Weddings at Guruvayur – To start a new journey with the blessings of Mangala Krishnan
Marriages with the blessings of Kalyana Krishnan give a lot of fortunes – as per beliefs. Daily more than a hundred pair of couples enters the wedlock in front of Guruvayur temple – a record of its name. Through this column, let us read the stories of some couples who got married at Guruvayur Krishna Temple and decided to start their life journey with the blessings of Mangala Krishnan.
Three mandapams, where the marriage ceremony is conducted, and long queues of beautiful brides and grooms, accompanied by their relatives and friends to get married, and busy crowds to seek Lord Krishna’s blessings. Rhythm of Nadaswaram and fragrance of jasmines spread everywhere. It’s not an unusual sight of Kizhakke Nada (Door at east side) of the world famous Guruvayur temple. Even during off-seasons more than a hundred weddings are conducted in the temple. Krishna tales, devotional music, chanting mantras and devotion – the whole atmosphere is filled with a ‘Krishna’ touch. Apart from thousands of devotees who visit this temple, there are more than a hundred wedding couples too who join the crowd to tie the knot before Kalyana Krishna, who married 16,008 women.
Rhymes of marriages fill the atmosphere
2010 September 12 is an unforgettable day for Guruvayur – the day which witnessed 224 marriages in front of Lord Krishna. If 224 marriages took place a single day, what to say more about the crowd accumulated there! There were many brides who wore more than 1 kg gold, but moved through the thick crowd to reach mandapam, though it was risk. Yet in the busiest wedding day at Guruvayur, there was not even a single case of missing gold. 2014 August 31 is yet another historic day when 223 marriages were conducted. On 2016 May 8, 203 pair of couples entered marriage bliss.
There exists a belief among devotees that if marriage is conducted at Guruvayur, it’s free from all sorts of troubles, and the couples will be blessed with prosperity and happiness. There is no need to approach an astrologer to calculate Muhurat. Couples can get married on any day before Guruvayurappan without calculating in advance, Muhurat. Even if astrologer has given a correct Muharat for a wedding, it may not be possible to conduct it exactly at the same time. Now marriages are performed in Karkidakam also, the month which is not chosen for good things. Earlier marriages were not conducted during the months of Mithunam, Karkidakam, Kumbham and Kanni.
Weddings performed in the midst of huge crowd
Weddings are performed between 5 am and 1 pm. On busy days, count may go high, but duration of each marriage decreases. Sometimes a marriage lasts for just 2-3 minutes. Three circumvallates (Pradakshanam) may be reduced to one. There won’t the ritual ‘Prasadamaniyal’ in busy days. In between the temple will be closed 2 or 3 times for Udayasthamaya Pooja and daily customs. Marriages won’t be conducted when the main temple is closed. For marriage rituals, Nadaswaram is accompanied by Thakil and Kuzhithaalam. The artist plays any keerthanam of his choice, and won’t get enough time to play according to rules.
There is no special queue for VIPs or ordinary people. A marriage can be registered by submitting just 250 rupees. Earlier there was only a single mandapam, and later two more were built one by one.
On busy days, people strive to conduct the weddings of their group as early as possible. It’s a very common sight to see brides with gone makeup and wrinkled saris in the battles with the crowd to reach mandapam. Arguments are also quite common. In the past 30 years, Guruvayur witnessed the busiest crowd on the marriage of Malayalam star couple Jayaram & Parvathy in the late 1980s. Guruvayur has never witnessed such a marriage before or later. In those days, vehicles were allowed till the steps of Mandapam. Yet their car got jammed in the fan crowd on marriage day, who occupied the whole place including the ceiling. Shirts of several photographers were torn and many dhotis also got disappeared in the crowd!
Marriage rituals are performed within a few minutes
In normal days too, wedding ceremony never lasts for more than 5 minutes, and at most times a blink and miss affair. Only the couple and some of their relatives alone are allowed near the mandapam. Kalyana Koyma conducts the wedding. He gives holy water to bride and groom first. Then he gives them chandan paste (sandalwood paste), and bride and groom mutually wear it on the other person’s forehead. Now mangalsutra is worn, followed by the exchange of basil garlands. They can also exchange their own garlands. Bride is given the first preference. It’s followed by Pudavakodukkal (where groom gives a pair of dress to his bride) and placing vermillion on hair parting (seemantha rekha), and accepting her as his wife. Then he holds bride’s hand and circumvallate the Kerala lamp three times to complete the rituals.
The lamp (Ney vilakk) used for weddings in Guruvayur has some peculiarities. The couple can give Dakshina to Koyma, and stand before the lamp and pray towards Guruvayur temple and then put dakshina in the coin box. Dakshina box is carried by Koyma and placed in mandapam while weddings are performed. The remaining rituals take place at the nearby sazrams, where the feast (traditional Kerala sadya) is also arranged for guests. In short, only Thali ceremony is conducted before Guruvayurappan, and rest rituals at a mandapam later. It’s not associated with temple. In some cases, garlands may also be exchanged when wedding is conducted later (on another day) witnessed by a crowd of people.
A few people are arranged to ascend bride and groom to mandapam. When groom enters the mandapam, it’s the duty of these people to ensure that bride has not changed. Once it happened earlier. In a crowded day, a bride got changed and the groom exclaimed, “It’s not my bride”. In crowded days, such incidents can also happen. On another occasion, bride exchanged garland with a person, who was not her groom. The situation went tense and girl’s parents filed a case against Devaswom too. From that day onwards, names of bride and groom are not written in marriage registers (coupons). This incident was once shown on Malayalam screen through the movie, Grahapravasham, where lead actor Jagadeesh, a person belonging to a poor family marries a rich girl, Rekha and the interesting incidents after that. Devaswom board doesn’t know about bride or groom. As the marriage is not registered in temple, there is no proof about their marriage.
Celebrities who got married in Guruvayur temple
As told above the most celebrated marriage was of Malayalam star couple – Jayaram and Parvathy. Another star couple marriage also happened in the early 2000s – It’s none other than the wedding ceremony of Biju Menon and Samyukta Varma. Actress Sandhya and Venkat Chandrasekhar’s wedding was conducted in 2015. Cricketer Sreesanth’s wedding with Bhuvaneswari took place in 2013. Traditionally many of the weddings of this cricketer’s family were conducted at Guruvayur. Vidhubala, Jalaya, Vinay Forrt, Jyotsna Radhakrishnan, Vineet Kumar – the list is long.
Years back in 1962, the weddings of famous actress Padmini was conducted in this temple, and among the celebrities who attend the wedding ceremony, Sivaji Ganeshan was also present. In those days marriages were performed inside temple wall near flag post and Koyma, who conducts the rituals, was also not present. Guruvayur has witnessed many VIP marriages since then. K. Karunakaran, a great devotee married Kalyanikutty Amma at Guruvayur. His daughter Padmaja Venugopal’s wedding was also conducted here.
Weddings began in Guruvayur temple in the 1950s
Perhaps Guruvayur might be the place anywhere in India where maximum number of marriages are conducted a year. The first wedding ceremony was conducted in the 1950s. During early days, only members belonging to Nair communities conducted wedding there. As Brahmins have lengthy wedding rituals, Brahmin marriages are not common in Guruvayur.
Before 1970s, weddings were conducted in three different ways. If the receipt is taken for 2.5 rupees, it’s an ordinary marriage. After Thalikettu and garland exchange ceremony, Prasad will be given. The couple can circumvallate and leave the place. If their wedding is to be accompanied by nadaswaram, it costs 5 rupees. If they can afford 7 rupees, the musical troupe will accompany the troupe from their residential place to mandapam, and also follow them after marriage till their accommodation place.
On 1970 November 29 late night, temple was attacked by fire and hence it remained closed till next day 11 am. Other poojas were also not conducted. The marriage groups had to find other temples to perform weddings. Till then weddings were conducted inside the temple wall near flag post. After this incident, weddings were conducted outside the main temple, near the main lamp.
The first mandapam was built in 1971 under the supervision of Elavally Narayanan Achary, a well-known architect costing 5000 rupees. The mandapam was later renovated.
The married couple can’t enter temple soon after marriage
There are a few restrictions and traditions followed by Guruvayur since early days. After marriage, the couple can’t enter Nalambalam. But during early days, they were allowed to enter Chuttambalam. Now newly wedded couple can reach near main temple lamp only. In the crowded temple, it’s not easy to control the people who accompany the couple; that could be a reason. If either bride or groom is a foreigner, their wedding can’t be performed in mandapam. Their wedding will be performed before temple lamp.
There are restrictions for photography too. During early days, photographers were allowed within temple walls. Today it’s not possible. Today’s photo shoots are mostly done before Guruvayur Kesavan’s statue, beneath Koovalam (Aegle mermelos) at south and front of Maraprabhu. A few more locations include Manjulal (a banyan tree), Thekke Seeveli Paramb and temple Pond (Kulakadav).
Melsanti of the temple too is restricted to enter the sites where weddings are conducted. They are related to temple affairs only, and every happening within the temple walls only. Marriages and other ceremonies conducted here are controlled by Devaswam. If bride/groom wants Melsanti to venerate thali, they should do it early morning or one day before. For normal cases, Keezhsanti and Othikkanmaar do the job.
Some of the common beliefs related to weddings held in Guruvayur
As told above, weddings at Guruvayur brings luck, fortune and prosperity to the wedded couples. As per popular belief, if someone desires for their wedding ceremony to be conducted in Guruvayur, it definitely happens – particularly in the case of girls. It’s also believed that they will get timely help if there are any financial troubles.
If Krishnanattom is performed as an offering, it removes all the restrictions for marriages. This temple art form is performed only by temples under Guruvayur Devaswom Board. Rukhmini Swayamvaram, Sathyavati Swayamvaram and Jaambavati Swayamvaram are normally performed. Kozhikode Zamorin Manavedan coded the rules of Krishnanattom, and authored many works related to it. Read more here. It’s usually conducted during September 1 to May 31. Unmarried ladies too perform ‘Adipradhikshanam’ and pray for good grooms.
14 Kazhaka families own the right to make thulsi garlands for weddings
Garlands of basil leaves for wedding ceremonies are made by 14 Kazhaka families, who traditionally own this right. The family which provides garlands for temple worship should also prepare garlands for weddings the same day, and this right is equally distributed among those 14 families who perform it in turn. They get a small amount from wedding receipt.
Earlier the receipts are to be bought between 5 pm and 8 pm, on the previous day of wedding. It gives an estimate of weddings conducted the next day. But now, receipts are given till 3 hours prior to marriage. So, the families need to foresee the number of weddings and prepare garlands as such. For 100 marriages, they make 200 garlands. Basil leaves, lotus and ixora are used to prepare garlands.
Temple doesn’t provide Sadya (meals) for marriage troupes
Since 1956, wedding meals have been provided as a part of marriages conducted in temple, though not a part of temple devaswom. For more than 75% weddings conducted here, wedding meals will be prepared in nearby auditoriums, and there are many chefs who prepare food for more than 10 weddings a day. Poonthanam Auditorium is exclusively meant for VIPs; early it was Sathram Hall. During early days, people used to sit on mats on floor to serve meals.
Today it’s not mandatory that wedding feast should also be provided in Guruvayur. There are some cases, where only Thalakettu or Garland exchanging happens and it will be witnessed by only a few relatives who can be counted in fingertips. Within 1.5 kms radius, more than 150 lodges and auditoriums occupy the space, which can easily afford the crowded people today.
Special marriages of Guruvayur
There are a few special weddings in Guruvayur. Some people might have promised to perform wedding at Guruvayur, but for some reasons couldn’t fill the promise. Years later they may visit the temple with their kids and grandkids to fulfill the promise. The couples without children also perform ‘Thalikettu’ in belief that Lord Krishna will bless them with kids. If the couples can’t reach Guruvayur on wedding day, they may visit the temple a couple of months before and exchange garlands. There were a few interesting couples from Tamil Nadu who visit temple every year and perform Thalikettu ceremony. Thalikettu ceremony – most common in Nair community was also conducted in Guruvayur before.
Krishna as Kalyana Raman
Krishna owns 16008 wives as per Hindu mythology. Among all, 8 names – Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jhambavaty, Kalindi, Mitravinda, Satya, Bhadra and Lakshana are the prominent ones. After killing Narakasura, he released 16000 girls from his custody and brought to Dwaraka. On the same Muhurat, he married all of them. As nobody was willing to accept them, Krishna became the protector by marrying them. That’s why Guruvayurappan is also known as Kalyana Krishnan. He is also believed be a secular god who never gets bored even after witnessing so many marriages.
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