Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Wedding Day

The wedding morning starts off with the Departure of the Barat from the Groom's house. Barat is the term used to describe the party from the Groom's side. A Sehra or veil of golden threads is tied on the Groom's turban by his sisters and for the rest of the day, the Groom will be accompanied by the Sarbala (a young boy, who is my nephew).

The Barat leaves from the Groom's house to the Gurdwara (Sikh temple), where the wedding will take place. The tradition is for the Groom and the Sarbala to ride to the temple on a richly caparisoned mare with his sisters and cousins braiding the bridle with golden tassels, for which they receive gifts from the Groom's mother. In my case, however, a continental car will replace the mare and the golden tassels will be tied onto the vehicle instead.

In the Bride's house, on the morning of the wedding, her mother's brother and his wife (the Bride's 'mama' and 'mami') then adorn her wrists with the traditional wedding bangles. The bangles are always uneven in number and are blessed by five ladies in the family who have been happily married for a long time. The bride also wears a steel bangle or kada on each wrist onto which her family and friends tie the kaleeran or dangling golden baubles, symbols of good luck!

Next we have the Reception of the Barat where the Groom's party is "received" by the Bride's party at the Gurdwara. The Barat arrives in a parade style, with dancing and dhol (two sided drum) music. This is followed by Milni which literally means "Introductions". The Groom and the Bride's family meet by embracing each other. The Ardas (prayer) is performed by the Giani (priest) followed by the formal introductions of the main male players in the families, where they exchange garlands of flowers and money. This is followed by the ladies' Milni and then onto the Guru ka Langar Hall (communal eating hall) for a vegetarian breakfast.

The wedding party moves into the main prayer hall for the Anand Karaj or main wedding ceremony. After the wedding ceremony, the congregation then proceeds to the Guru ka Langar Hall for a vegetarian meal. The Barat will be invited for a lunch provided by the Bride's family to be held at the Singapore Swimming Club.

At some point during the lunch, the Bride returns to her home to prepare for the departure of the Doli, the ceremony where the Bride departs her parents' home for her new home - a very sad and touching occasion.

While she changes into new clothes that are presented to her by the groom's family, the Groom will have to contend with the Bride's young relatives, who will grab the Groom's untended shoes and hide them away to be returned after the ceremony for a fee which is Kalecharis (rings) of gold for the Bride's sisters and of silver for her cousins!

When the Bride leaves, she throws puffed rice over her shoulders in four directions, and cannot look back. This symbolizes her new life, with her new family.

When they reach the Groom's parents' house, his mother performs the traditional ceremony at the doorstep, where she makes seven attempts to drink water from a pitcher. The Groom must allow her to succeed only at the seventh attempt. The Bride must also, with her right foot, kick the mustard oil that is put on the sides of the entrance door before she enters the house.

Finally, the Wedding Reception will be held on the next day, 10th February, at the Orchid Country Club. It is a formal evening "dinner and dance" type occasion.

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