A knot to remember

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ANNOUSHKA FERNANDES | NT BUZZ

Weddings always bring in a lot of happiness and joy. And Goan Hindu weddings are a mixture of tradition and fun.

Before the knot

Among the many traditions involved in a traditional Goan Hindu wedding, the haldi ceremony, the chuda ceremony, and the mehendi ceremony are obligatory.

The mehendi ceremony takes place two days prior to the wedding where henna is applied in intricate patterns onto the bride’s hands and legs. “The purpose of doing so is to utilise the natural herbal remedies and to cool the body, thus relieving the bride from any stress before her big day, while also bringing colour to her life,” says wedding planner, Shreya Prabhu.

A day prior to the wedding is the haldi ceremony which takes place separately at the bride’s and groom’s place respectively. A paste of haldi mixed with either milk or rose water is applied onto the bride and the groom. “In Indian culture haldi is known for its various anti-inflammatory properties. It also nourishes the skin and gives it a glow,” says teacher, Neelam Sinari from Santa Cruz.

A special puja is also held during the haldi ceremony, says Prabhu. “The priest recites mantras which when basically translated mean that she will be moving to a different family along with new responsibilities,’” she says. After the haldi ceremony comes the chuda or the bangle ceremony where the bride’s hands are decked with glass bangles. “After the puja the bride wears her chuda. These bangles shouldn’t break and must be kept safely as that is the first sign of being a married woman,” says Prabhu.

The wedding

On the wedding day, the house is filled with excitement and beautiful aromas of the different puja items and the flowers used to decorate the house. The traditional Hindu wedding has rituals that are nearly five thousand years old which are set in the Vedas. “The ceremony is symbolic as it celebrates the union of two individuals and their families, thus each ritual has a philosophical meaning, representing commitment,” says Sinari.

There are many rituals that take place in the Hindu wedding such as the swagatam ceremony in which the bride’s family welcomes the groom and his family who come in dancing at the venue.

The ‘antrapat’ is a veil held in front of the groom who awaits his bride at the ‘mandap’ with a garland. As the bride walks towards the ‘mandap’ two priests hold a cloth before her. When she reaches, the couple exchange garlands. “The garlands symbolise fertility, sustenance, and longevity,” says Prabhu.

Following this, the kanyadan ceremony is performed in which the father of the bride blesses his daughter as she enters a new phase of life. He places her hands onto his son-in-law’s hands symbolising that she will be his responsibility henceforth. The mother of the bride then pours water allowing it to flow onto the groom’s hands and then below to the daughter’s.

The groom then ties a wedding necklace called the mangalsutra around the bride’s neck. “Goddess Mahalaxmi is invoked to bless the bride. After tying the mangalsutra, he places ‘kumkum’ (vermillion powder) on her forehead and this symbolises a married woman,” says Sinari.

The vivaha hom is a ritual in which the scared god of fire, Agni acts as a witness to the couple’s union. A fire is lit at the ‘mandap’ and the ceremony enters its most significant phase, the saptapadi, which translates to seven steps. The bride and the groom take seven steps facing towards the north and it is after this ritual that the marriage is complete. “The couple exchanges the wedding vows during this ceremony with the fire as their witness, these steps are symbolic and represent life’s ordeals,” says Prabhu.

During this ceremony the relatives throw rice over the bridal couple. “Rice represents ‘dhan’ which means wealth, and by showering these grains of rice everyone is showering the couple with blessings and wealth,” says Sinari. However, she adds, this tradition is slowly diminishing because of the influence of Bollywood as people now prefer throwing flower petals onto the couple.

Prabhu further adds that the most emotional part of the wedding is when the priest asks the bride’s parents to take the bride and place her on to her in laws lap. “I do not know if this ritual has a particular name but during this ritual the bride’s father requests her new in-laws to take care of his daughter thus making her theirs,” she says.

To welcome the bride into the family, eight men from the groom’s side stand in a line and the bride performs puja over them. It is customary for these men to give her money as per their wish. “The bride has to take oil in a small pot (lota) and draw a line ahead of the groom’s feet till the last eight men without breaking the line,” says Sinari. After the bride does this, the groom then holds her hand and gets her to the other side of the line. This symbolises her welcome into the family.

After the wedding ceremony ends the bride and the groom head to the groom’s home. At the entrance of his house, a pot is filled with rice and a plate of ‘kumkum’ water is placed. “Once the bride kicks the pot of rice, she steps into the ‘kumkum’ water and enters the house. She has to take a few steps ahead in order to leave an imprint of her feet. This tradition is a sign of Goddess Laxmi entering the home,” says Prabhu. After the bride enters the home, a puja for peace is performed over the bridal couple. “The stars called ‘grah’ shouldn’t harm their future and hence this puja for shanti is performed,” adds Prabhu.

Post wedding

The next day the newlyweds along with the groom’s family play a game of fishing the ring. “The ring is placed in a mixture of water and milk and the newlyweds compete against each other to take it out first. Whoever gets the ring first gets to keep it,” says Prabhu.

Five days later the bride returns to her maternal home, this tradition is called ‘panch dis’. “Earlier the bride would return home wearing a red saree, however due to the influence of Bollywood, brides now dress according to the current trends and wear whatever they prefer,” says Prabhu.