Looking Up: Wedding Traditions of North India

 

 

When you think big fat Indian wedding, your mind wanders to a grand display of holy matrimony: song, dance, flowers, gold, elephants, grooms like princes, brides like goddesses. There’s only one word to describe it: grandeur.

North Indian weddings constantly redefine grandeur. With their customs standing so starkly in contrast to South Indian traditions, weddings up north are very different from weddings that take place in the south, east or west of India.

Taarini gives you a glimpse of the most significant wedding traditions of North India:

  1. Sagai: It all begins with the sagai. The engagement ceremony is a party in itself. Today, the sagai is an occasion of much pomp and show. Guests including friends and family witness the announcement of nuptials between the two families. It is a way to show and tell the world to “save the date” for there will be a wedding in the offing.

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  1. Sangeet: Easily one of the most fun and looked-forward-to event preceding a North Indian wedding, the sangeet is a get together of both families along with friends to make merry a couple of nights before the wedding. Although it carries little or no religious significance, it sets the tone for the endless celebration that is a typical North Indian wedding. In today’s day and age of fun and Instagram-ready fashion, the sangeet has become an evening of non-stop song and dance, with both families trying to outdo the other with dance moves, true Bollywood style!

 

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  1. Mehendi: Said to be one of sixteen adornments that a bride needs to wear for her wedding, mehendi is a deep red or brown temporary tattoo that embellishes a bride’s hands and feet. Such is the popularity of the mehendi ceremony that it has travelled down south over the years and even spread its merry tendrils to the west and east. While traditional families prefer to host a separate mehendi and sangeet ceremonies, several others are turning to joint ceremony to stick to their strict budget weddings.

 

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  1. Baraat: A familiar sight in Bollywood movies is the well-known baraat. On the auspicious wedding day, the groom and his family arrive at the venue in a formal procession called the baraat. The groom arrives on a horse surrounded by family and friends dancing to energetic drum beats. The man of the hour is greeted at the entrance by the bride’s family with a customary tika on his forehead, welcoming him to their family.

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  1. Phera: This is perhaps the most auspicious custom of a North Indian wedding. The bride and groom sit around a small fire, as hymns are chanted, creating an austere and solemn atmosphere. The groom ties the holy thread or mangalsutra around the bride’s neck after invoking the blessings of the almighty. They then take their first steps around the fire as husband and wife, making vows to each other, to protect and treasure each other for evermore.

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There are other important rituals and traditions such as the kanyadaan, jai mala and vidaai which form part of North Indian weddings. Their significance can never be emphasised enough, for every tradition comes with its own special meaning. Perhaps there is one particular custom you hold close to your heart? Let us know in the comments below!

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