The Punjabi wedding saga begins with the search for a suitable match. Once the wedding is fixed, a marriage broker carries the good news in both households, galvanizing them into a storm of badhaiyan, jhappis (greetings) and voluble phone calls. The first ceremony is the sagan, where the girl’s family sets forth for the boy’s house, bearing gifts for the entire family. For the chunni ceremony, the bride-to-be receives a silk shawl, often a family heirloom embroidered in pure gold thread, and perhaps worn by great-grand mother, young cousins are busy practicing dance `items’ for the sangeet. The household is filled with the sound of the dholki (a long drum) and Punjabi wedding songs, as relatives and neighbors come by to join the celebrations. The day after the sangeet comes the mehendi rituals. Mehandiwalis are brought in to decorate the bride’s palms and feet with intricate designs that conceal the groom’s initials. The heena is sent by the boy’s mother.
Three days before the wedding, the maaiyan begins. This is a period of seclusion and introspection for the boy and girl, in there respective homes. They must not leave the house during this period.
After the choora and kaleera ceremony, it’s time for the arrival of the baraat. The groom arrives atop a white mare wearing a sehera (a flower veil). The bride is lovingly dressed by her mother in a saree or ghagra in shades of red and orange. Late that evening after all the feasting and merry making is done, the real nuptials begin. Seated before the sacred fire, the couple repeat the ancient vedic mantras thet will yoke them together for the rest of there lives.
The swish of satin. The shimmer of sequins. The keening of the shehnai. The scent of jasmine. The coy bride behind the chilman(screen) – this is no romantic ghazal rendered by a soulful shaair but a real life marriage, Muslim- style. In Muslim marriage, believe or not, the bride is absent. As per the Islamic shariat (constitution) the marriage is contract between the father of the bride and the groom, officiated by the qazi in the presence of two witnesses. The girl’s consent is paramount, through. Two witnesses go to the brides house to get her affirmation. Once it is given, the marriage is solemnized on a fixed bride-money to be given to the girl during or after marriage.
The day of the engagement is called rasam, when the groom’s party comes to the bride’s house with silver paizeb (anklets). The brother of the mamu of the girl does the honors
by putting the ring on the groom’s finger.
A few days before the wedding, an exchange of measurements for clothes, shoes, bangles take place. Next follows a very sweet ceremony called pawmez. In this custom, the girl’s foot measurement are taken, not with measuring tape but with string of pearls, bedecked ladies from the boy’s side carrying hordes of gifts arrive at the girl’s house. The bride is made to sit on a chowki. Garland after garland are put around her neck and she is smeared with haldi. The bridal party, made up of the girl’s sister and her friends, go to the groom’s house to apply mehandi on the jija’s little finger.
Dulha miyan dreesed in all his wedding finery – kinkhab (brocade) sherwani, silk churidar, turra (headgear) red and gold dastaar (hand shawl), charawi mojri and covered with phool ka shera (garland of flower), is now ready to mount his steed to claim his lady love.
The nikaah (wedding solemnization), is a simple and austere affair. The qazi who solemnizes the marriage decides on an auspicious time depending on his availability. The groom and the bride’s father take the place in the front of him. As soon as the nikhanama is signed, there are loud of cheers and the two families come together and embrace. Once the boy and the girl are pronounced man and wife, they sit together for the first time on the chowki. A red dupatta covers them. The groom prays from the Koran and blesses the bride.
This is the saddest, most tear-jerking part of the ceremony – the rukhsati when dulhan leaves for he sasural. The last ceremony is the valima – the festivities are now over. It is the beginning of a new life for the dulhan and his dulhaniya.
A short moving ceremony in a whitewashed village church, lit up by the solstice sun slanting in through stained glass; lively music and dancing and feasting in the churchyard – these are the delightful image of a typical Christian wedding in Goa. It’s a sprit of reverence offset by revelry. Most wedding here have a wonderful, folksy texture. Perhaps an old Konkani song sums up the spirit of a Goan wedding best- sonsar char disancho…..the world is an ephemeral place that lasts but four days.
A day before the wedding is the rosritual which is a ceremonial bath with coconut milk given to both side the bride and groom. On the day of the wedding, the bride must fast to purify herself for the holy sacrament of marriage. The bride is transformed into an ethereal vision in a flowing white gown ans trail, and a veil of fina lace. The house spills over with gorgeously dressed bridemaids, excited little flower girls with floral tiaras, and small pageboys in smart tuxedos.
The wedding car first drops the groom to the church where he must wait for the bride. Once the bride arrives and steps out of the car, the organ strikes up and the bride walks up the aisle on her father’s arm, to the alter and her waiting groom. The bond is eternal – “until death do us part…” because the Catholic Church dose not allow divorce. They are now man and wife, and a beaming groom lifts the bride’s veil to plant a chaste kiss that seals their vows. The nuptials are over and a communion service follows. The bride and groom then sign the register in the presence of two witnesses. To the strains of the wedding march, the couple walks down the aisle, arm in arm amidst a shower of confetti.
At the reception, the wedding cake is cut and toasts are raised amidst much laughter. At the buffet table, arrayed around shining ice sculptures are platters of ox tongue, roasted mackerel, grilled lobsters, baked oysters, boiled clams, a layered coconut and jaggery confection- all the Goan favorites! The celebration do not flag until well past midnight. The girl’s father hands over the bride to the groom and the couple depart in rain of confetti.
The Zoroastrians are happy people. Not for them the undertaking of penances, fasts and a constant fear of after life. For them, marriages is an institution favored by the almighty which make the earth joyous and happy.
Parsi marriages, like most Indian wedding customs, comprise of a series of ceremonies spread over several months. The precursor of all the ceremonies is the adrarrum or betrothal which is marked by the bride officially being taken to the groom’s house for the first time. Rings are exchanged by both the protagonists on that day. The next important occasion on which the dowry given by the bride’s father is presented to the bridegroom’s family.
The main marriage festivities last for four days, but before that come months of excited preparation. The ceremony called mandav-saro takes place on the first of these four days. The twig of a mango tree, symbolizing fertility is planted by a male member of the groom’s family near the entrance to his home.
Wedding are performed in the evenings, just after sunset, in a baug. The actual marriage ritual starts with the purifying bath, the nahn. This is followed by the Achumichu ritual in which the girl’s mother welcomes the groom as he steps on the stage.
The religious part of the ceremony now follows and the couple exchange wedding rings. The family, having successfully negotiated the first part of the evening, relaxes, eagerly awaiting the rest of the evening. Music and good spirit are in abundance. The guests are dressed in all their finery. The women flaunt their gharas whereas the men sport daglis or suits. The couple are given gifts after they return from temple.
The traditional Bengali wedding is steeped in ancient local customs. Of these many are the women’s prerogative being their inventions. The rituals started with ‘ashirwad’ or blessings of the couple by the elders of the family.Bengali wedding take place in the evening. On the day of the wedding, there is a ceremony call ‘Dodhi Mangal’ held preferably before sunrise. The norm is for at least five married women, go to a river or pond to bring water in a pitcher to be kept for later rituals.
Later there is ceremony called ‘Gaye halud’ (the turmeric paste ceremony) which is usually a women’s affair. Women from the groom’s side come to the bride’s place with gifts like sarees, ornaments, sweets, fish, curd, betel leaf and nut, sandal paste, etc in a beautiful decorated trays. The most important item is turmeric paste which the groom touches and also has his bath with. The bride has to do the same while having her bath.
The bride is dressed in her finery by evening. She usually wears richly worked red banarasi saree, gold jewellery and her elaborate coiffure is toped by a transparent red veil. Sandal paste is used to make intricate designs on both her cheeks. She also wears the sankha(made of conch shell) and red colored pola- bangles symbolize married Bengali women.
The groom wears a dhoti and kurta. A typical white headwear topor crowns his head. On arrival, a baran dala (cane tray) is held by an elder female relative of the brides and the plate is first touched to the groom’s forehead, then to the ground, and again to his forehead welcoming him to the house.
The actual marriage takes place in front of a yagna with a priest in attendance. The girl’s father or uncle gives away the bride with the chanting of mantras.The following morning there is the ceremony of ‘Bashi Biye’, uaually a family affair. By afternoon, it is time for the bride to dress in her finery to go to her in-law’s place bidding a tearful adieu to her family members.
Exquisite rangoli designs adorned to the ground, shimmering silks of every hue gleamed and glistened in the morning dew, Vedic chants rent the air, and the air was heavy with the scent of flowers, incense, and sweetmeats cooked in ghee. These rituals have their origin in puja and most date back to Vedic times. The wedding rites among the Tamil Brahmins of south India follow the same sequence as the Radha- Krishna wedding puja.
For the main wedding, the bride wears traditional nine yard sari in bright hues of red and gold, intricate designs in red mehandi applied to her palm and feet. Beautifully decorated earthen vessels are filled with different type of grain, brass or steel pots with water and coconuts are covered with ground turmeric.
The oonjal or swing ceremony is occasion for fun and music, after the matrons from the bride’s side complete their endeavors to ward off the evil sprits lurking around. Circumambulating first in clockwise and then anticlockwise direction, they throw small balls of cooked rice, coloured yellow and red with turmeric and kumkum in all four directions. The tired young couple is fed with milk and banana and an age of plenty is ushered in, with lighted lamps and urns full of water.
The most important ceremony is the kanyadan in which the father hands his daughter over to her new partner. The golden mangalsutra which the groom ties around her neck is a ritual that has subsequently been added to the wedding rites and is a major deviation from Vedic rituals. Her forehead is anointed with a generous pinch of vermilion sindhoor or kumkum which sets her apart as a sumangali.
At each of the four corners of the mandap, sits a Brahmin well verse in each of the four Vedas. With Agni, the sacred fire, as a blazing witness, the nuptials reach there conclusion. Like a rock, the bride shall provide the stability for this relationship. Her foot is placed on a grinding stone and she is gifted with silver toe rings by her sister- in – law.
A PALETTE OF GREENS
The palm-fringed coastal belt of Kerala continues to be favorite among honeymooners. One of the most charming elements of the backwater experiences is a stay in one of the traditional kettuvallom wooden houseboats, which originally served as rice cargo boats. Restored to their former beauty and grace by skilled Kerala craftsmen, they all have trappings of a luxury hotel.
Touched by nature’s bountiful hand, the coorg countryside in south-west Karnataka is a magical wonder for holidaymakers from around the globe. From plantation stays, to treks, from fishing to bird watching, from elephant bathing to tribal community interactions, travelers can enjoy a fabulous range of on-going adventures.
THE GOLDEN CHARIOT
Get set to sample a wondrous range of traditions and cultural extravaganzas in the week long (7N/8D) journey on the golden chariot that takes you from the golden IT city of Bangalore, through the royal city of Mysore. It also traverses through a jungle safari at Kabini, and finally the historical sites of Srirangapatna( Tippu Sultan’s old capital),Hampi(a UNESCO World heritage Site), Badami, Pattadakal, and Aihole before terminating at Bangalore.
PALACE ON WHEELS
The palace on wheels continues its expectations of the magical trains of royal and tribal Rajasthan. The round trip from New Delhi features stopover at Jaipur, Jaiselmer, Jodhpur, Ranthambore, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Bharatpur, with a visit to Agra’s legendary Taj Mahal included as a special treat.
THE DECCAN ODYSSEY
The tourist destinations of Maharashtra are best seen from the luxury train, the Deccan Odyssey. The week-long, round-trip begins from the state capital of Mumbai and cover the beach town of Ganapatipule, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Tarkarli, Sawantwadi, Goa , Kolhapur, Pune,Aurangabad. It also traverses through the marvels of Ellora, Ajanta and the vineyard district of Nasik.
Uncover the wonders of the east by cruising along it’s rivers, starting from the waterways of Bengal right up to the forbidding waters of the Sunderbans National Park- home to the royal Bengal Tiger.
Discover the splendors of the mighty Brahmaputra as you travel down this moody watercourse, from the ancient Guwahati, the capital of Assam, to Manas and Kaziranga National Parks