Gujarati wedding is a ritualistic concept just like any other Indian marriages. It is inevitably a storehouse of sundry fun-filled rituals and many a pious occasion.
Like most of the other Indian communities Gujaratis make matches for their daughters and sons within the communities. The father of the girl looks for a match for his daughter as soon as she grows up. Gujaratis prefer that the boy and girl see each other and take the decision of marrying or not marrying for that matter.
A number of pre-wedding rituals take place in a Gujarati wedding
- Mandap Mahurat:This ceremony takes place at the outset of most auspicious events to seek blessings of Lord Ganesha, the Hindu God who is believed to remove all obstacles. The families of the bride and the groom perform this ceremony in their homes a few days before the wedding.
- Griha Shanti : This is an important puja or prayer session and is conducted at the both the bride's and the groom's home at an auspicious time after matching the horoscopes of the prospective bride and groom. The puja for Griha Shanti is conducted by an acharya with the family members and relatives of the bride's father participating in the rituals.
- Jaan : This interesting ritual involves the groom arriving at the house of the bride to seek the blessings of his mother-in-law. As a custom, the groom must bow his head and clutch his nose. This gesture symbolizes his humility and understanding of the tremendous sacrifice that his future wife is about to make. The groom's prospective mother-in-law blesses him and performs a small ritual to ward off the evil eye. She also tries to catch his nose as she reminds him that he is the taker since he will be taking her daughter away and they are the givers.
A number of unique and colorful rituals make Gujarati wedding distinct from other Indian weddings
- Antarpaat : The Gujarati custom entails that the bride's maternal uncle (mama) carries the bride to the mandap. There, the curtain known as Antarpaat separates the bride and groom is lowered and the couple put garlands in each other's necks.
- Madhuparka : Madhuparka takes place after the ritual Jaimala ceremony. The ritual involves washing of the groom's feet while sitting under the Mandap. He is then offered milk and honey. Following this is the most interesting custom, wherein the groom's sisters-in-law steal his shoes and hide away. The groom has to get back his shoes at the end of the day and for this he has to offer them a sum of money which is agreeable to them.
- Hasta Milap : In this ritual, the groom's scarf or shawl is tied to the bride's sari. This knot and the joined hands of the couple symbolize the union of two souls joined together in holy matrimony. The acharya chants mantras to invoke the blessings of Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Parvati for the saubhagyavrata or wife. The family and relatives present also come together to bless the couple and shower grains of rice and rose petals on them.
- Kanya Daan : The wedding rituals are performed in front of a sacred fire and conducted by the acharya. The rituals begin with the kanya daan where in the bride is given away by her parents. As a ritual bride's parents abstain from eating to make themselves pure in body and mind for the occasion. Their folded hands during Kanya daan ceremony reflect the hope that their son-in-law will take good care of their daughter and never cause her pain. They wash his feet, as they believe that he is none other than the Lord Vishnu, to whom they are handing, over his rightful consort, the Goddess Laxmi in the form of their daughter.
- Pheras : In this, the couple goes around the sacred fire as the acharya chants mantras. The groom also recites mantras, which express his heart's desire, and seeks the loving support of his wife.
- Saptapadi : The Saptapadi or seven steps is another important ritual of the Gujarati wedding ceremony. The couple must go around the holy fire seven times. The groom chants mantras with each step. These are requests to his wife take good care of the house, cook wholesome and healthy meals for their family, be thrifty with money, be an understanding and supporting partner to him, etc. The bride promises to fulfill these requests.
Post wedding rituals of a Gujarati wedding include "Saubhagyavati Bhava" and the "Vidaai". In the former, the elderly married women of the girl's family whisper "Aashirwaad" - blessings into the right ear of the bride. While the Vidaai ceremony has the girl leaving for the groom's house in an especially decorated car. The ceremony marks the beginning of a new life for the new couple.
- Reception : The reception is usually held immediately after the wedding. It is an opportunity for relatives, friends and well wishers to bless the newly weds, enjoy a sumptuous meal with them and give them gifts.
- Ghar Nu Laxmi : The bride's first step into her new home is considered auspicious. She is the "ghar nu laxmi" or the Goddess Lakshmi who will bring wealth and good fortune to her home. The mother-in-law places a vessel filled to the brim with rice, at the entrance of the house. The bride must knock the vessel down gently with her right foot, spilling some of the rice over. The rice is a symbol of wealth and by following the ritual she conveys her full understanding of her duties and responsibilities towards her new home.
- Aeki-Beki : Yet another interesting ritual observed at the groom's house. The newly wed couple is made to play a game called "Aeki-beki". In this, several coins and a ring are placed in a tray of water covered by milk and vermilion. It is believed that the person, who finds the ring four times first, would be the ruler of the house.