Weddings in Gujarat are celebrated in different ways. Simple middle-class section and those in rural areas simply follow time-honored traditions. Currently, those with money to splurge make each event of the wedding a grand ceremony and some even go as far as staging the entire celebrating in some foreign destination. The basics, however, remain almost the same in Gujarati weddings.
“Gujarati” is an umbrella term. When it comes to wedding the demarcation in communities is clearly visible. Patels or farmers choose to marry within their community. Even within Patels there are Kadva Patels and Leuva Patels. They will prefer a groom or husband from the same community. Then there are Jains, Kshatriyas and Brahmins. These days it may not be possible for a Patel boy to get a suitable Patel girl so he may accept a girl from another community as his bride but in most cases it rarely happens that higher castes will marry into a lower caste. The wall is still high.
In general, the traditional system is for the boy’s side to take their party to the girl’s home or to a party plot or hall as is now more common. The wedding takes place and the girl is given a sendoff to her new home.
When it comes to food, traditional Gujarati style thali food is fast vanishing, especially in the moneyed sections. Traditional Gujarati food at weddings varies according to season. In winter it is common to find Undhiyu, jalebi and Poori whereas in summer you have basudi, Aam Ras and other dishes along with obligatory farsan. Regardless of season there is always a sweet dish and traditional Gujarati meals start with a sweet in case you did not know. However, these days the in thing is to engage caterers who offer a wider spread in restaurant buffet style. You can eat what takes your fancy. In any case if you attend Hindu weddings in Gujarat the food is invariably vegetarian.
The Gujarati bride’s best dress is a wedding Panetar usually in white and red. Those with money to spend will splurge it on a Patola from Patan. It takes about six months to weave one saree and, depending on the complexity as well as embellishment, the Patola could cost anywhere from Rs 1.5 lakhs to Rs 3 lakhs and more. These days you may find less of traditional bridal wear as cultural influences from films and from the North are making inroads. The Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli and more fashionable choices in sarees are in fashion and colours are not restricted.
If you really want to have a good look at Gujarati pre-wedding ceremonies, go to the bride’s place. It is five days of fun. However, before the pre-wedding comes the Sagai or engagement.
- Sagai: The groom’s family visit the bride’s home with sweets and gifts and a brief ceremony is performed as a commitment. The two families dine together. A date is fixed for the wedding and preparations begin.
- Mandap Muhurat: The bride’s family gets a Mandap erected at home or they choose a wedding venue. Mandap muhurat is an important ritual. It is also initiated at the groom’s house by his family. An officiating pundit conducts the pooja ceremony.
- Griha Shanti and Ganesh Pooja: this ceremony is usually carried out inside the bride’s house. It is an elaborate ritual to pacify Gods, remove evil influences and please Lord Ganesha who will ensure that there are no obstacles in the way of the marriage.
- Mehndi: A day or two before the wedding the bride’s Mehndi ceremony takes place. This can be a simple affair with only family members in attendance. These days it has been elevated to a celebration in style.
- Pithi: A day before the wedding the bride is ceremoniously anointed with turmeric paste in the presence of family members and relatives. Ladies of the house carry out this ceremony. Even the groom receives this treatment at his house. Turmeric purifies and beautifies.
- Garba: The garba ceremony is usually held on the night before the wedding. The groom’s family will have a garba of their own and even the bride’s side may have garba at their house. Family, relatives and friends attend and dance till late at night.
The groom’s side prepares for departure to the wedding venue at the bride’s place. The wedding procession usually has a band in attendance. The groom may proceed on foot or follow the tradition of going to the wedding venue mounted on a horse. Family members and friends usually dance to the tunes of the band as the Baraat proceeds to the venue where the bride’s mother and her group awaits to welcome the groom and his family.
- Ponkhana: The bride’s mother performs pooja and now comes the fun part. Friends lift up the groom while the objective of the bride’s mother is to pull the groom’s nose. This done, the groom takes the next step forward by crushing a small clay pot symbolic of overcoming obstacles.
- Ganesh Pooja: The wedding party waits for the muhurat. When the auspicious moment arrives the groom steps forward to the wedding Pandal and sit in a chair. The pundit starts with Ganesh Pooja to seek his blessings to overcome obstacles and for peace and prosperity.
- Madhuparka: Next, the bride’s father washes the groom’s feet with a mix of ghee, honey and curds. Here we have a diversion. Sisters and cousins of the groom steal his shoes and return it only when he gives some money to them. It is fun.
- Kanya Aagman: The pooja involving the groom over, it is time for the bride to arrive and take her place in the mandap. The bride’s mother and someone else hold up a cloth known as Antarpath to hide her from the groom’s view as she is led to her place by her maternal uncle. She sits in a chair facing the groom.
- Jaimala: The pundit recites mantras known as mangalashtak, the Antarpath is lowered and the bride and groom exchange garlands and then the chairs are moved so they sit side by side for the following ceremonies.
- Kanya Daan: the parents of the bride give their daughter who is personification of Goddess Lakshmi, as a gift to the Groom who symbolizes Lord Vishnu. The bride’s hand is placed in the groom’s hand.
- Varmala: Ladies on both sides of the family get together and use a long cotton cord dyed in turmeric and red to loop it around both the bride and groom 24 times but these days a single loop serves the purpose. The function of the cord is to provide protection against evil eye.
- Hasta Milap: The bride’s mother ties the groom’s scarf to the ends of the bride’s veil or Odhni or chunari. Family members shower them with rice and flowers. This is all important since hasta Milap signifies union of two souls.
- Mangal Phere: The bride’s brother puts some rice into the hands of the bride. The pundit lights a fire in the Hawan kund and oblations are offered to Gods. They both pour ghee and rice into the flames and promise to be with each other and to be loving and loyal. To the chanting of mantras the bride and groom go around the fire and then run back quickly to sit in their chair. The one who sits first will rule the house is the general belief. It is enjoyable. Then they get up and go around the fire. It is usual in Gujarati weddings to have four such circumambulations whereas in the North seven may be the norm.
- Saptapadi: Seven betel nuts are placed in a row on betel leaf and the bride touches each one with her right toe while the pundit recites mantras requesting gods to give her support at all stages in her life.
- Sindoor Daan and Mangalsutra: The husband now applies Sindoor to the bride’s forehead and then ties a Mangalsutra around his wife’s neck.
- Kansaar: The bride feeds her husband and the husband feeds his wife.
- Akhand Saubhagyavati Bhava: Seven women from the bride’s and groom’s family bless the bride and whisper in her ear the words “Akhand Saubhagyavati” which means be fortunate forever and have a happy life with your husband.
- Ashirwaad: The newly wedded couples then go to all elders of the family and touch their feet asking for blessings.
Ceremonies proceed on one side and guests partake of lunch or dinner.
- Wall Thappa: The newly wedded couple prays before the deity in the family’s temple. They then dip their hands in a plate filled with water mixed with kanku and imprint their palms on the outside walls of the bride’s house. Jains may visit a derasar for this ceremony.
- Vidaai: The ceremonies over the next step are Vidai which is fixed according to muhurat. When the time arrives, the bride is carried off in a Doli but these days it is usual for her to get into a waiting car along with her husband and leave for her new home.
- Ghar nu Lakshmi: Before the bride can enter the new home she has to undergo ceremonies. Her mother in-law places a pot with rice in it and the bride must touch it with her right foot. Next, a plate is filled with water and kanku mixture and coins are placed inside. The bride and groom play the game of Aeki Beki by trying to find coins.
A Gujarati Hindu wedding is colorful, enjoyable and an experience to cherish. Try to get invited to one.