Sindhi weddings are generally a large-scale, razzle-dazzle affair with lots of good food, the best of designer labels, diamonds (gliterrati), bollywood dancing and alcohol. The Sindhi folks enjoy living it up and know how to have a good time. Similar to their Punjabi neighbours (geographically), they are known to be loud and love the good life. The wedding festivities are spread over 3-4 days not including the pre-wedding ceremonies. A whole lot of planning mostly months ahead of D-day goes into making the wedding a landmark one for both the families.
Five things to watch out for at a Sindhi wedding:
- Curry-Chawal – The Sindhi folk know their curry & how?!
- Dikha Ceremony – Where the groom’s clothes are torn off, apparently signifying doing away with his old life
- The Ring Ceremony – purely for the Drinking & Dancing
- Salt Shagun – where the new Bride exchanges salt with the Groom & his full family to ensure they have good relationships
- Measuring the Groom – The Groom is measured with a length of thread a day before the wedding and on the day of the wedding to ensure it is the same man
- Kachi Misri – Vaath ji aaye
- Ring Ceremony – Engagement/Pakka
- Ganesh Sthaapana/Pooja
- Navgraha Brahman/Curry Chawal
- Mehendi & Sangeet
- Kheeram Sat
- Measuring the Groom
- Vanva/Munni Kholan
- Saptapadi/Saat Vachan
- Kheer/Milk Sagun
- Salt Shagun
- Chand Daman
Kachi Misri – Vaath ji aaye
This is the first ritual in any Sindhi wedding and is quite similar to the Rokka that the Punjabis have. It is an informal agreement between both the families to conduct the marriage. Generally, a Sindhi Pandit would be requested to conduct the ritual. The groom, the bride and the groom’s sister are asked to be seated together. The groom’s sister puts a red dupatta/chuni covering the bride & herself; applies the tikka on the bride’s forehead and then feeds her some halwa (sweet made from semolina/sooji) and places a coconut and five different fruits (Panja Phala) in the bride’s lap (Pand). Both the families then pray together to the Kuldevta Jhulelal to bless the couple with a blissful marital life.
Depending on the preferences, there could be an elaborate exchange of gifts ranging from jewellery, electronics (laptops, net books), high-end mobile phones & money during this ceremony. The bride’s family presents tokras (cane baskets/hampers) of goodies to the groom’s family. The goodies could be dry fruits, fancy chocolates, cheese etc. A great deal of thought and effort is put into making these beautifully decorated hampers; in fact plenty of families these days prefer to have a specialist manage this for them.
It is generally post this ceremony that the couple is officially permitted to court each other until the big day.
Ring Ceremony – Engagement/Pakka
The wedding festivities are kick started with an exchange of rings. More often than not this is referred to as the Cocktail Party because as the name suggests there is a free flow of alcohol at this ceremony.
This is the party that everybody looks forward to and the dancing goes on until the wee hours of the night. More often than not, the ring ceremony party tends to be theme-based with themes ranging from the popular Bollywood, Retro to as fancy as the Arabian Nights, Moroccon ones. Depending on the theme Entertainment professionals such as a DJ, MC, live bands, dance troupes, Belly dancers and if the budget permits Bollywood stars too would be roped in.
The bride & the groom’s families go all out to put-in their own dance performances, A/V presentations and tear-jerker speeches. Preparations for this party could commence couple of months ahead of the day with professional choreographers/event managers being hired to co-ordinate the effort and make it an evening to remember.
The Janaya or the sacred thread ceremony is performed for boys between the ages of 5-12. The boy is made to wear a yellow thread and a guru mantra generally the Gayatri mantra is whispered into his ears by a priest. It marks the beginning of the adolescent period of a boy’s life. However, more often than not most boys have this done just before the wedding. The groom is showered with gifts of gold and cash from his to be in-laws.
This ceremony is done to invoke Lord Ganesha to ensure that the wedding is conducted without any hitches. A priest installs a picture of the family’s Kul Devta and a Kalash (arrangement of a coconut, mango leaves & a cocount) to officially mark the beginning of the wedding festivities. A swastik symbol is drawn on the forehead of the Bride and the Groom using wet kum-kum (vermillion powder). Gulab Jamuns are offered to Lord Ganesha after which the bride and the groom feed the sweet to any young girl (nyaani) from the family generally below the age of 8.
Navgraha Brahman/Curry Chawal*
A traditional sindhi meal of curry, rice (chawal), tuk (potato chops), puris/phulkas, subzi (made with potatoes, brinjals & lotus stem), tallebadi (sweet made from gram flour) and sweet boondi is prepared and first offered to 9 brahmins.
Post feeding the Brahmins, the groom’s sister makes the Bride taste three sips of sherbet (sweetened syrup) signifying the ‘Paal Jo Sugun’. She then proceeds to feed her the traditional lunch.
On this occasion, the groom’s side brings plenty of gifts for the bride and her family.
Traditionally, the Ganesh Sthaapana, Navgraha Brahman & Curry Chawal rituals were conducted separately for the Bride & the Groom. However, for convenience sake it is clubbed for both the sides and is conducted in the same venue followed by the mehendi & some bollywood dancing.
Mehendi & Sangeet*
Although traditionally not part of the rituals, a mehendi and the sangeet party happens post the Curry Chawal. The closest of family and friends are invited to have mehendi designs done accompanied by some desi dancing to burn-off the calories.
Most of these parties could be theme based as well with some interesting return gifts for the women folk. Gifting options range from fancy bangles to dry fruits to silver articles depending on the budget allocated.
The Groom visits the Bride’s place where he is entertained by the brothers and cousins. He receives several gifts from them during this ceremony which could include a new wardrobe or even electronics.
The bride’s sister takes a steel thaali filled with one kg sugar, and decorated with cardamoms, some cloves and one jafar (nutmeg) in the centre. The Brahmin/priest performs a ritual with kachcho kheer (raw milk). The priest keeps 1 1/4 or 2 1/2 kg of wheat flour near the deities of Gods, which is for him to take later.
After this, the Ddaajo (bride’s trousseau) is also brought and given to the groom’s family. If budget permits, families also hire personal shopping consultants to help them put together the trousseau.
Measuring the Groom*
One more unique feature of the Sindhi weddings is the role of the ‘peear vaari’ (brother’s wife). The boy’s side needs one peear vaari and the girl’s side needs two – one each from her maternal and paternal grandparents’ families for the wedding ceremonies. They perform all the rituals covering their head with a red dupatta and holding the peear ji-thaali (plate with pooja items).
On the eve of the wedding, all the relatives put oil on the groom’s head and tear off his clothes. Apparently, this signifies casting away the old life and moving into the new. This is rather a fun ceremony and mostly the groom shows up with at least 3 layers of clothes that are mercilessly torn away by all his cousins and friends.
The girl’s side peear vaari does a few rituals as per the priest’s instructions. This includes combing his hair! The bride’s brothers (along with cousins -minimum four or more) go to the groom’s house. The groom’s family members tie turbans on their heads. The groom’s side gives gifts/clothes and cash to all of them. This is the MANDEERA ceremony.
The ‘bochhini’ (a white big stole like garment stitched with a deep, big pocket at one end) is draped on him. His bhabhi (sister-in-1aw), chachi and maami (aunts) stitch this beforehand and embroider it with seven large sequins. This embroidered part comes over his head. The priest then does a puja and places the ‘mukut’ (a crown-like, white, metal headgear with colourful fixtures) – unique only to Sindhi bridegrooms on his head.
The Ghot a-Ma (groom’s mother) also plays an important role in this ritual. The misri-phala (dry fruits and crystallized sugar along with a set of clothes) are dropped into the ‘pocket’ of his bochhini, first by his sisters, followed bv ‘Naanannas’ (maternal grandparents’ side) and then the others. There are rituals done with the groom’s mother holding a pot on her head and her grandson (daughter’s son doing the ‘ddote.jo-sugun’) in tow. The groom is now considered as ‘Vishnu Swaroop’ – form of Lord Vishnu. Post this ritual, he is not allowed to go alone anywhere and is accompanied by the aanar (his sister’s husband). This is followed by a night of celebration and partying by the groom’s side.
*All of these ceremonies are usually conducted on the same day, mostly a day before the wedding
Morning of the Wedding – Vanva/Munni Kholan for the Bride
This ceremony is done for the bride on the morning of the wedding, at the wedding venue. ‘Sath Suhaginyu’ (seven married women – to rub off their luck on her) join in to help the bride to grind some wheat in the ‘jandd’ a traditional rotating grinder (due to unavailability, a toy one is used) and pound turmeric roots in a ‘hamaamdastha’ (pestle and mortar).
This symbolizes her initiation to household chores. A red thread is tied to one of her ankles and everybody applies oil on her head.
A little’Vanva.ji-Bhugeri’ (wheat flour kutti) is made and fed to the bride, the remnants of which (her jhoottha) are fed to eligible girls and boys to eat, since it is believed to increase their chances of quick matrimony. Post the ‘vanva’ ceremony, the bride is not allowed to be alone at all. After her shower, the dress she was wearing for ‘vanva’ is given away in charity. This also symbolizes giving away the old for the new.
The boy’s side sends their car (supposed to be in place of the original ‘ghodi’ – a mare) to the girl’s place on the morning of the wedding. The Bride’s side have it decorated with flowers and send it back. The Bride then dresses up in her bridal attire and goes to the venue of the wedding, without wearing any ornaments.
The girl’s peear vaari goes to the groom’s place and does the suguns/rituals for the Ghot-aMa (boy’s mother) and the grandmothers (both paternal & maternal). She combs their hair and ties a handkerchief around their plaits. Only after she leaves from the Groom’s, can the Baaraat start for the venue. The groom’s Naani (maternal grandmother) gives a saree to him before the groom’s side leaves for the venue.
In the decorated car, the groom is accompanied by the ‘aanar’ (his brother-in.law holding a’kaati’ – small dagger), the’dabli.vaaro’ (another brother.in.law who holds a box containing the bride’s jewelry), the ‘peear vaari’ and his mother. The groom first goes to a temple or ‘Gurudwara’ (durbar) to pray and then proceeds with the ‘baaraat’.
The groom’s entourage of family and friends come to the venue dancing to a live wedding band, in a colourful procession. The bride’s family welcomes them with garlands, a tray of tiny sugar cubes and cardamoms, and a sprinkling of ‘gulab jal’ (rose water) from the metal, sprinkler called ‘Gulabdani’. The bride is brought out to glance at the ‘baaraat’ and the groom and is taken back in almost immediately.
The bride’s mother welcomes the groom at the entrance by doing an aarti. She measures his height with a thread to see how much he has grown in his happiness. She pulls his nose (he prevents her from doing so as it is considered against his ‘shaan’ – below his dignity) and applies ‘surma’ (kohl powder) with a sarai which he tries his utmost to avoid, because of the joke connected to it. ‘Surmo paayann’ metaphorically refers to being duped or cheated. At the most, on being cajoled, he might let her put a dot of surma behind his ear. The bride’s sisters then hide the groom’s footwear and return it only when cajoled and given a lot of money by him. He is made to enter after breaking an earthenware diya with his right foot. The bride’s parents bring a quilt that they cover the bridal aasan (seat) with, two pillows that they keep as backrest for them and a thick bedspread to cover the groom’s parents’ seat.
The aanar enters with the groom and touches a pillar with the tip of his dagger. Then he and the groom’s sister remove the ‘mukut’ from the groom’s head. After entering, the bride’s brother washes the bride’s and groom’s feet with raw milk in a bronze thaali. Meanwhile, the women of the groom’s family make the bride wear her ornaments. The bride and groom do the ‘loonn-maapann’ jo sugun. The procedure is as follows: from a thaali filled with salt, one of them fills both palms with maximum possible amount of salt and slowly pass it back and forth between each other, over the thaali, taking care not to drop any of it. This is repeated thrice. This ritual, done with the most basic ingredient is supposed to improve their ‘laanna-dyanni’ (give and take relationship – how much one owes to and begets from each other karmically and materialistically). This is considered as the basis of all relationships.
The bride’s pallu and the edge of the groom’s bochhini are tied together twice in tight knots by the groom’s sister with a few grains of raw rice concealed in the knots. If possible, these knots are to be retained for as long as possible – at least for the two more occasions it will be used – ‘Tel’ (during the 7th/9th month of a woman’s pregnancy) and for ‘Grihapravesh’ puja (house warming).
The threads around the bride’ and groom’s ankles are removed. The bride’s parents give the groom’s father ‘ambar’ (a safari or a suit length) and money in a silver bowl. The couple’s right palms are joined with a little atta (wheat flour dough) with a coin placed in between and tied together with a red string. In the ‘Veddi’ (mandap of marriage), worship of main God/Goddess i.e. Ganapati, Navagrahas, Kalash (Rudra), Omkar, Vishnu, Lakshmi, etc. are done to invoke their blessings. Then the havan (sacred fire) is worshipped. The bride’s and groom’s heads and faces are covered with a white cloth and their heads are brought close together, during the nuptial ceremony. This is to symbolize the discretion they should learn to adopt during personal discords. The bride’s brother, maternal and paternal uncles (in that order) are asked be witnesses of the marriage, to offer aahutis (offerings) in the sacred fire and bless the newly married couple.
Pheras (Circle Around the Sacred Fire)
The bride and the groom go around the sacred fire four times (unlike seven in a typical Hindu wedding). The bride leads the first three rounds and the groom leads the fourth. Each of these pheras signifies fulfiling the needs of ‘Dharma’ – social responsibility and duty, ‘Arth’ – economic responsibilities, ‘Kaama’ – the physical needs and ‘Moksha’- the ultimate liberation.
The seven sacred vows of a Hindu marriage are explained to the couple by the priest. They in turn understand and exchange these vows. The bride’s side of the family distributes handkerchiefs to members of the groom’s family. The priest calls the bride’s sister to the groom and throws bits of cotton in front of him, which she has to pick up very fast. Previously, instead of cotton, the bride’s sister had to quickly pick up cardamoms that were bitten and spat out of the groom’s mouth.
‘Kanyadaan’ literally means giving away the daughter to the new groom. The bride’s parents have to fast until the Kanyadaan is complete. Placing their daughter’s hand in the groom’s, they hope that he will honour and prorect her dignity. Since a daughter is looked upon as Lakshmi – the Goddess of fortune, her parents consider their son,in-law as Vishnu, Lakshmi’s consort. The groom then raises her hand to his forehead and declares her as his ‘Ardhaangini’ or better half in the presence of the deities the priest and all those present. Then he raises his new bride’s hand thrice, acknowledging acceptance.
The groom then fills the parting in her hair with Sindhur and makes her wear the ‘Mangalsutra’ (a blackbeaded gold chain worn by married women).
Jaymala is the exchanging of Garlands between the bride and the groom. The bride’s parents offer sweets to everyone and give gifts to the aanar, dabli vaaro and peear vaari. The priest matches and calculates their ‘laanna-dyanni’ (based on the belief that all relationships depend on how much one owes to the other karmically) and then announces the alphabet with which the bride’s new name should start with. This new name is then chosen by the in-laws and announced. This practice is unique to the Sindhi community and it is believed to improve the couple’s compatibility.
The bride’s family bids her goodbye and see-off the newly married couple. The father of the bride generally gives gifts to the bride. Both the newlyweds then leave for the groom’s house where they are welcomed by the new family with a lot of fanfare and dancing.
Kheer Sagun – Entering the new home
When the new bride is taken to her in-laws house for the first time, she is made to unlock the door. Before entering her new home, the bride first steps into a thali of water with her right foot symbolizing her purity before stepping into the house. When entering the house, a lid is put over her head while she sprinkles water and milk around the house. The lid symbolizes that bride will respect her new family and keep its affairs and shortcomings within the confines of her home and not share them with the outside world.
They make her sprinkle raw milk from the boy’s peear vaari’s thaali all over the house. Some people even have this ritual of putting a gold coin in the ‘haandi’ (big vessel) and asking the new bride to find it. She then lights a diya in the puja room.
The bride then does the Loonn Maapann (salt) ceremony with each of the relatives of the groom, starting with the groom’s mother, followed by his immediate and then the extended family, to establish good relations with them. This symbolizes her first entry as an official member of the family.
Most of the time there is a reception hosted after the main wedding ceremony to facilitate meeting, greeting and blessing the couple by all those invited.
This could again be a theme-based event with the decor, lighting and arrangements in the same colour scheme.
The next day, the bride’s family mainly siblings and other youngsters, come to visit her. They invite the bride’s in-laws to come for the next ceremony that evening. They also take some eatables/lunch for them.
A ceremony where the groom, his aanar, dabli-vaaro and peear vaari along with a few children go to the bride’s parents’ house for dinner. Just before she leaves, the bride lights a lamp near a tap or well – for Jhoole Lal.
Written for OurVivaha.com: http://ourvivaha.com/stories/sindhi-weddings/