WEST GODAVARI: The Konda Reddy tribal group who have been living in the hilltops of the agency area in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, may be primitive in nature, but they have a modern outlook when it comes to their marriage traditions.
The traditions they follow are unique, simple where there are no rituals and the elders in the village act as the priests. There are no formal invitations and even if not called the entire village turns up. All the villagers dutifully participate and lend their hand to conduct the wedding.
There are about 1.25 lakh tribals in the Agency area of West Godavari district. About ten thousand of them belong to the Konda Reddy tribe. Most of the Konda Reddy tribes live in villages on the high hills of the Buttayagudem, Polavaram, Velerupadu and Kukkunur mandals.
Though there has been a change in certain customs, the marriage tradition continues with a minor addition that came into place over time and outside influence, especially after the 1980s.
Earlier before in the 80s, if any young man likes a woman he would first inform the elders and when the girl went out he would hold her hand and openly tell the young woman that he was marrying her. The elders of the village would then get them married, even if the young woman was not willing to marry him.
As part of the festivities, first, the elders of the village pour or rather slosh water on the head of the bride and groom. After that, the groom ties a string of black bead on the neck of the young. As there are no priests and mantras, the village elders give them formal advice as to how to live happily together as a couple and marking the end of the wedding.
However, there has been some change in these practices. If any young man likes a young woman, he should tell the adults at home first. They, together with the village elders, talk to the young woman and her family members and confirm the relationship, where the willingness of the woman is also taken into consideration. The tradition of tying the holy thread (mangalsutra) as in regular marriages has also begun in recent times.
The bride is hidden after the marriage
There is another unique ceremony called the 'Pathanalu ritual', which is conducted after the wedding for the bride and groom. At that time the bride's relatives hide her in the village without anyone knowing where she is. The bridegroom and his family members have to locate her and bring her out.
As the bride and groom return home, the villagers start blocking them and fall at their feet, obstructing their path and start rolling in the mud. At this juncture, the bridegroom has to give money to those who roll in the ground as a tradition.
Five Day feasting for the whole village
The wedding festivities do not just end there; the families who conduct the wedding have to feed the whole village, their families for five days jointly. It's a culmination of the whole village enjoying the feast and festivities together for these five days, where the serving of meat is a must.
For the first three days, relatives and the neighbours come for both lunch and dinner. On the third day, the 'First Night' ritual is conducted. On the fourth day, all the villagers are called in for the traditional wedding feast. If any family in the village does not attend the feast, the bride and groom's family will send them the food home. On the fifth day, the two families will serve food for their relatives. The five days are marked with fun and frolic, where the Konda Reddy tribals thoroughly enjoy themselves.
Image Source: Internet
Ketchela Bullireddy a Kondareddy tribal from Aliveru village in Buttayagudem mandal while talking about his culture tells us that,'' In our tribes, the family elders act as priests. There are no mantras and no mangalsutra. My wedding happened in this way. I liked a girl in my village and told the elders. They then spoke to the girl's side and we got married, where I tied the black bead chain around her neck and my wedding was over,'' he said.
We value the word of the elders
''We respect the word of our elders during the wedding time. Their words are equivalent to the Vedas and treated as custom. The local village gods are our tribe's deities. We worship the village goddess especially during the harvest season when reaping our crops,'' said Ketchela Padma, a Konda Reddy tribal woman from Regulapadu village of Buttayagudem mandal.
Image Source: India The Destiny website
The Konda Reddy tribals are an indigenous tribe deeply attached to the environment and do not mix with other communities so easily.
They mainly eke out a living by doing shifting cultivation (Podu sagu) and making bamboo products, collect forest produce like honey, acacia gum and gooseberries and sell them at the local markets. With the money earned, they buy essential commodities needed for their upkeep.