A pinch of vermilion, a handsome groom and a blushing bride looking resplendent in their wedding outfits in an ostentatious, crowded wedding affair. Added with lots of spicy food and loud music, this is the "Indian wedding" for many foreigners.
But there is a lot more to it, a wedding in India is more than a showy affair. It's not only a reunion of two people but their families, cultures and values. The Indian wedding is a grand affair because it consists of a number of rituals based on the Holy Scriptures, the Vedas which are performed as soon as the betrothal is made official. Let's get an insight on the big fat Indian wedding:
The Engagement Ceremony
This is the first and the foremost ceremony where the rings are exchanged between the bride and the groom. It is symbolic of giving a word of honor to each other. And the bride is given a piece of cloth, or dupatta, by the groom's family. On this piece of cloth, the bride collects the gifts exchanged by the groom's family along with the Vedic Mantras being enchanted in adoration of God seeking his blessings. The family members also shower their blessings on the couple. It's followed by a dance, and at times, a cocktail party.
Mehandi (Henna) Ceremony
This is mainly a function for ladies only. All the women gather and apply henna on the bride's arms, hands and feet in an intricate pattern. The henna is a traditional Indian color of joy and auspiciousness. It signifies the strong bond of love; the darker the henna, the stronger is the bond of love. The Henna takes time to dry and bring out its color. The bride waits till it dries and removes the residue.
This is a ceremony which takes place simultaneously at the bride and groom's place. It's a ceremony for women, the bride, and the groom. They celebrate the reunion by singing and dancing to folk songs. These days, the sangeet is also choreographed where the couple shake their legs together.
In the Haldi ceremony, the couple's family members apply turmeric paste to them to worship their lineage. The turmeric is believed to cleanse the body and soul and protect them from evil forces. By virtue of the yellow color, the turmeric gives a divine glow to the bride and the groom.
The Wedding Ceremony and the Pheras
This is the day every girl dreams of: a prince charming on a white horse comes to take away his bride with him forever. It indeed is fulfilled in the Indian matrimony. The bride adorns solah shringar, the 16 adornments to dress herself for the wedding. It includes- kajal or kohl, anklets, bindi, bangles, gajra (string of flowers), the sacred red saree and other jewellery for her husband. The groom comes on a white horse with his family while celebrating and dancing to the music called the baraat.
The stage is set; the couple begins with putting garlands around each other's necks called jaimala, followed by the pheras in which the couple walks encircling the holy fire whilst the priest enchants holy hymns. The seven pheras are the seven promises the bride and the groom make to each other for a happy and a prosperous life. They are bound together by a bond of these promises.
This is when the couple has tied the knot and the groom takes away his bride with pride and glory from her parents' home. This is an emotional moment for the bride and her parents, as she's leaving her home where she has grown and spent her entire childhood in their nurturing shadow.
All this is accompanied by a lot of grandiose magnificence, vibrant colors, loud music and joyous celebrations. Indians believe they get married only once so, it should be the moment of a lifetime, not less than a festival. Whether you get the chance to see a Bengali, Telugu, Punjabi or Chavara matrimony, it will be the experience of a lifetime.