The Punjabi wedding is a joyful and exuberant affair. Large number of colorful customs and rituals and the congregation of relatives and friends add joy and mirth to the occasion.
Given here is a brief description of the rituals observed prior to traditional Punjabi wedding.
Rituals Observed on Wedding Day
- Rokka:Rokka ceremony is first in the series of Punjabi wedding rituals. It a simple ceremony which signifies that the boy and girl are now committed to marry each other. Roka ceremony is performed at the house of the bride-to-be. So the family and relatives of the prospective groom must go to her house for the ceremony. The ceremony consists of a simple puja that is conducted by a purohit, followed by an exchange of gifts between the two families. After this ceremony they are free to court each other.
- Sagan and Chunni Chadana : In present times these ceremonies are combined together are usually conducted in a banquet hall or a club. In sagan or shagun ceremony, the purohit performs a havan. The father of the bride-to-be applies tilak on the forehead of the groom-to-be and gives gifts to him and his family members. The bride is dressed in clothes and jewellery that have been presented to her by her future in-laws. She is also presented a red chunni by the sister/sister-in-law of her future husband. She also receives jewelry and gifts from her in-laws as part of the ceremony. Her mother-in-law feeds her boiled rice and milk as part of the ritual. Later, the prospective bride and groom exchange rings.
- Sangeet : The families of the prospective bride and groom hold a special sangeet session. Friends and close family members are invited and traditional wedding songs are sung. Both the sides exchange gifts and sweets.
- Mehandi: As a ritual, mehandi or henna is sent by the future mother-in-law of the bride-to-be. This mehandi is applied on the hands and feet of the bride-to-be by a relative, friend or a professional mehandiwali. The bride's close friends and close female relatives dance joyously while the mehandi is being applied to her. They also apply henna on their hands. After the Mehandi ceremony, delicious snacks and meals are served to all present.
A number of colorful rituals take place during the wedding day. Enthusiastic presence of relatives and friends of the prospective bride and groom add joy to these customary rituals.
- Chuda Ceremony : This ceremony is performed by the maternal uncle and aunt (mama - mami) of the bride. The oldest maternal uncle and aunt as well as the girl's parents usually fast until the completion of this ceremony. The purohit performs a havan. After the puja, the chuda which is a set of red and cream ivory bangles are touched by all present to signify their blessings and good wishes for the bride. Later, the bride must slip the chuda on her wrist. This is followed by an iron bangle (for good luck) with shells and beads, and a mauli that the pandit ties around her wrist. Flower petals are showered on the girl after the ceremony and prasad is distributed among all. The girl's maternal uncle and aunt, friends and cousins tie kaliras (silver, gold or gold plated traditional ornaments that are tied to the chuda). Before departing for her husband's home, the bride must tap one of her unwed female friends or cousins with her kaliras. According to popular belief, the one who is tapped thus will be the next one to marry.
- Ghara Ghardoli and Vatna : This ritual demands that the bride-to-be stay at home in her old clothes for a couple of days before her wedding. She must sit in the vicinity of four lit diyas or oil lamps so that the glow from them is reflected on her face. A sibling and the sibling's spouse usually fill a pitcher of water from a nearby temple. Closed relatives accompany the sibling to the temple and sing and dance along the way. The water brought from the temple is added to the bath and old garments are given away to a poor person. Before her bath, vatna or uptan (a paste of powdered turmeric and mustard oil) is applied on her body by female relatives and friends. Both, the ghara ghardoli and the vatna ceremonies are also performed for the groom at his house. Here the decorated pitcher of water (ghadoli) is brought for his bath by his bhabi (elder brother's wife).
- The Punjabi Bridal Dress : A Punjabi bride is dressed by her mother, female relatives and friends amidst much gaiety. The bride may wear a sari or a lehenga in traditional colors like red, orange or magenta. She is adorned with traditional gold jewelry.
- The Punjabi Bridegroom's Attire : A Punjabi groom dresses in formal attire, which may be traditional or western. A young nephew or cousin also dons similar attire. He is called the sarbala (caretaker of the groom) and accompanies him on his mare or in his car.
- Sehrabandi : A puja is performed after the groom dons his wedding attire. His sehra or turban is blessed by his relatives, as is the silver mukut or crown that goes on top of the turban. At the end of the ceremony, those present bless the groom and give him gifts or cash.
- Ghodi, Vag Goodti and Duppata Varna : The groom's bhabi lines his eyes with surma (kohl). After this, the groom's sisters and cousins feed and decorate his mare. If the groom chooses to use a car for the occasion, then the car is decorated. His relatives use cash for the varna, a ceremony that is supposed to ward off the evil eye. The cash is given away to the poor.
- Milni : The milni ceremony takes place when the baraat reaches the wedding venue. The groom and his relatives are welcomed with flower garlands by the bride's close relatives. The girl's relatives give shagun to the groom's close relatives, beginning with his grandfather, father, uncles and brothers. The shagun usually consists of cash and is given to honour the relatives.
Following are the customary wedding rituals of a typical Punjabi wedding ceremony.
- Varmala or Jaimala : In varmala, the bride and groom exchange garlands during this ceremony. Those present indulge in much teasing and festivity to mark this happy occasion. Often, this ceremony acts as an effective icebreaker for the nervous bride and her groom.
- Pheras : The mahurat for the phere is usually set after dinner. When the mahurat approaches, the purohit first performs a puja for the groom. The groom chants a few mantras. This is when the girl's young relatives grab the groom's untended shoes and hide it away to be returned after the ceremony for a fee which is Kalecharis of gold for the bride's sisters and of silver for her cousins. This joyful custom is called juta chhupai. The purohit performs another puja with the couple and their parents. The bride is given away by her father in a ceremony called the kanyadaan. This is followed by the pheras. The bride and groom go around the sacred fire with the bride's sari tied to the groom's pagdi with the help of the red chunni used in the ghara ghardoli ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, the newly-weds touch the feet of the groom's parents and the elders present to take their blessings. The bride changes into the clothes presented by her in-laws, while her relatives apply tilak on the groom's forehead
Mentioned here are the post - wedding rituals of a Punjabi wedding.
- Vidaai : 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 beautifully decorated car takes her to her new home. The bride is accompanied by her brother. Her relatives throw coins in the wake of this procession.
- Rituals Observed at the Groom's House : The newly weds are welcomed in a ceremony called the pani bharna. The groom's mother performs the traditional aarti with a pitcher of water. She makes seven attempts to drink the water from the pitcher. The groom must allow her to succeed only at the seventh attempt. The bride must, with her right foot, kick the mustard oil that is put on the sides of the entrance door before she enters the house. 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 : This ceremony demands that the newly weds visit the bride's parents on the day after the wedding. They are usually fetched by the bride's brother. The bride's parents host a lunch to mark the occasion. They also give a lot of gifts to the newly weds.