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Among the many kinds of Indian weddings, the Maharashtrian (or Marathi) wedding is one of the most simplest but just as beautiful. With great emphasis laid on the rituals, the wedding ceremony of the Maharashtrians reflects a unique sense of elegance. Like every other Indian wedding, a Maharashtrian wedding promises uninterrupted fun and entertainment.
Sakhar puda: Literally meaning 'a packet of sugar', sakhar puda marks the beginning of the wedding festivities months before the wedding. The bride flanked by her parents and karvali (her sister) sits in a row on a wooden board. The groom's mother applies haldi-kumkum to the bride, gifts her a sari, green bangles and sakhar puda. Thereafter, the groom, his parents and sister sits on the wooden board. The bride's mother applies kumkum tilak on the groom and his father and haldi-kumkum on the groom's mother and sister. The groom is also gifted clothes along with sakhar puda by the bride's family. Following this, the couple exchanges rings to formalize their engagement.
Muhurt karane: Though this tradition is not much in vogue these days, it marked the day when the actual wedding preparations begin. Five suvasinis (married women) are invited who pound turmeric into fine powder to be later used in halad chadavane. They also roll out papads and make sandage (tiny balls made from lentil and spices).
Kelvan: This refers to the puja that takes place at both the bride and groom's places to honor and invoke the blessings of their kul devta (family deity).
Gadagner: Following the kelvan ceremony, a lavish meal is organized by the bride and groom's parents respectively at their homes for their close relatives and friends. During this ceremony, wedding gifts are presented to the bride and groom by their near and dear ones.
Halad chadavane: A day prior to the wedding (or sometimes on the wedding day itself), the turmeric powder pounded on muhurt karane is made into a paste. The five suvasinis dip two mango leaves in the paste and apply it to the bride from her feet to the forehead. They repeat the process thrice. The same ceremony takes place at the groom's place also. Often, ushti halad (the leftover haldi paste after applying to the groom) is taken to the bride's house and applied to her amidst a lot of teasing.
Ganapati pujan: On the wedding day, prayers are offered to Lord Ganesha so that the wedding takes place without any hitches. It takes place at both the bride's and groom's places.
Simant pujan: Simant pujan was conducted when the groom and his entourage entered the bride's village in earlier days. Nowadays, it is conducted at the entry of the wedding venue. The bride's mother washes the groom's feet, performs the aarti, and feeds him some sweets or madhupak (a mixture of honey and curd). The groom's party is also greeted with sweets/madhupak. The groom is now led to the altar wherein his father-in-law gifts him clothes and jewelry. Meanwhile, the groom's mother with a few other ladies gifts the bride five saris and jewelry.
Gaurihar pujan: Attired in a yellow sari (gifted by her maternal uncle), mundavalya (string of pearls, beads or flowers) and other jewelry, the bride prays to Goddess Parvati. Taking a little rice in her hands, the bride seeks the blessings from the deity for a prosperous marital life.
Lagna muhurt: As the auspicious hour dawns, the groom with his head covered in a topi (cap) and mundavalya tied to his forehead, stands on a mat facing west holding the garland. The priest chanting mangalashtaka holds the antarpat (a cloth screen). The bride is escorted to the mandap by her maternal uncle and is made to stand on the other side of the antarpat holding a similar garland. The respective sisters of the bride/groom stands behind them with a copper pot containing water, topped with betel leaves and coconut. Around this time, all the guests present sing their own compositions of mangalashtaka while the groom's mother ties the eksari (a string of black beads) around the bride's neck. Finally, the priest chanting the last verses of the mangalashtaka removes the antarpat. The couple now garlands each other while the karvalis apply the holy water to the eyes of the couple. Sweets are distributed at this junction.
Kanyadaan: This refers to the ceremony when the parents of the bride gives her away to the groom. The priest asks the groom to join both his palms and receive the stream of holy water poured by the bride's mother while the bride's father requests him to accept his daughter as his life partner. The bride promises that she'll stand by her husband's side always. She also asks for a promise from her husband that he'll never violate his limits.
Laxmi Narayan puja: The bride's parents now worship the couple as they are considered to be the avatar of Lord Narayan and his wife Goddess Laxmi.
Akshataropan: The bridal couple is now made to hold akshata (unbroken rice) in their left hands and and shower them with their right hands expressing their different desires. The priest and all present pray that all their desires are fulfilled.
Mangalsutrabandhan: Chanting mantras, the groom now ties the mangalsutra around the bride's neck. The bride, in turn, applies a sandalwood tilak on his forehead.
Vivah hom: Having taken the oath of marriage, the priest now asks the couple to reiterate the same in the witness of the holy fire (agnisakshi). The groom offers oblations of ghee and prays for a fulfilled future.
Lajja hom: The groom puts a spoonful of ghee and a fistful of lahya (puffed rice) in the bride's palms. They together offer these to the fire chanting mantras. The bride is now asked to step on a stone kept to the west of the fire, symbolically wishing for a steadfast future with her husband.
Saptapadi: Having worshiped the fire, the groom now holds the bride's hand and encircles the fire seven times. At every two feet, small heaps of rice are kept on which they are supposed to tread. After the seventh round, the couple is made to stand facing each other and touch their foreheads, literally meaning putting their heads together for decision-making henceforth. A touch of humor is added here with the bride's brother twisting the groom's right ear to remind him of his responsibility towards his sister. The wedding ceremony comes to an end with the newlyweds taking the blessings of the elders.
Manpan: This ritual involves the exchange of gifts between both the families of the bride and the groom.
Varat: The ultimate emotional scene of the ceremony, the bride is given a tearful farewell by her family. The groom picks up the idol of Goddess Parvati that was used during the Gaurihar puja and leaves for his house.
Grihapravesh: The newlywed couple is welcomed by the groom's mother with a traditional aarti. The bride topples a pitcher filled with rice, signifying prosperity for her new family. She then dips her feet in a thali filled with kumkum paste and steps on the white sheet that is spread in front of her symbolizing Goddess Laxmi's steps.
Soonmukh baghane: In this interesting ceremony, the groom's mother looks at her daughter-in-law's face through the mirror. She then combs the new bride's hair to mark the beautiful mother-daughter relationship.
Suhag raat: The couple finally retires to a decorated room bedecked with scented flowers and candles to consummate their marriage.
Halad utaravane: The next morning, five suvasinis do the same as halad chadavane but in reverse order. The groom's mother unties the kankan-halkund thread from the couple's hands which was tied during the kanyadaan ceremony.
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