BEFORE THE WEDDNG
"Embracing traditions is crucial to Indian couples. They are the foundation of our families and society, and remind us that our history shapes who we are today, as well as who we are likely to become," says Satish Punjabi, Director of Impressario Inc - A Wedding & Event Management Co. “The rituals in a Hindu wedding vary widely,” he includes. He clues us in on those common to celebrations in Singapore.
The first significant ceremony, says Satish, is when the families confirm the marriage in the presence of elders and sometimes a priest. Then, a few days before the wedding, his family visits her home with bangles for her. Next is the smelting of gold for the thali, the pendant that is one of the most revered symbols of marriage (along with the red pottu).
During the malam berinai, the bride's nails and hands are stained with an intricate henna design to beautify them and to repel eveil spirits. Photo: FadVisual
The bride and her beauty are incomplete without the mehendi (henna) ceremony on the night before the wedding. It brings together the women from both sides. The core significance of mehendi is to cool the body and relieve her of any stress before her big day. “In fact, there is a saying that the darker the stain, the more her mother-in-law or husband will love her, and that is why brides generally keep the henna paste on for longer,” says bride-to-be Preeti Kumar, a sales executive with Grand Hyatt Singapore.
The Nav Ghari ritual of grinding wheat is done a day before the wedding by the groom and the bride, and symbolises a prosperous household for the newly-weds. Image: Picture Perfect India
MAIYAN OR CLEANSING CEREMONY
“In Sindhi and Punjabi cultures, the maiyan purifies the couple getting married. It takes place at their respective homes and involves family and friends. The married women rub vatna – a doughy paste of tumeric powder, channa flour and mustard oil – over their arms, legs and face. It is also thought to make them glow during the wedding,” says Preeti.
ON THE BIG DAY
“In a Sindhi or Punjabi wedding, the bride's sisters “steal“ the groom’s shoes. This is done in the name of fun, and with the intention to get money out of the groom,” says Preeti.
The Hindu groom is considered an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and the bride, a form of Goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth and prosperity. Image: Androidsinboots
From the couple's garlands, to favours, flowers are very significant in Indian weddings. Image: Androidsinboots
“Kanya means girl and dhaan means giving away. In the Hindu tradition, the groom is considered an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and the bride, a form of Goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth and prosperity. Therefore, the kanyadhaan is a very emotional and religiously significant act for the bride’s parents as they give their daughter to the groom,” says Satish.
FIRE WALKING OR AGNI PHERE
According to Satish, the agni phere is one of the most important customs. “The couple walk seven times around a consecrated fire, reciting specific vows with each time. Vows made in the presence of the sacred fire are considered unbreakable, and said to be witnessed by Agni, the fire god. Once married, he presents her with a sari and thali that have been blessed.”
Preeti adds: “When it comes to traditions, it is mainly the couple and their immediate families who get involved. For most parents and elderly relatives, these traditions were practised at their own weddings, so they are usually elated to see them upheld in this day and age.”