Among the many regional communities living in India, Maharashtrians perhaps have the simplest and least opulent marriage ceremony. The process begins with match making called Lagnaach Bedi. Though these days love marriages are quite common, many boys and girls still prefer to go in for marriages arranged by parents. Typically, Maharshtrians go in for marriage alliance between equal status families. However, the marriage alliance is finalized only after matching of the horoscopes by family pundit. Following this, the pundit decides the auspicious date for the wedding.
A number of colorful and interesting pre-wedding rituals take place in a Maharashtrian wedding. Given here is the brief description of the same.
- Sakhar Puda:Sakharpuda is essentially an engagement ceremony that takes place a few days before the wedding. For this ceremony, the groom's parents give the bride a saree as a token of her acceptance in their family. Her arms are adorned with green glass bangles, symbolizing her engagement. She is then given a packet of sakhar puda (sugar) which symbolizes the spreading of sweetness in their lives. Invitation cards are traditionally printed after this ceremony.
- Haldi : Haldi is yet another custom special to Maharashtrians. The bridegroom and the bride have their own celebrations in their respective homes. Women from each family get together to apply a mixture of turmeric, sandalwood and cream to the face and body of the bridegroom or the bride. The prospective bride and the groom then take a ceremonial bath in their respective homes and are not allowed to go out of the home after this ceremony.
- Chuda : Chuda is a ceremony for the bride and her women friends to share the fun of wearing green bangles. Green glass bangles are considered auspicious because green is the color of new life, creativity and rejuvenation. A bangle man is invited to the home and each woman chooses her own, amidst songs, laughter and jokes. The bride is given the green glass bangles ceremonially and with her mother's help, she wears them interspersed with gold, pearl or diamond bangles as per the status of the family. The bride can remove the chuda only a month after the wedding. Married women wear such chudas on all festive or religious occasions.
The actual marriage ceremony begins with a muhurta patra set up to measure the time before the auspicious moment of the marriage. Drop by drop, the water falling down counts the seconds while the bride, ready and dressed in a yellow or green sari and a half moon painted on her forehead for luck, worships Parvati, the goddess of marital bliss in an anteroom till she is summoned to the dais.
- Marriage Ceremony : At long last, the swastik-marked antarpat, (white cloth) is held up between the couple. The bride is brought to the dais by her mama or maternal uncle and the mangalashtakas (eight blessings) are recited. When the recitation is over, the cloth is removed amidst a crescendo of shehnais and the bride and groom exchange garlands called varmalas. This is also the 'darshan' of a bride and groom for the first time as man and wife. At the time of removing the Antarpaat the people present shower the couple with Akshata (unbroken rice). It is essential that the grains be whole, as they are symbolic of the blessing from those present. The couple garlands each other. Like most Hindu marriages seven rounds around the havan are called Saptapadi.
- Laxmi Narayan Puja : One of the most important events after the marriage is Laxmi Narayan Puja. The bride and the bridegroom are considered to be Goddess Laxmi and Lord Narayan respectively and worshipped. After this ceremony the bride is formally handed over by her parents to the bridegroom in a ceremony called kanyadaan.
Some very interesting post-wedding rituals of a Maharashtrian Wedding are:
- Suun Mukh Baghne : In Indian society, the bride not only marries a man but also becomes an inherent part of his family. Her initiation into the new family is done by her mother-in-law. The bridegroom's mother looks (baghne) at her daughter-in-law's (sunn) face (mukh). The mother-in-law takes both her son and her daughter-in-law in her lap. Later she looks at her daughter-in-law's face in the mirror. She also combs her hair. Probably a throw back to the days when the bride and the groom were mere children this ritual still retains the feeling of a mother-daughter relationship that it conjures.
- Changing her Name : It was a practice to change the name of the girl after marriage in Maharashtrian Brahmin families. This ceremony takes place at the boy's house. After inscribing the Om Ganeshay Nama and the kuldevta's name the bridegroom traces the name of his wife in a plate full of rice.
- Reception : Reception as usual takes place on the night of marriage. Generally, lunch is arranged in the afternoon. A peculiarity of the lunch is that not all the people sit together to eat. Initially, the bridegroom's family members are made to have lunch. The couple takes rounds of the mandap where the guests are having lunch, serving sweets and making sure that everyone eats well. Then the bride's family is asked to go ahead. In the end, the couple and their parents have lunch together.