Wedded to Traditions
In India, weddings are a lavish affair, but Marwari weddings are famous for taking them to another level altogether. Marwari weddings are typified by outrageous splurges and unbridled festivity, but what makes them truly one of a kind are the seemingly never-ending customs and rituals, with each and every one of them weaving in its own allure to give the wedding a deeper meaning and connect—usually with the aim of delicately preparing the couple for their life ahead.
We bring you some of the rituals that typify Marwari weddings.
Before the wedding
The pre-wedding celebrations start with the Mudha-Tikka, or the more commonly known Sagaai ceremony. This is the engagement ceremony that is hosted at the groom’s house, with the male members of the bride and the groom’s families in attendance. The women of the two families generally do not participate in this ceremony. The occasion sees the bride’s brother sealing the betrothal by applying a tilak of kumkum and rice on the groom’s forehead. Doing this signifies a customary acceptance of the match on both sides. Nowadays, quite a few couples are taking it upon themselves to exchange engagement rings instead during this ceremony.
The wedding rituals formally commence with the Ganapati Sthapana ceremony that takes place two days before the wedding. An idol of Lord Ganesha is installed in both the bride and the groom’s respective houses,and the family members offer prayers to the god, asking him to bless the couple’s union. Another important ceremony is the Griha Shanti puja, which sees the two families getting their family priests to perform a havan in their respective homes. This is done to appease the grahas or planets and seek their blessings for the couple and their families. Offerings are also made to the consecrated fire during the havan.
The Pithi Dastoor, or the Haldi ceremony, comes next. Here, family members apply pithi (a paste of turmeric and sandalwood, with gram flour being also added sometimes) on the face, hands and feet of the bride and the groom in their respective houses. All this takes place to the accompaniment of traditional Marwari wedding songs and beating of the dhol. After the completion of this ceremony, the bride and the groom are not allowed to leave their houses, until the day of the wedding. Another joyous affair is the Mehndi ceremony, wherein mehndi is applied to the hands and feet of the bride.
The Mehfil or Sangeet—an evening of song, dance and good cheer—is organised in the days preceding the wedding. This is an occasion for the men and women in the family to enjoy themselves, with the bride taking centre stage, as she is ceremonially ushered into the event and offered a special seat. The festivities are usually arranged separately for men and women.
Next in line is the Mahira Dastoor. Here, the maternal uncle of both the bride and groom arrives at their homes to distribute gifts and cash among the entire family. The respective mothers of the bride and groom warmly welcome their brother and his family into their respective homes on the occasion and treat him to a delicious, home-cooked meal. This ceremony stems from the belief that a brother should help his sister financially during important events in her family like weddings, where the expenditure is huge.The Janev takes places on the eve of the wedding. For this ceremony, the groom dresses in saffron-coloured clothes and performs a havan or a puja under the guidance of a priest. Upon completion of the havan, he is given a sacred thread called janev to wear by the priest. Performing this ritual symbolises the groom’s acceptance of the responsibilities of married life and his move from the brahmacharya ashrama into the second stage of life—the grihastha ashrama.
For the Palla Dastoor ceremony that follows, the groom’s parents and a few of his relatives visit the bride’s house. They present several gifts to the bride, including jewellery, clothes, cosmetics and accessories. Most of these are meant for her to wear or use on the main day of the wedding. The gifts are displayed in the bride’s home for viewing by friends and relatives.
The wedding day arrives
By now, it is time for the Korath, a ritual wherein the male elders from the bride’s family and their priest visit the groom’sside to invite them for the wedding. After they receive this symbolic welcome, the baraat (wedding procession comprising the groom’s family and friends) begins its journey. But before the groom and his party depart for the wedding venue, the Nikasi ceremony is conducted. In this, the husband of the groom’s sister (brother-in-law) ties an elaborate headgear, or pagdi, on the groom’s head. This pagdi is adorned with zari and strings of pearls or flowers, or sehra, that covers the groom’s face. The wife of the groom’s brother (sister-in-law) then applies a dot of kajal on the groom’s face to ward off evil. Later, the sister of the groom ties a golden thread on the mare that the groom is going to ride on his way to the wedding venue. The groom mounts the mare, and as he begins the journey, he is accompanied by the baraat. The baraatis usually dance enthusiastically to the accompaniment of a musical band as they proceed.
Upon reaching the entrance of the venue, the groom and his entourage are welcomed by the bride’s family, friends and relatives. Before entering, the groom is supposed to touch an elaborate toran— which is hung or sometimes, is held by somebody from the bride’s side at the entrance—with a big neem branch. This is done to ward off all possible negative energies before the couple unites in holy matrimony. The Baraat Dhukav ceremony that follows sees the mother of the bride performing an aarti of the groom and offering him sweets and water. The groom is then invited inside the venue.
The bride then makes her entry and proceeds to a stage where the groom is waiting for her. Upon reaching the stage, the bride ceremoniously puts seven suhalis—a type of snack—on the head of the groom. The Varmala ceremony that follows sees the bride and the groom exchanging garlands, made with flowers and leaves strung together. This ritual represents the couple’s acceptance of each other in their lives. The bride and groom then proceed to the wedding mandap for Granthi Bandhan. Here, the bride’s dupatta is tied to the groom’s shawl in the form of a knot, signifying the union of two souls.
The Kanyadaan ceremony comes next wherein the father of the bride gives her away to the groom. The bride’s father does this while asking the groom to take responsibility of his beloved daughter. He also mentions his entire genealogy, thereby representing the wishes of his forefathers for the bride’s happiness in matrimony.
Thereafter, at the Saptapadi ceremony, the bride and groom take seven steps together, signifying the start of their journey together as wife and husband. And then comes the special moment when the Sindoor Daan ceremony is performed. The sister of the bride gently parts the bride’s hair so that the groom may fill the bride’s central hair parting with vermilion or sindoor. The groom’s mother then presents to the bride a nath (or nose ring) that the bride is supposed to wear once the havan concludes.
This is followed by the Paharavani ritual, where the bride’s family makes the groom sit and showers gifts on him. They also gift the groom’s father a type of utensil called a kachola, crafted from silver. The bride then pays her respects to her paternal home by performing a puja for its well-being.
The bride proceeds to her new home
It is time now for the Bidaai ceremony that sees the bride bidding a fond farewell to her paternal home and leaving for her husband’s home. For this, the newly-weds are escorted ceremoniously to the exit of the wedding venue, where a car awaits to ferry them. As her family bids her an emotional goodbye, the teary-eyed bride takes her leave of them to go and live in her new home. Before the newly-wedsdepart, a coconut is placed beneath the wheel of the car. As the couple start their journey, the wheel of their car crushes the coconut, signifying a good start.
Upon arrival at the groom’s house, the newly-weds receive a warm welcome. For the Griha Pravesh ceremony, the groom’s mother performs an aarti of the bride. She then welcomes her into the house by asking her to put her right foot over the threshold, into a thali full of a milk-and-vermillion mixture. Thereafter, the bride is asked to take five steps in the house with her coloured feet and kick over a kalash (a pot with a large base and a small mouth) filled with rice and a coin, which indicates that she is a bringer of fertility and wealth to her husband’s home.
Next up is the Pagelagni ritual wherein the bride is formally introduced to the groom’s family. The elders in the family bless the bride and a puja is performed for her. In the Mooh Dikhai ceremony that follows, an elderly female member of the groom’s family lifts the veil from the bride’s face, to see her face. Thereafter, the members of the groom’s extended family come forward to bless the bride and present token gifts to her. The bride’s mother-in-law gifts her chooda, a set of beautiful bangles crafted from lac and ivory.
All the customs and rituals done, the couple embarks upon life’s long journey together, to explore what the future holds for them.