Weddings are celebrated worldwide with pomp and jubilations, but the way the people of the subcontinent celebrate weddings is incomparable to any other region. The Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims of the subcontinent have lived together for many years. That’s why many wedding customs and rituals are common among the three. Like their subcontinent brethren, the Sikh people are known for their colourful, musical, and magical weddings. The Sikh wedding ceremonies and rituals are numerous. I can count twenty of them on my fingertips. Let us look at some of these fun-filled and incredible rituals which make up a Sikh wedding.
“Rokka” is pre-engagement. It signifies the beginning of the wedding. The Rokka signifies not only the first step towards the unification of the Groom and the bride but also the unit of the two families.
“Kurmai” stands for engagement. Kurmai is typically a family matter and usually consists of close family members. However, that is up to the two families. The bride is gifted a “chunni” by the groom’s family. At times this chunni may be a family heirloom. Families may exchange gifts with each other. These may include clothes and jewellery.
Sangeet stands for Music. The bride-to-be and her bridesmaids are the main focus of this ritual. Family members and friends are invited. Usually, only a few immediate family members of the Groom would be invited. Traditional songs are sung, and dholki is played. Food and drinks are served.
The Mehndi is a famous wedding ritual throughout the subcontinent. Also known as Rasm e Hina, it is a common tradition in Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. The Groom’s mother provides decoratively packaged mehndi to the bride. It is usually accompanied by bangles and other decorative ornaments. The mehndi and the Sangeet are often performed together. The bride usually has mehndi on her hands and feet. Delicious food and drinks are served. Men and women prepare dances for months and finally perform in front of everyone on mehndi.
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“Choora” means bangles. A set of bangles specially crafted for the bride is gifted to her. The ritual takes place at bride’s house on the morning after the wedding night. Traditionally brides wear the choora for forty days.
The Mayian is another pre-wedding ritual. This is also common among the people of the subcontinent. Some people join mayian, mehndi, and other practices and carry them out on the same day.
In Vatna or the Haldi ceremony, a paste of mustard oil and turmeric is rubbed onto the bride’s legs, arms, and face. The participants are only women. The bride is surrounded by oil lamps called Diya. After this ceremony, the Groom and the bride cannot see each other till the wedding day.
This ceremony involves bathing in holy water before the wedding. An ornate pitcher known as gharoli in the Punjabi language is taken to a nearby Gurdwara and filled with holy water. Usually, the bride’s bhabi (brother’s wife) or siblings bring the holy water.
The bride then bathes in the holy water before wearing her wedding dress.
This fun ceremony brings joy and involves delicious food and drinks. Diyas or vessels are filled with mustard oil and are then lit. This ritual is performed during the night at the wedding home, which is embellished with flowers and lights. The jaggo is usually performed by the bride’s sisters, mother, and aunts. One of them will carry the vessel on their head while another will shake a stick with bells attached to it.
Women perform this ritual and keep visiting as many homes as possible, where they are greeted with sweets and drinks.
Entrance of the Groom
The Groom is accompanied by a Sarbala or Shabbala (known as the Groom’s caretaker). They are normally a young relative, a cousin or the Groom’s nephew. They would normally be dressed either the same or in a very similar outfit to the grooms.
Barat is the arrival of the Groom to the wedding venue. He is accompanied by his Shabbala or Sarbala (Caretaker), usually a young cousin or nephew. Many grooms would ride a horse or even an elephant to arrive the venue. This depends on your location and laws, and many Grooms may choose to arrive in an exotic car.
Not all fun rituals are carried out at the bride’s home. Some are carried out at the Groom’s home as well. The Gharoli function and Vatna are also carried out. Another function which people look forward to is the Sehra. Usually, the Groom’s sister ties a decorated headdress on the Groom’s head. It is tied around the Groom’s turban. He then receives gifts or cash.
Milni is a ceremony that takes place at the wedding venue, if possible, in a Sikh temple. It is an introduction to both families. The person in charge of the scriptures, called Gyani, offers Ardas (prayers). It is a ceremony for the men of both families. It begins with the eldest male in each family, who come forward, exchange garlands, and embrace each other.
After the mini, the bride and Groom exchange garlands. The Groom and the bride stand in the middle while encircled by both families. They then exchange the garlands.
This is the religious part of Sikh weddings. It is performed inside a Gurdwara. Both the families and all the friends of the bride & Groom gather together inside the wedding hall or the Gurdwara. The sacred book of the Sikh people, The Guru Granth Sahib is also there. Typically the males sit on one side while the females on the other on the floor. Hymns are recited while The bride and Groom bow before the holy book. The bride and Groom and the parents stand up to signify their consent while all the guests remain seated. Ardas ( prayers) are offered for the marriage to be successful. Musicians, called ragis in the Punjabi language, sing hymns to seek God’s blessings. The wedding official, or a priest, then counsels the bride and the Groom in the form of a verse and asks them not to consider their marriage a mere contract.
The bride & Groom express their acceptance of the marital obligations and then bow in front of the Guru Granth.
One of the Groom’s female relatives, usually his sister, drapes him with a “palla”, a long shawl or scarf. The palla is placed on his shoulder, and its right end is held by the Groom.
The father or guardian of the bride grabs the other end of the pall and hands it over to the bride so that she can hold it. The ragis keep singing hymns.
The bride and the Groom circumambulate the Guru Granth Sahib four times with each round representing a different stage of love. On each round, a different hymn is sung. Each round ends with the bride and Groom bowing in front of the Guru Granth Sahib. The second, third, and final rounds are also performed similarly. All the people sing the “Song of Bliss” or the “Anand Sahib”.
The Joota Chupai is another ceremony which is common in many cultures. Joota means shoe, and chupai means hiding. The bride’s relatives, usually young ones, surround the couple while they are seated. They steal one of the shoes belonging to the groom and demand ransom. After negotiations, an amount is agreed upon, and the Groom can have his shoe back.
Once the ceremony has concluded, it is time for the bride to leave with the Groom. This is known as vidaai or departure. The bride says goodbye to her family and other relatives. It is a very emotional sight, and people are often left teary-eyed. It is another ritual common with different cultures of the subcontinent. It is also known as rukhsati.
Photography & Videography
Although not a traditional ritual, Asian weddings, such as Sikh weddings, are incomplete without photography and videography. Both the families capture each ceremony and ritual to protect the memories forever. Photography usually includes general photography, personal photoshoots of the bride and Groom, and their immediate family relatives such as parents and siblings. Wedding albums are prepared, and videos are made. Some weddings are even theme based, such as a Bollywood movie.
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