North Indian marriage customs are like fine wine!
Elaborate, intricate and beautiful, a North Indian marriage is a celebration of all the wonderful things in life – families, friends, food, culture, religion, emotions and most importantly joy de verve! Unlike western marriages, North Indian marriage customs are elaborate and provide plenty of excuses to amp up the celebration quotient!
The sheer sensory overload of a big fat Indian wedding ceremony might overwhelm you if you haven’t grown up in India or if you haven’t attended one before. But no matter where you are from, you can’t stop yourself from being sucked into the festivities!
North Indian marriage customs have come a long way from the Swayamvarams depicted in mythologies to today’s intercultural weddings! But the more they evolved, the more they stay the same!
This is an extract from the book “Marriage Ceremonies in Ancient India” by Johann Jacob Meyer:
“The Mahabharata (V, 72) relates how the marriage of Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu with Uttara, the daughter of King Virata, was solemnised with great splendour. Conches were blown, drums were beaten and trumpets sounded. All sorts of animals were slaughtered by the hundreds, and many types of liquor were drunk in great quantities.”
Seems like Abhimanyu had a Punjabi wedding for sure! Like a fine wine, North Indian marriage customs and traditions have aged well.
Jodi Logik Minions decided that the best way to give you a glimpse of the big, fat North Indian marriage customs and rituals would be to give a photo tour.
North Indian Marriage Customs
Marriages in north India are colorful, with lavish decoration and food that will make you forget your daily grind.
Once the couple and their families decide to move forward with the wedding, the first ceremony off the block is the Sagai or the engagement ceremony. The bride and the groom exchange a ring followed by merry making in the company of friends and family.
Here is an elaborate explanation:
Sagai is traditionally held at the bridegroom’s home where the family members and friends of both the bride and the bridegroom are invited for the ceremony. The bride’s family visits the bridegroom’s family with lots of immaculately wrapped traditional gifts, sweets and dry fruits, and tikka material to perform the ritual of Sagai/Kurmai/Mangni. Nowadays, the tikka ceremony has been combined with the Sagai ceremony. The tikka material that the bride’s family carries to the bridegroom’s home consists of a silver tray with a few grains of rice on it, a silver bowl containing some saffron, 14 chuharey (dried dates) nicely wrapped in a silver foil and a coconut covered in a golden leaf.
On the day before the wedding, a mehndi ceremony is arranged where the bride and her sisters and aunts apply henna on their hands and feet. Beautiful intricate designs are drawn on the bride’s palms, extending to her elbows. The mehndi ceremony is probably one of the most beautiful North Indian marriage customs and you can check out more about it here.
It is said that the redder the henna is on the bride’s hands and feet, the stronger her bond will be with her husband. In fact, there is a slew of other interesting tidbits about the significance of bridal mehndi in North Indian weddings.
Music is an important part of any Indian wedding ceremony. Even at the groom’s house, the family gathers for a sangeet ceremony, with a lot of dancing and singing. The families unleash a mood of festive happiness all around.
On the morning of the wedding, a haldi ceremony takes place. The groom and the bride are liberally coated with turmeric paste at their respective homes. Close friends and family members gather to apply haldi. Here is a detailed explanation of the significance of the haldi ceremony:
“With its medicinal properties, haldi was (and still is) nature’s best gift to mankind. With its antiseptic qualities, haldi acts as the protective shield for the bride/groom from cuts, bruises, and any other seasonal ailments. Application of haldi also infuses a natural sheen and glow to the skin, readying the bride/groom for their wedding celebrations ahead.”
The actual wedding begins in the evening. The dulha (groom) arrives along with his baarat, seated on a female horse, his face hidden behind a sehra. The groom’s family arrives at the bride’s house dancing in the midst of crackers and music. Wealthy families are known to hire elephants and chariots as well.
If we declare that the atmosphere is grand and festive, we will probably be making the understatement of the year! Most North Indian families hire a brass band and the fashion-conscious families bring in a DJ to keep the festivities in high gear! This is one ritual where everyone has a license to drink and dance!
At the end of the baraat, they are met by the bride’s family. The bride’s mother does an aarti of the groom, where tilak is applied on his forehead.
The wedding ceremony begins with the groom on the stage along with the priest. The bride then arrives with her cousins, all decked in a beautiful saree and gold jewellery. Her head is covered in a ghunghat as she sits beside the groom.
The bride and groom exchange garlands with each other in the Jaimala ceremony. In some marriages, the groom’s family lifts him up high on their shoulders to make it difficult for the bride to place the garland. The bride’s brothers then lift her up too and then its game on! Any excuse to have fun is gladly accepted in North Indian marriages.
Then comes the solemn rituals associated with North Indian wedding customs. The first major ritual off the block is the Kanyadan ceremony. In short, the bride’s father gives away his daughter to her husband for them to begin a new life. Here is a detailed explanation of the significance of Kanyadan.
Kanyadaan literally translates to “gifting the girl” to the bridegroom. As a symbol of acceptance, the bridegroom touches the right shoulder of the bride, promising to take care of her and holding her responsibility.”
The satphere is the next important ritual after the kanyadaan. The groom and the bride walk around the sacred fire seven times.
Each round or phera has a significant meaning and is accompanied by the chanting of Vedic rituals. The first step is to respect and honour towards each other, the second for strength to weather their problems together, the third for prosperity for their household, the fourth for wisdom, the fifth for children, the sixth for health, and the seventh for affection and a lasting companionship.
The groom ties the mangal sutra on the girl’s neck and applies sindoor to her forehead. This is when the marriage is complete and the bride and groom now become husband and wife!
Finally, the marriage ends with a ceremonial send-off for the bride. Called Vidai, this an emotionally charged ritual as this is seen as a final goodbye from the bride’s family as she is now officially a member of another family. Who said north Indian wedding customs are all fun and frolic. There is an element of melodrama as well to cap off the festivities.
If you think we missed out on more interesting north Indian wedding customs, use the comments section below to add your thoughts.
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