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Kumauni/ Indian Weddings

A wedding is a celebration and a union of two souls, bonds of two families, and the beginning of a new life. Indian weddings are a total blast, from North to South, from East to West, there are different rituals, culture, and traditions followed by people of the particular state. Shimmering dresses, dazzling heavy jewelry, flower decorations, Bollywood and traditional songs, and top of those multiple varieties of lip-smacking Indian cuisines beats everything else in the world. We recently organized my younger brother's wedding in Dehradun, India. Let me take you on a wonderful journey of Indian weddings through my post.

Uttarakhand region is located in the foothills of the Himalayas, filled with rich natural beauty, this place is God's own creation. Uttarakhand is divided into two parts Garhwal and Kumaon and has the capital based in Dehradun, my hometown. Dehradun is a valley surrounded by the Shivalik mountain range, the scenery of Mussoorie- The Queen of hills from Dehradun is always mesmerizing. The snow-capped mountains, lush green forests, and lakes enhance the beauty of Uttarakhand. It is also famous for pilgrims for the Holy destinations like Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri (the origin of the holy river- Ganges), Rishikesh, and Haridwar. There is a big craze among International tourists, my flight from Delhi to Dehradun was full of foreigners. Rishikesh is also popular for yoga and meditation. Julia Roberts visited Rishikesh in 2009 and was so inspired that she converted herself to Hinduism. She was there to shoot Eat, Pray, Love in an ashram or hermitage.

In my first post of 2019, I am taking you through a Kumaouni wedding. My brother's wedding in Dehradun was in the middle of December. December in North India is quite cold, but we decided on this date so that we could club our kid's vacation with an extra week and extend our stay longer. Indian weddings are a total blast. You get to see most of your close and distant family members, relatives, friends all in one place.

How did the bride and groom meet?We had posted an online profile for my brother on some of the matrimonial websites, where we found the bride and there was an interest from both sides. Our parents spoke on phone and later organized a meet with the family where the bride and groom could also meet. It is a traditional arranged marriage.

Wedding Rituals in Kumaouni Weddings:-Some traditional values have to follow at the wedding, we had a grandmother who traveled to Dehradun to sing traditional wedding songs, they call them Gidari.

Ganesh Pooja:-In Hindu culture, we always start any auspicious event with the name of Lord Ganesha hence Ganesh pooja is done in the beginning to start the rest of the functions in the wedding. Lord Ganesha is told to be the obstacle remover and is worshipped before everything else.

Suwal Pathai:-Kuamouni tradition of married ladies kneading the flour which is rolled into big chapatis. These chapatis are later fried and sent to the bride/grooms family at the time of the wedding. Along with that, ladies decorate the plastic dolls pretending to be the father and mother of the bride/groom. It is just for enjoyment and they create big white beards with cotton and often put plastic glasses and a cigarette to represent fathers-in-law, and mother-in-law decorated in traditional wear.

Ladies Sangeet: Bollywood and daily soaps have influenced our traditional ladies sangeet where ladies will sit with a dholak along with some other instruments. The dholak isa South Asian two-headed hand-drum. There is singing, dancing, laughter on those drum beats. Compared to before, there are still cultural songs that they sing but most of the people are not interested to dance to the drum beats and vocal songs. Everyone waits for the DJ to arrive and start their preferred Bollywood chart. Solo, Duo, group dances are prepared well in advance, thanks to Youtube. We now have access to dance numbers and choreography. Along with the tent, demand for a big stage on the rise where family members will showcase their talents to the crowd present at the event. You would be amazed to see new dancers, I saw my mothers dance for the first time at my wedding.

I'm not a good dancer plus being shy is my negative though I still danced a lot wearing lehenga (Indian Skirt) and loads of traditional jewelry. The reason was obvious, it was my only brother's wedding.

Mehndi:-Beautiful Henna designs are applied to the bride and all the ladies in the house, they also put a small tattoo for grooms too, just for the sake. Henna artists are invited, and all the ladies take turns to decorate their hands and arms with spectacular traditional Indian designs. I am very fond of Henna, it is another ceremony where there is a lot of dance and singing. I think it was Mehndi night when we danced the most and for hours.

Cocktail:-It is a new trend that arrived in smaller states in India a decade ago where the groom's side will host a cocktail for men, ladies are allowed if they wished too. Alcohol was specially brought from Canada and Dubai for the wedding and the party went on till late midnight.

At our wedding, it was for relatives, brothers friends, and a few chosen neighbors. Since it's a western tradition, we dressed up in gowns but couldn't keep it longer as it was a very cold night.

Haldi:-The morning of the wedding day is the Haldi ceremony, where a paste made out of turmeric, sandalwood, and milk is applied to the bride and groom's face and body. It's a kind of face pack put traditionally by all the family members and relatives. The turmeric paste is then sent for the bride to apply as well.

Yellow is the traditional color for ladies but we bought matching yellow dresses for all the men and kids as well.

It's still fun in boys' marriage but at the girl's wedding, it's one of the most emotional events where everyone cannot control their tears. The tears flow reminiscing one's childhood memories. Here also while holding the stall, my eyes became watery thinking about our childhood and my sister saw it, she had spent more time with him than I did. She cried like a baby, it was so difficult to control her.

After the Haldi ceremony, there is brunch and then a rest period till the evening.

Tika/ Engagement:-In Kumaouni culture, a group of men along with the groom's father visit the bride's house to offer a few tokens, sweets, and gifts. Grooms brother once offered a ring to his sister-in-law, but then new generations took it over. Brides no longer wanted to wear a ring through anyone else than her own would-be husband.

This ceremony is now organized based on the availability of both sides and the ring ceremony is conducted before the wedding or the same day as the wedding. Since the groom is not supposed to step out of the house on the wedding day, this engagement ceremony was organized a day before the wedding, where the bride and groom exchanged rings.

Barat:-In the evening hours the bride and groom get ready for the wedding, the groom's family leaves home with pomp and show. The musical bands playing songs and drums beats are so enchanting, the excitement is to bring the bride home. Meanwhile, the bride's side is anxious to welcome the groom, his family, and relatives. The groom sits in the car or chariot and the rest of the group dances alongside the music band. There are a few famous songs that music bands play and it's hilarious, we still shake our bodies to match the tunes. Barat is no fun if there is no one to throw bills, the band players suddenly come to grab the money. Our mamaji (maternal uncle) was a rockstar at the wedding, throwing away so many bills and became a sensation on the bridal side as well.

Brides family is anxiously waiting with garlands in hand to welcome the Barat.

Dhularg:-On the day of the wedding, the groom is considered to be Lord Vishnu and the bride in the form of Goddess Lakshmi. On the arrival of the groom, a small traditional prayer is conducted at the gate where the bride's father washes the feet of the groom as Lord Vishnu. After these prayers, the groom then moves to the big stage.

Jaimal:-Jaimal has also been adapted from other parts of India and was not a part of Kumaouni weddings earlier but for more than two decades, its become mandatory. Jaimal is a ceremony where the bride and groom exchange garlands on stage and then families and relatives from both sides take turns to click the picture with the bride and groom and bless them.

Kanyadan:-Kanyadan is a ritual where parents give their daughters to the groom and after that, the girl belongs to someone else. The parents who once raised the daughter are now separated and the groom and his family have the first right over her. It's sad but this is Indian culture. Brides parents along with close family members fast the entire day for this ceremony. Kanyadan is called the biggest donation of the lifetime, it's like cutting your umbilical cord and giving it to someone else.

Phere:- The ritual where the bride and groom take 7 rounds around the holy fire and take vows for each other. Seven pheras:

  1. In the first round or phera, the couple prays to God for plenty of nourishing and pure food. They pray to God to let them walk together so that they will get food.2. In the second round, the couple prays to God for a healthy and prosperous life. They ask for physical, spiritual, and mental health from God.
  2. 3. In the third round, the couple prays to God for wealth. They ask God for the strength for both of them so that they can share the happiness and pain together. Also, they pray so that they can walk together to get wealth.
  3. 4. In the fourth round, the couple prays to God for the increase in love and respect for each other and their respective families.
  4. 5. In the fifth round, the bride and groom together pray for the beautiful, heroic, and noble children from God in the fifth step.
  5. 6. In the sixth holy round around the fire, the couple asks for a peaceful long life with each other.
  6. 7. In the final seventh round, the couple prays to god for companionship, togetherness, loyalty, and understanding between themselves. They ask God to make them friends and give them the maturity to carry out the friendship for a lifetime. The husband says to his new wife that now they have become friends after the Seven Vows/Saat Phere and they will not break their friendship in life.

In Kumaouni weddings, the cultural singers create some taunting songs for both sides and tease them for amusement. We were so trapped this time as none of us knew anything, most of the ladies from our family were at home for another ritual except the 4 of us who knew nothing. It was so much fun with laughter, it was how we eradicated boredom and kept the sleep away.

Ratyali:-While the groom and other family members are out at the wedding. Grooms mother along with other ladies in the family celebrated at home with singing and dancing. Ratyali is called a night where no one sleeps, and they spend time dancing and singing. They also do role plays for entertainment. Ladies take a get-up of men and dance and so much more.

Vidai:-The part which is emotional for the bride and her family and cheers for the groom and his family. This is the ritual where the bride takes leave from her home, parents, siblings, and her friends with the promise that she would visit again but this time as a guest, Left behind are tears, broken hearts, and pain with pride of sending daughter with her soulmate and with whom she would build a new home.

Daughters are amazing, they are born to parents and bloom like flowers once they grow, they spread the same fragrance and happiness in an unknown family. I also cried at the vidai, I think all the girls/ ladies cry remembering their own wedding. We consoled her mother and father and assured them that she would be happy in our family.

Welcome at home:-Before we left, we notified our mother well in advance to prepare for the welcome. She had to be ready with a decorated plate and candle in hand. No one had slept at home and it's amazing how they all took shower quickly on that chilly morning and got ready. It was just at dawn, I was sitting with the bride and the groom.

There is a ritual of grooms sisters stopping their way for teasing and to get a token. We didn't trouble them much, he was our youngest brother plus it was a very cold night. The bride was already so cold.

After the welcome, there is a gathering where ladies in the family sing and dance. The bride is also supposed to perform, it's like an audition where everyone notices the bride,

Naula Poojan:-This is also a very traditional ritual, where the bride is taken to the main water supply near the tap and prays. Women in all cultures oversee the kitchen so I am guessing this was to introduce her to the new premises. All the married ladies in the family take part in the ritual.

Satyanarayan Katha:-After the wedding is successful, the couple then prays to Lord Vishnu for the wellbeing of their new life. This is mandatory to be done on both sides after the wedding is over.

We have brought a new family member into the house and hope she would enjoy her journey of life. May God bless you both!

Kumaouni weddings are totally unique, the floor art (aipan), pichhoda (red and yellow drape) and a large nosering are a must for all the family members. Hope you enjoyed my description of Kumaouni wedding, let me know if you would like to me add something and share your views in the comments.