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The actual religious marriage ceremony differs – among Sikhs, the weddings are conducted in Punjabi; among Hindus, the ceremony is conducted in Sanskrit; and among Muslims, in Arabic. There are commonalities in ritual, song, dance, food, and dress. The Punjabi wedding has many rituals and ceremonies that have evolved since traditional times, including many famous Punjabi dances.
Songs of the bridegroom's side
Songs of the bride's side
Sitthniyan (crude, teasing songs)
In this ceremony, the boy and the girl commit to enter a wedlock, and won't consider any more matrimonial proposals. Ardaas is done, followed by exchange of gifts.
Rokka (Pre-engagement) It is an unofficial engagement ceremony where the boy's family and friends come give presents, money and blessings to the bride to be. The girl's mama ji (mother's brother) gives her the nath (nose ring) which she will wear on her wedding. The origin of this ceremony lies in the arranged marriage norm where the parents would let out the world that they are looking for a suitable match for their son or daughter. And once they had found that match, their search had come to an end. Though rings are not exchanged, the couple stand unofficially engaged after this ceremony. Looking forward to starting the wedding ceremonies.
Mangni/Shagun (engagement) The engagement is usually very high profile. The girls side of the family goes to the boys' side with gifts, jewellery, and other goods, to confirm the engagement.
Sagai The wedding celebrations begin with the tikka ceremony, held a week to ten days before the wedding (depending on the number of functions to follow) in which the family of the girl visits that of the boy's carrying beautifully wrapped gifts and the tikka material: a silver tray with a few grains of rice and saffron in a tiny silver bowl, 14 chuharey (dried dates) covered with silver foil and a coconut wrapped in a gold leaf. The father of the girl applies 'tikka' on his son-in-law's forehead and gives him his blessings and some money. In return, the girl's family receives baskets of seven dried fruits: almonds, cashewnuts, chuahara, coconut pieces, raisins, khurman (dried apricots) and phoolmakhana, at the kudmai (sagai or engagement). Nowadays the tikka ceremony is usually combined with the engagement. First, the girl is draped with a chunni (stole), which is usually very ornate. In some families this chunni is a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation. She is also presented with jewellery, which her mother and sister-in-law help her wear. A tiny dot of mehendi is applied to her palm for good luck, and the function is sealed with the exchange of rings. Everyone present congratulates the couple by feeding them sweet.
Dholki/sangeet Can be one day or many days, usually high profile in a banquet hall, ladies sing traditional songs, and it is the eastern version of the western bridal shower. There is a sangeet function hosted by the girl's family, in which just a few close members of the boy's family are invited. The girl's family play the dholki (an elongated tabla) sing songs in which they tease the boy and his family. Nowadays people hire DJs and have a dance party followed by dinner. Ladies sangeet-is held for the bride and her bridesmaids.
The last major function before the wedding is the mehendi. Mehendi artists are called to the respective houses of the boy and girl and they apply mehendi to the palms of the female family members, and the hands and feet of the bride. A basket containing bindis and bangles is handed around so girls can choose those that match the outfit they plan to wear to the wedding. The Mehandi ceremony takes place in the atmosphere of a party. The bride and other ladies get mehendi (henna designs) done, on their hands and feet (most ladies get it done only on their hands but the bride gets it done on both hands and feet). For the bride the mehndi is sent by the future Mother in Law, which is beautiful decorated.
Chuda On the wedding day the rituals at the girl’s home begin with the Chuda ceremony. The oldest maternal uncle and aunt play an important role in the performance of the ceremony. Chuda is basically a set of red and cream ivory bangles that is touched by all present which is gifted by girl's Mamma (mother's Brother) the girl does not see the chuda until she is ready for the marriage. People touch the chuda and give their heartiest wishes to the girl for her future married life. Also, they sprinkle flower petals on the bride. After that, the girl’s uncle, aunt, friends and cousins tie kaliras (silver, gold or gold plated traditional ornaments) to a bangle worn by the girl.
Mayian It is the term used for the preparation ceremony one day before a Punjabi wedding. This ceremony is an evening festival, at the couple's parental homes. It consists of many rites, the Batna, Choora, Jaggo Fireworks and sometimes the Ladies Sangeet and Mendhi.
Vatna/Haldi Four lamps or diyas are lit and the bride is made to sit facing them. Oil is constantly poured into the lamps, so that the glow from diyas is reflected on her face. Vatna involves applying the paste made from turmeric powder and mustard oil all over the girl’s body by her female friends and relatives. This is done to make the girl look more beautiful on the special day of our life. This ritual demands that the bride to stay at home in her old clothes for a couple of days before her wedding. Ubtan is supposed to bring glow on the bride's and groom's body especially their face. This tradition is also known as Shaint in some cultures. After this ritual, bride and groom are constrained from meeting each other until the wedding ceremony.
Ghara gharoli The decorated pitcher of water (ghadoli) is brought for the bride's bath by the groom's bhabi (brother's wife). In the Ghara Gharoli ritual, the bride’s sibling or sibling’s spouse visits the nearby temple and fills a pitcher with holy water. The girl is then bathed with this holy water. Thereafter, the bride wears their wedding attire.The ghara gharoli and the vatna ceremonies take place at the groom’s house too. But over there, the boy’s sister-in-law brings the pitcher of water. As per the tradition, their wedding dress is presented to them by their respective maternal uncles.
Jaggo In this ceremony, the family dances and sings in the beautifully decorated wedding home. Jaggo is celebrated in the last hours of the night. They decorate copper or brass vessel called "khadaa" with diveh (clay lamps) and fill them with mustard oil and light them. The bride/bridegrooms maternal aunt (mammi) carries it on her head, and another lady will have a long stick with bells, and she will be shaking it. The ladies will then go into other friends and families homes and be welcomed by sweets and drinks, they will then dance there and move on. It is a loud ceremony, filled with joy, dancing, fireworks, and food.
A young nephew or cousin also dons similar attire as the groom. He is called the sarbala/shabbala (caretaker of the groom) and accompanies him.
Like the bride’s home, the Vatna and Ghara Gharoli are followed by the dressing up of groom in his wedding attire. After the groom has dressed up in his wedding clothes, a puja is performed. Thereafter, the groom’s sister ties the sehra on the groom’s head. After the completion of Sehrabandi ceremony, all those who witness the function give gifts and cash to the boy as a token of good luck.
Varna Varna is a ceremony that is supposed to ward off the evil eye. The groom's bhabi lines his eyes with surma (kohl).
The Ghori Chadna is the final ceremony at the groom’s place. The groom’s sisters and cousins feed and adorn his mare. To ward off the evil eye, people use cash and perform the Varna ritual. The cash is then distributed among the poor. After this the boy climbs the horse and leaves his home for the wedding venue.
Milni It literally means "Introductions". In a Sikh marriage, "Ardas" is performed by the head person in charge of looking after the Sikh scriptures, followed by the formal introductions of the main male players in the families. For example both eldest Chachas (father's younger brother) will come together and exchange garlands of flowers. In the Milni ceremony, the girl's relatives give Shagun (a token of good luck) to the groom's close relatives. It is done in the descending order, beginning from the elder most. Cash and clothes are gifted.
Jaimala/Varmala After Milni, the bride and groom come in the middle of the circle where the family is standing, and place a heavily made garland made of flowers- varmala on each other to state, they accept each other and will love and live together with one and other. Friends and relatives of the bride and groom indulge in teasing and fun, to celebrate this happy occasion. An auspicious time or muhurat is chosen for the performance of wedding ceremony.
Kanyadaan and Phere The bride's father puts a ring on the boy's finger and then he gives his daughter to the boy. This ritual is known as the Kanyadaan. It is after the kanyadaan that the pheras begin. The pheras take place in front of the sacred fire-agni. After this the groom applies Sindoor (vermilion) to the girl’s hair partition and the Mangalsutra Rasam takes place where the groom ties a beaded necklace i.e. a mangalsutra to the girl’s neck. When all these rituals are over, the couple gets up to touch the feet of all the elder members in the family and seek their blessings for a happily married life. In a Hindu Punjabi Wedding, Agni (sacred fire) is usually encircled seven times.
In a Sikh wedding, the bride and groom will walk in tow around the Guru Granth Sahib four times, called laanva. This signifies they not only accept each other as one soul in two bodies, but also as the Guru as the center of their marriage.
Joota chupai It literally means 'hiding the shoes'. The bride’s sisters indulge in stealing of shoes. It is a fun tradition, in which the girls charge a fee for agreeing to return the shoes. They demand Kalecharis of gold for the bride's sisters and of silver for her cousins.
Vidaai/Doli Vidaai marks the departure of the bride from her parental house. As a custom, the bride throws phulian or puffed rice over her head. The ritual conveys her good wishes for her parents. A traditionally sad ritual, here the bride says goodbye to her parents, siblings and rest of her family. Her brothers/male cousins then lead her to her husband, who waits to take her to his family home to begin her new life as a married woman. Her relatives throw coins in the wake of this procession. In keeping with tradition the mother in-law will often not come to the Doli and instead make preparations at home to greet the arrival of her son and new wife. The mother-in-law has a glass of water in her hand, which she circles 3 times around her bahu and then offers it to her to drink, as a symbol of her acceptance and blessing as her newest daughter.
Reception at the boy's house
The newly weds are welcomed in a ceremony called the pani bharna. Then the bride must, with her right foot, kick the sarson ka tel (mustard oil) that is put on the sides of the entrance door before she enters the house. Then, along with her husband, she must offer puja in their room. Then they must touch the feet of the elders in a ceremony called 'matha tekna'. The rest of the evening is spent in playing enjoyable traditional games.
Phera Dalna The newly weds visit the bride's parents on the day after the wedding. The bride’s brother usually fetches them.