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Indian Wedding Rituals – Nelengu in Mauritius

Indian Wedding Rituals – Nelengu in Mauritius

In an Indian Hindu wedding there are several rituals and prayers that need to happen leading up to the wedding.These involve lots of family gatherings and fun with delicious food.All the ceremonies are very colourful,loud and filled with family and friends.In the days leading up to the wedding the homes of the bridal couple are bustling with people and there is so much going on that in can be rather overwhelmining.Both North and South Indian families have similair rituals but yet again each family is unique.As a child I recall going to this early morning pre wedding ritual of so many of my aunts and uncles and all I can recall was that it was so much fun and so messy.The two nelengu ceremonies I feature here are my brother’s and most recently a family friend.


The nelengu which a pre wedding cleansing ritual takes place either the night before the religious wedding ceremony or early morning on the day of the wedding.Three nelengus are generally performed which include the early morning one which is messy ,the evening one which is not messy and one on the wedding day.A traditional nelengu can best be described as a modern spa treatment of pampering.This ritual brings together both bridal parties and friends.

In our Telegu culture the bride to be is brought to the groom’s home where this ritual takes place together for both of them.In other families they each do a seperate ceremony.

The Nelengu :

The bride and the groom are made to sit on mats or now rather fancy seats  and three brass bowls are kept near them containing turmeric paste, kumkum, scented oils and a mixture of lime and turmeric in water (Aarti).

Nelenju is a ceremony of cleansing for the bride.  The bride-to-be sits next to her brother; or if she does not have a brother so a boy or  cousin , a  little  boy sits next to the bride to be next to her. Women come forward and rub turmeric paste on the bride-to-be.  It is rubbed on her face, arms, hands, and legs.  The turmeric is supposed to help provide her skin with a glow for her wedding and is a cleansing paste, taking out toxins in her skin.  The ladies also sprinkle oil on the bride’s head and place flowers in her hair.
This is the messy part when all the fun starts.
After the ladies adorn the bride-to-be with the turmeric paste, flowers and oil, the bride awards the ladies with little gifts. The little boy or girl seated next to either the bride or groom will then give each lady on finishing the rituals a betel nut and leaf.  The betel nut and leave is offered as a sign of respect toward that person for their blessings and prayers.With this now little gifts are generally given in the form of chocolates,bags and religious statues.
Once the Nelengu is completed, the final prayer done by the mother will done to bride and groom and then a lunch  or supper will be  served to all of guests before the family prepares for the next ceremony.If it is the evening Nelengu the night continues with lots of feasting,dancing and celebrating.

What is needed in Nelengu ?

All the items used to perform this ceremony have a specific purpose.
  • The Manjal (turmeric) that is ground and used has anti-septic and anti-flammatory properties and is used as part of the cleansing.
  • The Green Moong that is crushed acts as an exfoliation agent.
  • The oils that are used to provide scent, lubricate the skin and massage the body and joints.
  • The dough is used to apply pressure to the various joints to relax the body.
  • Sandalwood is used to beautify and give fragrance.

My brother opted for the early morning ritual as he wanted to party the night before.We had to carry lots of the items for the ritual with us to Mauritius.The hotel staff however where very helpful in the wedding preparations and no request was too big ,including Mum asking for two banana trees outside in the veranda.At 6am on the morning of the wedding we all gathered outside my mum and gran’s ground floor room for this ritual and by some miracle at some point in the night the banana trees arrived..We all dressed up in Indian traditional clothing.My brother had to wear a white shorts and tshirt while his bride Levina donned a yellow sari.The clothing from this ritual is not kept but given away almost like exiting the old life before entering the couples new roles.

In the balcony with the beach infront of us we set up a lil stage for the Nelengu to take place.My aunt the creative genius carried with her Rangoli stencils and did some patterns with coloured rice flower.I decorated the area with tea light candles and local fresh flowers that I cut from the hotel garden with permission and from their bowls of floating flowers.

It was rather emotional doing this ritual as we all missed my dad.So a mixture of tumeric and oils were applied to both the bride and groom and prayers offered for their new life journey.My mum and gran were not permitted to this as they both are widows.I found this rather sad having them both not partake in this wedding ritual.All married and single women are allowed to apply the paste onto the bridal couple.After each lady finishes she is given a gift be it sweets or a token to say thank you.The guys didn’t want to be left out and joined in the ceremony.And while the ritual was going on we saw the most beautiful sunrise.

Even though it was so early in the morning there were several onlookers all keen to have a look at the Indian wedding taking place.My brother the King of Drama decided he needed a swim in the ocean before going to his room to shower.After the rituals the bridal couple were sent to their own rooms to shower , rest and prepare themselves for the biggest day of their lives.The amazing staff at the hotel even prepared  a special vegetarian breakfast for them as room service.

More recently we attended the Nelengu of Prenessa ,the daughter of very close family friends.She too had three Nelengu ceromonies.The early morning one at the family home was an intimate affair with family and the brides friends.

The nelengu was set up outside by the pool and it was such a beautiful morning.The bright colours just popped.The friends of the bride from all different cultural groups were bedecked in beautiful Indian outfits.They girls are participated in the rituals guided by one of the aunties.The beaming bride looked beautiful and really enjoyed the rituals.After everything was done ,it was time for an Indian High Chai experience for breakfast.The tables groaned under the weight of so many delicious sweet and savoury treats.And then it was time to go and prepare for the second Nelengu.



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