Wedding traditions in India
Since we have been in India so many times, we have found the fortune to come across a wedding procession called baraat, in which one the groom in highly ornate outfits, sitting on a horse and accompanied by family, friends and a band of musicians, is going to his wedding. We have even been lucky enough to be invited to the wedding, and that is clearly one of those opportunities that cannot be missed.
Marriage is an institution of utmost importance to Hindu culture, and the wedding day becomes the most important and longed for day in the life of women and men in India.
Hindu culture is the predominant one in India and the elements that make up a traditional wedding were established more than 40 centuries ago in the ancient Hindu scriptures called Vedas.
There are many variations, depending on the region, family customs and other factors, but all weddings in India have certain common parameters.
In today's India, many families continue to arrange their children's marriages for convenience. According to a study by IPSOS and Taj Group of Hotels, 75% of young people in India between 18 and 35 years old prefer this type of wedding, while in the north of the country, where the most traditional area is located, this figure increases to 82%.
The wedding arrangement is made through the dowry system, which corresponds to the payment that the bride's family makes to the husband's family, for the simple fact of getting married.
Although it is a practice prohibited by law since 1961, this system remains in force, now hidden under the so-called "gift system." Currently, the family no longer pays with money, land or precious stones, but rather with cars, household appliances, travel or property.
A woman or man is not complete until marriage
In the eyes of Indian society, marriage is what makes both women and men complete, but this apply especially to women. Marriage is sacred and extremely important in the social system.
The wedding date is not just any
Once both families agree to the marriage, it is fixed the most favorable date for it to take place, taking into account the date of birth of the couple, the position of the planets and the Hindu calendar. There are times of the year when the largest number of weddings take place: between May and July, and between November and February.
It takes place several days before the wedding day. In this ceremony, the married couple exchange prayers, flower garlands, and gold rings. Traditionally, the groom's parents present the bride with a gift basket and misri (sugar), representative of future sweetness. Songs and dances are also performed.
The day before the wedding, the bride's hands and feet must be painted with henna, according to the technique called Mehndi. Professionals are hired to paint the bride, the bride's friends, and the women of the two families who are about to join. This meeting would be like a "bachelorette party."
The ritual is performed in the bride's house, where the Mandap is also set up, a large tent decorated with flowers, carpets, cushions, garlands and various decorations, under which the wedding will be celebrated.
By this time, the henna must be dry, and the bride and groom, their families and friends, and even some of the wedding guests are invited to a party where food is offered and dances are performed.
On the morning of the wedding, the Haldi ceremony is held, which can also be performed after the Mehndi. In this tradition, both sides of the family spread a mixture of oil, water and turmeric on the couple's face and head. This paste hydrates the skin and leaves it shiny. It is also a way to bless the couple.
The wedding is traditionally celebrated in the bride's house, where a fire is lit in a container inside the Mandap, in which the bride and groom will make their promises.
The groom arrives in a parade called Baarat, mounted on a horse.
The groom enters the Mandap first, then the bride arrives (until now they are separated by a curtain and cannot be seen each other). Then the curtain is dropped and the ceremony takes place in which both exchange flower garlands, representing acceptance of each other.
In the mandap a ceremonial fire is lit around which are the pandit, the priest who will officiate the rites, the parents and the bride and groom.
The ceremony begins with a prayer to Ganesha, the god of beginnings and good fortune and the remover of obstacles. Greetings are offered so that Ganesha can pave the way for the married life of the couple.
The father of the bride pours holy water over her hand and then gathers it with the groom's hand. The meaning of this ritual is that the father officially lets his daughter go, in the face of the promise that he should assist his new wife in the three most important phases of carnal life: Dharma (religious duty), Artha (riches) and Kāma (pleasure).
Then the bride and groom walk together seven steps around the sacred fire, each corresponding to a prayer and a mutual promise.
Officially married, the groom puts a necklace on the bride that gives her the status of wife. From that moment on, she must wear that necklace for the entire duration of the marriage and will apply the doorless bride's hair, a red powder that symbolizes her new status as a married woman.
When the newlyweds walk among the guests, flowers and rice are thrown at them to wish them a happy and lasting marriage. And once the food, dancing and music are over, the couple receive the blessings of those present and leave for their new home, which is usually the home of the groom's family.
Indian weddings are attended by between 100 and 5,000 people, according to the social position and economic capacity of families, as it is the most important holiday in people's lives.
The vows are those that are pronounced around the sacred fire, see how beautiful they are:
"With the first step, we support each other.
With the second step, we will develop mental, physical and spiritual strength.
With the third step, we will share worldly possessions.
With the fourth step, we will acquire knowledge, happiness and peace.
With the fifth step, we will raise strong and virtuous children.
With the sixth step, we will enjoy the fruits of all seasons.
With the seventh step, we will always be friends and appreciate each other. "
Broken Mirrors. The “Dowry problem” in India. Robin Wyatt &Nazia Massod, Sage Publications India, 2010