The Indian Wedding is a complex schedule of many rituals that takes place days – and even weeks – before the wedding! What are these ceremonies, when should the preparations begin, and how should they be celebrated? Here’s an outline of what to expect at a traditional Indian wedding.
BEOFRE THE WEDDING:
The Tarik Ceremony is one of the most flexible rituals when it comes to Indian wedding ceremonies. Traditionally, it takes place a month before the wedding date, but modern day convenience has made it easier to schedule and perform this ritual. Today, this can be performed according to tradition or in the days before the wedding. In this Indian wedding ceremony, the groom’s offer of marriage is officially accepted by the bride’s family. Male members of the family present the groom with gifts and adorn his forehead with kum kum powder.
A traditional Indian wedding celebration lasts at least three days. On the first night, both the groom and the bride’s families gather at home for the Ganesh Pooja. This is an informal and intimate get-together of close relatives where the families can get to know each other.
The following day, the women will gather for Mehndi, or henna preparations. Henna is a very sacred part of an Indian wedding. Because it takes about 8 hours to dry, this art is painted onto the women’s skin in the morning and is allowed to set for the rest of the day. Typically, a professional is hired to paint the hands and feet of the bride and her female friends and family.
The second night is reserved for the sangeet ceremony. By this time, the henna should be dried, and the bride and groom, their families and friends, and even some of the wedding guests are invited to mingle and enjoy a meal. Typically during this party, the bride and groom’s close friends and relatives perform traditional dances for the couple.
The third day is the formal wedding, where the bride and groom will be declared married. The morning of the ceremony, the mandap is constructed using four pillars. These pillars each represent one of the four parents. Once construction is complete, the groom and his soon-to-be mother-in-law meet there before the ceremony where she’ll wash his feet and offer him milk and honey. While his feet are being washed, the bride’s sister tries to steal his shoes. If she succeeds, the groom must pay her to get them back! They then depart for photos and to finish getting ready.
The ceremony begins with the baraat, or the groom’s arrival. He arrives to the ceremony on a decorated white horse, circled by singing and dancing family members and friends. Once he descends, he is greeted by the bride’s parents and family and is presented with gifts. The elders then escort the groom to the mandap in a processional called var puja. There, he is expected to remove his shoes before being seated. The bride makes her entrance, escorted down the aisle by her uncle. When she reaches the mandap, the bride and groom each place a floral garland around the other’s neck to show their acceptance for one another.
The priest – called a pandit – bride, groom, and bride’s parents are seated under the mandap with a ceremonial fire pit placed in the center. Fire is an important aspect in the Indian wedding because Agni – the god of fire – is said to give life. By lighting a fire, you are asking Agni to provide your marriage with a long life. The bride and groom then proceed with the mangalpherawhich is a ceremonious walk around the fire. They must circle the fire pit four times, each representing a major goal in their marriage – dharma (morality), artha (prosperity), kama (personal gratification), and moksha (spirituality). They may be joined together by string or tied scarves as they walk, though this custom is optional. The pandit chants verses as they proceed that officially tie them together in the eyes of the gods. After their fourth cycle, they are officially married and must race to their seats. It’s said that whoever sits first is the most dominant in the marriage! Next, the groom places red kum kum powder on the bride’s forehead and adorns her with a mangalsutra. a necklace made of black and gold beads. If the couple decides that they want to incorporate western traditions, this is where they would exchange wedding bands.
I had the most amazing time getting to witness and watch the three days of rituals. Family and friends surrounded the bride and groom in vivid colourful garments and presented gifts and well wishes. This was a wedding I was very excited about and it did not disappoint. This wedding was definitely one for the books!