Punjabi’s are known for their robustness and zest for living life to the fullest
With … liquor,butter chicken,Dal Makhani Makki roti and Sarsoon saag !
with… their foot tapping folk music …energetic Bhangra steps of the menfolk
and vivacious Gidha steps of the women folk.
Punjabi wedding is a panorama of colourful series of traditional events such as
3. Chunni Charana (i.e. from the grooms side donning the bride with a colourful stole.
6.Churra Charahana (red and white bangles slipped on the bride’s wrist by the maternal uncle)
12.Marriage ceremony (Phere)
14. Pug phere
Wedding …a time to re live all the customs and traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation.
Marriages are all about …. all the relatives getting together and spending joyful moments together …a family reunion a rendezvous in time !..the household agog with excitement and hustle bustle!...the house lit up with colourful lights ,a tent is pitched ..The cooks are hired who excel in Punjabi cuisine and also delight the palates of all… dishing out Chinese,continental, Malaysian and what have you the haute cuisine… Punjabis are foodies and if the cooking is substandard it’ll be a intolerable blunder.and will leave a bad taste in the mouth for a long time to come…
Slowly the house starts growing with guests Cousins, Grandparents, Aunts, uncles both from the maternal and paternal side All fill the household with with their laughter, chattering Hulla ballu ,friendly banter , complaints ,smart quips and wise cracks!There is a whirlwind of traditional activities that leaves no time for anyone to fret and fume feel bad or sad!It is such an interesting set up that to an onlooker it would seem as a movie set .The grand parents particularly feel so blessed to see fruits of their family tree and look on with pride and whimsically wish the moments to a standstill. It’s time for them to reminisce and enthrall their progeny with their olden day tales.i.e about their marriage in the times and year it was solemnized …how much a unit of Rupee could fetch… etc..etc
The size ,pomp and show of the festivities is directly proportional to the money in one’s pockets . The customs are the same but the rich organize each event in the plush 5 star splendor .Eyebrows are raised at the expenditure on the events and is branded as conspicuous consumption. In the city where there is a dearth of time and space all traditional ceremonies are performed within a couple of days . Today we have Event Managers who take a fat fee and do everything one can think of . They would put a diehard traditional ceremonies to shame . They are such good planners!
In small town and villages it almost takes 2 weeks or so and the ceremonies are followed as they have been handed down over the centuries. The middle class led by the Demonstration Effect spends much more than its means and ends up in debt!
It all begins with the Bichola the mediator a person who comes with a proposition of a girl/boy to the prospective boy/girl’s place. If found suitable then the horoscopes are matched by an astrologer who works out the configuration of stars of both parties` and okays the match.
Ours being a patriarchcal society the boy side goes over to the girl’s house to give their assent to the girl with sweets etc ,.and this is called Roka …meaning the search is over!
Ardas A prayer is recited where they invoke the blessings of God on the prosperity of the couple, and no untoward accidents happent in the course of the festivities.
Then begins the Maiya phase for the girl where she is given a Spa like treatment where she is given a mixture of turmeric,chandan oil paste to make her look radiant on her wedding day .The Haldi ceremony has all the relatives smearing the girl with the turmeric mixture.
Shagun : The bride’s father takes a tray with cash,gold chain ,gold bangle(Karha) Tika ,watch ,dryfruits to the boy and makes him eat a sweet . Along with this he gives 21 or 51 or 101 boxes of Indian sweets .Also they take along a fruit basket. This ceremony is done a day before the wedding .The invitation card is given to them. It is followed by an elaborate meal at their place.
In the evening ,the boy party comes over to the girl’s house and they take a red coloured ribbon(parandhi) , red colored Chunni(stole)Henna,Make up kit , and in a red scarf dry fruits , coconut, rice etc are given to the girl. Ceremoniously the red chunni is draped on her head .On this day even rings are exchanged between the bride and groom . sometimes this is done on the day of the roka itself.
Mehandi:The hena that the mother-in-law brings on the shagun is mixed and applied on the bride’s hand. The henna appliers are called at-home and all the ladies of the house have their palms and feet decorated with floral patterns with hena. The bride has the pride of the place with the most deft hena applier making intricate paterns on her arms,hands,feet and legs ,in his elaborate handiwork he writes the spelling of the groom’s name which she will ask him to locate!.All this amidst a lot of folk dance and folksongs . After a couple of hours the hena is removed by rubbing in mustard oil.If the hena takes a dark hue on her palms it is believed that she will have a cordial relationship with her mother-in-law.
There is a bangle ceremony where a couple of bangles are slipped into the girl’s hands by her sisters,cousins and friends and relatives. On the day of the Churra Charrahana ceremony these bangles are removed and distributed amongst the girls of marrgiable age The mother’s brother i.e her uncle puts in the ivory bangles which have been soaked in milk to make them smooth and soft. These bangles are special to a Punjabi bride for they indicate that she is a newly wed She proudly spots them never removing them for the period of time say 40 days or 3 months ,a year …In front of the(churra) bangles a steel or a gold bangle is slipped in, on which the Kalera’s are tied by the ladies .On the day of Sangeet she puts her hands together and strikes them over the head of her unwed sister,cousin,friend and if a portion breaks and falls over the head then it signifies that her wedding is imminent.
On the eve of the wedding there is the traditional Jaggo (be awake!)ceremony It is literally to wake up the whole neighbourhood proclaiming amidst the beating of the Dhol(Punjabi drum)and a thick pole tied with bells tied on it dancing and singing in the street Jaggo(Awake )all of you …there is a wedding in the vicinity…A popular folk song “Jago aaiyan,lambrha joru jaga le ve jago aaiyan” village head wake up your wife we’ve come to tell you about the wedding! The night revelers carry a mud pitcher with a lamp lit by oil …whichever house they go they collect oil or money ,and invite them to come and join the revelry.
Gharhaoli:The brother and siter-in-law take a pitcher and fill water for bathing .After the Girl finishes her bath ,her Maternal uncle puts a Phulkari Bedsheet over her and brings her out of the bathroom ,known as Khare lana.In the groom’s place a similar practice is followed.
The girl gets ready to go to the beauty Parlour where she gets dolled up for the wedding.
Meanwhile at the groom’s camp…his siter-in-laws put kohl in his eyes( to keep him away from evil eye) .The sehra is tied to cover his face in golden or silver streamers He then mounts a horse along with a sarbala a boy who accompanies him and keeps him company .With a turban ,he looks very much like a man of strength and valor ,he comes on a horseback looking like a prince to seek his bride in marriage. It is his sister’s who help him mount the horse, and feed the horse with soaked gram lentil, making sure he has his bellyful . The Barat consisting of a Band along with singing and dancing friends and relatives dressed in their Sunday best gives a royal touch to the occasion.
Another interesting feature is a sort of a dress code for the Baratis. Men are all in the same coloued turban and the women are in the matching scarves …generally pink,red etc They can be spotted from a distance and makes easy for the bride household to segregate and give them a V.I.P treatment .(Lack of which can lead to a lifetime animosity.)The one thing that the boy side demand is a V.I.P.treatment meted out to the Baratis.
Milni…Once the Barat reaches the bride’s place,her brother helps the groom to dismount. Where the relatives of the bride are waiting to welcome them. with a surfiet of garlands . The father of the girl facilitaes the groom’s father with a gift or cash or both and then they garland each other. The bride’s grandfather greets the groom’s grandfather,the maternal uncle of the bride greets the`maternal uncle and so on with gifts`and garlanding each other…..and then the womenfolk. greet each other similarly.
Jaimala: The name suggests a victory garland .In olden times the bride would garland the man who stood victorious in her eyes after a test or so. It was known as swayamber.i.e. choosing one’s own husband . The tradition has carried on ….as the Baratis (the groom’s party is referred to as baratis)come in, the bride is ushered in with her entourage of sisters cousin sisters and friends under a canopy of a phulkari (Punjabi embroidry )sheet held by her brothers and cousin brothers …with a befitting folk song for the occasion. She walks to the stage where the groom is sitting waiting for her. Once there the garlands are given to each of them and they garland each other amidst a lot of cheering and clapping!
Marriage ceremony: Shubh Vivah :Anand Karaj ( work of bliss):The marriage ceremony is solemnized according to the vedic rites .In the marriage mandap the priest is ready with the fire .Amidst chanting of prayers the groom accepts the daughter from the father as kanyadaan (the giving away of the daughter)They go round the fire 4 times Fire is a witness to their being united as man and wife. . In the Punjabi Sikh wedding the couple goes round the holy book Guru Granth Saheb four times amidst singing of hymns called (Lawa Phere)The marriage is generally solemenised in a gurudwara .The priest then brings a register where the bride and groom sign as a couple.
The girl who sat on the right side before accepting him as her wedded husband extracts seven promises which is known as Satpadi …..1st…without her consent he will not perform Yajna i.e offering
2nd.without her consent he will not go on a pilgrimage.3rd… will not spend wealth without her consent.4th.will not make any well or pond meaning thereby will not make any major changes in the premises.5th will not buy any animal.6th without her permission will not indulge in any vile celebration and will never insult her in company of others.7th will not associate with any other woman.
She will be his equal .She will be his other half who will make him whole!
He in turn puts forth five conditions which should be acceptable to her 1st…she will consider him her God ?(pati parmeshwar)2nd She will not indulge in eating drinking and dressing up without his approval.3rd… will protect her character and honor of both the houses..4th will serve his parents and other members of his family 5th… will reside in his house and spend a life of purity and truth. The implication of these vows is that only when they respect each other will their family life will be fruitful and meaningful. And after they have accepted each others conditions the bride gets up and sits to the left of her husband.
Generally when the groom comes out of the wedding ceremony his shoes are taken away by the bridesmaids.which they return to him at a price . He then gives rings (Kalichiris )
to the bridesmaids …
Doli: “Naazan de naal paal ke mapae …des nikalan devan aapae…” (Parents nurture their daughter with so much love and care..are themselves the one who banish her from their household….)The folk songs resonate with such soulful lyrics that hardly leaves an eye dry …each married lady reminiscing about her Bidai(send off )by her parents ….each father of a daughter daunted by the prospect of ultimately sending off his daughter to her groom’s place …
She is given uncooked rice on a platter which while stepping out of her house she throws backwards signifying…. prosperity in her father’s house even when she’s gone!
A decorated car is waiting to whisk her off to her husbad’s place along with him. More often than not the car is a dowry gifted by her parents to the groom .Her brother accompanies her to her new home .The men folk of the girl’s side gently push the car as a send off while the groom’s party shower money mainly coins on the car . expressing their joy!
The family members of the groom are there to welcome the newly weds at his place. Before newly weds enter they pour oil on both sides of the gate /door to ward off the evil eye. The Mother-in law brings in a glass of buttermilk which she rotates on the heads of the newly weds and then takes a sip . A rice gram lentil mixture is given to the bride implying that she will mix with the new family in a similar way .Her brother is sent back with respect and honor. A child especially a boy is made to sit in her lap as a good omen to her having her first born as a male child! Several games are played in order to cut the ice and make her feel at-home. Mukh Vikhai :another custom where all the ladies of the neighborhood surround her pick up her veil to see her and give her some cash or gift to welcome her to the new set up.
Pug Phere: The following day she along with her brand new husband goes to visit her parent’s. They treat them to an elaborate meal and give them sweetmeats,cash,coconut ,etc tied in a bundle in a big red cloth. The implication of the tradition that from now onwards the girl is free to visit her parent’s informally.
The girl’s house slowly comes back to normalcy with most of the guests gone. They come to terms living without their beloved daughter yet secure in the thought that they have fulfilled a duty of settling her in the protection of a man who will look after her in all times. However the thought of paying back loans they have assimilated for the great event is a wet blanket …because money or no money it’s time to spend money …that’s what marriages thrive on –and the innate human desire to show off what in economic parlance is called the Demonstration Effect.
I hope you enjoyed the little insight I have given on the colourful Punjabi wedding!