“The Big Fat Indian wedding” – an apt phrase to describe the elaborate weddings in India. The ostentatious wedding and reception, the dazzling lights and decorations, the loud music and dance, the vibrant colors and rituals, the formal greetings and gifts, the assorted food and drinks, the brimming emotions and blessings, and the oomph in it all – makes marriages in India a comprehensive package of happiness, fun and emotions.
In India, weddings isn’t just a private affair between two persons. Everyone from the family, close relations and at times even the entire locality or village of the bride and groom are involved in the event. Thus making it one of the most awaited event for all. While the essence of Indian wedding remains same across cultures, the rituals vary largely from one state of India to another. Even within the same state, the ceremonies might widely differ from region to region. For some communities, the auspicious time for wedding is the late nights, while for others it is the early mornings. Some are more lavishly celebrated while others are still held in a traditional way – Indian marriages have many shades to it.
A typical Indian wedding has a standard procedure or rituals which include the welcoming of the groom procession, the marriage rituals, the reception and finally the feast. The rituals end with the bride leaving her own family and moving to her husband’s home to mark the beginning of a new life with him. But amidst these traditions and emotional farewells, there are some ceremonies which are different, fun and unique to its community. Here’s a List of few of such unique rituals.
Punjabi Weddings – Bollywood has played a vital role in promoting and making Punjabi style Indian wedding popular worldwide. And why not! It is indeed one of the most flamboyant and colorful weddings of India. The stone studded red colored Lehenga of the bride, the Sherwani worn by the groom, various colorful Indian attires ranging from Sari’s to Salwaar Suits to Kurta’s worn by the guests – is like a fashion house in itself, of latest trends in an Indian wedding.
The unique ingredient in this wedding is the ritual of stealing. Yes you heard it right. The shoe worn by the groom is stolen by the bride’s party and is returned only if the groom pays a good amount of money for it!
This game is played between the bride and groom’s friends and cousins. The responsibility of the groom’s party is to take care of it from falling into the hands of the bride’s party. Once the bride’s party gets the shoes, there is a session of intense negotiations with the groom for the final price for the shoes. The play of hide and seek and fights over just a pair of shoes is worth enjoying.
Kerala Weddings – South Indian weddings are more subdued, quiet and conventional. But Kerala Hindu weddings have one more unique feature to it. It can be termed one of the quickest marriage ceremonies of India. The marriage ritual is done and dusted in just 5 minutes.
As soon as the bride and groom take up their designated places, few mantras are uttered and a chain or thread with a gold pendant called a “taali” is tied by the groom around the neck of the bride. This is accompanied by a thunderous rendering of musical instruments namely the Nadaswaram and Thavil, signaling the end of the ceremony. Voila – the marriage is done! The crowd, who had been patiently watching the ceremony, disperses faster than the marriage itself. Might be surprising for the first timers but that’s the way it is in Kerala!
Weddings in Lahual –While flipping through the old album of your parents wedding, have you ever wished, that you could somehow been part of their marriage? Well sounds like a weird wish but this special wish seems to have been granted to the children of Lahual valley as they are the lucky ones to witness their parent’s marriage.
Lahual district of Himachal Pradesh placed amidst the Himalayan Mountains is one of the most offbeat yet beautiful destinations of India. The natives here are also one of the modest people one can come across. With a population majority of Buddhist’s, the rituals here are quite different.
There are two marriages in a couple’s life here. One is called choti shaadi (small marriage); other is called badi shaadi (big marriage). The small marriage ceremony is like a mutual agreement which takes place in presence of the families of bride and groom. After this marriage, they continue to lead their life as a married couple over time bearing children and saving enough for a bigger event. At a later point in time, when they are financially capable for a bigger ceremony, they have the big marriage. In this big marriage, the guests list doesn’t stop at inviting the whole of their own village but the whole of neighboring villages are also invited.
It is done at such a large scale that it becomes a group event with everyone at the host village contributing towards wedding arrangements. From welcoming guests to making arrangement for their night stay and even the food is prepared by the community. Everyone in the village takes a day off from their routine job and completely enjoys this one day together. This marriage, which starts in the morning, is less of a ritual and more of a celebration.
Everyone irrespective of age or gender whole heartedly participates in this celebration by dancing, singing and drinking till late into the night. The songs are sung in native language. Their dance style is one of its kinds as it comprises of subtle dance movements. It is spontaneous and so well coordinated, that one would feel it has been rehearsed before. But it is a traditional dance which is known to everyone from the kids to the elders. It is one of the highlights of their wedding and is a treat to watch.
This wedding seems like one of the most ideal wedding ceremonies as it doesn’t compel a couple to have a financial stability to get married. They can get married first and then work together for a more lavish or a dream wedding.
Weddings in Minicoy – This small island forms a part of Lakshadweep’s group of islands. It is the southern- most island in the group. They are closer to Maldives islands and therefore follow its tradition. They even use the native language of Maldives called Mahl. The population is Muslim and weddings here are comparable to any similar community’s weddings in India with one major difference.
Women’s predominance in all walks of life is a peculiar feature of Minicoy Island. While in most parts of the India, once the marriage rituals are done, the girl leaves her family and stays at husband’s home. Minicoy on the other hand, is complete opposite. After wedding rituals, the guy packs his bags, shifts his stuff from his own home to the bride’s home and stays there forever. Not only this, he is supposed to bring a big fat dowry along with him, which include all the requisites needed for a home like refrigerator, television, furniture etc. He assumes his wife’s family name after marriage. While most males are the bread winners of the family, taking care of family affairs is the responsibility of the Women of the house. Seems like the secret wish of most bride’s across India comes true in Minicoy!
Attending marriages is a good way of understanding the people, their culture and also their cuisine. The ones mentioned on this blog post are only few of the regions in India with distinct marriage rituals. But in a land as diverse as India, if one digs deep enough, a whole book can be written about it! So next time, if you are invited to a marriage in India, do take part in it. You never know, what unusual ritual you might come across.