Weddings are the ultimate reason for fun and celebration. The whole family gathers at a common spot and spends some gala time together. It is indeed a rejuvenating experience for the whole family. And especially at an Indian wedding, the complete program is of 4-5 days, because of the number of rituals in it. These rituals and customs have their own traditional value and they are also the upmost reason for the zeal in a wedding.
What comes into your mind when you hear of Punjabi weddings? Bhangra, and lots of spicy food, and some booze these three things roam in your head for sure. But Punjabi wedlock is much more than this. Like every other community, this one also has a unique set of rituals, which are very interesting to explore. Here we are jotting down all that you need to know about a desi Punjabi wedding.
Rokka basically indicates the start of a relationship. The bride’s and groom’s party meet each other and the family of the groom confirms the relation by giving the bride a piece of ancestral jewelry. The purpose of this function is to tell that now the girl is a part of the boy’s family and the two of them are now committed towards each other. It is a small ceremony in which only the close members of the family are present.
The engagement ceremony is known as ‘Kurmai’ in Punjabis. This is a grand occasion with a huge gathering. The mother of the groom makes the bride wear a red ‘chunni’ which is usually passed on by the previous generations. A tiny dot of henna is applied on the bride’s palm. The bride’s father also put a tika on the groom's forehead to bless him. The boy and girl then exchange rings. The party is celebrated with a number of dance performances from both the families.
The ‘sangeet’ in Punjabis is known as ‘Dholki’. It is organized by the bride’s party. The groom and his family are invited by the other side. The dhols and drums are played and Bhangra is performed in full swing. Both the families also sing ‘Boliyan’ i.e a way of teasing, to each other. They also can have a dance competition to make the program interesting.
This ‘rasam’ is almost the same in every community. The trained people are called to put Henna on the girl's hand and feet which comes from the boy’s house. All other female members of the family also put on these temporary tattoos as it is a sign of good luck. The thing which is quite different is that in Punjabis, a basket full of bangles and bindis is circulated from which the ladies choose which one they can exactly pair with the clothes they will wear on the wedding day.
These were some prominent functions that take place prior to a wedding ceremony at Punjab. Now let us see the minor customs which happen at the girl’s and boy’s house separately. Considering the bride’s side first, check down for the insights:
This ‘rasam’ marks the start of all other rituals at the girl’s place. Choora is a set of decorated red bangles. Eldest maternal uncle (mama) gifts these bangles to the girl. All the family members touch it to give blessings to the bride for her post marriage period. Later, the cousins and friends of the bride tie gold or silver plated kalire to it.
These celebrations are held at the house of the bride. It may include many small rituals like Batna, Jaggo and in some parts of Punjab it also includes mehendi and sangeet as well. This event takes place a night before the actual wedding.
This custom is celebrated in the groom’s house as well but at a small scale. In this, four diyas are placed in front of the bride so that the glow of those diyas is reflected on the bride’s face. Then turmeric paste along with mustard oil is applied on the bride and grooms to make their skin glow on their big day. After Vatna the both girl and boy are supposed to stay at home and aren’t allowed to see each other until the wedding day.
In this ritual, a round decorated earthen pot is filled with pious water from the temple by the brother’s wife (sister-in-law) of the bride. She places the pot on her head and with lots of dhol and bhangra this ceremony is performed. After bathing with this water the bride is allowed to wear her wedding attire. The same ritual happens at the groom’s place too.
In this function a brass vessel is firstly decorated, it is then filled with mustard oil and lightened up. The maternal aunt (maami) carries the vessel on her head and she goes around the neighborhood to invite them for snacks at their place. She is accompanied by another lady from the house who takes a stick with bells on it. They both roam in their locality shaking that stick and summon everyone to their house. Once everyone is gathered, they dance and sing and eat a lot. This ceremony is celebrated a few hours prior to the wedding and with lots of pomp and show.
Let’s proceed towards the groom party functions now. Have a look below:
The youngest member of the family is dressed the same as the groom. He is called ‘Sehbala’ or ‘Sarbala’. His responsibility is to take care of the groom and to cater all his needs. He acts like a shadow to the groom.
This ritual is performed by the sister of the groom. After the groom gets dressed in his wedding attire. She does a small prayer and ties the special turban, ‘Sehra’ on his brother’s head.
The Dapper groom once completely gets ready after wearing the sehra, it’s mandatory to protect him from the evil’s eye. So, the sister-in-law (Bhabhi) of the groom puts ‘kajal’ i.e kohl in his eyes. ‘Kajal’ is black in color and as per traditions it is believed to kill the negative energies. This whole process of applying kajal is known as ‘Varna’.
A horse is booked beforehand. The sisters of the groom feed this horse and the elders take out some cash to ward off evil’s eye. This cash is later distributed to poor people. After this, the groom finally climbs the horseback and leaves for the wedding venue.
The other ‘rasam’ or rituals are the same as all the hindu weddings. As the groom arrives the ‘Milni’ takes place. ‘Milni’ means the introduction in Sikh language. The groom party gets presents from the other side in this. Both the clans greet each other. And thereafter the Groom precedes for Jaimala, i.e the custom of exchanging the garlands.
Next to this ritual, the ‘saat-phere’ and ‘kanya-daan’ are performed. While these two rituals are in continuation the ‘Joota-chupai’ ritual is performed side by side. This is an interesting, playful ritual for sure. The girl’s siblings and cousins try to steal the shoes of the Groom. And if they get successful in this they ask for a certain amount of money in order to return it. The cousins of the groom side try to save the shoes on the other hand.
After all of this, lastly the wedding affairs come to a halt at bride’s side with the ritual of ‘Vidai’ or ‘Doli’. In this ritual, the family of the bride bids her a goodbye and wishes her luck for the future. The bride throws puffed rice behind her. This indicates that she is leaving her everything behind to start a new life and she silently prays to God, for her parents to be fine even after she leaves. The groom’s mother doesn’t attend this instead she starts the preparation to welcome the bride back at home.
Once the bride arrives at her in-laws, her mother in law has a glass filled with water; she encircles it around her head three times, and then makes her drink it. This shows that the bride has accepted her blessings. After this the bride enters the house by kicking the pots filled with ‘sarson ka tel’ i.e mustard oil by her right foot. The couple once again prays to God for a blissful married life.
Finally, after this all the wedding festivities end. Punjabi weddings are known as the most happening sort of weddings in India. All the members of the family while being indulged in all the serious affairs also enjoy to the fullest, dancing and celebrating this once in a lifetime moment.