Punjabi wedding traditions are a strong reflection of Punjabi culture with ritual, song, dance, food, and dress that have evolved over centuries.
The couple commit to enter into wedlock and to refuse other proposals of marriage. Ardaas is said and gifts are exchanged.
This is an unofficial engagement ceremony where the groom's family and friends come give presents, money and blessings to the bride to be. The origin of this ceremony lies in the arranged marriage norm, where the parents would announce that they are looking for a suitable match for their son or daughter, and once they had found that match, their search had come to an end. Though rings are not exchanged, the couple stand unofficially engaged after this ceremony. Traditionally when individuals weren't allowed to see their mate.[clarification needed]
Engagement is a significant part of a Punjabi wedding. The bride's family visits the groom's family with gifts to confirm the engagement.
Approximately a week before the wedding the sagai ceremony is held, in which a tikka forehead mark is applied. The bride's family visits the groom's family bringing gifts, the paste for the tikka mark and a silver tray with a few grains of rice and saffron in a small silver bowl, 14 dried dates (chuharey) wrapped in silver foil and a coconut wrapped in gold leaf. The bride's father applies the mark to the groom's forehead, blesses him and gives him some money. The bride's family receives baskets of seven dried fruits: almonds, cashewnuts, dried dates, coconut pieces, raisins, dried apricots (khurman) and puffed lotus seeds (phoolmakhana). The tikka ceremony may be combined with the engagement. First, the girl is draped with a chunni (stole), which is usually very ornate. In some families this chunni is a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation. She is also presented with jewellery, which her mother and sister-in-law help her wear. A tiny dot of henna paste (mehndi) is applied to her palm for good luck, and the function is sealed with the exchange of rings. Everyone present congratulates the couple by feeding them sweets.
There is a sangeet function hosted by the girl's family, in which just a few close members of the groom's family are invited. The bride's family play the dholak drums and sing songs in which they tease the groom and his family. Nowadays, people hire DJs and have a dance party, followed by dinner. A ladies sangeet is held for the bride and her bridesmaids.
The last major function before the wedding is decoration with temporary henna (mehndi) tattoos. Mehndi artists are called to the houses of the boy and girl and apply mehendi to the palms of the female family members, and the hands and feet of the bride. A basket containing Bindi and bangles is handed around so girls can choose those that match the outfit they plan to wear to the wedding. The Mehandi ceremony takes place in the atmosphere of a party. The bride and other ladies get mehendi (henna designs) done, on their hands and feet (most ladies get it done only on their hands but the bride gets it done on both hands and feet). For the bride the mehndi is sent by the future Mother in Law, which is beautifully decorated.
Bhaat Bharna is a wedding gift to the mother of bride and groom from he brother.
Rituals at the bride’s home
Chura: On the wedding day the rituals at the girl’s home begin with the Chura ceremony. The oldest maternal uncle and aunt play an important role in the performance of the ceremony. Chura is basically a set of red and cream ivory bangles that is touched by all present which is gifted by girl's Mamma (mother's Brother) the girl does not see the chura until she is ready for the marriage. People touch the chura and give their heartiest wishes to the girl for her future married life. Also, they sprinkle flower petals on the bride. After that, the girl’s uncle, aunt, friends and cousins tie kaliras (silver, gold or gold plated traditional ornaments) to a bangle worn by the girl.
Mayian: This is the preparation ceremony one day before a Punjabi wedding. This ceremony is an evening festival, at the couple's parental homes. It consists of many rites, the Batna, Choora, Jaggo fireworks and sometimes the Ladies Sangeet and Mehndi. The mayian happens the night before the wedding and depending on which part of the Punjab the participants are from it is celebrated accordingly.[vague]
Vatna/Haldi: Four lamps or diyas are lit and the bride sits facing them. Oil is constantly poured into the lamps, so that the glow from the diyas is reflected on her face. Vatna involves applying a paste made from turmeric powder and mustard oil all over the girl’s body by her female friends and relatives. This is done to make the girl look more beautiful on the most special day of her life. This ritual demands that the bride stay at home in her old clothes for a couple of days before her wedding. Ubtan[clarification needed] is supposed to bring a glow to the bride's and groom's body, especially on their faces. This tradition is also known as Shaint in some cultures. After this ritual, the bride and groom are constrained from meeting each other until the wedding ceremony.
Ghara gharoli: A decorated pitcher of water (ghadoli) is brought for the bride's bath by the groom's bhabi (brother's wife). In the ghara gharoli ritual, the bride’s sibling or sibling’s spouse visits the nearby temple and fills a pitcher with holy water. The girl is then bathed with this holy water. Thereafter, the bride wears her wedding attire. The ghara gharoli and the vatna ceremonies take place at the groom’s house too. But over there, the boy’s sister-in-law brings the pitcher of water. As per the tradition, their wedding dress is presented to them by their respective maternal uncles.
Jaggo: In this ceremony, the family dances and sings in the beautifully decorated wedding home. Jaggo is celebrated in the last hours of the night. They decorate copper or brass vessel called khadaa with diveh (clay lamps) and fill them with mustard oil and light them. The bride or bridegroom's maternal aunt (mammi) carries it on her head, and another lady will carry a long stick with bells, shaking it. The ladies will then go into other friends' and families' homes; after being welcomed by sweets and drinks, they dance there and move on. It is a loud ceremony, filled with joy, dancing, fireworks, and food. It is also practised in Pakistan.
Rituals at the grooms’s home
Sarbala: A young nephew or cousin dons the same attire as the groom. He is called the sarbala/shabbala (caretaker of the groom) and accompanies him.
Sehra: Like the bride’s home, the Vatna and Ghara Gharoli are followed by the dressing up of the groom in his wedding attire. After the groom has dressed up in his wedding clothes, a puja is performed. Thereafter, the groom’s sister ties the sehra on the groom’s head. After the completion of Sehrabandi ceremony, all those who witness the function give gifts and cash to the boy as a token of good luck.
Varna is a ceremony that is supposed to ward off the evil eye. The groom's bhabi lines his eyes with surma (kohl).
Ghodi Chadna is the final ceremony at the groom’s place. The groom’s sisters and cousins feed and adorn his mare. To ward off the evil eye, people use cash and perform the Varna ritual. The cash is then distributed among the poor. After this the boy climbs the horse and leaves his home for the wedding venue.
Rituals at the marriage venue
Milni literally means "introductions". In a Sikh marriage, Ardas is performed by the person in charge of looking after the Sikh scriptures, followed by the formal introductions of senior men in the families. For example, both eldest chachas (father's younger brother) will come together and exchange garlands of flowers. In the Milni ceremony, the girl's relatives give shagun (a token of good luck) to the groom's close relatives in descending order of age. Cash and clothes are gifted.
Jaimala/Varmala: After Milni, the bride and groom come in the center of the circle where the family is standing, and place a heavily made garland made of flowers- varmala on each other to state, they accept each other and will love and live together with one another. Friends and relatives of the bride and groom indulge in teasing and fun, to celebrate this happy occasion. An auspicious time or muhurat is chosen for the performance of wedding ceremony.
Kanyadaan and Phere: The bride's father puts a ring on the boy's finger and then he gives his daughter to the boy. This ritual is known as the Kanyadaan. It is after the kanyadaan that the pheras begin. The pheras take place in front of the sacred fire, agni. After this the groom applies Sindoor (vermilion) to the girl’s hair partition and the Mangalsutra Rasam takes place where the groom ties a beaded necklace i.e. a mangalsutra to the girl’s neck. When all these rituals are over, the couple gets up to touch the feet of all the elder members in the family and seek their blessings for a happily married life. In a Hindu Punjabi Wedding, Agni (sacred fire) is usually encircled seven times.
In a Sikh wedding, the bride and groom will walk in tow around the Guru Granth Sahib four times, called laavaan. This signifies they not only accept each other as one soul in two bodies, but also as the Guru as the center of their marriage.
Joota chupai literally means 'hiding the shoes'. The bride’s sisters indulge in stealing of shoes. It is a fun tradition, in which the girls charge a fee for agreeing to return the shoes. They demand Kalecharis of gold for the bride's sisters and of silver for her cousins.
Vidaai/Doli: Vidaai marks the departure of the bride from her parental house. As a custom, the bride throws phulian or puffed rice over her head. The ritual conveys her good wishes for her parents. A traditionally sad ritual, here the bride says goodbye to her parents, siblings and rest of her family. Her brothers/male cousins then lead her to her husband, who waits to take her to his family home to begin her new life as a married woman. Her relatives throw coins in the wake of this procession. In keeping with tradition the mother in-law will often not come to the Doli and instead make preparations at home to greet the arrival of her son and new wife.
The mother-in-law has a glass of water in her hand, which she circles 3 times around her bahu and then offers it to her to drink, as a symbol of her acceptance and blessing as her newest daughter.
Rituals observed at the groom's house
Reception at the boy's house: The newlyweds are welcomed in a ceremony called the pani bharna. Then the bride must, with her right foot, kick the sarson ka tel (mustard oil) that is put on the sides of the entrance door before she enters the house. Then, along with her husband, she must offer puja in their room. Then they must touch the feet of the elders in a ceremony called matha tekna. The rest of the evening is spent playing traditional games.
Phera Dalna: The newly weds visit the bride's parents on the day after the wedding. The bride’s brother usually fetches them.
Important wedding songs
Songs of the bridegroom's side
- Mangane di geet: sung at the time of engagement
- Maneve de gaon: songs sung to welcome the bridegroom
- Gharouli de geet: sung while filling the pitcher (gharouli) for Bride/Bridegroom's bath before the wedding
- Chounki charanvele de geet: songs sung when the bridegroom sits on the chounki wooden bathing seat
- Suhag: sung by the bride in praise of her parents and the happy days of her childhood and in anticipation of happy days ahead
- Jaggo: procession song to call the neighbours to the wedding
- Churra charan vele da geet: sung when the chura ceremonial bangles are worn by the bride
- Janj: sung when the janj marriage procession is to be greeted
- Milni: sung at the ritual introduction of the two sides
- Ghenne de geet: sung when the bride is adorned with jewels
- Siftan: song in praise of the bridegroom
- Chhandh: evolved from poetry, songs of joy
- Song sung when the bridegroom's procession is being welcomed
- Song sung when the wari, or gifts from the bridegroom’s side, are being exhibited
- Song sung when the groom's party sits down to the meal
- Song sung when the daaj, dowry or the bridal gifts, are being displayed
- Lavan Phere: sung at the time of the actual wedding ritual
- Maiya: sung when the girl is preparing for the wedding and is bathed by the women at home. It goes for both men and women.
- Vedi de geet: sung while erecting the marriage pandal
- Khatt: sung at the time the maternal grandparents present gifts to the bride on an overturned tokra, or basket
- Pani vaarna: welcoming the bride to her new home
- Bidaigi: sung when the bride is being sent off in the doli
- Ghughrian: sung when the doli arrives at the groom's house
- Shahana: sung by mirasis in praise of the bridegroom
- Til Methre: sung while welcoming the bride and orienting her to the family
- Pattal: song sung before meal
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