Saturday, 1 December 2007

Mass marriages for the poor at Tirupati temple

Culture | Syed Akbar
A decorated chariot fitted with loud speakers enters a sleepy village raising dust and hopes, and drawing the attention of people. The chariot stops at every corner in the village calling upon parents to enrol their eligible sons and daughters for the grand wedding ceremony on August 26. The chariot then moves on to another village with the same message and task.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the richest Hindu endowment body in the world, has pressed into service its Kalyana Rathams or simply wedding chariots for its mega Kalayanamasthu, a mass wedding programme scheduled for the auspicious day of Sunday, August 26.
Buoyed by the tremendous response it received during the first phase of Kalyanamasthu held on February 22, the TTD has moved to the second phase. The Kalyanamasthu is the biggest ever mass wedding programme in the world and only a rich endowment body like the TTD could accomplish it successfully.
"The TTD plans to conduct about 1,00,000 marriages in two phases every year. The mission is three fold: to help the poor parents who find it hard to perform the marriage of their daughters, to reduce the expenditure, and to control dowry system. The programme is also aimed at preventing conversions. It is a social and religious mission to help the poorer sections of Hindu society. A trust has been formed for the purpose," says TTD chairman B. Karunakar Reddy.
The TTD will provide gold mangalsutram, wedding clothes for the couple, silver mettelu (toe ring) and free lunch for 22 people. The mass weddings are performed in all the 294 Assembly constituencies spread across the State. To ensure that the couple live happily for ever, the TTD has ensured that the mangalsutrams are sanctified by placing them at the feet of the presiding deity Lord Venkateswara and Goddess Padmavathi. Vedic pandits also perform special prayers before distributing the mangalsutrams to the couples before the ceremony.
The TTD spent Rs 5.3 crores in the first phase mass wedding. It has not fixed any upper limit on expenditure.
Karunakar Reddy accompanied by Vedic pandits has been moving around the State with the chariots to create awareness among the people. Wherever he goes, he makes it sure to deliver the message that lavish spending at weddings have turned many families bankrupt.
According to Karunakar Reddy, the auspicious moment for the mass wedding ceremony has been fixed between 11.10 am and 11.20 am on August 26. The muhurat falls in the holy Shravana Nakshathram which is believed to the birth star of Lord Venkateswara.
It is also a rare Guru-Shukra (Jupiter-Venus) combination that it will bestow the newly married couples with lasting prosperity and happy life. "We are ready to cover any number of couples. But the participants will have to fulfil the guidelines of Kalyanamasthu programme.
This is because we want to avoid legal or social complications at a later date," the TTD chairman pointed out. The eligible couples (minimum of 21 years for boys and 18 years for brides) may submit their applications till August 10.

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