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  Indian Wedding Traditions  

Rokna or Thaka: Acceptance of the alliance
'Rokna' is an important part of the Punjabi wedding although the 'shagun' now could be any amount of money - instead of the customary Rs. 1.25, which was so common in the olden days.

Sagai: Engagement
Rings are exchanged between the bride and the groom to be, in the presence of a 'pandit' or 'pujari', close friends and relatives. The wedding day would normally be fixed after the 'sagai'.

Chunni Chadana: Dressing up and blessing of the bride
Close female relatives form the groom's home go the bride's home with what is known as the 'suhag ki pitari' (a decorated basket containing gifts from the groom's mother for the bride). These gifts usually consist of 'mehendi' (henna), clothes, jewellery, fruits, dry fruits, dried coconut, 'chuaare' or dried dates, bangles, 'sindoor' (vermilion powder) and a red 'dupatta' or veil.

During this ceremony the ladies sing wedding songs to the beat of a 'dholak' or small drum and decorate the bride-to-be by dressing her up and draping the red 'dupatta' on her.

Mehendi: Beautifying the bride
The 'Mehendi' celebration is a lighthearted affair with no religious connotation. It is usually held at the bride's home and is a daytime function. Professional 'mehendi' artists or 'mehendiwallis' make intricate patterns on the hands and feet of the bride and her other female friends with the henna paste. Another modern day custom practiced at 'mehendi' functions is to have a bangle seller or 'chudiwalla' adorn the hands of all the ladies present with colourful 'chudis' or bangles.

Kangna Bandhana: Tying of the symbolic bracelet on the couple
On the morning of the wedding day, the bride and the groom (each in their respective homes), has to have the sacred thread or 'mouli' tied to their right wrists. The 'mouli' has an iron 'challa' (bracelet) tied to it along with turmeric sticks, 'supari' (betel nut) and 'kaudis' (shells). The thread has to have as many knots as possible in order to make it difficult to untie later!

Chuda Chadana: Adorning of the bride with the ivory bangle by her maternal uncle
Only the bride's family celebrates this ritual. The bride's maternal uncle or 'mama', gifts her a red ivory bangle or 'chuda', which the maternal aunt or 'mami' will adorn her wrists with. These days ivory has been replaced with acrylic or plastic. Four unmarried girls of marriageable age surround the bride and drape a red 'dupatta' on her while the 'mami' puts on the 'chuda' for her. The girls also adorn the bride's hands with 'kaleeras'. 'Kaleeras' are traditionally supposed to be made from pure silver but these days' people usually prefer to use the ones made from foil because 'kaleeras' are never used after a marriage.

Uptan: Haldi ceremony – Preparing the bride
One day before the actual wedding, the bride and groom (in their respective homes) are cleansed with turmeric paste. This daytime ceremony prepares both of them for the nuptials. 'Uptan' is a paste made from sandalwood, turmeric and rose water and is applied by seven married female members of the families, to the faces, hands and feet of the bride and groom.

After this ceremony the bride and the groom are barred from stepping outdoors until after the wedding ceremony. During the entire seven days of 'sangeet', which follows, they must remain indoors and are not allowed to meet each other.

Sangeet: Musical getogether by the ladies of the family
'Sangeet' is usually held after the 'mehendi' ceremony and is more of a ladies function, when all the ladies and unmarried girls from both sides congregate to have fun and frolic by dancing and singing traditional wedding songs.

Ghodi Sajana: Decorating the Mare
In most Punjabi weddings, the groom travels to the bride's home mounted on a mare. The mare or 'ghodi' is traditionally decorated for this wedding procession. The mare's hair is plaited with sacred thread or 'mouli' and the groom's sisters feed her with Bengal gram, which has been soaked in water the night before.

The groom's sisters are given a 'shagun' in the form of money for their efforts! The groom's sister-in-law applies 'kajal' or kohl in the groom's eyes, before he departs for the bride's home.

Sehra Bandhi: Tying of the traditional headdress on the groom
Just before the groom can mount the mare - married ladies from his family tie the 'pagadi' or turban, the 'sehra' or floral veil, which covers the groom's face, put 'shagun' in his 'jholi' or lap and bless the groom. The 'shagun' usually consists of a red 'dupatta', dried coconut and dried dates or 'chuaare'. Then the groom's nephew or 'sarbala' as he is referred to, mounts the mare along with the groom and the two are ready to leave for the wedding procession.

Agwaani: Receiving the Groom's Procession or Baraat
The bride's family receives the 'baraat' at the entrance of the bride's home.

Milni: Welcoming the groom’s ‘baraat
This is probably the first time that all the relatives from both families are seeing each other and the 'milni' is to help them get acquainted. It is very typical for each relative to embrace his counterpart - grooms and bride's fathers, maternal uncles (mamas) and paternal uncles (chachas), in the other family at least 3 times each. Throughout the 'milni' the groom and the 'sarbala' remain mounted on the mare. Once all the relatives have greeted each other, the bride's brother and / or another male relative help the groom off the mare.

The groom is then escorted to the threshold of the house and the bride's mother performs the 'aarti' (traditional Indian welcome ritual with a lamp or 'diya' placed on a platter or 'thali') to welcome her son-in-law.

Jaimala: Exchange of garlands
After the bride's mother has performed the 'aarti' for her son-in-law, the bride is escorted to the threshold to welcome her beau in the traditional manner by garlanding him. The groom in turn garlands his bride. This exchange of garlands is known as the 'jaimala'.

Shaadi: The actual wedding rituals
The actual wedding rites are known as 'sanatan dharam' rites and the 'pujas' conducted during the wedding ceremony include the 'Ganesha Puja' (invocation of the elephant God, Ganesha), 'Omkar Puja', 'Lakshmi Puja' (invocation of the Goddess of Wealth), 'Kalash Puja' (invocation of the God of Water of Varun Devta), the 'puja' or the nine planets or the 'Navgrahi Puja'.
Once all the deities have been worshipped, the 'havan' or sacred fire is lit to invoke the blessings of 'Agni Devta' or the God of Fire. Fire forms an integral part of all Hindu customs and rituals, as it symbolizes purity and also acts as a witness to the marriage - in other words 'Agni Sakshi'.

All the vows between the bridal couple are exchanged in the presence of this 'witness'.During the entire process - the 'pujas', the 'havan' and the 'saath pheras' (seven steps around the sacred fire) the couple's hands remain tied.
Bidaai: Bridal send off

Before the bride leaves for her marital home, she either lights a 'mitti ka diya' (earthen lamp) in her parents home or turns on all the lights.

What follows is the most touching and sensitive ritual of Hindu weddings, the 'lajahom'. 'Laja' or 'phulian' is puffed rice (a sign of prosperity), which the bride has to take in both her hands and shower on all her family over the top of her head. She does this all the way to the palanquin or decorated car, which is waiting to take her to her new home. By doing this she is repaying all her debts to her parents for having looked after her all these years.

On reaching her marital home, she is welcomed at the entrance, by her mother-in-law, who performs the traditional 'aarti' for her. After this, the newly wed sprinkles a little coconut oil near the door.

Kangna Kholna: Untying of the bracelet
The bride and groom untie each other's bracelets in the presence of all the relatives. There is a lot of teasing and fun and frolic at this time. The bride is required to untie her husband's bracelet first.

Mooh Dikhai Ki Rasm: Introducing the bride to the husband’s family
Literally translated this means the 'showing of the bride' to the groom's family members, but in reality it is actually a form of introduction. The mother-in-law showers her 'bahu' (daughter-in-law) with jewellery, clothes and money at this time. The other close relatives of the family also offer her gifts and money.Literally translated this means the 'showing of the bride' to the groom's family members, but in reality it is actually a form of introduction. The mother-in-law showers her 'bahu' (daughter-in-law) with jewellery, clothes and money at this time. The other close relatives of the family also offer her gifts and money.

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