Marriages in India are full of life, fun rituals, and bright colors. One wedding that rings a bell when it comes to tradition and fun combined well together is the Telugu wedding. They are very different from other South Indian weddings yet similar to the Tamil and North Indian weddings in terms of customs and traditions. You’ll be glad to learn that the Telugu weddings are considered one of the most traditionally well-performed weddings in the entire Indian wedding circuit.
Telugu weddings are a huge family affair and the festivities that go up to several days are packed with fun and culture. Family members of both sides equally participate in the wedding festivities with full enthusiasm. The brother and the maternal uncle of the bride have important duties in the matrimony. Women of the family too are given utmost importance during the marriage ceremony and hence their participation is essential. A typical Telugu wedding happens after sunset. The venue of the wedding can be a temple, marriage hall or a banquet.
Find out more about the beautiful ceremonies followed in a traditional Telugu wedding.
In Telugu weddings, Nischitharthum is the formal engagement ceremony. Both the families perform Ganesh pooja to appease the god of good beginnings and one who removes all obstacles. Also, the horoscopes of the bride and the groom are matched/referred and the priest finalizes an auspicious date and time also known as ‘Muhurtham’ for the wedding. The bride's future mother-in-law presents her with clothes, gold, silverware, sweets, fruits, etc. Both the families too exchange goodies and gifts. The couple commits to each other with the exchange of rings and seek blessings from the elders. This ritual marks the official beginning of the wedding.
Next in line is the Pendikoothuru ritual where all the relatives and close friends gather together at the respective houses. This ritual is similar to the north Indian Haldi ceremony. In this fun ceremony, the bride and the groom are smeared in ‘Nalugu’ - a mixture of turmeric, flour, and oils. After this, they are required to take baths. Following this the bride and the groom are presented with a new saree and dhoti respectively. The family members of the groom express their love and respect for the close relatives by giving them new clothes.
After this, the Snathakam ritual is observed at the groom’s place. He is made to wear a silver thread. It marks the groom’s journey from his bachelorhood to a man who is ready to start a family. This ritual is usually held a few hours before the wedding.
Similar to a Tamil Wedding, in Kashi Yatra ritual, the groom pretends to go to Kashi on a holy pilgrimage leaving all material comforts of the world behind. Then the brother of the bride stops him requesting him not to leave and convinces him to marry his sister and lead a happy married life.
This ritual is carried out on the morning of the wedding day. The bride and the groom take a purifying bath before performing other customs. After the bath, the couple is anointed with oil and then traditional aarti is performed.
Ganesh and Gauri Pooja
Following this, the Gauri pooja is done by the bride at her house seeking blessings for a happy and successful marriage. While the groom performs the Ganesh pooja at the wedding mandap before the marriage ceremony starts. These are to ward off any evil and obstacles and to receive blessings for their union.
Next follows the entry of the bride to the wedding hall. The maternal uncle and aunt escort the bride to the mandap sometimes in a straw basket called pallaku or even walk with an intricately decorated canopy. Meanwhile the priests recite the holy mantras in the background. A partition made by a curtain is placed between the bride and the groom as they are not supposed to look into each other at that time.
Here, the father of the bride washes the feet of the groom. He hands her daughter’s hands to her new husband. The obliging groom holds his bride’s hands and reassures her parents that he will be beside his wife through thick and thin. With this the ‘kanyadaan’ or the official handing over of the bride ritual is complete.
In this custom, a thick paste of jeelakarra (cumin) and bellam (jaggery) are placed on the hands of the bride and the groom below the curtain. Remember the curtain is still on between the two. This ritual indicates the unbreakable and inseparable bond between the couple. The couple then place this paste on each other's heads moving their hands gradually above the curtains. The curtain is finally lifted and the two can finally see each other.
Tying of the Mangalsutram
The groom then ties the mangalsutram, the sacred yellow thread smeared with turmeric and attached with two gold pendants called ‘sutralu’, around the bride’s neck with three knots. The knots signify their mental, physical and spiritual union. The yellow thread is later replaced with a gold chain on the 16th day from the marriage.
Immediately follows this fun ritual where not just the couple but the entire family enjoys. Here, the bride and the groom pour Talambralu (rice mixed with turmeric) on each other’s heads. The showering is done several times and the respective families pull the two back in good humor when the other is trying to pour. At the end of this ceremony, the couple exchange flower garlands which signify the two accept each other as partners.
In the Sthaalipakam ritual, the maternal uncle of the bride puts silver toe rings on her second toes. The groom follows by adorning his bride with a gold necklace called nalla pusalu, which is meant to protect the bride from the evil eye.
The Saptapadi ritual may vary in different regions of the Telugu community. However, in typical ritual, the couple walks seven rounds around the sacred fire while taking their wedding vows as man and wife. Later, a fun ceremony follows where a decorated pot filled with water and a ring inside it is placed before the couple. The bride and the groom have to fish out the ring by putting their hands inside the vessel. Whoever finds the ring first is said to have the upper hand in the matrimony. The families cheer them on and equally enjoy the game just like the newlyweds.
Once the wedding is over, the bride is traditionally handed over to her new family. The bride then leaves for her husband’s home. A bittersweet moment for the bride and her family.
On reaching the groom’s house, the newlyweds are given a warm welcome by his parents. The groom’s mother welcomes the couple on the main doorway with an aarti. The bride then enters the house by gently kicking a pot full of rice with her right foot at the doorstep, which symbolizes the abundance of the family with her arrival. The griha pravesh ceremony is then complete.
When you look at a Telugu bride, she presents a picture of a traditional bride rooted deep in culture. Sarees are a staple for a Telugu bride. The brides have to wear different sarees for different occasions throughout the wedding process. A Telugu bride would change from her vibrant silk saree to her traditional red and white saree for the marriage ceremony. She’s also a vision in stunning jewelry that has antique finishing and depiction of gods and goddesses. Her jewelry consists of bright colored bangles called Gajalu, Papidi Billa (maang tikka), a nose ring called Mukku Podoka, traditional gold Buttalu or jhumkas as earrings, and three different layers of necklaces - the Kandabaranam (choker style), Sutralu Golusu (a mid-length necklace) and Naksi Haram (a prominent and heavy necklace). Another unique piece of jewelry that complements a Telugu bridal look is the armband called Aravanki as well as the belly belt.
Similarly, Telugu grooms wear a dhoti and a kurta. They also put a unique patterned vermillion tikka on their forehead before the ceremony starts. Another distinctive feature of the groom’s wedding look is a gold amulet tied around their forehead. Even the brides wear a similar one around their forehead.