Every single ethnic and religion in the world has their own practices and beliefs. When it comes to the subject of weddings, Indians have a lot of endearing cultures.
1. Silk Sarees and Dhoti
What is an Indian wedding without the presence of silk? Silk sarees and dhoti must be worn by the bride and the groom during the wedding. The six yards of a silk saree is just sheer elegance; it would sometimes cost up to MYR 5,000, but who cares, we (hopefully) get married only once in a lifetime.
‘Nalangu’ takes place two nights before the wedding, at both the bride and groom’s place respectively. It’s a very special occasion; relatives would gather around and bring tasty foods such as ladoos, jalebis, and samosas. Before the feasting begins, the elders in the family would take turns putting dabs of a yellow-coloured paste, a mix made of sandal and rose water, onto the bride and the groom’s face, to bring out the wedding glow.
The night before the wedding, mehndi will be drawn on the bride’s hands and legs. It is an ancient belief that the density of the henna dye on the bride’s hands show how much she loves and cares for her man. The designs are very intricate and have different concepts and meanings. Usually, the name of the groom will be drawn alongside the patterns; he will have to figure out his name on his wife’s palm during the first night.
How do you finally tie the knot? An auspicious thread, a ‘Mangalsutra’, soaked in thick turmeric and sandal paste (giving it a yellowish-orange colour), is placed around the bride’s neck like a necklace. Three knots are tied; the first one by the groom, the other two knots by his sister or cousin, to ‘accept’ the bride into the groom’s family. The idea behind ‘Mangalsutra’ is to wash off the bacteria and cleanse the bride’s body, upon taking her bath after sharing a romantic night with her husband (turmeric and sandal are both natural disinfectant). The bride wears the ‘Mangalsutra’ till her death, as a symbol of a married woman.
Modern Indian brides nowadays wear the 'mangalsutra' only for the first three months, before replacing it with a gold necklace.
The elders and the guests will bless the bride and groom, by showering ‘akshadai’ on the couple as the groom ties the ‘mangalsutra’ around the bride’s neck. Akshadai is rice grains coated with turmeric and saffron; it symbolises prosperity and fertility, and is of high importance in Indian ancient culture.
‘Sindoor’ or vermillion is applied at the front parting of the bride’s hair by the groom. This is to ‘signal’ to other men not to drool over her, as it is sinful to do so since the woman is married. Interestingly, vermillion is made of turmeric-lime and metal mercury, making it a natural composition to increase sex drive. This is why an unmarried woman or a widow is not allowed to apply ‘sindoor’.
7. Vows around the agni
‘Agni’ means fire, one of the five manifestations of nature, regarded highly in the Indian culture. The couple would walk around the ‘agni’ three times to seal the marriage contract, vowing silently that this relationship shall last till their death, and to always be loyal and sincere to each other, regardless of any circumstances. Apart from the priest and the guests, the ‘agni’ becomes the superior witness of their wedding vow.
8. Toe-ring (Metti)
Toe-rings are a must-wear accessory for an Indian woman once she is married. The groom will hold his bride’s feet and place it on a grindstone. As the bride mounts the stone, it symbolises how she and the marriage should be rock firm. The groom will then put the ring on her second toe. The toe-ring is said to give an adequate amount of pressure to a particular nerve on the toe which connects directly to the uterus and heart. Hence, the science of the menstruation cycle, reproduction and childbirth will all be ‘reformatted’, preparing the bride’s body to carry and bear childbirth.
9. Ring in a pot
An easy, fun-filled game will be conducted by the priest for the couples to be involved in, to get acquainted with one another. In the olden days, the bride and the groom are often total strangers. The games were much needed to break the awkwardness. Usually, a ring will be dropped into a big pot of turmeric water. The couple will compete to see who gets the ring first. Playing this game ensure their hands will touch one another, and triggers a chemistry, leading to romance.
10. Kicking the rice vessel
There is a tradition where the bride, upon entering her husband’s home for the first time, softly kicks with her right foot, a copper vessel filled with rice. This culture symbolizes prosperity, and the good luck the bride brings into the family. A solution of lime and turmeric powder is prepared on a copper plate to cast away evil eyes from the family and house.
So, are you planning to get married yet?