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Being one of the religiously and most ethnically diverse lands, with more than 500 languages and 6000 dialects, India’s extravagant, intricately-planned, vibrant festivities calls for a zestful celebration. Indian weddings, distinct with subtle nuances, are regarded as the union between two families, and not just unite the bride and groom. Traditionally, the Indian wedding rituals last anywhere from 3 days to 7 days and call for a variety of rituals that vary from one region to another.
The first pre-wedding ceremony, called Sangeet Night, is hosted by the bride’s family, wherein the relatives and friends of both families informally meet and get to know each other. They sing, dance and play instruments to celebrate the upcoming union.
Sangeet gives way to Haldi Ceremony, the most fun pre-wedding ceremony, where a dollop of Haldi paste is applied to the bride and groom, by their relatives. The ceremony, which is usually hosted separately at the homes of the bride-to-be and the groom-to-be, is usually intended to ward off evil eyes. On top of that, it brightens their skin tone and eases the anxiousness that the couple faces, and brings them good luck and prosperity.
Haldi is succeeded by the Mehendi night. During Mehendi night, Mehendi artists adorn the feet and hands of the bride as well as her relatives and friends. It is believed that henna evokes good energy and ward off buri nazar or evil eye.
Then comes Baraat, which is a celebration in itself, wherein the groom accompanied by his family and friends arrive at the wedding altar in a procession. Mounted atop a horse, the groom grandiosely leads the procession while all his family members and friends follow dancing with great merriment. The groom who makes a grand entrance is welcomed by the bride’s family and he is presented with a plate holding a lit lamp atop and they exchange flower garlands, that symbolises their acceptance of each other. The groom and his family will be led to the altar, by the bride’s family.
Indian Hindu weddings actualise under a mandap, a canopy with four pillars, symbolising the parents of the bride and groom. The bride’s uncle escorts her to the mandap, since her father is already present at the altar. The couples, their parents, and the priest will accommodate in the mandap, facing the sacred fire lit at the centre of the mandap.
The ritual, imbued with deep meaning, is the official approval to give away the bride, to the groom, by the bride’s father. It’s a traditional ritual, followed by most families- the bride’s father places her hand on the groom’s hand, as a gesture of giving her away. Amidst the chanting of Sanskrit mantras by the priests, the groom ties the knot, known as Mangal sutra around the neck of the bride.
Saptapadi translates to seven steps. The bride and groom encircle the sacred fire seven times. Every step which they take together represents a marital vow, whereby the couples promise to be committed and bound to one another. The priest showers blessings on the newlyweds, for an abundance of happiness, prosperity, harmony, children and peace.
When the moments of happiness finally come to an end, there come the most heart-rending moments of a wedding ceremony- the vidaai or the bride’s farewell ceremony, where the parents of the bride give a final farewell to her. The bride, the groom and his family depart to his home. This heartwarming and tearful ceremony marks the end of all wedding festivities.
A wedding not just unites two couples, but their families as well, attending which no one ever leaves a big fat Indian wedding without having a great time. Thanks to the subtleties of Indian cultures and religions- they shape traditional Indian wedding ceremonies.
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