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Gujarati Wedding Ceremony

The Patels or Patidars of Gujarat are ambitious, intelligent, hardworking, hospitable and excessive spenders on occasions like marriages. Their weddings are arranged on a grand scale and are bright and colourful.

The bride and groom receive huge amounts of clothes and jewellery and the groom is given cash gifts at almost each ceremony; in fact after each 'Parikrama' (Circumvention around the sacred fire) his palms are crossed with gold!

Chandlo Maatli: Acceptance of the alliance
The 'chandlo' (applying the vermilion mark on the forehead) announces the acceptance of the alliance between the two families and the consent of the bride and groom to come together in holy matrimony.

'Chandlo' is the 'tikka' and 'maatli' is the clay container in which 'mithais' (sweetmeats) were packed in the olden days. The bride's father and four other male members from her family visit the groom carrying auspicious items and the bride's father applies the 'chandlo' on the groom's forehead and gives him a 'shakun' (a blessing symbolized by a token sum of money).

An astrologer is consulted and the wedding date is fixed. The 'chandlo maatli' ceremony is usually followed by a high tea or dinner.

Ganesh Sthapan: Commencement of all marriage rituals
Lord Ganesha is always the first deity to be propitiated at any significant event. His blessings are invoked before the preparations begin for the wedding so that no obstacles present themselves and all goes well.

This 'puja' is attended by close family members and is performed in both homes simultaneously on an auspicious day. After the 'puja' a vegetarian meal sans onion and garlic is served along with a sweet called 'khansaar'.

Mehendi: The henna ceremony
This is an intimate gathering of the bride's female relatives and close friends two days before the wedding. 'Mehendi' (henna) is ground into a paste and applied by professional 'mehendiwallis' (henna artists) in fine patterns on the palms and feet of the bride. Songs specific to the occasion are sung and lunch is served.

Garba & Dandia Raas: Traditional Gujarati dances
On the evening of the 'mehendi' family and friends gather together dressed in traditional finery and sing and dance to the beat of the 'dhol' (drum). The women form a circle to dance the graceful 'garba' and the men join in later in an energetic 'dandia raas' (dandias are sticks).
Dandiya Raas

Prenuptial ceremonies - Broken into following segments

Decorated Wedding Mandap Mandva Mahurat: Constructing the canopy for the wedding rites
A day before the wedding, Lord Ganesha is worshipped once again, this time his blessings are sought for the ground on which the wedding canopy will be installed. Though family and close friends attend the 'mandva mahurat', only the women of the household observe the 'puja'.
The 'pujari' performs a brief 'puja' at the shrine inside the house then puts 'tikka' on the foreheads of five men from the family. He goes on to give them a small stick with 'nada chari' (red thread) wrapped around it. The men link their hands and carry this to the site of the 'mandva' and embed it into the earth. This stick is symbolic of one of the poles of the 'mandva', which will support the canopy.

Pithi: Beautification Rituals
A shrine is arranged with a picture of Lord Ganesh set in it. The bride sits on a 'bajat' or low stool, palms upturned. It is the prerogative of the 'kaaki' (paternal uncle's wife) to mix the 'Pithi' (a paste of sandalwood powder, herbs, rosewater and 'German mogro' (a type of 'attar' or perfume). She then arranges the 'Pithi' on a decorated platter and has it blessed by the priest.

The women of the household apply the 'Pithi' on the bride's skin. The bride keeps this on until the next ceremony (the 'Griha Shanti') is completed

A small ceremony called the 'Ookarhi Nautarvi' is conducted after the 'Pithi' wherein the 'Kaaki' places an iron nail, a whole 'Supari' (betel nut) and a one-rupee coin in a shallow hole dug by the 'Pujari'. This is done to ensure that no evil spirits enter the venue of the wedding.

Griha Shanti: Invoking harmony within the planets
This is a very important religious ceremony. Both sets of parents are the primary figures in the invocation. On behalf of the parents, the officiating priests ask the deities to ensure stellar harmony and peace during the period of their son and daughter's wedding.

The bride takes a coconut to her parents who are seated on 'Patlas' (low stools) in front of the sacred fire and seats herself beside them. While the priest is performing the 'Puja', which can take up to two hours - she hands this 'Shriphal' (coconut) to her parents, who in turn hand it over to the priest for 'Aahuti' (sacrifice). The coconut is consigned to flames, thus propagating peace and harmony between all the nine planets.

Similar ceremonies are conducted in the groom's home.

Mama escorts bride
to the Mandap Mameru or Mosaalu: The bride receives gifts from her maternal uncle

The custom of 'Mameru' originated centuries ago when there were no legal rights existing for daughters. It was customary for the parents to start making provisions for their daughter by gifting her with things on occasions like
'Rakshabandhan' or 'Bhaibheej'. These gifts accumulated as 'Streedhan' (daughter's wealth).

When the girl grows up and gets married, the 'mama' or maternal uncle comes with the 'Mameru' consisting of clothes, jewellery and other gifts items including the traditional 'Paanetar' (silk wedding sari - usually white with red border) and 'Chooda' (ivory bangle - now replaced with acrylic or plastic). The 'Mameru' ceremony takes place one day before the wedding.

Varghodo: The Groom's Procession
On the evening of the wedding, the groom, dressed in all his finery and carrying a 'Katar' (small dagger) prepares to leave for the wedding venue. The priest gives the groom's sister a small bowl wrapped in cloth and containing coins on which the Hindu Swastika has been etched. She rattles this over her brother's head to ward off the evil eye and also to warn him that even though he is getting married, he must not forget his sister!

The groom's father's sister-in-law garlands him and gives him a cluster of flowers. After being blessed by all he mounts a richly caparisoned mare and leaves for the wedding venue accompanied by his relatives and close friends.

Var Ponke: Welcoming the groom
The bride's mother receives the groom and his 'baraat' (procession) at the entrance of the wedding venue. She performs the traditional 'aarti' for the groom, applies the 'kumkum' (vermilion) and rice 'tikka' on his forehead.

Before the groom can enter the premises, he is made to step onto a 'bajat' (low stool) where the bride's mother performing the 'aarti' and applying the 'tikka' for him once again accords him a ceremonial welcome. The clusters of flowers given to him earlier by his aunt are now exchanged for a coconut decorated with red thread.

One of the groom's aunts goes inside to call on the bride who is worshipping at the shrine of Lord Ganesha and presents her with the 'kanya shelu' (a platter with a sari, some jewellery, pretty slippers, and a 'mangalsutra' made from black beads and strung on red thread). This is the last gift she receives as a maiden. The sari is draped around her shoulders, the 'mangalsutra' tied around her neck and she is led outside to receive her groom.

The bride garlands the groom signaling her acceptance of him as her husband and is led back inside the shrine to continue her worship of Lord Ganesha.

The bride's mother places two clay pots filled with rice on the ground and the groom breaks them before entering the wedding 'mandva'.

Lagna: The wedding ceremony - divided into following segments:

Varmala: The couple exchanges garlands
The bride's 'mama' (maternal uncle) escorts her to the 'mandva' where she garlands the groom and he reciprocates. She now sits facing him.

Hast Medap The priest puts the 'tikka' on both their foreheads and blesses them.

Kanyadaan: Giving away the bride
The bride's parents apply 'tikka' on the couple and the bride's father performs the 'kanyadaan'.

This is done by tying the hands of the bride and groom together in a marital knot known as the 'Hast Melaap'. The bride's right hand is placed in the groom's right hand and they both reach out over the unlit fire below. With this gesture the father of the bride symbolizes this promise; " I offer you this most precious gift of my daughter to take as your own, to cherish and to protect."

The bride's mother connects the couple by tying the 'Varmaala' (a length of sacred red thread) across them and looping it like a garland over their hands. After the ceremony the 'Varmaala' is removed and put around the bride's neck like a garland.

Mangal Pheras: Circumventions around the sacred fire
The 'Pujari' lights the sacred fire amidst Vedic chants. The couple circles the fire four times. The groom leads the bride the first three times and the fourth time he is led by her. These circumventions are called 'Mangal Pheras'. After the last 'Phera' there is a small tussle to see who gets back to the seat first!

Saptapadi: Seven steps around the sacred fire
After the 'Mangal Pheras' the couple takes the seven steps around the fire and with each step a vow is taken. After the completion of all these ceremonies the couple is seated and blessed by all with the showering of rice.

Vadava Vanu: Bridal send off
The bride bids a tearful farewell to her parents, family and friends. The 'Pujari' performs a small 'Puja' for the decorated car by applying 'Tikka' to the hood. The bride's mother breaks a coconut in front of the car, invoking blessings for a safe journey for the couple. The bride and groom leave accompanied by at least three others (it is necessary to have a minimum of five people in the car). The bride's brother usually escorts her to her new home.

Var Ghodyu Pokvanu Che: Welcoming the bride into her marital home
The newly weds are received by the groom's mother and sisters. The groom's mother performs a small 'Aarti' and puts the traditional 'Tikka' on their foreheads. She also gifts her daughter-in-law a piece of Jewellery.

Reception: Post wedding celebrations
This is an event borrowed from the West and is not mandatory. The reception can be as simple or as elaborate an affair as desired by the families. The purpose is to introduce the bride and groom as a married couple.


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