Every culture has it’s own particular rituals of wedding – some funny, some mesmerizing – all interesting. A hindu wedding is one of the most elaborate ones in the world. There are several stages and rituals that mark it. Colorful costumes, beautiful decorations, delicious food, big gathering of relatives and lots of music go hand in hand at a typical hindu wedding. And the rituals spread over several days. Earlier the whole extended family used to gather at the wedding destination days in advance. And from then onwards, everyday there used to be some rituals, some celebrations.
After the fast modernization of society, that tradition is almost over. Now, mostly things get over winthin a day. All the rituals are performed on that single day in lieu of time. Nevertheless, the major rituals and customs of a traditional Hindu wedding are still followed. As was evident when we saw the depiction of the wedding in Bagore ki Haveli Museum. Although, there is lots of show off now a days, still there is a beauty and delicacy attached to each of these important rituals of the wedding. And there is a certain significance of each one of these.
Recently, we had a visit to Bagore Ki Haveli Museum in Udaipur, Rajasthan. While going through the rooms of this Haveli, we saw different sections of the museum dedicated to weaponry, puppets, musical instruments and turbans. Then, we were about to exit. That is when we saw something tugged away in a section of the Haveli. It is marked something like “stages of a royal hindu wedding”. A museum with a section dedicated to wedding on display !! Curious , we immediately headed here.
What we saw inside, was a very pretty section depicting the stages of a royal hindu wedding through colorful 3-D models. It was not just the sheer beauty of the depiction that attracted us. But, we were also amazed on how old the rituals go back in history and they still continue to be integral part of a hindu weddings (yes, we performed those rituals at our wedding too). We have got to dedicate a post to this beautiful depiction of the wedding. So, let us take you through this beautiful journey of a wedding, as seen at Bagore ki Haveli.
Music is an integral part of celebration. Not only is it considered auspicious, but also believed to fill our heart with joy. That’s the reason, it is an important ritual of the wedding. There is a function called sangeet that is performed at the bride’s place. Ladies sing and dance in joy of the celebration during this function.
Although apart from the sangeet ceremony, almost all other rituals will have music going on in the background. Particularly on the day of the wedding, the music doesn’t stop at all. That is what is rightly depicted through the models of these three musicians, sitting with their musical instruments. Mostly, these musicians will be sitting near the entrance to the wedding hall, playing some soothing beautiful tunes, as a welcome to the guests. Even in today’s era of musical bands, pen drives and CDs, nothing is still able to beat the sound of this live music!!
First of all comes the ritual of Sangeet. Sangeet is often followed by mehendi ritual. Mehendi or Heena is an art made on the hands with extract of hina leaves. It then leaves color on the hand as per the pattern formed. Beautiful patterns are made at the bride’s hand using the mehendi, before the wedding day. Mehendi is considered one of the major Sringar (makeup) items into the hindu culture. And there is a scientific reason behind it. Mehendi leaves have a cooling and soothing effect. When applied at the palm and legs, the essence of the leaves gets soaked into the skin. Thereafter, leading to a cooling and soothing effect. Often our hands work a lot during the functions. Application of mehendi is a way to not only rest them, but also to bring their temperature down.
The Wedding day
The ‘big day’ itself sees several significant rituals. They start in the evening, with the Baraat and continue whole night, mostly through whole of north India. In some parts of South India, similar kind of rituals are performed, but during the day.
Baraat is the groom’s wedding procession to the wedding avenue. At the time of royal weddings, the groom would proceed for the wedding on a mere to the bride’s palace. The procession would include family members, royal employees and music players. They are welcomed at the bride’s place upon arrival. The baraat also comprises of musicians who will be playing music while the procession goes on. Also, in ancient times when there was no light on the streets, the baraat would have some people carring light arrangements along the procession to lighten up the path. Some youngerters who are enthusiastic enough, go with the flow and even dance through the procession. When such a procession comes out on the roads, particularly a royal one, people from all the houses on the way will rush to their windows and balconies to get a glimpse of the procession. Overall, as and when the procession passes through a street, it lightens up the street with its energy level.
Once the groom arrives at the bride’s place, he is welcomed by the bride’s mother and her relatives. The would-be-mother-in-law welcomes the groom with a thali (plate) with a diya (a small cup-shaped oil lamp made of baked clay) in it and takes his Aarti. She also puts a Tilak on his forehead. Post this, the groom proceeds to the wedding.
Once the wedding ceremony starts, there are several rituals performed. One of the most important ones is “phere” wherein the bride and groom take seven circles around an auspicious fire. These circles are called fere. Each circle has it’s own significance. These significant facts are listed in the hindu mythology.
The first circle signifies food. So, in this phere, the couple prays to God to give them enough strength so that they can walk together through their life and manage the food for themselves and their family.
In the second circle the couple prays to God for a healthy and prosperous life. This beings in terms of both mental and physical fitness.
Then follows the third circle, wherein the couple prays to God to give them strength and show them the path to earn wealth and bring prosperity to their lives, working together. Also, they take an oath to stand together in good as well as rainy days.
Thereafter comes the fourth circle. Herein the couple promises to respect each other as well as their families.
In the fifth circle, the couple wish to have beautiful and noble children.
In the sixth circle, the couple prays and wishes for bountiul seasons all over the world. They assert their wish to travel together through these seasons during their long life together.
Then follows the final seventh circle and the final vow. This one signifies everything else that is important for a couple’s happy life. Here, the couple together wish and vow to maintain understanding, companionship, care and loyality towards each other for the rest of their lives.
Thus completes the 7 significant vows around the fire. While the couple take these vows, the rest of the family members stand around and shower them with ample blessings. The priest keeps chanting auspicious mantras through the ceremony.
The rituals of wedding go through the night. The next morning, groom, along with his younger brother is invited for breakfast at the bride’s house. Here, the family members and relatives of the bride offer sweets to the groom one by one. Simultaneously, they are introduced to the groom. This ceremony marks the introduction and acceptance of newly found relations for the groom. While he enjoys a nice breakfast, he gets introduced to the bride’s family members. (Perhaps with the belief that an introduction over sweets leads to sweet bonding!).
The next day, the bride is supposed to leave her home, and proceed to the groom’s place, along with the baraat. While, the groom proceeds on mere, the bride follows in a doli. As a part of royal wedding, several maids and friends of the bride (princess) would also go to the groom’s place with her, to give her company. Bidai is one of the most emotional moment in the life of a bride. Because, the realization of leaving her own birthplace, proceeding to a new home, with newly formed relations strongly overwhelms in the moments of Bidai. Almost everyone at the bride’s side of the family have tears welled up in their eyes during this ceremony.
However, it’s temporary. Soon after, the bride proceeds to the groom’s house and she is welcomed there by the new family members she formed overnight.
Post wedding rituals
Although, the wedding gets over with the Bidai, but that’s when the post wedding rituals follow. Once the bride arrives at the groom’s place, several rituals are lined up to welcome the couple. In addition, it is important to make the bride feel at ease and comfortable in her new surroundings. At the same time, she has to slowly get introduced to several new relations formed overnight. So, to make things easy and enjoyable, there are some games played at the groom’s place, centered around the bride and groom. Other family members also get actively involved in the games. Through these games, the bride gets slowly introduced to the groom’s side of the family. Also, she starts developing a new bond with the family members of the groom and starts feeling at ease in the new environment.
A popular game involves finding a coin in water. (Depicted in the image above). A vessel is filled with colored water. Then a coin is dropped in water. Following this, the bride and the groom are both supposed to search for the coin. At the end, the one who is able to locate the coin first is declared winner. (Before I visited this museum display, I had no idea this game was such an old one. I always thought, it was recently added for fun). This is followed by several other rituals at the groom’s place, spread over a few days. As these rituals are performed, slowly the bride settles into her new life with the groom and his family.
In conclusion, this is how, a couple begins a new journey in their life…together. Couldn’t have been more beautifully depicted.