Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Events at a Sikh Wedding

In a Sikh wedding, the ambiance is set months before the wedding. In the case of Jyot and myself, the first function we had was a Thaka Ceremony or Announcement of the Engagement. This happened once both families had agreed to the alliance. The ceremony is an indication to the community, that the couple is spoken for and they will receive no more offers of marriage.

A week before the actual wedding date, i.e. on the 3rd of February, I will have my Shagun or Engagement in the Gurdwara. On this occasion the two families exchange gifts to confirm the engagement. The ceremony is held in the morning with the Groom's family receiving gifts of sweets, fruits and other gifts of clothes and jewellery. The sweets and fruits are distributed to the Holy Congregation.

After the Shagun, the Groom's family goes to the Bride's residence with the wedding chunni (veil) and is given gifts. The Groom's mother or close female relatives such as sisters and Aunts put a bit of mehndi (henna) on the Bride's palms, a red chunni on her head, gold jewellery on her neck and ears, makeup, etc to symbolize her marriage.

The Ring Ceremony & Sangeet will be held on the 7th of February at the Raffles Town Club. The couple will exchange rings followed by an event where both sides come together for a night of great food, dancing and singing. The Sangeet is the Indian version of the Western bridal shower. At the Sangeet, ladies sing traditional Indian songs, using the dhol (a two sided drum), performances are put up by members of the family, as well as, professional dancers, ending with an open dance floor for everyone to join in the fun.

The Sangeet also includes the Jaggo where the Bride/Groom's maternal aunt (mami) carries a copper vessel decorated with lighted divas (clay lamps) on her head, and another lady will have a long stick with bells, and she will be shaking it. The copper vessel will the be passed between the female members of the family.

On the following morning, 8th February, there will be Vatna, a ceremony where the couple's families rub yellow turmeric paste on their legs, face, and arms while they sit on a patri (a special red board with embroidery) and are under a red cloth held by four women. This ceremony is done to cleanse and balance the body for his/her marriage life. There is always rangoli (a intricate floor design using coloured powder) in front of where the Groom/Bride is sitting. A red thread is tied to the wrists of the Bride and Groom. After this the mother will clean the rangoli, and mix it with water, and put it on the front walls of the house. Indians say the longer it lasts, the more love a mother has for her son or daughter.

In the afternoon, the Bride's family will host a Mehndi Lunch (Henna ceremony) at their residence. Here the Bride's hands and feet are covered in a mehndi design. This is also where all the other ladies who are friends and family can get their hands stained in mehndi for the wedding. There is a saying in India that when you get married, and have mehndi applied to your hands, that the darker it is, the more love your future mother-in-law has for you. The Groom, by tradition will also have a little bit of mehndi applied on his palm or on the front of his hands.

On the day before the wedding, the Bride and Groom follow the Sikh custom of Maiya where both are not allowed to leave their house before the wedding.

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