Wedding in India is a very bright and the most important & colourful event in one’s life. This event is spread over many days marked by rituals and celebrations. So, an Indian wedding is not just a matter of one day but a big affair.
In India, wedding is not only about tying a couple in a sacred knot, but, two families (bride’s family and groom’s family) get wedded socially.
Many customs are followed before, during and even after wedding. These customs differ according to the different states, religions, castes and cultures. In India, marriage is an event of merry making, having fun, full of music, songs, colours and sweets.
An example of the different colours of an Indian wedding can be seen from the various phases of a wedding in the North. The following events take place in a typical North Indian Punjabi marriage:
Roka: (End of search)
As soon as the boy and the girl agree to wed by liking each other, the ‘roka’ ceremony is held, which means that they have found their soul mate and will look no further for a life partner. One day is decided, on which the boy and the girl exchanges rings. These rings are worn especially in the ring finger (next to baby finger), as it is said that the vein of this finger goes directly to the heart!! The function is marked by singing, dancing and much more. The girl also receives jewellery and new clothes from her would-be mother-in-law.
Byah hath: (Starting the work of marriage)
As an Indian wedding is a big affair, so, the load of work must be started several days before the marriage. The ‘byah hath’ ceremony is performed individually at the bride’s and groom’s house to announce that the marriage work has begun. This ceremony is performed usually 13 days before the actual day of wedding by seven ‘suhagan’ (whose husbands are alive) ladies. Gur (jaggery) and paste of pulse are distributed among them. They give blessings to the boy/girl for their married life.
Halad hath: (Application of turmeric)
This ceremony is performed 5 or 6 days before wedding. ‘Ubtan’ (paste of turmeric, gram flour, sandalwood, mustard seeds etc.) is applied to the boy/girl’s body by their friends and relatives. This ‘ubtan’ is meant to bring a lust in the skin and thus, preparing them for the memorable day of their life.
This is performed 2-3 days before the marriage day.This is a ceremony in which suhagan ladies apply the mixture of curd, mustard oil, sindoor and turmeric to the boy/girl in upward direction i.e. touching the feet, then knees, shoulders and then forehead.
The second phase of ‘bannas’ are performed on the second day of marriage. The male members of the family perform the similar ceremony, but, this time in downward direction i.e. touching their forehead, shoulders, knees and their feet.
Sangeet: (Dance & Music)
Sangeet ceremony as the name suggests is all about dance and music.It is normally done before one day of marriage.
Ceremonies performed at bride’s house:
Mehandi or henna paste is applied to the bride’s hand before a day of marriage. This adds to the beauty of the bride.
- Chuda ceremony
The bride’s mama (maternal uncle) gifts her ‘chuda’(red & cream ivory bangles). The girl’s friends, sisters and her maternal aunt(mami) adorn her wrist with these bangles. After this, the bride gets ready for marriage wearing her bridal outfit and jewellery.
Ceremonies performed at groom’s house:
- Sehra bandi: (Tying the traditional headdress on the groom)
At groom’s house, sehra bandi ceremony is performed in which the boy wears a kind of turban.
- Ghodi chadna: (Riding the mare)
In most Punjabi weddings, the groom travels to the bride’s home mounted on a well decorated mare. Before getting on it, the groom’s sister offers jaggery to the mare and demands a gift from her brother that is termed as ’shagun’.
The groom’s sister-in-law applies ‘kajal’ in the groom’s eyes, before he departs for the bride’s home. This is done to save him from the evil eye. Now, the barat(procession) sets for the bride’s house with lots of noise, fun and merry making.
The venue of marriage
When groom’s side arrives at the bride’s house, they are welcomed by the bride’s family. Many ceremonies are performed like:
Milani: ( Meeting of the two families)
This ceremony indicates the mingling of two families. Groom’s family members and bride’s family members hug each other. Bride’s family members offer them some gifts as a token of their warm relationship.
After ‘Milani’, the bride’s sisters and friends welcome the groom and his friends. This ceremony is full of enjoyment as both the parties tease each other. Bride’s party let the groom’s party in only after the groom cuts the ribbon and offers them some gift (can be in the form of money).
After this, both bride and groom put ‘Varmala’ (garland of flowers) around each other and receive the blessings of the elder ones.
‘Saat phere’ (seven rounds around the sacred wedding altar) is the chiefest ceremony of wedding. These ‘saat phere’ associated with seven promises on the part of both ( bride and groom) tie them in the sacred knot of marriage.
Bidayi & Doli: (Girl’s departure from her house)
As the bride gets knotted to her husband, time comes to leave her maternal home. This is a moment full of emotions. Stepping into a new life, she leaves her ‘babul ka ghar’ (Father’s house) with moistening eyes.
After the bride comes to her husband’s house, she is welcomed there. There are some rituals, which are performed only at the groom’s house:
As the bride enters the house, the mother of the groom performs traditional ‘aarti’ with a pitcher of water. This means that she would take up all the sufferings of her son’s life. Her son stops her from drinking the water in the seventh attempt.
After this, the newly wedded couple takes the blessings of the ancestors and elder ones.
Munh Dikhayi: (Introducing the bride to her husband’s family)
After this, all the relatives of the groom’s family see the face of the beautiful bride and give her gifts.
This is a ceremonious game played between the bride and the groom. Both have to find a coin that is put into the milk mixed water. Whosoever finds it first, wins. It is said that the winner of this game dominates in the married life!!
Phera Dalna: (Visiting the bride’s maternal house)
On the next day of marriage, the newly wedded couple visits the bride’s house. Finally, the bride’s parents see them off with lots of blessing and gifts.
So, this is an Indian wedding which spreads over many days and is indeed the most important day of one’s life.