Within my first month here, I went to my FIRST Indian Wedding!!!! The vice-principal of my school invited me to join her and her husband to their nieces wedding. It was a way for her to introduce me to a special part of India's culture and it allowed her get to know me. Of course I was honored and super delighted to have such an experience.
|Me and my school Vice-Principal|
At the actual wedding, she introduced me to anybody and EVERYBODY in her family--mom, dad, sisters, daughter-in-law, cousins, and so forth. Thank God for my easy going personality because she could not hang with me the whole time. As part of the bride's family, everybody has a role. Thus, I acted as if I was part of the family and helped the bride's uncle (my VP's husband), and sisters greet guests as well as prepare for the rituals. As I helped, many wanted to explain the whole process to help me understand. I definitely appreciated my VP's husband because during the rituals, he sat next to me and fully explained the significance of each ritual as it took place. I much enjoyed my time at this wedding from the beginning to the end (end of today's festivities at least). I just love how their culture is full of intricate traditions!! The actual wedding almost made me want to be Indian--LOL!
|Me with the beautiful bride :)|
In India, majority of the marriages are arranged. Marriages in India vary between the different regions. I will tell you about a Bengali-Hindu Wedding. There are several rituals in any type of Indian wedding. Indian weddings are so elaborate and full of rich rituals. Thus, I tried to break it down for you to understand the parts of a Bengali-Hindu wedding/marriage.
·On the day of marriage, married ladies decorate the bride's hands with the traditional bangles- one pair of red and one pair of white bangles, and feed her a meal of curd and rice, the only meal for the day (CRAZY!). A red and white bangle on any woman in Kolkata signifies that they are married (so, it’s not just the ring that makes it ‘official’).
*MAIN WEDDING RITUALS
· On this day, the bride and groom sit in their own canopy with their side of the family. When the priest arrives, the groom moves to the main canopy where he is met with the priest and the bride’s uncle. Prior to the marriage, the uncle must undergo a series of rituals to signify that he has given the bride’s hand in marriage to the groom. The bride’s uncle not her father gives the bride away. Basically, father should never have to give his daughter away. (pic 3-above)
· Following the 'giving away' ceremony, the bride can finally come in to the altar area. As she comes in, her face is covered with a leaf. When she is finally near the groom, she must walk around the groom in seven complete circles. The significance of that is that they are winded up securely to each other. (pic4,5)
· After completing the circles, the bride is lifted up by her male family members. Then, both the bride/groom touch by nose and exchange garlands of flowers. This is one of the first steps they take to accept one another as husband and wife.
· When garlanding one another the bride and the groom are made to look at each other in front of all the assembled invitees. This exchange of loving glance is to initiate them to be together officially by the society. The whole time, the bride and groom never really 'kiss.' That's considered taboo for some reason. They only get to put their noses together. (pic 6)
· The bride then takes her place at the wedding altar where the bride’s uncle officially hands her over to the groom and the couple's hands are bound by a series of chants.
· The bride and groom had to sit in front of a sacred fire and chant more mantras (took forever!!) after the priest.This part of the wedding took at least an hour. The whole time, people are enjoying the rituals but taking several breaks to the buffet. There was SO much food!!! (pic 7)
· No Hindu wedding is official without the sindoor!! Following the mantras, the groom applies sindoor, a red powder on his new wife. This is probably one of the most important parts of any Hindu wedding. On the wedding day, the husband must put it on his wife and she is required to continue putting it everyday after. The sindoor is a symbol of love between a husband and wife, said my principal’s husband. Though, nowadays many woman choose whether they want to wear it. Many choose to wear it everyday until they die and there are others who wear it only during special occasions. (8,9)
· The bride and groom can both finally eat as a married couple!! Unfortunately this bride had one night to party with her family before leaving to Delhi to fulfill the last few rituals with the groom’s family (he's originally from New Delhi).
· After the couple reaches the groom's house, the final wedding ceremony will take place. This type of ceremony varies by region/family.· From a random conversation with my staff on weddings, I found that when a son is married, naturally it is expected that him and his new wife move into his parent’s house. One of the teachers told me that she had to forget how she was brought up and learn to be brought up with a new family. It was hard but that’s the custom--ONLY if they live in India. If the son lives in the States or another part of the world post-marriage, they're excused..