India is a vast land of many traditions, with each community having their own rites of passage, some strange and others endearing, but all being part of wedding customs.
Grooms among Tamil Brahmins perform a ritual enactment of asceticism. A regular practice during the wedding is for the groom to pretend to being suddenly disillusioned and wanting to renounce the world. Accompanied by his friends, he leaves the marriage hall dressed in a dhoti (a simple cloth tied at the waist with a knot). The father and other relatives of the bride must then persuade him to come back and accept the bride.
Marriage by abduction
Among some ancient Indian tribes, marriage by abduction is the norm. The young man must carry away his lady on his back, keep her hidden for a year and then have a normal ceremony with the then automatic consent of the bride’s parents.
Wedding contractThe Nagarattars of Tamil Nadu in South India, have a tradition that follows the ceremonial tying of the thali or mangalsutra. The fathers of both the bride and the groom sign the isaivu padimaanam, which is a document stating the marriage contract between the two families.
Deeper the colour
An Indian bride applies henna or mehndi to her hands and feet before the wedding. The belief is that the deeper the final colour the more she will be loved by her husband or some say, her mother-in-law. She is also forbidden from doing any housework as long as the colour of the bridal mehndi remains on her hands, making the longevity of the henna all the more desirable!
In North India the groom’s face is kept hidden before the wedding behind a floral veil, called sehra, which is tied to the turban. The veil is believed to protect him from the evil eye. At some point before the ceremony, someone from the bride’s family lifts the veil briefly to ensure that the groom is the chosen one and not an impostor!
After the Hindu wedding ceremony the bride arrives to her husband’s home and is ceremonially ushered in by her mother-in-law. The bride must take care to enter the threshold with her right foot first, which she uses to gently knock over a vessel filled to the brim with rice that has been placed there strategically in order to ensure good luck and plenty for her new family.
In Punjab it is customary for young girls related to the bride to play a prank on the groom involving his shoes. During the marriage ceremony the groom’s untended shoes are removed and hidden away. After the ceremony, he is asked to pay a ransom or ‘fee’ for their return. The groom comes prepared for this and offers cash or traditional trinkets, called kalicharis, gold for the bride’s sisters and silver for her cousins.
Ring of control
A light-hearted ritual called aeki beki among Gujurati Hindus follows the arrival of the newly wed couple at their home. A ring and a few coins are put into a silver dish filled with milk and vermilion and the bride and groom are asked to dip their hands into the bowl to search for the ring. The one who finds the ring four out of seven times is predicted most likely to rule the roost!
A pre-wedding ritual in Gujurat has the groom arriving at the house of the bride to seek the blessings of his mother-in-law. She blesses him and performs a ritual to ward off the evil eye. She also tries to catch his nose, playfully reminding him of his responsibility as a son-in-law.
Some tribal communities perform an earth-bringing ceremony before the wedding. Earth from a holy place is carried to the wedding house and a kiln built and anointed. All food for the wedding feast is cooked in this kiln.