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From the Nischayathartham to the wedding reception, a Telugu bride (and groom for that matter) has to participate in several rituals. These rituals are a rite of passage, passed down over generations, and aim to create a strong bond between the bride, groom and their families.
We dive into the customs and traditions that make up a Telugu wedding ceremony, the age-old rituals to the playful ring game.
The Nischayathartham, or engagement ceremony, marks the beginning of the wedding preparations. It is a time of great happiness for the families of the bride and groom. At this first ritual, the elegantly dressed Telugu bride, adorned with gold and diamond jewellery, and her groom, in his dashing best, express their commitment to this holy union.
Pellikuthuru is a joyous pre-wedding ritual. Friends and family take turn to apply turmeric paste on the Telugu bride’s body. The paste, commonly made of turmeric, sandalwood, rose water and other naturally refreshing ingredients, is believed to purify the body, ward off evil, and result in glowing skin. The Telugu bride is cleaned up in a ceremonial bath and is decked in fresh clothes, simple jewellery and fragrant flowers.
At the Mangala Snanam, the Telugu bride and the groom are splashed with holy water from the temple, milk, curd, honey and turmeric in their respective homes. While the ritual bath is a must on the day of the wedding, it can take place more often during the pre-wedding rituals. After the Mangala Snanam,
Gauri puja is held at the Telugu bride’s home. The bride attends the puja wearing a grand saree and fine jewellery, including an intricate gold haaram, vaddanam and vanki, jhumke and maangtika. At the ceremony she is accompanied by little ones of the family. The Telugu bride offers her prayers to the goddess Gauri, a consort of Lord Shiva, who is associated with fertility, motherhood and marital happiness.
At the muhurtham, when the stars align, the Telugu bride marries her groom in a series of rituals. On this day, she is the embodiment of Laxmi. She is dressed in the finest threads and gold jewellery in her trousseau. A beautifully crafted gold haaram set adorns her neck, a vaddanam detailed with Laxmi motifs sits on her hips, a matching vanki clutches her arm, gold bangles bedeck her writsts, jhumke her ears and a maangtika her forehead.
She is a sight to behold, but her beloved, the embodiment of Shiva, can’t see her just yet. They are separated by a screen. The Kanyadaanam (where the bride’s father offers her hand in marriage) and Panigrahanam (where groom accepts it) precedes the main event of the day – the Jeelakarra-Bellam. Here the couple exchange a mixture of jeera (jeelakarra) and jaggery (bellam), and the screen is dropped. The groom sets his eyes on his bride for the first time. They are married.
The Telugu bride appears for her wedding reception in a saree or lehenga, sparkling jewels, and a glint of hope for a happy and prosperous future. Kundan stones festoon her jewellery. It’s playful, light and a celebration of her new beginning with her new partner. The guests are greeted and gifts are exchaged. The Telugu bride and her groom also finally get to sit down and eat together. Oh, what a feast it is!
The rituals of a Telugu wedding are not without humour. The ring game is one of the most fun rituals of the Telugu wedding ceremony. While at the mandap, the priest drops a ring into a pot of water. The bride and groom have to fight to fish it out with their right hand. Their families cheer them on. It is believed that whoever wins the most rounds will have the upper hand in the marriage.