Since India is such a diverse country in terms of cultures, religions, and regional specialties, the weddings here are equally unique and often specific to the part of the country you come from. Gujarati weddings typical of the people living in and / or originating from the state of Gujarat, is one such culture specific event. Gujarati Weddings are colourful, vibrant and rich and often go on for a few days with many pre wedding, wedding time and post wedding customs and rituals. Let’s take a look at some of the typical Gujarati wedding traditions –
Pre-Wedding Gujarati Customs
Sagai – It all begins with the sagai or engagement and like many Indian wedding customs the engagement is very much a family affair. Not only do the bride and groom to be exchange rings in the presence of their respective families but also seek the blessings from five married women from each side of the family symbolizing the union of two families. The bride goes to the groom’s house with an earthen pot (matli) or package filled with various gifts and sweets after which the ring ceremony is held.
Mandap Mahurat – This ritual is an important one in Gujarati weddings and is held a few days before the wedding. In the mandap mahurat the pandit performs a puja or prayer ritual of Lord Ganesha along with all family members at both homes. This is done to ensure a smooth, successful and peaceful wedding.
Griha Shanti – The Griha Shanti is another common ritual among Hindus during many auspicious events. This puja is done to appease the heavenly bodies and stars so as to remove all possible obstacles before the wedding.
Pithi – The pithi is basically a paste made of sandalwood, turmeric and saffron which family members apply to the faces of the couple. It is supposed to help purify the skin and give you a nice glow. The bride and groom have their own individual ceremonies along with their friends and families.
Mehendi – Like other Indian weddings, the mehendi is a big part of Gujarati weddings too. On the mehendi, henna is used to adorn and decorate the bride’s hands and feet. The bride normally celebrates the mehendi function with her female family members and friends.
Garba / Dandiya – The Garba is one of the most fun wedding traditions and Gujaratis are known for the music and dances of the garbas. Normally held a night before the wedding, it involves lots of dancing and bright colourful clothes. Dandiyas or special sticks are used for the dance and you are meant to beat these along with the rhythm of the music. This event is a great way for both families to meet and mingle without the formality of the wedding.
Jaan – The Jaan or Ponkvu custom is really sweet and funny. Normally held on the wedding day, the groom gets off his horse and walks to the bride’s family’s door holding his nose! This symbolizes gratitude and humility towards his in-laws for letting him marry their daughter. He is welcomed by the bride’s mother who blesses him and performs her own ritual to keep evil away and even tries to grab his nose. This playful ritual is meant to remind that groom they are giving their precious daughter to him.
The Gujarati Wedding:
Jaimala – In a Gujarati Wedding ceremony the bride and groom exchange garlands twice, known as the Jaimala. Normally the groom’s friends and relatives try to lift him high up so that the bride cannot reach him to put on the garland. This is meant to symbolize that the bride cannot steal the groom away from his family and friends even after they are married! This garland exchange among the chanting of mantras is to be the beginning of the new union solemnized after the rest of the Gujarati wedding rituals.
Madhuparka – The next ritual is the Madhuparka where the groom is given a drink of milk and honey and his feet are washed as he is welcomed into the mandap by his mother in law. This is also the fun part when the bride’s relatives steal the groom’s shoes, only returning them if he shells out some moolah.
Antarpaat – In tha Antarpaat the bride is led to the mandap by her maternal uncle while the pandit calls out ‘Agman Kanya’. If he isn’t available to do so then a cousin or the uncle’s sons will do the duty. It is then that the curtain separating the bride and groom i.e. the Antarpat is lowered and the couple exchange garlands again. The ceremony then continues in front of the sacred fire.
Kanya Daan – The Kanya Daan is an important and sentimental custom during Indian Hindu weddings. In Gujarati weddings as well, the bride’s father washes the groom’s feet and gives him his daughter’s hand in marriage. It is meant to symbolize the handing over of Goddess Laxmi to Lord Vishnu.
Hasta Milap – The bride’s saree is tied to the groom’s scarf or dupata symbolizing the merging of the two souls. The couple is then showered with rose petals and rice grains by the relatives for blessings.
Varmala – A cord is tied around the couple’s necks by the elders in the family to ward off evil.
Satpadi or Pheras – The bride and groom then take their seven steps and ‘pheras’ or rounds around the sacred fire symbolizing seven vows they make to each other. On completion of the pheras the bride and groom are finally officially wed!
Saubhagyavati Bhav– This ritual is for the bride where seven married women from her side whisper their blessings in her ear.
Chero Pakaryo – This funny ceremony entails the groom catching hold of his mother in law’s saree and asking for more gifts! Her saree is then filled with gifts and cash by those present and later given to the groom and his family.
Post Gujarati Wedding Traditions
Vidaai – The Vidaai is an often tearful and emotional ritual where the bride is bid adieu by her family and friends. It is normally held after the reception when she leaves for her groom’s home.
Ghaar nu Laxmi – The bride is welcomed into her groom’s home as Goddess Laxmi who will bring good fortune into her new house. A vessel filled with rice is placed at the doorstep by the groom’s mother. The bride has to spill the rice from the vessel with her right foot. This is meant to symbolize wealth and the bride’s understanding of her responsibilities towards her new home.
Aeki Beki – This activity is a fun one just for the newlyweds. Coins and a ring are thrown into a vessel is filled with water, sindoor and milk. The bride and groom then have to find these and whoever finds the ring first four out of seven times is said will rule the household!