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They may be known to be boisterous and rumbustious in their day-to-day affairs, but the Sikh wedding is one of the most elegant and simple wedding ceremonies that takes place in India. Known as Anand Karaj which literally means 'blissful union', a Sikh wedding is the epitome of pristine love and unbridled splendor.
Thaka/Roka: The Sikh wedding ceremony starts with the roka or the thaka ceremony. Once the families of both the bride and the groom agree to the alliance, the groom with his close relatives, visit the bride's family. This is to indicate to the community that the couple is betrothed and will receive no other offer for marriage. A respected member of the family offers ardaas (prayers) for the well-being of the couple. The groom's mother then presents her future daughter-in-law gifts (in the form of a chunni, sweets and cash). In turn, the bride's parents offer their son-in-law a shagan (token gift) in the form of cash and sweets to formalize the announcement of the engagement.
Mangni/Sagai/Kudmai: This refers to the formal engagement. Laden with a complete ensemble of fine clothes, accessories, jewelry and toiletries, the groom's relatives go to the bride's house along with the groom. The ceremony commences with prayers and kirtans (singing of hyms) in the presence of the holy book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib. The bride's mother gifts her son-in-law various gifts (including sweets, jewelry and cash). The bride also receives gifts from her mother-in-law for an auspicious beginning. Finally, the couple exchanges rings promising each other a life-long of togetherness.
Maiya: Maiya refers to a Sikh custom where the bride and the groom are confined to their respective homes for a few days prior to the wedding. They are not allowed to step out of their house and also change their clothes.
Sangeet: This refers to the fun-filled evening where music, dancing and drinking are the main components. Traditionally, dancing to the beats of the dholak (small drum) was what sangeet meant. But with times changing, the dholak has been replaced with the DJ and sangeet promises to be a grand affair of fun and frolic.
Mehendi: This refers to the intimate ceremony for the ladies of the families, especially the bride's side. The henna paste is passed around amongst all present so that they can shower their blessings by placing a few rupees in the platter. Mehendi is smeared on the hands of the bride, who then leaves the impressions of her palms on a wall of her house. The mehendi is then quickly washed off following which the professional mehendi artists get on with their job.
Gana: This ceremony marks the tying of the auspicious red thread on the right wrist of the groom and the left wrist of the bride. Along with the gana, other auspicious items like cowrie shells, an iron key chain, pearls and a small bundle of sugar are also tied for good fortune.
Vatna: Taking place just before the wedding day, a scented paste consisting of barley flour, turmeric and mustard oil is applied to the bodies of the bride and the groom for cleansing and beautifying them. This is followed by a ritual bath.
Gharoli: Simultaneously at the groom's place, the groom's sister-in-law accompanied by other female relatives go to a nearby gurudwara or well to fill an earthen pitcher (gharoli) with water which is used to bathe the groom after the vatna ceremony.
Khare charna: The groom is made to sit on a stool and four girls cover him with a cloth over his head. He is then given the ritual bath before he starts getting ready for the wedding.
Choora chadana: This ceremony refers to the wearing of the red and white ivory bangles by the bride, which are a gift from her maternal uncle. The bangles are previously dipped in kachchi lassi (buttermilk). After the ritual bath, the bride puts on the kuvaar dhoti (last ensemble worn by her as a maiden gifted by her mother-in-law) and a prayer is said before the Guru Granth Sahib. Following this, the bride's uncle and aunt adorn her with the bangles, which have been blessed by five married ladies. The bride also wears a kada (steel bangle) on each wrist onto which her family and friends tie the kaleeran (dangling golden baubles) which are believed to bring in good luck.
Sehrabandi: Sehrabandi refers to the ceremony of tying the sehra (veil) onto the turban of the groom by his sisters which is first blessed by each member of the family. Along with the groom, the sarbala (usually a young nephew of the groom) is also dressed up for the occasion, who is to remain a constant companion of the groom till the wedding gets over.
Ghodi chadna: The groom and his sarbala are now escorted to a well decorated mare. After the mare has been fed horse gram by the groom's sisters, he and his sarbala mount the mare to set off for the journey to the wedding venue. The groom's sister-in-law now applies a touch of kohl to the groom's eye, symbolic of warding away the evil eye. Finally, the sisters and female cousins of the groom braid the bridle with vagaan (golden tassels) who are later gifted by the groom's mother.
Milni: Milni is the formal reception of the baraat (groom's party) by the bride's family. To the singing of 'hum ghar saajan aaye' (hymn), the bride's father greets the groom's father by garlanding him and is garlanded in return. Similarly, all the male relatives of the bride greet their counterparts from the groom's side and leads them inside the gurudwara. Ardaas is being said and the wedding ceremony begins.
Anand karaj: The Anand karaj generally takes place at anand vela (early morning). But in case it happens a little later, it must conclude before noon. The bride is escorted by her father, sisters and friends to the venue and is seated on the left of the groom. Since the Sikhs do not have an ordained clergy, a respected member of the community or gurudwara generally conducts the ceremony. All present are requested to stand for the ardaas after which all bow down in front of the holy book. The bride's father next ties the knot between the bride's veil and the groom's stole, symbolically connecting them and giving away his daughter away in marriage. Following this, the groom leads the bride four times around the Guru Granth Sahib, each round interspersed with hymns. The ceremony concludes with another ardaas and is followed by the vaak (guru's counsel) which is done by opening the holy book and reading out a random verse from the page on the right. Karah parshaad (holy food) is distributed and the couple is garlanded.
Doli: The bride now changes into a set of clothes and jewelry gifted to her by her in-laws. She feeds the male members of her own family with cooked rice and readies to leave with her new family. Throwing back handfuls of puffed rice, invoking blessings for prosperity on her family, the bride bids a tearful adieu. The father of the bride helps her sit in the decorated car while her brother escorts her to her new home. On reaching her marital home, the groom's mother receives the couple, pouring a little oil on the doorstep before the newlyweds enter. The mother then attempts to drink water from a lota (steel jar) but the groom prevents her. Finally, after three attempts, he relents and lets her drink the water. This act is repeated with six other female relatives.
Doli dinner: This dinner is specially marked to celebrate the bride's arrival. It is generally a quiet affair with only close family and friends in attendance.
Reception: The groom's parents host the wedding reception which is a formal introduction of the newlyweds to the extended family and friends.
Phere pauna: This ritual refers to the bride's first visit to her maternal home after the wedding. They are greeted with gifts and blessings. This marks the end to the wedding festivities of a Sikh wedding.
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