Marwari Wedding Rituals
This is a ritual which takes place at the respective houses of both the bride and the groom. Ladies in the family and the neighbourhood gather together to sing songs of purity and happiness, which are popularly known as ‘Mangal Geet’ in the Rajasthani language. They also make sweets called mangodi made of lentils and jaggery. This ceremony usually involves married women called ‘suhagins’ who bless the boy/girl who is getting married and with this ceremony the arrangements and other rituals for the wedding formally commence. It usually happens 5, 7, 11 or 21 days before the wedding.
In Marwari weddings, the maternal uncle (Mama) and the aunty (Mami) of the bride or groom play a very significant role. So on an auspicious day, which is decided after consulting with the priest and the almanac, the mother of the bride/groom reaches her parents’ home to invite her parents and her brother and sister-in-law (Bhabi). She also invites her grandparents. The presence of the maternal grandparents of the bride/groom (Nana and Nani) is very important and they are considered important contributors to the wedding celebrations.
The mother puts mehendi on her palms and wears a new saree. She carries gifts for the members of the family and invites them to be a part of the celebrations. Envelopes containing money called neg, are also gifted to the staff in the house. She also anoints the forehead of her brother and bhabi with red tilak. Her brothers also assure her of their full support and presence. They often give return gifts to their sister.
In this ceremony, rice, jaggery, dry fruits, etc are put on a plate which is then covered with cellophane paper. On a separate plate, dried coconuts called ‘gut’ are also placed. This decorated gut is kept for the brother and his wife’s tilak or anointment.
NAANDI GANESH PUJA
This is performed to invoke the presence of Lord Ganesh and the family deities and ask for their blessings. It is hoped that with the grace of Lord Ganesh, the wedding ceremonies would be completed without any hiccups. Some families may arrange a lunch for close family members after the puja.
It is also believed that Lord Ganesh assumes a mortal form and arrives in the form of a small boy. So a small boy, who is seen as embodying Lord Ganesh- ‘Bindayak or Vinayak’ accompanies the bride/groom in all the pre-wedding rituals. In case of the bride, he is present from the time of Byah Haath to Telbaan and in the case of the groom, he is present through Byah Haath to Nikasi. Another ritual called the HALDI HAATH is also performed along with the Ganesh Puja.
RAATRI JAGA – THAPA MANDANA
This is an important ritual at the houses of both the bride and the groom. In this ritual, holy symbols and figures like swastik, etc are hand painted either on walls or floors or on white wooden boards. Around these figures and symbols, earthenware and pots containing ingredients for Puja are kept. This is done to ward off the evil forces before a joyous occasion and establish peace in the family.
MUDDA TIKKA-ENGAGEMENT CEREMONY
The family of the groom visit the house of the bride with gifts and items for the puja. They gift her sarees and jewellery. The sister or paternal aunty of the groom puts a ring on the finger of the bride. But these days, often the groom takes upon himself the task of slipping the ring on the finger of his wife-to-be.
After a few rituals, the bride seeks the blessings of the elders from the family of the groom by touching their feet. At the end of the ceremony, light refreshments or lunch is served.
This is a fun ceremony. This can happen on the day of the mudda tikka or a day or two before the wedding. The bride wearing all her fine jewellery and new clothes which have been gifted by her future in-laws sits on a silver stool called chowki. The ladies of her family and all those from the side of the groom, who have come to apply ‘tikka’ on her, assemble around her. They surround her in a circle and sing wedding songs and also dance to popular Bollywood and folk music. It is a ceremony of exuberance and the aim is to try and entertain each other as well as break the ice with the bride. They share light jokes and also urges the bride to be candid and easy.
On similar lines, these days the groom and his friends and male cousins also have a bachelor’s party. They share ‘guy’ jokes, may be down a few drinks and try to enjoy in a way which is possible only for a bachelor. It is considered that once he gets married, certain restrictions will be imposed on him and so he tries to enjoy one last time without any worries.
This is also a very joyous ceremony for the ladies of the house, especially the friends and cousins of the bride. Mehendi or henna dye is applied to the hands and feet of the bride and also the other ladies. Mehendi filled hands and feet are signs of happiness, abundance and fulfillment in the lives of the women. Ladies gossip and chortle and basically have a good time together.
WEDDING DAY RITUALS
Now there are certain essential rituals which are performed on the morning of the wedding day. The parents of the bride have to fast throughout the day till the wedding is complete. The wedding day rituals are as follows:
This is a ceremony which happens early in the morning on the day of the wedding. The priest from the groom’s house reaches the house of the bride and performs puja of the pillars of the house. This is called ‘thamb puja’ and this ceremony is symbolic. It shows that the bondage between the two families will be as strong as the foundation of the house.
I have already said that the importance of the presence of the maternal uncle of the bride/groom at various rituals cannot be overstated. This is the ceremony held on the day of the wedding or the day before when he arrives at the house of his sister with his family. Traditionally, in Marwari weddings, the brother is expected to be generous and bear a portion of the wedding expenses as the sister after her marriage does not make a claim on her ancestral property.
So he reaches amidst much hoopla and fun. He and his wife are greeted warmly by the mother of the bride/groom at the entrance. He arrives with a lot of gifts for his sister and his nephew/niece.
At a wedding that I attended recently, the Mama of the bride presented a 24 carrot Belgian diamond to his sister.. Naturally it created quite a flutter and made news in the small but well-knit Marwari community.
In this ceremony, the sister feeds her brother rice, lentils, and jaggery. Many other related customs are also followed at the time of bhaat bharna.
This is a ritualistic bath that is given to the bride/groom on the morning of the wedding. Sometimes it happens on the previous day morning. A paste of turmeric, fresh milk curd, olive or mustard oil is made and it is applied to the face, hands, and feet of the bride/groom.
There are other rules also which have to be scrupulously followed. 4 unmarried young women put pithi (a homemade scrub) on the forehead of the bride/groom. During the time of the bath also a specific sequence or order is followed. The father has to first put the jhol on his son or daughter after which the mother gives the bath.
The bindayak has no direct role to play in this ceremony but sits through Telbaan along with the bride/groom.
After Telbaan, the bride/groom and the bindayak are given sweet pancakes called ‘gungra’ to eat. After that the Mama of the bride/groom escorts her/him in front of the thapa and she/he has to genuflect before the thapa. The Mama then gives ‘shagun’ money to the bride/groom, which is expected to bring her/him good luck.
KUNVARA MANDA YAGNA
A havan is a ritual where fire is lit in a havan kund (small pit) and offerings are made. This fire is considered very sacred. The priests sit beside the sacred fire, chant mantras and offer ghee, a type of clarified butter to the fire. Other liquid items or mixtures are also poured into the fire.
Once the havan is complete, 11 priests are served lunch. Both cooked and uncooked food is served. There are reasons and stories behind each item that is served. Also the priests are bestowed a largesse called ‘dakshina’ by the boy/girl’s family. This rite is performed after the telbaan ceremony late during the day. The family can have their food once the havan is over.
This is a ceremony where a puja impetrating the blessings of Goddess Parvati is performed by the brides’ family at their home. Devi Parvati in Rajasthani language is also known as Gangaur. Clothes and jewellery for decking up the Goddess is sent by the groom’s family. They also send clothes and jewellery for the bride.
In Marwari weddings, this ceremony is very symbolic. Male elders from the family of the bride visit the house of the groom along with their priest to invite him and his family to the wedding venue. This symbolic gesture is extended by the family of the bride towards the groom just before the baraat (the groom’s family and friends) sets out for the venue, because starting from this day, he would be an important member of the bride’s family.
The priest, travelling along with the family of the bride makes the groom do puja of the wedding invitation card. There are some other customs which are followed. In return, the family of the groom would bestow a token sum of money on the panditji from the side of the bride and also serve the guests snacks and beverages.
After this, the baraat is ready to leave for the wedding venue.
Before the baraat leaves the home of the groom, there are certain rituals that need to be followed. This is collectively called Nikasi. The mare (ghodi), which the groom would ride is caparisoned and the priest performs a puja. The mother then feeds her son a mixture of Moong (a type of lentil), rice, sugar and ghee from a small cup with a spoon. Also the ghodi is given a saree and all the married women of the family with male children are also gifted sarees.
The groom’s family has to carry a decorated ceremonial umbrella, a sword, 2 floor cushions, garlands, and paan to the wedding venue as per the Marwari tradition.
The groom leads a procession of his friends and relatives to the venue. The baraatis often dance and sing or are accompanied by a musical band.
BARAAT DHUKAV AND VARMALA
The groom and his entourage arrive at the venue. The father of the bride and other members stand with garlands at the entrance to welcome the group. The groom has to touch the ‘toran’, which somebody from the bride’s side holds at the welcome gate, with a neem stick. At some Marwari weddings, the mother of the bride feeds the groom a laddoo before he disembarks from his horse.
The mother of the bride welcomes the groom by anointing him after he alights from his mare and the bhabi of the bride touches the shoulder of the groom with a neem stick.
After this, the groom and his baraat enter the premises. The bride then comes and puts 7 suhalis – a type of snacks on the head of the groom, following which the bride and the groom exchange garlands. This is known as varmala or jaymala.
This is a ritual in which the cloth tied around the waist of the groom is tied to the end of the veil or chunri covering the face of the bride. This is then put on the shoulder of the groom. The tying of the nuptial knot signifies that the two have become one.
This is a ceremony in which the father of the bride hands her over to the groom and asks him to take her responsibility. The bride also accepts the family of her in-laws as her own and accepts their geneology and surname as hers. She also accepts that all the problems of the family of her husband as her own and pledges to always uphold their reputation and do everything to make them feel happy and comfortable.
In Rajasthani or Hindi, ‘Pani’ means hand and ‘Grahan’ means to accept. So, the literal translation of this word means to take one’s hand in one’s own. The hand of the bride is put in the hand of the groom. This symbolizes the groom’s willing acceptance of taking the responsibility of the bride as well as the unification of the minds and bodies of the two.
In Marwari weddings, the bride and the groom go around the holy wedding pyre 7 times. For the first three rounds or ‘pheras’, the bride leads and in the next four, the groom leads.
There is a common belief that for the first three pheras, Kamdev, the Hindu God of lust, shoots intoxicating arrows at the couple-to be. And only the bride has the power to resist the temptations of lust and also her resolve acts as a shield against these arrows. After each round they stop, the bride touches small mounds of mehendi that have been kept by the side of the holy fire with her big toe.
There is also a significance of the last four pheras. They signify the union of awareness of ‘dharma’ or just conduct, ‘artha’ or prosperity, ‘kama’ or earthly love and ‘moksha’ or release from all sorts of human attachments.
With each round, the would-be couple takes a solemn marriage vow which they are expected to fulfill for the rest of their lives. This is a Vedic ritual. After this ceremony, the bride and the groom are considered husband and wife. Before the Saat phere, the bride sits on the right side of the groom inside the mandap. But after this ritual, the groom requests the bride to come and sit on his left and also places his right hand on the heart of the bride. This completes the ceremony and he accepts the bride as his wife.
After the Saptapadi, the groom puts vermillion on the forehead or the central hair parting of the bride. The sindoor is the biggest indicator of the marital status of a woman. After this, the newly-wed couple stands facing the North Star and takes a vow of being as constant and steadfast throughout their married life as the North Star.
After the final offerings to the holy fire, the priests and the elders from both sides bless the bride and the groom for a blissful, discordant-free marriage. The family of the groom also hopes that the new wife will bring prosperity and luck to the house of the husband. This marks the end of the wedding rituals.
Before entering the mandap, the groom takes off his shoes. On exiting the mandap, he cannot find his shoes because the cousins and friends of the bride have already hidden it. The groom has to bargain with the gang of sisters and cousins of the bride and settle for an amount in return for which his shoes will be returned. This is a very enjoyable ceremony and the bargaining between the two sides is a thing to behold. It’s absolutely hilarious.
THAPE KI POOJA AND MOOHDIKHAI
After coming out of the mandap, the couple is led into the room in which the thapa had been drawn in the morning. An elderly lady from the side of the bride then makes them perform a puja of the thapa. The bridegroom is made to recite some ‘shlokas’ or mantras and the bride is asked to look at the Polar Star.
After this, the mother of the bride and the eldest lady in the house lift the veil from the face of the bride and see her face. Thereafter, they give the bride token gifts.
This ceremony may have lost a little relevance but it is still performed. In earlier times, after the stress of the entire day, the bride would get tired and she’ll be in a dishevelled condition. So to make her look good and fresh again, the mother or some other elderly woman would comb her hair, wash her face and apply fresh makeup.
But these days, the bride is so heavily made-up by professional makeup artists and stylists that they cannot be taken off easily, without tampering with the look. So, just to follow the tradition, her hair is lightly combed or her face is wiped lightly and symbolically.
SAJJAN GOTH (DINNER)
These days usually there are elaborate buffet spreads. In Marwari weddings, there are usually a number of stalls including live counters. But in keeping with the tradition, special sitting arrangements are made for the elders from the side of the groom and traditional Marwari cuisine is served to them. The bride’s father and other male members tend to them. They are given special hospitality. But before the ‘sajjan goth’ dinner is served, the ‘chhuta’ (a portion for the deceased elders) has to be taken out.
In current times, even the ladies of the house join the Sajjan Goth (aptly called Sajni Goth).
POST WEDDING RITUALS
Let us now focus our attention to some of the post-wedding rituals.
This ceremony is also very symbolic. The couple is made to play lots of games by an elderly lady, generally the Mami. This is basically to break the ice though the groom was expected to win these games in the earlier days proving his superiority. Some very interesting and fun games are played where the bride and the groom are pitted against each other as competitors.
This is a ceremony which tests the compatibility of the couple and also how well they deal with each other and also the demands of the married life. This happens on the morning following the wedding at the house of the bride. Spectators surround the couple as they play the games and continuously tease them and make fun.
Before the Paharavni, the priest from the bride’s side take the newly-wed couple to the kitchen or the place where the food for the wedding has been cooked and make them perform some ceremonies.
During the Pahravni, bride’s family members gift a coconut and ‘neg’ money to their son-in-law. Thereafter, the groom is presented with a watch/buttons and his shoulder is also draped with a shawl. The father/grandfather of the groom is also gifted a shawl. The pandits (priests) who have been involved with the wedding rituals are endowed with ‘dakshina’ by the groom’s family.
Then the groom and the bride are given curd, ‘churma’ and ‘hari phali ka saag’ to eat. The couple are then led into the kitchen and they are made to do ‘thali puja’ at the entrance of the kitchen. Cow dung is smeared on the threshold of the kitchen and ‘swastik’ is drawn on it and also money for savouries to be offered for the puja is kept on the swastik. The eldest lady member of the bride’s family guides them through this ceremony.
The bride is also given a half dried coconut which is filled with sugar and gold coin. She gives this to her mother-in-law on arriving at the family home of the groom.
Tears well up in the eyes of the bride and members of her family as she ingresses the car to leave her house. It is a very touching moment and a few tears might escape your eyes also if you happen to be present at the vidaai ceremony of a Marwari wedding.
The car leaves with the baraat for the groom’s family home. But the married ladies, especially the bhabi, sisters and the mother of the groom return before the baraat as they have to receive the bride at the foyer.
This is an important ceremony performed at the house of the groom. The importance of this ceremony lies in the fact that the bride is entering ‘her home’ (from now), for the very first time. It merits a special welcome.
There are a number of rituals that are followed.
But before allowing the groom to enter his home with his newly wed wife, his sisters and bhabi guard the entrance. They tell him that they would only let him enter with his wife if he pledges to bribe them with gifts and money. The bargaining begins and goes on for a while. Only after the groom relents, is he allowed to enter.
The sister or paternal aunt of the groom does ‘aarti’ and also anoints the forehead of the bride. After this the bride has to take five steps and overturn a container filled with rice and coins. This symbolizes fertility and prosperity in the family. She is asked to dip her feet in a container of red dye and then her foot mark is taken on a white cloth which is then put safely away.
After this the couple is led into the thapa room. 6 steel plates called thalis and a bowl are kept in a row. The groom unsheathes the sword dangling from his waist and shifts the plates a little with the pointed end of the sword. The bride bends down and picks up the plates one after another and puts one on top of another. But funnily enough, she is asked to be cautious not to make any noise while piling up the plates. Finally she has to hand over the pile of plates to her mother-in-law. It is believed that if she makes any noise while piling up the plates, there would be disharmony in the family.
After this the bride has to touch ghee and jaggery. The father of the groom makes the bride touch a bag of money as it is believed to bring prosperity in the family. The bride and the groom also light a candle in the thapa room. Thereafter sweetmeats are offered to the couple for ‘mooh-meetha’. The sehra of the groom and the veil of the bride are finally removed.
DEVI DEVATA PUJANA
This is a puja which is performed by the bride and the groom on the day after the Bahu Agaman ceremony. Four bricks are placed outside the gate of the house.
They then put a red tikka or ‘roli’ and rice on the bricks. They also break a coconut.
After this they go a nearby Hanuman temple to perform a puja. This completes the devi devata pujana.
One coconut, a yellow saree with red border, raw milk, batasha, sprouts and money is offered to Ganga. An aarti is done and puja is performed.
SIRGUTHI, SUHAAGTHAL CHOODA PEHENANA AND PAGA-LAGNI
At the house of the groom, once more the Sirguthi ceremony takes place. This time however, the bhabi of the groom and sisters, etc apply makeup on the bride and also comb her hair.
After this the bride is made to wear ‘choodas’ or lac bangles, which bear testimony to the fact that she is married.
Now she is considered ready to formally meet the members, relatives and friends of the groom and she lifts her veil and reveals her face (mooh-dihayee). She touches the feet of the elders in the family and seeks their blessings. She also breaks the ice with younger members. She touches the feet of elders and seeks their blessings (paga-lagni).
After a while, the bride leaves for her paternal family home to spend some time with them.
Pag Phera is a ceremony in which the bride returns to her father’s home. There her relatives and friends meet her and ask her questions about her experience at her new home, about her husband and in-laws and her friends also crack a few jokes about the night when she would consummate her wedding with her husband.
In the evening, the groom arrives at the home of his in-laws to bring back his wife to his home. The groom is greeted with tremendous hospitality and when the bride leaves her father’s home, she carries a lot of gifts for her in-laws.
On this very night, the bride and the groom sleep together for the first time and consummate their wedding. This completes the entire wedding cycle and the couple becomes unified in mind, body and spirit from this day.