The Chooda - Marking the Start of a New Life
All Punjabis are well aware of the 'Chooda' ceremony that takes place on the morning of the marriage ceremony. It is an extremely emotional moment for the bride's family as her mama (maternal uncle) makes her wear the 'Red and White' set of bangles marking the beginning of her married life ahead. It is that one clear symbol of a newly-wed girl that becomes her identity for a certain period of time till she is supposed to wear it, which could be anywhere between 45 days to a year.
The ceremony involves only close family members, where the oldest maternal uncle who performs this ceremony usually fasts until it gets over. Among most hindus, a 'havan' is performed prior to the ceremony. Among the Sikhs, there is a small reciting of religious pros or 'shabads' by the older female relatives or a bhai ji from the gurudwara. Post this, the actual 'chooda ceremony' takes place in which the chooda (a set of 21 red and cream ivory bangles) are washed in milk and touched by all the people present to offer their blessings. This chooda is then finally slid onto the wrist of the bride to-be by her uncle while others watch the touching act with affection and inevitably tears well up in the eyes of the close family members.
The bride is actually not allowed to see the chooda at the time of the ceremony. She has to keep her eyes closed, till the time a white cloth is tied on that. She is only allowed to see it in the evening of her marriage ceremony when she is ready to sit for pheras.
The Chooda ceremony is also followed by the tieing of 'Kaleeras' on the bride's wrist by her sister, cousins and other female friends. Traditionally Kaleeras are a gift given to the bride as 'shagun' from her 'nankay' (maternal family). Kaleera is in the shape of a dome made from soft, light rose wood or metal. Originally Kaleeras were made from 'pure silver', however, these days people usually prefer to use ones made from foil because they are never used after marriage.
As a part of the tradition, at the time of her doli, the bride is supposed to hit the kaleeras on her sister/brother or even her cousins' and friend's heads and the one to get hit by the kaleers is supposed to be wedded next. These rituals actually make the wedding a fun affair as they involve joking and pulling each other's leg in good humour.
Though these ceremonies are enjoyed and cherished by all family members and close relatives, they are also quite emotional for the girl who is to be married. When asked about her feelings during the chooda ceremony, a bride confessed that it almost felt like she was breaking all old ties and starting a completely new life. She felt anxious and just wanted time to stop at that moment. She felt like everyone was bidding her away and she almost didn't want to go.
Indian weddings are a beautiful amalgamation of feelings-both happy and sad. There is the joy of starting a new relationship and the heartbreaking thought of leaving your loved ones. But it all ends in a celebration of all emotions as the bride is bid a blessed farewell by her loved ones...