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Vaishnav ‘vivah’ Weddings In Andhra

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January 10th, 2009 | Category: Traditional Weddings

The most important factor in the weddings among the Vaishnava Brahmin community belonging to the Andhra Pradesh, a south Indian state, is the matching of horoscopes of the boy and the girl, although the family background and the tradition are also considered. For them it is essential that the ‘gothrams’ (ancestral lineage) of the two families are different. In their weddings it is important that the seven ‘rishis’ or sages too must have different names. These ‘rishis’ were the celestial beings from whom the human race is supposed to have originated.

Once the horoscopes of a boy and girl are compared and matched an auspicious date is fixed for the engagement ceremony that starts with a ‘Ganapathi Puja. In the presence of elders from both families the parents exchange ‘Thamboolams’/platters containing betel leaves, betel nuts, fruits, flowers, vermilion and ‘pasupu’(turmeric) along with the marriage document known as ‘lagna patrika’ which the ‘pujari’/priest reads aloud to the elders , the acceptance of the alliance between the two families. The time, date and venue for the wedding are also fixed at this time.

In the ritual ‘Kalyana rata’, the first pole, decorated with turmeric powder, mango leaves and ‘rangoli’ designs, of the wedding ‘pandal’/canopy erected for the wedding rites, is fixed firmly into the ground amidst the chanting of Vedic mantras by the priest.

‘Nalugu’, purely a ladies function held one or two days prior to the wedding has the bride and the groom in their respective houses anointed with oil by the elders and after an oil bath they wear silk outfits and a mark, ‘Kalyana thilakan’ is made on the forehead with vermilion. The bride and the groom remain in their homes till the completion of the wedding ceremonies. In the same evening the ‘sumangalis’(not widows) pound turmeric and the bride distributes ‘thamboolams’ containing bangles, vermilion, flowers and fruits to the ladies who, in turn, bless her for a long happy married life.

Now onwards a wind instrument, ’nadeswaram’, similar to the clarinet, but bigger, is played for all auspicious ceremonies accompanied by a ‘melam’ or drum.

Then a small ‘puja’/prayer is held with the bride in silk outfits. Nine types of grains, ‘Navadhanyams’, are sprinkled on nine white-painted, soil-filled earthen plates and kept for sixteen days to germinate. After the wedding, on the sixteenth day, the ‘mangalsuthrams’, 108 strands of sacred thread dipped in turmeric and twisted, are strung together. This ritual is followed by the immersion of the germinated grains in a flowing stream.

All wedding rituals start with ‘Snathakam’ in which the groom, after an oil bath, ‘mangala snanam’ conducts a ‘puja’/prayer before ‘agnihotram’, the sacred fire, dressed in a ‘pancha’/dhoti and an upper cloth called ‘angavastram’. Then he makes a mock pilgrimage known as ‘Kashi yatra’ renouncing all worldly pleasures. He is stopped by the bride’s brother who pleads with him to abandon his plan, instead lead a family life with his sister. After much cajoling the groom agrees to get married.

At this time the bride performs ‘Gowri puja for the blessings of Goddess Gowri Devi. The bride’s maternal uncles lift her and carry her to the ‘kalyana mandapam’ where she is seated opposite the groom and a screen is held between them to prevent to see each other till the auspicious time (‘shubhamuhurtham’) for the wedding ceremonies.

The bride is draped in an attractive costly silk sari, auspicious color being red, but other bright colors are also preferred and it is lavishly embellished with fine embroidery zari works. The upper part of the body is covered with a jacket known as blouse or choli that highlights the sari. Her hair is adorned with a special type of flowers. The gold bridal jewelry is decorated with unique Hyderabadi pearls. She wears dazzling earrings, necklaces and a lot of bangles, anklets and toe-rings. The groom is seen in a dhoti worn in the traditional style.

In the ritual ‘kanyadanam, the couple performs a ‘Ganapathi puja’ and the bride’s mother pours water for the father to wash the groom’s feet. The bride takes a coconut in her palms and her father takes her hands and places them in the groom’s hands while water is poured over them. The officiating priest asks the couple to tie a ‘kankanam’, the sacred thread on each other’s right wrist.

The bride’s parents give the ‘madhuparkams’ to the bride and groom to wear. These white handloom clothes with red or green border are soaked in turmeric water to give them a yellow color. They are given a pair of camphor garlands to wear along with the ‘madhuparkams’ and they walk towards the wedding hall.

At an auspicious time, the groom places the ‘jeera karra+bellam’, a mixture of cumin seeds and jaggery crushed together and kept on a betel leaf’, on the bride’s head and then places it on his head.

Before the ‘mangalyadharanam’, tying of the sacred yellow thread, elderly women remove the screen between the couple and instead hold a yoke through which the ‘mangalsutras’ are passed. The bride is asked to sit on the groom’s left side and the priest ties the sacred yellow thread around their necks. A few drops of milk are sprinkled on the ‘mangalsutras’ to purify them. The groom ties the ‘mangalyam’ or the ‘mangalsutra around the bride’s neck with two knots while the groom’s sister ties the third one. Again the groom ties a ‘dharba’ girdle, a sacred thread made of dry grass and blessed by the priest, around the bride’s waist; so that the bride will not become a widow. The main wedding ceremony comes to an end by the groom’s sister performing an ‘aarthi’.

‘Thalambralu’ is a beautiful and interesting ceremony in the Andhra weddings. The couple pours rice, the staple food, in abundance over each other’s head in a joyous manner, indicating prosperity and abundance.

The bride’s sari ‘pallu’ and the groom’s upper cloth are tied together, followed by a small homam or prayer performed by the newly weds. The groom repeats the mantras chanted by the priest while he leads the bride to take seven steps, Saptapathy.

The traditional wedding feast is served on a banana leaf along with a large variety of delicacies to the enjoyment of the guests.

In the ritual ‘laja Homam’, the bride’s brother places puffed rice or ‘laja’ in her palms and she offers it to the sacred fire. Three different mantras are chanted while the offerings are made three times, The couple is then shown the celestial star, Arundhati to encourage the bride to lead a virtuous life like the Goddess ‘Arundhati’, a name for chastity.

To mark the fulfillment of all wedding rituals, the ‘dharba girdle is removed from the couple.

‘Nagavalli’ consists of the ceremonies dealing with the induction of the bride into her household duties and the display of the gifts given to her. The groom ties a string of black beads, specially threaded by unmarried girls, around his wife’s neck. Then holding her right foot and chanting a mantra, the groom keeps it on a granite grinding stone, ‘sannu kallu’. He slips silver toe rings/’matti’ on to each of the bride’s second toe. In the midst of this ceremony, the groom’s people give her presents like jewelry, saris and sweets and these are viewed by all assembled there.

In the emotional and tearful bridal send off, ‘appagintalu/vadigantu biyyam’ to the groom’s house, her mother places some rice, a tiny sandalwood doll, a small silver bowl, the root of yam and ‘chalmidi’, a sweetmeat, in the upper cloth of the ‘madhuparkam’ that is tied around

When the couple arrives at the groom’s house his mother receives them by giving milk and fruit. The bride is asked to light the ‘Venkateswara deepam’, a lamp of rice and jaggery and filled with ghee, in the prayer room and also to boil milk on the stove. The couple has to observe ‘Satyanarayana Vritham’, a fasting in front of Lord Satyanarayana till the end of the ‘puja’/prayer.

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