Weddings are big affair in India; a land of multiple religious sects, culture and rituals, Indian weddings bond family. Every region will have different rituals which are unique in nature but the essence remains the same; they bond the family. We talk about some of the unique wedding rituals of India in this story.
WORDS: SANGEETA S
Indian weddings are the occasions when the entire family comes together and enjoys the fun. It is usually 3-4 days occasion where the atmosphere is culturally and emotionally charged. Rituals have a big role to play in bringing the family together. Every ritual has its own relevance and adds meaning to the ceremony.
Indians believe in astrology and usually weddings are fixed based on the astronomical charts of the bride and the groom. Though not all follow this norm but generally this is done and even the wedding date is fixed based on the charts.
If we talk about the unique rituals, there is a ritual done by Hindus where the bride is married to a tree. It is believed that a woman born under certain astrological combination is cursed and can cause death of her husband.
In such cases she is first married to a tree which is later destroyed to break the curse. Though many may find the ritual strange but the faith is strong and that keeps the rituals alive.
Kashmiri wedding is called Lagan. In the Kashmiri wedding, when the bride is brought to the mandap the bride and the groom are made to sit together and a cover is put around their heads. A large mirror is placed inside the cover and the couple is supposed to see each other for the first time in the mirror.
A unique custom seen in Rajasthani wedding is that the father-in-law drops a money bag on to the bride’s lap. This signifies that the bride is given the responsibility to take charge of the finances of her new household.
She then gives some of the money to the groom’s sister and some to her husband. This ceremony is called Aanjhala Bharaaj.
In Gujarati weddings the mother-in-law first welcomes the groom by doing traditional aarti and then playfully pulls his nose. This is called Ponkvu or Ponkhana and in a playful way the groom is reminded that since he has come to marry the daughter he should learn to be grateful and humble.
During Grihpravesh of the bride in her new home the bride has to keep earthen pots on her head given by her mother-in-law. With all the pots on her head she is supposed to bow down to take blessing of the elders. The number of pots she manages indicates her ability to maintain balance in the family.
Paunpooji is a pre-wedding ritual, which is seen in Bihar. This is basically seeking of the blessings of ancestors and the elders of the family. This ritual takes place in both the bride as well as the groom’s house. The parents of the bride and the groom present money and clothes to the elders of the family.
Another special feature of Bihar wedding is the ritual of Imli Ghutai. It is believed to protect against the Burinazar evil eye. This again takes place at the bride as well as the groom’s place. Here the maternal uncle i.e. mama, has a very important role to play. He gives a betel nut or a mango tree leaf to the girl/boy to hold between the teeth. The mother is then supposed to eat that betel nut/mango tree leaf.
They have a ritual where just before the wedding the groom refuses to get married. He gets scared and decides to follow asceticism and runs away. The father of the bride then tries to convince him with the help of unusual things like umbrella, hand-fans, sandals etc. This is called Kasi Yaatrai where the father makes him understand the importance of marriage.
In Odisha weddings the hands of the bride and the groom are tied together on top of a water pot. This is called Hastaghanti. The bride’s sister gets the privilege of opening this knot. This is a fun ritual where the she demands gifts from the groom’s family for the untying the knot.
Sala Bidha is another fun ritual observed in Odisha weddings. In this the girl’s brother gets to punch the groom on his back.
Kerala Nair weddings are a very simple affair with very few rituals.
Their mehndi function is different in the sense that here it is the privilege of the bride’s aunt to apply mehndi on the bride’s hands and feet. Of course these days the aunt starts the mehndi and then the professional artists take over.
The Kerala Nairs follow a ritual where the groom gifts a saree to the bride. This implies that he would be providing for her forever. This ceremony is called Pudamuri.
Kudivep is the ritual where the bride holds a traditional lamp in her hand as she enters her husband’s house. This is the Griha Pravesh of the new bride.
In Maharashtrian weddings when the groom takes his place in the Mandap an Antarpat i.e., a curtain restricts him from viewing the bride who takes her place in front of him. The Antarpat is pulled out at the auspicious moment and then the garland is exchanged between the bride and the groom. The bride is also given a new name by the groom.
Also there is a custom where the brother of the bride twists the groom’s ear. It is like a warning to him to take care of his sister.
Traditionally, on the afternoon or the night prior to the wedding night, the bride enjoys a feast which marks her last meal as a spinster. The meal mainly includes rice, fish and other vegetables. This ritual is called Aiburobhat. Similar ritual takes place at the groom’s side also.
The bride is carried to the mandap by 4 or 5 young men of the family, on a wooden platform, called piri. She holds betel leaves in front of her face so that her face cannot be seen. She is taken around the groom seven times, like this. This is Saat Paak. Thereafter when the bride and the groom are in front of each other, the bride removes the betel leaves to reveal her face to the groom. The two of them then look at each other. This is called Subho Drishti.
There are rituals to ward off the evil eye in almost all communities. The Sindhis also do it in a different way. The ritual is called Saanth where an anklet is tied on the right foot of the bride and groom by a priest. Members of the family especially married women pour oil on their head and then the bride and the groom are supposed to wear a new shoe and break the earthen pot. It is a unique ritual where later the groom’s relatives tear off his clothes to ward off evil eye.
A Taki fish is released in a pond by a woman from groom and as well as the bride’s side. If the fishes move side by side in the river it is considered a good omen. Some places the fishes are released by the bride and the groom.
India is a country with huge tribal population too. The wedding custom and rituals they follow are different and unique. In a town called Sarsaul the groom and the relatives are welcomed tomatoes and potatoes instead of flowers. Even abuses are used with the belief that a relationship that begins on a bad note always culminates in love.
Abduction is also used as a ritual in some ancient tribes where the man abducts the woman and keeps her hidden for a year after which wedding rituals are carried out with the consent of the bride’s family.
All these unusual rituals have a meaning. They keep us connected to the roots and also help in bonding the family.