A Vessel Full Of Customs: Indian Weddings
India is a massive country. With its size comes the usual changes in language, food, and traditions. As each state changes, the customs they follow differ too. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that wedding rituals also vary from state to state in the same country. That said, each place has long held on the ancient cultures which have given a somewhat consistency to the nuptials. For instance, everywhere, the bride says goodbye to her parents in the ritual of Vidaai.
But with these traditions being followed over several centuries, the real meaning behind them has been lost. Even fewer are aware of all the auspicious ceremonies that need to be fulfilled. In that spirit, today, we explore some of the traditions of an Indian wedding. Before beginning, we’d like to clarify – there are too many customs to list them all. Therefore, we have delved into the most common ones only.
The Two M’s Of Indian Weddings: Misri And Mehendi
The concept of engagement parties is not ours. We adapted it from the west. In lieu of engagement, the ritual that occurred was called Misri. In some places, it is still upheld. The first ceremony to be conducted in a traditional Indian wedding, it happens a few days or weeks before the D-Day.
During Misri, the couple-to-be exchange gold rings and garlands made of flowers. A few prayers were said, and the family of the groom gifted the bride misri along with other items. Misri is rock sugar, personifying the sweetness the bride would bring with her.
Mehendi is one custom that almost every person knows. It is now so popular that applying henna on hands has become common even in the western world. Originally, the ceremony was attended only by females and that too close relatives of the bride. A day before the wedding, intricate patterns were applied on the hands and the feet of the girl.
The henna was initially part of the adornment of the bride. This is before bridal beauty packages, and bridal makeup artists were available. It is believed that the deeper the shade of the mehendi, the deeper the bond between the couple.
Sometimes the ritual of mehendi is preceded by Godh-Bharai, where the female members of the groom’s family shower the bride with gifts and adorn her with flowers.
The Mandap And The Laja Homa: Diving Deeper Into Rituals
The concept of marriage hall is new. Surprising as it may be, the actual wedding ceremony took place in the home the bride was born. Why did the concept change? Because planning a wedding in a marriage hall is easy and stress-free. Another notion that is only some decades old is inviting everyone known to the ceremony. Initially, only close family members were present during the Pheras.
This brings us to the Mandap at the wedding venue, the crucial or focal point of the ceremony. The mandap is the area where the bride and the groom take the seven vows while walking around a sacred fire. The structure is made of four pillars and has a canopy overhead. Customarily, the mandap is decorated with flowers, mango, and banana leaves along with bright colours.
The last age-old ritual that we discuss here is the Laja Homa. This ceremony takes place during the pheras. The brother of the bride pours puffed rice into the hands of the girl. The bride’s hands are cupped, from below, by the groom. Together, they pour the puffed rice into the Agni, i.e., the sacred fire. The ritual is a way of worshiping the ancestors and gods above.
Weddings in India are as sophisticated as they are profound. Understanding them in their entirety can take years of study. Our hope with this short write-up was to give brides and groom gearing up for the day a glimpse of what goes into marriage rituals.