Marriage Mhaari Style

  • Shilpy Arora
  • India
  • Dec 14, 2012



Traditional Haryanvi weddings are more than just family, food, and fineries. Even if the bride and groom belong to the same community and caste, the rituals performed by the two families are quite different. It depends a lot on their villages, and ancestors. Also, Haryana shares a unique bond with other communities. Friday Gurgaon brings to you a traditional wedding, where two local families came together and shared their wedding customs. 

As we reached the wedding venue, the groom’s parents welcomed us. The gate of the groom’s house was adorned with green leaves and flowers, signifying prosperity for the family and future generations. After our introduction to the relatives and neighbours, we sat down to attend a ceremony called,‘Ban Bethna’. The groom, Umesh, offered prayers to Ganapathi – the remover of obstacles. The priest explained that this prayer is extremely important, as it keeps away all impediments from such an auspicious occasion. The ceremony ended with the distribution of the traditional sweet, ‘Laddu’ to the guests – while Umesh was offered a ‘Paan’. The tradition of eating ‘Paan’ was introduced by the Mughals in the State. ‘Ghunghat Pratha’ (custom of covering head and face) is still followed in rural Haryana.

As the priest recited the mantras, and Umesh’s family prayed for the well-being of the bride and groom, the women of the family danced to folk songs. Interestingly, the men and women perform different rituals. Since women have traditionally been discouraged to participate in poojas performed by male priests, they celebrate in their own way. Not only do they dance to the traditional folk songs, they also perform ‘nataks’ (plays) at home. Umesh’s grandmother, Murti Maa, explained that these customs are not made to isolate the women. Rather, such rituals entertain the guests who have come from the bride’s side. Murti Maa said that Umesh’s sisters were going to present a popular Haryanvi play the next day. She feels strongly about the growing craze of Punjabi and Bollywood songs among children. Umesh’s 15-year-old cousin, Anjali, for instance, when asked about the meaning of folk songs, said, “My parents hardly converse with me in Haryanvi, as they want me to be well-versed with Hindi and English. These songs sound alien to me.” 

While we were talking to the young girls and enjoying the folk music, the family of the bride arrived, to perform the ritual of ‘Batna’ (haldi). The bride’s family gave ‘haldi ubtan’, along with some gifts, to the groom. Umesh’s mother and seven married female members of the families, applied ‘ubtan’ to the face, hands and feet of the groom, with grass brushes. The ‘ubtan’ is supposed to beautify and purify the bodies of the bride and groom. Now it was the turn of the groom’s family to send the ‘ubtan’ for the bride. It was interesting to see how the groom’s mother, and other married ladies, grind the turmeric in a traditional vessel. They have a song for every occasion. In her melodious voice Murti Maa sang “Kahan se aya nariyal, kahan se ayi batna,” and everyone clapped to the beat. The ritual of ‘haldi’ seemed like an ancient Indian spa treatment, with a dose of music and dance

Meet the bride

After spending a long time with the groom’s family, we moved to the bride’s village. Clad in a colourful salwar-kameez, the bride, Meenakshi, welcomed us with open arms. Just like the family of Umesh, the family members of the bride applied ‘ubtan’ to her feet, knees, hands, shoulders and head seven times, from bottom to top. This was also accompanied by some singing of folk songs. Once the ‘ubtan’ was washed off, Meenakshi looked radiant and stood out in the crowd. She, however, believes that a makeover is incomplete without a visit to a beauty salon. “There are few options in the rural areas. So brides-to-be often visit beauty salons in Delhi or Gurgaon,” said Meenakshi. 

Expressing her excitement about the Mehndi Ceremony, Meenakshi revealed that her parents had invited the best mehndi artist of her village. At night, the hands and feet of the bride were adorned with intricate heena designs. The guests created a festive atmosphere, by dressing up in bright colours, singing traditional songs, and dancing to the beat of the ‘dholaki’. Maitri Devi, an elderly woman in Meenakshi’s family, presented some beautiful prose – which said that ‘Meenakshi is a princess, and Umesh as a prince will come to wed her. Decked in all his finery, the groom will travel to the bride’s home on a white horse, accompanied by a procession of relatives and musicians, and will take the bride away forever’. The words were so touching that there was a flow of sentiments from the bride’s relatives. 

The W-day

The wedding rituals began at the bride’s place early in the morning, with the tradition of ‘Jhol Ghalna’ – pouring buttermilk mixed with honey on the head of the bride. At Umesh’s house, the day started with ‘matka bharai’. The groom’s sister-in law, accompanied by other female relatives, visited a nearby temple to fill an earthen pitcher. This water was later used for bathing the groom. The first pooja on the wedding day was performed after the groom donned his wedding attire. His ‘mod’, or turban, was blessed by his relatives. One of Umesh’s friends, Pranav, explained that ‘mod’ is a big turban made of bamboo sticks. Traditional Haryanvi grooms tied a 4 to 5 feet high ‘mod’! The height of the ‘mod’ symbolises the power of groom’s family in his village. This tradition is, however, fading , as the ‘mod’ is not easily available in the cities. That is why Umesh used a traditional ‘sehra’ (crown), tied at the top of the turban. The ‘mod’ ceremony started with the chanting of ‘shlokas’ by the priest. At the end of the ceremony Umesh’s family blessed the groom and gave him some cash as a token of love. Umesh was then escorted to the richly adorned mare, along with the musicians and relatives. While Umesh was looking handsome in a simple grey suit, his relatives donned colourful Kurtas,  with high turbans. Although the Haryanvi ‘baraat’ is usually comprised of male members, some young girls decided to accompany us. Dressed up in a purple ‘churidar’, Anjali was looking very pretty. Expressing her concern over the participation of women in a ‘baraat’, she said “My mum always stays at home because, as per traditions, married women can’t be a part of the ‘baraat’. Now it is time to bring about change, so that women can also participate in all the wedding ceremonies,” she said.

As the ‘baraat’ arrived at the wedding venue, Umesh’s family was greeted by the relatives of the bride’s family. Just as the ritual of ‘shoe-hiding’ causes a lot of teasing at a Punjabi wedding, there is merriment and teasing through songs at a Haryanvi wedding. Women from the bride’s family sing a song to make fun of the groom and his relatives. One of the cousins of Meenakshi sang, “Humne bulawe gore gore, kale kahan se aye.” It was good watching ‘ghunghat’ clad ladies making fun of men

This was followed by a dinner party. Although food is the most important item at any wedding, it is generally kept simple in Haryanvi weddings. Due to age-old Vedic and Buddhist influences, most of the Haryanvis are vegetarian. However, the dishes are prepared in delicious gravy, and served with loads of ghee.

While others were eating, the bride and groom were busy performing the garlanding ceremony. This ceremony marks the beginning of the wedding.The ‘pheras’ ceremony was set for after dinner. The priest first performed a pooja, and chanted a few mantras for Umesh. After a series of poojas, the bride was called. Dressed up in a traditional red ‘lehnga-choli’, and adorned with gold jewellery and heena tattoos, Meenakshi looked absolutely stunning. In the ceremony of ‘kanyadaan’, the bride was given away by her father. This was followed by the pheras. Meenakshi and Umesh went around the sacred fire, and tied the knot – for a lifetime together. At the end of the ceremony, the newly-wed couple touched the feet of their parents and the elderly. The dawn of the new day marked the end of the wedding rituals, and the successful union of the couple in matrimony.


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