Thursday, October 21, 2021


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Initial Ceremonies

When all the initial negotiations are completed, the girl's father takes the initiative towards ceremonial commitments, through the family barber. He sends to the boy's family a coconut, chhuhare (dry dates), sugar and some money in the form of the first auspicious gifts. When these things are received by the boy's father, he calls all the relatives and the Tilak or Shagan ceremony is performed. Among Hindus this ceremony is performed by the parohat (family priest)

who draws a chauk on the ground, seats the boy facing it, recites some mantras, applies a tilak on his forehead and then makes him eat one of the dates sent by the girl's father. Sikhs have this ceremony performed by a Bhaiji (preacher) from the Gurudwara, who first reads five stanzas from the Japji Sahib ( a hymn of Guru Nanak) makes the boy taste a date and then applies the tilak on his forehead out of a mixture of saffron powder and rice. A little saffron dissolved in water is then sprinkled on the clothes. After this ceremony, the boy's father sends to the affianced bride some gifts through the same barber, which include sugar, coconut, rice, dry dates, money, ornaments, clothes and henna. The girl's people receive the gifts and then on an auspicious day they call the village Nain (family barber's wife), and make her perform the engagement ceremony. The girl is made to wear the things sent by her prospective in-laws and is seated facing east. The Nain then makes her eat the sugar and dry dates received from the boy's parents and that completes the ceremony.

Among the Khatris, the first rite performed after the completion of negotiations is called Thaka. This is also known as the 'milk drinking' ceremony. On a fixed day the bridegroom-to-be and his relatives go to the girl's house, where the girls mother brings milk for the boy to drink, and thereafter gives him some money, sweets, etc. as a gift. The boy's parents also give to the girl clothes, jewellery and other gifts.

 Sometime after the Thaka the regular engagement takes place. Generally this is done shortly before the wedding. On the fixed day the girl's people, accompanied by some relatives, take the betrothal, gifts-sweets etc. to the boy's house. Sometimes the boy's parents accompanied by the near relatives go to the girl's house to receive these gifts. This is a very expensive ceremony for the girls family. Besides money and large thals full of sweets and fruit, the boy is given a golden ring and a bangle. Towards the end of the ceremony, perfumed or coloured water is sprinkled over eyeryone. The Tika ceremony is performed at this time.

Sometimes after the betrothal a date for the marriage is fixed. Hindus are very particular about the auspiciousness of the day. They call the family priest who consults his books and the almanac and then fixes a day which is called Saha. Sikhs do not bother about these things. They see the convenience of both the families concerned and generally fix the solemnization of the marriage on a holiday which is convenient to all. The months of Kartik and Poh and the Shradh days are considered inauspicious. Maghar is the most favoured month for marriages. When the Saha is fixed, the girl's father informs the boy's father of the same through a formal letter. Earlier this letter used to be written in saffron water and the family priest himself wrote it. Nowadays only a little saffron water is sprinkled over it and a functionary is deputed to take it to the boy's father and to read it out in the presence of all relatives.

A few days before the marriage, bhaji (literally 'share'-share of sweets) is distributed among relatives and friends and invitations to attend the wedding is given. A few days before the marriage women from the neighbourhood and female relatives start coming every evening to participate in singing bridal songs. They sing, dance, mimic and act. Every night the house resounds to the gay exuberance of feminine revelry and the fun goes on till midnight, sometimes even till the small hours of the following day. This continues till the day of marriage.

A very peculiar custom generally followed as part of preparations  for the marriage is that of Maiyan. It is a sort of confinement of the bride and the groom for a few days before the marriage. The boys and the girls are not allowed to go out of the house or change clothes. They are however, allowed to have their close friends around. During these days Kangna is tied on the right wrist of the boy and the left wrist of the girl.

 A couple of days prior to the wedding, vatna, a scented powder consisting of barley flour, turmeric, Kachur and mustard oil, is applied to the boy and the girl.

In the case of the girl, she is made to sit on a square stool while four girls hold a cloth over her, forming a sort of a cover or canopy. The women of the house sing songs specially meant for this occasion and apply vatna on her body. In some castes this ceremony is performed only one day before the marriage, but in Malwa it starts a few  days before the marriage and continues to be repeated every day till the eve of marriage.