I recently got married. Whether that was a successful step for me or not, time will tell. However, I did get the opportunity to learn about the steps it takes to tie the knot from a brides’ point of view.
As many of you will know that finding the right person is complex, so is tying the knot in an Indian marriage. There are 7 ceremonies in completing a wedding. The 7 ceremonies are as follows:
- Chura/ Vatna
I will briefly describe all 7 so that if you ever see an Indian wedding or attend one, you’ll know what’s going on. I had the pleasure of experiencing all 7. Each event brought me closer in appreciating marriage not only for the wedding, but for the life I’ll be spending with someone special.
Once you’ve decided who you want to marry, you have to let him know too. Hence begins the first ceremony – Roka/Taka which basically means Stop. The two families meet for tea and exchange gifts. The brides’ family gives the groom a box of sweets and $101. The groom’s family gives the bride a jewelry set and a box of sweets.
Now it’s time to involve a priest who will be involved in some of these ceremonies. Firstly he checks both the bride and groom’s astrological charts to pick the date of the marriage. Note that Indians as I being one believe in a predetermined destiny and hence believe in astrology and numerology. You match personality and stars with the person you have chosen. The higher the number the “easier” your married life and more compatible will the two of you be. If charts don’t match or if the number is less than 13, you do not get married. Now of course this system is used for arranged marriages. I believe love marriages would go straight into wedding preparations.
- First Step - to respect and honor each step
- Second Step - to share each other's joy and sorrow
- Third Step - to trust and be loyal to each other
- Fourth Step - to cultivate appreciation for knowledge, values, sacrifice and service
- Fifth Step - to reconfirm their vow of purity, love family duties and spiritual growth
- Sixth Step - to follow principles of Dharma (righteousness)
- Seventh Step - to nurture an eternal bond of friendship and love
Once the date of the wedding is set, it is time to prepare for the wedding by booking a banquet hall photographer, videographer, invitation cards, clothes & jewelry. It’s time to book, buy, make and prepare for everything you want in your wedding.
One week before the wedding you now have the remaining ceremonies. The first one is the Sangeet, a Ladies get-together. It is a fun filled occasion and a time for singing and dancing to bhangra and pop music.
A day before the wedding and before lunch, Sagai takes place or more wildly known as the Engagement. The soon-to-be-couple are fiancé for one day. During this event the priest performs a havan, a small prayer and both the groom and bride receive gifts from their respective in-laws. Everyone eats lunch and we move on to the next ceremony as there are 2 more ceremonies prior to the wedding itself.
During the night we have a Mehndi (henna) function where professional beauticians are brought to the banquet hall to put henna on the bride’s hands and feet. The bride’s family members sing songs, get henna put on their hands, dance, eat and enjoy.
The morning of the wedding day the bride does not eat or shower before the end of the chura/vatna ceremony. The bride wears some old clothes as they are to be given to a servant/maid after this ceremony. The priest again performs a prayer. The bride’s eldest maternal aunt and uncle slip the chuda (a set of red and cream ivory bangles) onto her wrist. This is followed by iron bangles for good luck. Everyone then ties kiliras (silver, golden or gold plated traditional ornaments) onto the iron bangles on both of her wrists. All of the brides’ unwed girlfriends then sit in a row. The bride then taps her wrists together over her unwed female friends’ heads. The belief is that whoever gets a piece of kalira fallen on her head will be the next one to marry.
Afterwards, the bride gets vatna put on her by all the relatives; a paste of powdered turmeric and mustard oil. This makes the skin soft and glow for the wedding photos.
Finally the time has come to tie the knot. This event usually takes place after dinner. The groom and the bride welcome each other by placing a garland necklace on each other.
The bride can either stay in one outfit till the Vidaii or change her outfit for the actual ceremony. The ceremony takes place in a mandap around a fire pit. The priest performs a few rituals while the groom and bride are seated beside him. The bride sits on the right side. The two then walk clockwise around the fire 4 times for the 4 goals in life led by the bride to show that she will manage her new house. The fifth circle around the fire is done by seven steps which are the seven promises they make to each other. Afterwards they sit back down with the bride sitting on the groom’s left side this time to indicate she is married. The groom places a mangalsutra (black beaded necklace) around her neck and sindoor (red powder) on her head. They then take blessings from their parents.
Four Goals in Life
- Dharma: religious and moral duties
- Artha: prosperity
- Kama: earthly pleasures
- Moksha: spiritual salvation and liberation
The bride then changes her outfit to one she received from her in-laws. The Vidaii now takes place which means Leaving. All married women stand behind the bride with their dupatta out. The bride throws dried rice back to them three times. A woman is considered Laxmi goddess of prosperity and wealth so when she’s leaving her maiden home she leaves behind prosperity as well.
These are the seven ceremonies to a traditional Indian wedding. Due to the fact that it can be a long process, modern wedding usually just involves Sagai, Mehndi, Chura, Marriage and Vidaii. Both the groom and bride have their bachelorette and bachelor parties the westernized way. I personally like the traditional marriage as each ceremony has a significance in the whole process and you get to wear so many different outfits. This was just a taste of an Indian marriage, there is much more to a wedding.