Rituals in a Marwari (Agarwal) Wedding
The Marwaris come from 'Marwar', the desert region of Rajasthan. Social customs and practices among them are basically the same as those of other Hindus but the details vary from state to state. For the Marwari Agrawal, marriage is an occasion for great extravagance. Many families ruin themselves in the matter of dowry, an evil the community is particularly plagued with. Here are some traditional Marwari ceremonies performed at the time of the wedding:
MUDHA-TIKKA : Engagement ceremony
On this day, the groom's family -(brothers, sisters, sister-in-laws etc.) go to the brides home taking with them on a silver platter puja items for the tikka : rice, jaggery, dry fruits, mithai (sweets) a diamond ring and sometimes a garland. They also take outfits/sarees and other gifts for the bride.
The bride is dressed grandly in a traditional lehnga and jewellery. The groom's sister gives the bride the ring, puts tikka on her forehead (vermilion powder) and feeds her some jaggery. The brides family in turn also gives gifts of cash, silver or jewellery to the groom's sisters.
GODH BARAI: Gifts for the bride
The bride's lap is filled with gifts and jewellery, toys, clothes, sweets, beautifully decorated and laden on elaborate trays which are brought in by the groom's sisters. These represent the blessings of the family that she may always live in wealth and prosperity and that she may have many children.
SANGEET: Singing traditional songs
After the mudha-tikka ceremony, the bride wearing all the jewellery gifted to her by the groom's family sits on a silver chowki surrounded by all the ladies who had come to perform the tikka and members of her own family. They all sing traditional wedding songs to the bride. Nowadays the groom also is present at the sangeet as are the other menfolk of the two families.
NAANDI: Pre-wedding puja
About 10 days before the wedding ceremony, a Ganesh puja is performed by the groom in his home and the bride in hers, by a pujari. This puja is performed to negate the effects of any deaths in the family so that the marriage can go on, regardless. The families also pray to Lord Ganesha to bless this endeavor (the wedding) and to remove any obstacles from their path. They beg that he may bestow success, happiness, strength and wealth and invite him to be the presiding deity at the wedding ceremony.
BHAAT : The maternal uncle - 'Mamas'- role in the wedding ceremonies
Among Marwari Agarwal families, the brides maternal uncle - Mama - plays a very crucial role in the wedding festivities and ceremonies. There is a very valid reason for this.. Marwari Agarwal women are given lavish and generous gifts at their weddings. By and large traditionally, they do not make any further claims on their father's wealth. It automatically goes to her brothers. Therefore at the weddings of his niece/nephew, it is expected that the 'Mama' shows a great deal of generosity and plays a supportive role and can be depended upon to do the family proud. This ceremony, Bhaat is a confirmation of this support . It is conducted by the groom's family and the bride's family, in their respective homes.
The 'Mama' is called home so that he can be personally invited to attend the wedding. He and his sister partake of cooked rice and moong (a lentil). She then feeds her brother some sugar. He gives his sister a traditional tie-dye 'chunri' (dupatta) which she keeps with her for always (literally for the rest of her life). The 'Mama' gifts the bride/groom with their wedding outfits, jewellery, silver and cash. 'How much' again depends on each family and their means.
TEL BAAN: A ritual bath
This is a ritual performed by the groom and bride in their respective homes, either a day before or on the morning of the wedding ceremony depending on the auspicious time given by the pujari.
The bride/groom are 'prepared' for the wedding by all their close relatives - generally only the women of the families participate in this ceremony. Pure vegetable oils, fresh milk curds, henna and turmeric is made into a paste and applied on the face and arms and feet of the bride/ groom by their close family members. This symbolizes the cleansing and preparation of ones mind, body and soul before embarking upon the path of marriage. The groom/bride are then taken for a bath.
MEHENDI: Intricate henna design applied on the hands
This ceremony is usually held in the afternoon or evening before the wedding ceremony. The bride invites her close female cousins and friends and midst music and often dancing, a 'mehndiwali' is called to paint intricate designs on the hands and feet of the bride with henna paste. Of course these days, the friends and cousins also get mehendi designs painted on to their hands and feet .
After these functions, dinner is served to all the guests.
KORATH: Groom is personally invited to come to the wedding venue
When the bride is ready and the auspicious time for the wedding is at hand, the men of the bride's family (her brothers, cousins, uncles etc.) go to the groom's home with a silver thali with rice, moong, jaggery, coconut the invitation card on it. Traditionally, the pujari also accompanies the family members. The groom accepts the invitation and prepares to leave for the wedding venue with his 'baaraat' - family and friends.
BARAAT : Groom leaves for the wedding venue
This is a very colorful and very grand procession. The groom is majestic in a heavy off-white gold brocade sherwani - long formal jacket with Nehru collar - and long slim pants or churidars (traditional fitted pyjamas). He wears a bright red or saffron color turban called 'safa' and a necklace with seven rows of pearls strung on gold (satladi) or two rows of emeralds (panna).
On his turban is a 'sirpench' a kind of brooch. The groom sits on a white mare also richly decorated and armed with a sword- a Rajput tradition- and he sets off to bring his bride home. He is accompanied by all his relatives also wearing red turbans and a band which plays traditional music ( although nowadays it is more popular film music that is played!!).The younger members of the baraat dance around and the groom arrives in this fashion at the wedding venue.
At the entrance of the venue, on the top , hung or tied is a sort of small shrine with 7 birds carved on the top and a small murthi (idol) of Ganesh inside it. The groom hits this with a stick and only then enters the wedding hall.
VARAMALA: Exchange of garlands
The bride comes into the mandap wearing a richly embroidered silk and gold.The bride and groom stand opposite each other and midst chanting by the priest, the bride garlands the groom signifying that he is her choice of husband and he reciprocates in like manner.
PHERAS: The seven steps and vows
After the Varamala, the pujari lights the sacred fire - homa or havan. Offerings are made into the sacred fire as a form of thanksgiving and purification. The grooms waist band and brides dupatta are tied in a knot and they circle the sacred fire seven times (pheras) and make the seven vows to each other:
7. Be welcoming and respectful to all guests and visitors.
KANYADAAN : Giving away the bride
This is the ceremonial giving away of the bride by her parents. The bride is on the right of the groom. A gold or silver coin is placed in the palms of the bride and the same is held by her father and placed on the grooms hands saying "we offer you our daughter hand in marriage. May she be a blessing and a lifelong companion to you". Accompanied by appropriate prayers by the pujari water is poured over their joined hands as they promise to live always in love. The bride then moves to the left of the groom and he puts vermilion on her head in the parting of her hair.
SEER-GUTHI: Putting vermilion on the bride
On a silver platter the bride is given rice, moong, jaggery, mithai (sweets) and cash. Her hair is opened out and braided by her 'nanand' - husbands sister, weaving into the end mouli (red thread) which was blessed at the Naandi Ganesh Puja. The nanand then fills the brides parting with vermilion (maang baran).. The 'nath' a piece of jewelry worn on the nose - traditionally it is 2 pearls and a ruby -is brought by the mother-in-law and placed on the brides lap. A brief puja is done to it and then worn by the bride.
VIDAAI : Bride leaves her parental home
This is a very emotional ceremony. The bride prepares to leave her parental home and go with her husband to his home. Invariably tears are shed by all. The bride gets envelopes of cash from all the elder member of her family. All the men of the brides family apply tilak to the groom and give him envelopes of cash. The couple leave in a car decorated with flowers.
VADHU PRAVESH: Bride enters her husbands home
When the bahu-rani (daughter-in-law) arrives at her new home, she puts her right foot over the threshold of the house into a tray of vermilion powder symbolizing the arrival of good fortune. With both feet covered in red she now takes five steps and kicks over a vessel filled with rice and coins to symbolize fertility and wealth in her home.
Of course there is some humor added to this solemn ceremony too… the bahu rani's sisters-in-law sit on the threshold of the house refuse to allow their brother to bring his new bride in unless he gives them some gifts or cash. He succumbs and is duly allowed to bring his young bride into the home!!! :)