Binding love with diversity: a glimpse of Indian marriages

Marriages are made in heaven- that’s what we usually hear. In India, this thought has found expression in the form of wedding rituals. India, as a nation, is filled with diverse cultures and traditions. The uniqueness of each one of these cultures and their matrimonial rites emphasize nothing else but one thought, how new doors to heaven can be created if we decide to celebrate diversity with happiness, warmth, and love.

So, here’s a short glimpse of wedding rituals from some of India’s cultures that make the nation’s diversity vibrant and alive.

  • Bengali Wedding: The color red, betel leaves, a big, white crown, and exquisite makeup adorning the couple are signs of this beautiful ceremony. At the beginning of the wedding, the groom is made to wear a white crown. This rite is followed by “Saat Patak” (a fun ritual where the bride is made to sit on a pidi (plank) and is carried by her brothers while she hides her face behind betel leaves. The pidi is then circled around the groom seven times, symbolizing the couple’s tie for the 7 subsequent births. The bride, after “Saat Patak,” slowly sheds the betel leaves to reveal her face to the groom, amidst the people present. This rite symbolizes their acceptance of each other as one couple. Following this, the young couple’s eyes are allowed to speak while exchanging the garlands three times. The bride, after the garland exchange, is made to sit next to the groom, as the Kanyadaan takes place, wherein her father sacrifices his rights over his daughter only for her to become a wife, who now belongs solely to the groom. The holy fire is ignited in front of them while the couple, along with the priest, chants divine mantras.  Following the mantras, both the partners circle around the sacred fire seven times, promising each other vows to secure their love with togetherness and loyalty. This ritual is called “Saptapadi.”  The following rite after “Saptapadi” is called “Anjali,” where the couple offers puffed rice to the divine fire. The entire ceremony ends with the “Sindoor Dhaan,” where the groom declares the bride his wife after applying the red vermilion on her forehead as a mark of their matrimony.
  • Punjabi Wedding: Punjab is yet another Indian state recognized for its colorful amalgamation of festivities with wedding celebrations. In a Punjabi wedding, the bride usually wears an ethnically woven salwar suit and lehenga, which she accessorizes with a set of 21 bangles, a Maang Tika (an accessory which is worn on the parting of the hair), heavy “Churas(bangles), gold anklets, and a red and gold colored Odhna (a long scarf used to cover the head). Heavy and chunky gold jewelry worn by the bride is the main highlight of a pompous and grand Punjabi wedding. Groom’s attire includes Sherwanis (an ethnic Indian coat) or formal silk suits, which are brocaded with delicate zari work (a traditional form of embroidery done using silver or gold color threads). The groom accessorizes his outfit with an exquisitely designed turban, studded with a precious stone in the middle of the front part.  The wedding ceremony begins with “Roka,” which is a ritual for the couple’s engagement. This rite is followed by “Haldi,” where the bride and groom’s bodies are smeared with the yellow turmeric paste. The next ritual is “Mehendi,” in which the bride, the ladies of the extended family, and close family friends make intricate Henna designs on their hands and feet. This ceremony isfollowed by the “Sangeet,” where members from both families join in to tap their feet for the dance performances. The actual wedding begins with the “Kanyadaan,” where the bride’s father passes on his rights over his daughter to her husband. This ritual is then followed by the “Saath Phere,” where the young couple circle around the holy fire seven times. The wedding ends with the “Sindhoor Dhan,” where the groom applies vermilion on the bride’s hair parting.  After the final ritual, the bride’s family bids her a teary farewell with the wishes of a bright future, so she can start her new life in the groom’s house.
  • Kerala Wedding: Kerala, because of its enchanting beaches, coconut trees, and lush green mountains, is famously called “God’s Own Country” or “Land of Coconut Trees.” the A traditional Kerala wedding, also called a Malayali wedding (due to the significant population of Malayalis in the state), starts with “Nischayam,” an engagement ceremony where the date of the marriage is fixed. This ritual is followed by the “Mehendi,” where beautiful Henna patterns are made on the hands and feet of the bride and the ladies of the extended family.  The actual wedding includes “Kanyadaan” and “Thalikattu.” Thali is the name given to the sacred thread that the groom ties around the bride’s neck like a necklace to mark their bond. The post-wedding ritual of Keralites includes the “Griha Pravesh,” where the bride lights up the place with an auspicious lamp upon visiting the groom’s home.
  • Gujarati Wedding: The Gujrati wedding starts with the exchange of “Jaimala (garland)” twice. Unlike other Indian marriages, the couple in a Gujarati marriage circle only four times around the sacred fire to denote righteousness, meaning, love, and liberation. These circles are called “Pheras.” The other rituals are the same as other Hindu weddings.
  • Assamese Wedding: Even though most of its rituals are similar to other Indian weddings, an Assamese wedding still holds a unique flavor of its own. Before the wedding, the groom’s mother visits the bride and gifts her betel leaves and an auspicious red thread, both of which the bride takes to the wedding venue. This ritual is followed by the “Tel Diya,” where the groom’s mother bathes the bride in oil while the betel leaves are placed on top of her head. After bathing her daughter-in-law, she applies Sindoor (vermilion) on her forehead two days before the wedding. This rite is then followed by the usual marriage ceremonies of “Kanyadaan” and “Saath Pheras.”
  • Kashmiri Wedding: This Kashmiri wedding also includes the usual customs of other Hindu weddings like “Kanyadaan(passing on the rights from bride’s father to the groom),” “Saath Phere(circling around the fire),” “Yagna (lighting up the holy fire), and “Sindhoor Dhaan (application of vermilion on the bride’s hair parting). The only difference is how the bride’s and the groom’s parents greet each other before the wedding. For the greeting ceremony, both the families exchange Nutmeg as a sign of their friendship.

India is a land of diverse cultures. And therefore, there are many different kinds of matrimonial ceremonies. Which one out of the above did you find most interesting? Do let us know in the comments below.

About Writer: K. Niveditha is a Journalism graduate, who calls herself a writer because of the solace that she finds in the words while writes. Apart from seeking ways to make her words breathe on paper, she . loves to travel and read about diverse cultures of different places. She is particularly interested in the aspect of diversity that gets enriched because of the varied cultures and traditions.

Editor: Rachana Gupta

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