For many of our friends, this was the first time that they’ve attended a traditional Indian village wedding. Both of us are of the same tradition. For those who missed it this is what happened…
The day began early, with the usual morning ablutions. We couldn’t see each other for the rest of the morning. Our preparations started separately in different rooms of the house.
Both of our parents, along with Pallavi began the first pooja of the day. Here, Pallavi was blessed and prepared for the Holy rituals of the wedding ceremony.
Three very important items are given as a gift to her. A saree for another important ceremony, Basinga or a fillet (head-band) and Gold Jewelry. The ceremony ends with the Basinga being tied to Pallavi’s head.
I perform a pooja along with the priest.
Later I am led to the Mantap or the wedding platform, where our parents begin the next round of rituals. There they wash my feet as a token of welcome. While priests chant the mantras, the parents tie darbe rings and place it on my fingers. I am given an offering of Milk and Banana. The ceremony ends with Pallavi’s brother handing me gifts of clothes.
While I am busy at the Mantap, Pallavi is being dressed up for the wedding. All her sisters and friends help her get attired in the traditional brahmin wedding style, which involves two sarees.
She is handed a blessed coconut and a mala or garland of flowers. She mustn’t drop the coconut. This is the rite of Kaigayi.
Now the bride is led to the mantap. Her uncles carry her in a procession up to the mantap. I am hidden behind a Parade or Veil. She is waiting on the other side. The priest chants the mantras as Pallavi’s Father officiates the Mala Ceremony. After the end of every stanza people throw akshata or red-dyed rice over the us. Finally the parade is lowered and Pallavi first places the mala over my head. After I place the garland over her head, the next rite begins. We sit down and the rituals begin in earnest.
We are offered the Panchgavya, a purifying drink made of 5 ingredients. This signifies that both of us are sanctified. We are also presented with kitchen items as a sign of blessing on our future home.
The mother of the bride then takes the mangalsutra or necklace and going to all the elders around, asks them to bless it. When it has been blessed she hands it to me. I put the mangalsutra around Pallavi’s neck. Once worn the mangalsutra must not be removed. It is a sign of the care and concern I have towards her, and the love she bears me in return.
Kanyadana is the most important ritual in the entire ceremony. It literally means “gift of a maiden”. According to the ancients, the bride is the most beautiful gift of God Vishnu to the husband. He must treat her with great respect and love. She must consider her husband as Vishnu himself. Rice is placed in both of our hands, topped with a coconut. Over that water is poured. Then we have to throw that rice over each others’ head. This was repeated 9 times. Once I missed her head and the wet rice landed on her face!
Pallavi’s Mother then places two toe rings on each foot. These Kalungura are a token of marriage. They serve a similar purpose as the gold ring of the western culture’s wedding ceremony.
Our parents tie the pallu or end of Pallavi’s saree to the end of my dhoti. This rite marks the moment of the joining of our lives. Everything we do from now, we will do together. However, we will be tied together only till lunch.
The rite of Saptapadi involves me leading Pallavi as she takes seven steps on rupee notes and rice. She leans on my arm for support as she steps on them only with her right foot.
Here’s a reminder that we are still in the 21st century. I add a new rite by updating my status on facebook to “married” on my chromebook pixel!
Our parents then place Pallavi’s hand in my hand. Signifying the rite of Hennu Vopisuvudu, where Pallavi is placed in my care.
We are led to the house, where we are sanctified with kumkum. We put water on our eyes as a sign of warding off “Drasti”.Everyone has seen this rite on TV. It is called Homa. We walk around the Holy Fire, offering Hodalu (food) to the Gods after every cycle.
And now to stuff our faces!
Graha Pravesh is the last rite of the wedding ceremony. The auspicious timing, as with the Muhurtham, was decided by the astrologers earlier. The Muhurtham was at 10:20 in the morning. The graha pravesh was in the evening. We changed into the clothes that were gifted to us in the morning. Traditionally this is the welcoming ceremony of all Indian Households. One becomes a member of the family only after crossing the threshold of the Pooja room. It was exciting taking part in this ritual. The basingas from our heads are removed and tied to the top beam of the house. This is never removed. It is sign of the permanent place of a couple in a home.
It ended with a dinner. This exhilarating but exhausting experience came to an end as the night descended upon the village. Everything became quiet then except for the laughing crowd who were eating, joking and having fun!