Ever wondered what everything at a traditional Hindu Gujarati wedding means? I asked Keshal Patel to explain the traditions of her Hindu Gujarati wedding based on her own wedding to Rahul Patel. Based on the diversity of wedding types in Gujarat, this is based on Keshal’s own wedding. Please note that traditions differ to each family and religion, this is solely based on a Gujarati Hindu wedding.
Engagement (Chanlo Matli)
The chandlo (applying the vermilion mark on the forehead) announces the acceptance of the alliance between the two families. The bride’s father and four other male members from her family visit the groom carrying auspicious items and the bride’s father applies the chandlo on the groom’s forehead and gives him a shagun (a blessing symbolised by a token sum of money).
This is generally 2 days before the wedding, the bride has henna applied using intricate patterns and detail. It is believed that the deeper the colour on the bride’s hands, the stronger the love between husband and wife. There is also a custom that the bride has her groom’s initials incorporated in the design which he then must find on the wedding night. The event is a big celebration as it marks the start of the wedding festivities to which lots of singing, dancing, eating and drinking is undertaken.
Pre –wedding Ceremonies (Vidhi)
The Vidhi occurs generally the day before the wedding and has various prayers which has different meanings.
The 3 different ceremonies on the day are below:
Mandva Mahurat & Griha Shanti
This ceremony bears a deep religious significance because the parents of the couple seek the blessings of Mother Earth and ask permission to commence with the digging of the soil to erect the mandva or mandap (platform erected for the wedding rites covered with a canopy). Griha Shanti, a ceremony conducted to seek the blessings of all the nine planets, immediately follows the mandva mahurat. This is carried out in the respective home of the bride and the groom
The bride sits on a bajat or low stool, palms upturned. It is the prerogative of the kaaki (paternal uncle’s wife) to mix the pithi (a paste of sandalwood powder, herbs, rosewater and mogra / attar (a type of perfume). She then arranges the pithi on a decorated platter and has it blessed by the priest. The women of the household apply the pithi on the bride’s skin.
Mameru or Mosaalu
The bride receives gifts from her maternal uncle which consists of clothes, jewellery and other gifts items including the traditional paanetar (silk saree – usually white with red border) and choodo (ivory bangle). The mameruceremony takes place one day before the wedding.
The saree is the usual bridal wear for Gujarati girls. It is worn in a bit different style with the palav facing the front. Red is the colour which is thought to be most auspicious for the occasion. Designer lehengas are also fast becoming popular these days.
The Gujarati bridegrooms wear the traditional dhoti kurta for the ceremony and a formal suit for the reception. The clothes for the reception are presented to him by the in-laws.
Varghodo: The groom’s procession
On the evening of the wedding, the groom, dressed in all his finery and carrying a katar (small dagger) prepares to leave for the wedding venue. The priest gives the groom’s sister a small bowl wrapped in cloth and containing coins on which the Hindu Swastika has been etched. She rattles this over her brother’s head to ward off the evil eye and also to warn him that even though he is getting married, he must not forget his sister! After being blessed by all he mounts a richly caparisoned mare and leaves for the wedding venue accompanied by his relatives and close friends. On disembarking at the wedding venue the groom is greeted by the bride’s family and accorded the traditional aarti welcome.
The bride’s mama(maternal uncle) escorts her to the mandva where she garlands the groom and he reciprocates.
The wedding rituals are performed in front of a sacred fire and conducted by the acharya. The rituals begin with the kanya daan. The bride is given away by her parents who abstain from eating to make themselves pure in body and mind for the occasion. Their folded hands reflect the hope that their son-in-law will take good care of their daughter and never cause her pain. They wash his feet as they believe that he is none other than the Hindu Lord, Vishnu, to whom they are handing over his rightful consort, the Goddess Laxmi in the form of their daughter.
In this ritual, the groom’s scarf or shawl is tied to the bride’s saree. This knot and the joined hands of the couple symbolise the union of two souls joined together in holy matrimony. The acharya chants mantras to invoke the blessings of Goddess Laxmi and Goddess Parvati for the saubhagyavrata or wife. The family and relatives present also come together to bless the couple and shower grains of rice and rose petals on them.
The pherasor rounds around the sacred fire must begin now. The couple go around the fire as the acharya chants mantras. The groom also recites mantras which express his heart’s desire and seeks the loving support of his wife.
The saptapadi or seven steps is another important ritual where the couple must go around the holy fire seven times. The groom chants mantras with each step. Thereby he requests his wife to take good care of the house, cook wholesome and healthy meals for their family, be thrifty with money, be an understanding and supporting partner to him, etc. The bride promises to fulfill these requests.
The bride is bid a tearful farewell by her parents, siblings, relatives and friends. It is a sad moment as she leaves in a doli, now replaced by a specially decorated car, for her new home.
Ghar ni Laxmi
The bride’s first step into her new home is considered auspicious. She is theGhar ni Laxmi or the goddess Laxmi who will bring wealth and good fortune to her home. The mother-in-law welcomes the bride with arti and tika. Then she places a vessel, filled to the brim with rice, at the entrance of the house. The bride must knock the vessel down gently with her right foot, spilling some of the rice over. The rice is a symbol of wealth and by following the ritual she conveys full understanding of her duties and responsibilities towards her new home.
This is yet another interesting ritual observed at the groom’s house. The newly wed couple is made to play a game called Aeki-beki. In this, several coins and a ring are placed in a tray of water covered by milk and vermilion. It is believed that the person, who finds the ring four times first, would be the ruler of the house.