakshmi Devi.

Meanwhile the groom gets ready in his traditional attire for the ceremonial event in the perform and sits on a wooden plank (known as peeta in Telugu). On completion of Gowri Pooja, the bride who is seated in the 'Gowri gampa' / hand woven basket with a tender coconut in her hands, is carried by her maternal uncles to the 'mandapam'.  When she is seated in the 'mandapam' facing the groom with a specially designed curtain between the two to block them from viewing face to face.

Kanyadanam / Panigrahanam

While the bride performs Gowri Pooja, the groom who is dressed in traditional attire, sits in the decorated 'mandapam' and the priest starts the ceremonial ritual of the main event of wedding by invoking Lord Ganesha. By the time the worship is completed, the bride is carried to the 'mandapam' by her maternal uncles and is seated in front of the groom with a curtain between the two. The bride's parents who sit beside her, place the groom's feet in a big brass plate from under the curtain and wash his feet (their son-in-law). Then, while the priest chants mantras, the bride's parents offer 16 varieties of fruits to the groom from under the curtain. And finally, amidst the chanting of mantras (sacred hymns) and 'sannai melam', they place their daughter's (bride) hands along with the tender coconut in her hands in the groom's hands and give away their daughter in 'danam' (donation) to the groom. In return, they seek promise from the groom that he will take care of their daughter for life long. This event is known as 'Kanyadanam' or giving away of the young lady (the bride) to the groom in donation. As per Hinduism, 'Kanyadanam' is considered as a highly noble act which has great returns.

Jeelakarra Bellam or Sumuhurtham

All these events take place one after the other very fast amidst the traditional music of  'Sannai Melam' and by the time 'kanyadanam' is completed, the bride and the groom still separated with a curtain, hold 'jeela-karra bellam' (a thick paste made of crushed cumin seeds or jeera and jaggery) placed in betel leaves. 'Sumuhurtham' is the most important and awaited event of the wedding ceremony. By this time, the marriage venue is heavy crowded with relatives and guests who gather to witness the sacred event and bless the newly wedded couple. 

At the auspicious time or 'sumuhurtham', to the excitement of the august gathering and amidst the fast beat of 'Sannai Melam', the bride and the groom place 'Jeelakara Bellam' on each other's head from underneath the curtain. At this moment, the curtain is removed when the bride and the groom remain seated facing each other. All the elderly guests bless the newly wedded couple with 'akshantalu' or rice grains mixed with turmeric powder while the younger ones wish them.

After this event, the bride and the groom get into their respective 'vididi' or rooms to change to traditional costume of 'Madhuparkalu'. These 'madhuparkalu' are basically white color attire with red, yellow or green border and is the sacred attire that is worn in the special way. In the rest of the events, the bride and the groom remain in this sacred attire only.

On wearing 'Madhuparkalu', the groom is seated in the 'mandapam' while the bride carries a plate with specified number of oil lit lamps and she is escorted to the 'mandapam' by married women from both the parties carrying plates with oil-lit lamps.

Mangalya Dharana

'Mangalyam Tantunanena Mama Jeevana Hetuna' is the most important and sacred chanting which is recited at the time of 'Mangalya Dharana' - the most important event of the ceremony - in which the bride and the groom are religiously united and become the husband and wife as per the Hindu law. In this event, the groom ties 'Mangala Sutram' (the sacred yellow thread smeared with turmeric paste, to which two specially designed pendants called 'sutralu' are tied for the purpose) round the bride's neck and ties three knots (which stand for 'manasa' / mind, 'vacha' / speech and 'karmana' / deed) amidst the fast beat of 'sannai melam' and blessings by the elders with 'akshantalu'.

Before 'Mangalya Dharana' and after 'Jeelakara Bellam', the groom stands in front of the bride who sits with her head down. The priests hold a thick wooden rod known as 'kade' in Telugu above the bride's head. The two 'Mangala Sutralu' each tied to a yellow thread are tied from a hole in the 'kade' and are held above the bride's head. Now the priest chant religious 'mantras' when the groom pours holy water drop by drop over the 'Mangala Sutralu' which percolates and drops on the bride's head.

For this sacred event, the bride and the groom change their costumes and wear 'Madhu Parkalu' which is white costume with red / green / yellow border. In the olden days this special wear (cotton hand woven sari for the bride and pancha a traditional men's wear for the groom) was smeared with yellow turmeric powder (pasupu) but these days the bride's prefer wearing white silk sari with border.

For 'Mangalya Dharana, the bride changes her costumes, wears Madhu Parkalu and walks tenderly to the Mandapam followed by elderly married ladies (muthaiduvulu) from either side (bride as well as groom)  who carry lighted lamps or 'viripindi jyotulu' (16+16 or 9+9) in two wide brass plates. Next to them, the other 'muthaiduvulu' (married women) from both the sides carry 'talabrala biyyam' or the yellow rice meant for 'talambralu' in two wide brass plates each on which half piece of dry coconut is kept along with the 'Mangala Sutram' tied to the yellow thread.

The bride who walks shyly with her head down sits beside the groom in the Mandapam and the two plates of Varipindi Jyotulu and two plates containing Talabrala Biyyam are placed in front of the priests in the Mandapam.

Thus, the bride gets ready for Mangalya Dharana when the groom ties the two Mangala Sutralu amidst the sacred chanting of Mangalyam Tantunanena Mama Jeevana Hetuna' when the sannai melam is played in fast rhythmic beat. With this sacred event of Mangalya Dharana, the bride and the groom officially become husband and wife as per the Hindu Marriage Act.

Finally, the groom ties a thick rope called 'yotram' made of palm leaves round the bride's waist. This has a special significance.

On the 16th day (16 rojula panduga), at an auspicious time, the yellow thread from the 'sutralu' / sacred gold pendents is removed and replaced with a gold chain.

Talambralu

This is an event which is enjoyed the most not only by the newly wedded couple but by the guests as well who keep encouraging the newly wedded couple with a highly competitive spirit. 'Talambralu' are the rice grains mixed with turmeric powder and saffron along with other things like flower petals, pearls and colorful beads depending on the affordability and interest of the party. 

In this event, the newly wedded couple are made to sit facing each other and initially they are made to pour 'tambralu' on each other's head like a shower in turns. As it progresses, the newly wedded couple are encouraged by the friends and relatives to compete with the pouring of 'talambralu' on each other's head. There is much of laughter and enjoyment all around and the event signifies the happiness and contentment of married life.  

Nagavalli & Saptapadi

Iaja Homam followed by Nagavalli and Saptapadi are the important events celebrated by the groom's party. Fire or 'Agni' is considered on of the 'Pancha Bhootas' and hence, the ancestors and 'Agni Deva' are the witness of the auspicious events.

The Holy Fire or Homam which is lit, symbolizes purity and 'Agni Deva' remains a 'Sakshi' or witness for the vows made by the newly wedded couple which are read in Sanskrit by the main priest. The newly wedded couple offer prayers to 'Agni Deva' which has a special significance. They offer rice grains to 'Agni Deva' / Homam which symbolizes fertility and it is believed that Fire God removes ignorance and darkness if any from the marital life of the newly wedded couple and lead them into a more knowledgeable life.

Iaja Homam is followed by Nagavalli and Saptapadi which is the most important post marriage event. In this event the newly wedded couple hold each other's hand and take Saptapadi or 7 steps that are symbolic of 7 vows of the married life. They pledge and declare in the presence of the august gathering that they have accepted one another willingly. The newly wedded couple hold hand in hand and are made to take 7 rounds round the Homam / Agni and they take pledge at each round which includes:
  1. Maintaining a pure household.
  2. Development of physical, mental and spiritual strengths.
  3. Enhancing our wealth by righteous means.
  4. Acquiring knowledge, happiness and harmony by mutual love and trust.
  5. Pray for virtuous, intelligent and courageous offspring.
  6. Long and happy married life.
  7. Remaining true companions and life-long partners. 
With the Saptapadi, the marriage is complete as per the Vedic scriptures.

During the event of Nagavalli, a traditional cradle made of silk sari in which a ripe mango, a turmeric and a piece of sandalwood is placed which symbolizes offspring as healthy as a ripe mango and this event has a lesser significance these days due to time constraint. This is more a fun event than of a religious significance as there are no religious chanting.  This event is followed by another fun-filled event in which usually a gold finger ring is placed in a narrow mouthed vessel into which the newly married couple put their hands and search for the ring. This event has no significance and just for a fun.

This is followed by the next important event in which a short chain of black beads (nalla pusalu) is worn by bride and a flat grindstone called Sanikalu in Telugu decorated with turmeric paste and kumkum is placed beside the Homam. The groom then helps the bride to tread her left foot toe on the grindstone when sacred mantras are read out by the priest and finally the groom adorns the bride's toes with silver toe rings.

By this all the customary rituals come to an end and finally the newly wedded couple are taken out to the open air whence the priest shows them the 'Arundhati Nakshtram (star) and seek her (Arundhati's) blessings as she is exemplified as the ideal wife and the embodiment of chastity.

Iaja Homam is yet another post-wedding event in which a Homam is made by the priest and the newly wedded couple offer oblations of puffed rice and popped grains to 'Agni Deva' In this event, the bride's brother is involved who gives a handful of parched rice grains to his sister (the bride) which she hands over in turn to her husband (the groom) who offers the grains in the Homam on the behalf of the bride. This is repeated thrice by taking three rounds round the Homam by the newly wedded couple.

Post wedding events

Appagintalu / Handing over of the bride

Then the final event is known as 'Appagintalu' or the official ceremonial handover of the bride to the groom and his family members and this event marks the change of the family of the bride who thus gets the family name of her husband and becomes a new member of the family. In this event the father and mother of the bride hand over their daughter first to their son-in-law (the groom) and then to his parents, his brothers and sisters if any. Mostly in this a painful event when tears flow down the eyes of the bride's parents and other family members.

Gruhapravesam

This event involves the usually farewell of the bride by her family members and the newly wedded bride enters her new marital home where she is received by her in-laws family with a warm welcome. There is a final / mutual exchange of gifts and household items that are given to the newly wedded bride by her parents to start a new household / family life. They also offer 3-4 varieties of sweets which mostly and must include 'Ariselu' (a sweet made of rice flour and jaggery), 'Mysore Pakam', 'Laddu' (the most important sweet made of Gram flour and sugar syrup), 'Kajalu' (a sweet made of maida and sugar syrup) and most important 'Chalimidi'  (a sweet recipe made of rice flour and sugar syrup with shredded coconut) to the groom's family / parents.

Satyanarayana Vratam

Finally, the traditional wedding ceremonial events end with Satyanarayana Swamy Vratam by the groom's family in the groom's house. The pooja is performed by newly wed couple to seek the blessing of the Lord for a happy and prosperous married life. In this event, all the family members of both the families, friends and relatives are invited for the vratam which is followed by a feast.

Some even perform Venkateswara Deeparadhana either before marriage at the groom's house or after marriage by the newly wed couple.

In most of the Hindu families, the newly wedded couple go to the honeymoon destinations in India where they are given an opportunity to understand each other and thus get closer.

Padahaaru Rojula Panduga

On the 16th day after marriage, the bride wears new sari, performs special pooja and then transfers the 'Mangalasutralu' from yellow thread to gold chain. Usually either mother-in-law or mother helps the newly wed bride in doing so. But the present day working brides simplify the process. They get the directions over phone and simply tie the 'sutralu' to their gold chain before they rush to office.

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