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Rituals in a Muslim wedding

A Muslim wedding / Nikaah, is a lavish yet a traditionally rooted affair. Although the essence of it is similar to that of a Hindu wedding or any other wedding for that matter, their customs and rituals vary. For example, the concept of an auspicious time does not exist in their culture, they host a wedding at any time that suits both the bride and the groom and their respective families. A muslim wedding and its related ceremonies are celebrated over a period of about a week.

Indian muslim wedding ritualsIn a traditional muslim Nikaah, there are a number of pre-wedding rituals to begin with. The first ceremony is that of finalizing of the wedding date. The groom's father gives a cash token to the bride's father as a part of the ritual. The atmosphere at both the homes of the bride and groom respectively is that of celebration where the women as well as the girls of the house sing traditional songs called geet. There are different types of geet for every ceremony and it varies regionally. This marks the beginning of the Nikaah celebrations.

What follows this is the Manjha ceremony, during which, the bride-to-be is anointed with haldi (turmeric) paste, given to her by the groom's family. This is done in order to bring out a natural glow in her complexion. Post this function, it is imperative for the bride to be accompanied by a married friend throughout till the time she gets married. The muslim bride-to-be wears yellow clothes for this event, she is entertained by a number of performances by family and friends.

Mehendi is a popular ritual among almost all Indian weddings. Introduced in India by the Mughals, a Nikaah is bound to have this ceremony. This is usually held on the eve of the wedding. During this a beautiful, intricate design is made on the bride's hands and feet with mehendi, either by friends or relatives or professionally. This ceremony is followed by traditional songs sung by the women in the house and an eventful evening. The bride is expected not to step out of her house after the completion of this ceremony till the time she gets married.

The pre-wedding rituals only prepare both the families for the merger of a lifetime that takes place by virtue of the Nikaah ceremonies.

With a lavish procession consisting of family, friends and well-wishers, the groom makes his arrival at the venue of the Nikah. The groom's family comes with the Daala which includes clothes and jewelleries for the bride from the groom's family. The Shahana Joda which the bride wears after the Nikaah comes with the daala. With a number of small playful interactions with certain members of the family, the groom and his baratis (members of the procession) are welcomed by the bride's family.

Indian muslim wedding ritualsThe Nikaah ceremony is sanctified by a Quazi or religious attorney. He appoints two male members as gawaah (witnesses) from the groom's side to receive orders for the nikaah from the bride's end. Along with these formal witnesses, the presence of the two walid (father of the bride and the father of the groom) is also required in order to make sure a rightful settlement for both the bride and the groom through the nikaah. The senior members of both the families decide the amount of mehar, which is a mandatory amount of money given by the groom's family to the bride. The Quazi takes the consent and approval of both the bride and the groom individually for the a mutual acceptance of this holy matrimony and the amount of the mehar, once accepted, he makes them sign a 'Nikaah-nama' (marriage contract), along with the signatures of the gawaah and the walid. This contract contains a number of legalities and clauses included as per the guidelines of the muslim religion. This is followed by a 'Khutba' by the quazi where he basically addresses certain verses from the Quran that throw light on the mutual responsibilities and obligations of the spouses towards each other. He in turn explains the meaning of his recitations to all the members of the nikaah.

Traditionally, the set up of the nikaah venue is such that the men and the women are made to sit separately in two different areas. The Zenana is for the women and Mardana is for the men. The nikaah is said to be accomplished after the Ijab-e-Qubul ( proposal and acceptance) by the groom and the bride respectively.

On the successful completion of the nikaah ceremony, the newly wed couple is blessed by all, the groom especially, is blessed by the older women present at the wedding. This is followed by a grand dinner. For generations, muslims have been famous for their delicious cuisine and at their weddings, they serve the most authentic and extravagant form of traditional mughlai food. The men and the women, usually dine separately as well. Post the dinner, the bride and the groom are made to sit together for the first time as they are made to read prayers by the Maulvi.

The couple can look at each other only through a mirror (Aarsi). This tradition is known as the Aarsimashaf.

The couple takes blessings from the bride's family as they prepare to bid her goodbye, Ruksati. The bride's family is happy for their daughter but at the same time they let out tears of separation during this ceremony. Her family presents her with a copy of the Quran.

The bride is then welcomed into her new house by her new family. The groom's mother holds the Quran over the brides head as she steps into the house as a new member. This is considered to be a very auspicious moment.

The grooms family holds a grand reception for the newly wed couple, to celebrate the union of the two families and to acquaint each other to the extended family and friends. This post wedding ceremony is called Valimah.

The bride visits her parents and family on the fourth day after the wedding. This day is called the chauthi. Not only does this make the bride's parents very happy, but it also lightens things for the new bride up and reassures her that she will now be receiving love from two families.

Photo Courtesy : Peddu Eeshwar, Pradeep Sanyal

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