Among the many
regional communities living in India, Maharashtrians perhaps have the
simplest and least opulent marriage ceremony. Though it differs
substantially from the Brahmins along the graph to
the tribals, certain elements remain constant and common.
are the ceremonies
that take place. Click on
each to find out more !
bride (Vadhu) and groom (Var)
Although nowadys in India and
the world over the bride and groom find themselves, in many rural
parts of India a formal meeting between eligible partners is made by
the parents. This is called Lagnaach Bedi
or finding a suitable match is the first step. For tradition-bound
Maharashtrians with marriageable offspring try finding a match
from a family of equal standing.
Once the respective families
come to a mutual agreement on the match, based on compatibility
between the boy and the girl, the supremely delicate task of
ascertaining the compatibility of their stars takes on vital
significance. The patrikas (horoscope) of the boy and girl are
shown to the family pundits for their conside-ration. The Brahmins
deliberate on the all important feature of Guna Milan (matching
points). If 16 or more gunas match, only then can the boy and
girl tie the marriage knot. The premise that 'marriages are made in
heaven' is ratified only if the grahas (the heavenly bodies)
are in unison. Once it has been determined that the two horoscopes are
in total sync, the actual preparations of a wedding will begin.
It begins with a Baithak,
which as the name suggests, is a semi-formal meeting of the elders of
the two families. The parents and close relatives gather together to
discuss and decide the various crucial issues regarding the wedding
ceremony. It is here that the actual Mahurat (auspicious date and
time) for the marriage ceremony is decided.
Sakharpuda, the engagement
ceremony, is held a few days before the wedding. For this ceremony,
the groom's parents give the bride a saree as a token of her
acceptance in their family. Her arms are adorned with green glass
bangles, symbolizing her engagement. She is then given a packet of sakhar
puda (sugar) which symbolizes the spreading of sweetness in their
lives. Invitation cards are traditionally printed after this ceremony.
Days before the
wedding, the home is cleaned, painted and decorated. Orange Marigolds,
mango leaves and other flowers are made into torans (flower
decorations for the door, the rooms in the house etc.)
A couple of
days before the wedding, a feast called Kelvan is organized in both
the bride's as well as the bridegroom's home. Each side hosts a meal
for the entire family gathered in that home.
occasion is the puja or worship of the Kuladevta
or the family deity. This ceremony is performed the evening before the
wedding, Wang-nischay, or engagement, is confirmed in separate
ceremonies held in each home. The women in the family wear glass
bangles. Each side then pays obeisance to the respective family
patron-deity, kuldevta, in the form of a kuldevta-poojan.
Later, the two
sides meet and a short engagement ceremony is conducted by the priest,
followed by the wang-nischay meal. This meal is not as
elaborate as the meal on the wedding day, but is equally lavish.
Maharashtrian family has such a deity which ties the family to the
ancestors or to the village of the family’s origin. During the Puja,
eminent ancestors are also venerated with new clothes, flowers and
sweets offered before their portraits. Sweets are also sent to the
marriage party on the other side.
is yet another custom special to Maharashtrians. The bridegroom and
the bride have their own celebrations in their respective homes. Women
from each family get together to apply a mixture of turmeric,
sandalwood and cream to the face and body of the bridegroom or the
bride. The young person to be married then has a ceremonial bath and
is not allowed to go out of the home after this ceremony. Haldi is
considered a purifier and is an antiseptic substance.
is a ceremony for the bride and her women
friends to share the fun of wearing green bangles. A bangle man is
invited to the home and each woman chooses her own, amidst songs,
laughter and jokes.
The bride is
given the green glass bangles ceremonially and with her mother’s
help, she wears them interspersed with gold, pearl or diamond bangles
as per the status of the family. Each community in Maharashtra has its
own designs and order of wearing the chuda. Such designs are called
Pichchodis, Patlis, Gotes, Bangdi, Phul Bangdi, Tode etc. Pearls are
popular in Maharashtra. However, green glass bangles are considered
auspicious because green is the color of new life, creativity and
rejuvenation. The bride can remove the chuda
only a month after the wedding. Married women wear such
chudas on all festive or religious occasions
marriage ceremony begins with a Muhurta
Patra set up to measure the
time before the auspicious moment of the marriage. Drop by drop, the
water falling down counts the seconds while the bride, ready and
dressed in a yellow or green sari and a half moon painted on her
forehead for luck, worships Parvati, the goddess of marital bliss in
an anteroom till she is summoned to the dais.
would-be-bridegroom is honored by the bride’s parents and various
minor sacraments go on. The humorous part here is that the bridegroom,
with an umbrella and a cloth pouch, prepares to go on a pilgrimage to
Kashi (Varanasi) but is dissuaded by his would-be father-in-law to
return and wed his daughter.
At long last,
the swastik-marked Antarpat,
(white cloth) is held up between the couple. The bride is brought to
the dais by her mama or maternal uncle and the mangalashtakas
(eight blessings) are recited. When the recitation is over, the cloth
is removed amidst a crescendo of shehnais and the bride and groom
exchange garlands called varmalas. This is also the
‘darshan’ of a bride and groom for the first time as man and wife.
are eight stanzas of propitiations
to various gods and blessings for the couple. At the end of each
stanza, the priests make the couple aware of their new
responsibilities as a wedded couple. Some
families write these eight stanzas specifically for the couple and set
them to music. A mangalsutra
is given to the bride by her groom. This is a black bead necklace in
gold with a pendant in the center.
ceremony, the couple sits down to do the havan.
A holy fire is lit with sacred wood and amidst the chanting of hymns,
oblations are offered to the fire as the chief witness of the
nuptials. The bridal couple also wears floral or decorative mundavali
which dangle around the face.
A havan is made
in a specific shaped container. It represents the universe. Fire
represents energy, power, luster and omnipresence. Because fire
consumes everything put into it, it is considered a messenger of the
gods and takes all offerings to them.
The havan and
pheras around the fire as
well as the saptapadi
or seven steps walked together by
the couple complete the legal necessities of a marriage. In these
seven steps the couple promise each other loyalty,
sharing, auspicious housekeeping, progeny, elder care and generous
The marriage is
completed with a feast or reception.
ceremony of a Maharashtrian Hindu, like other Hindus of the land, is
interwoven with customs and traditions related to various religious
ceremonies known as samskaras or sacraments. They afford an
opportunity for the expression of love and affection as well as for
festivities. Marriage is a sacrament, which brings about a union of
two personalities into one, for the purpose of social proliferation
and for the upliftment of the two through mutual co-operation. A rich
heritage imbued with the promise of eternity. An indelible past that
is prominent even today and in all probability will filter through to
shape our many tomorrows.
Shubh Mangal Savdhaan is
the dawning of the wedding day and the Vivah (marriage). This
is the most important of all samskaras, a composite rite
comprising of several ceremonies performed in a certain order. There
are about 43 rituals connected with this ceremony. These days, most
marriages are solemnized with a modified version, that omits several
ritualistic details listed in the orthodox form. The traditional
marriage customs were elaborate, but now while they are being
performed in a less elaborate manner, several have even become
First the propitiatory rites
are performed. Every auspicious samskara begins with the
worship of Lord Ganesh in the morning, where close relatives
and friends invoke the deity, inviting His presence with betel nut and
a handful of rice grains. The worshippers bow before the Lord and
beseech Him to grace the occasion and make it free from obstacles.
Thus, no ceremony or festivity in a Maharashtrian household is
initiated without first invoking the benedictions of this most beloved
God. This is followed by Punyavachana and Matruka Pujana or
holy day blessing and worship of the Matrus (seven mother
This ritual starts with
anointing the boy with turmeric powder mixed with scented oil by his
mother, sisters, and other women. This is a lively ceremony where the
boy is given a ritual bath to the accompaniment of haladi song and
music. The residual turmeric and oil mixture called ushti halad, along
with a sari and the usual articles of worship, is carried to the
girl's place. The ceremony of anointing with turmeric and giving a
bath is repeated on the girl, and on her oti (lap) are ceremonially
placed five handfuls of rice and a betel nut. With the performance of
this ceremony, the boy and girl are declared bridegroom and bride.
Literally meaning 'boundary
worship', it was originally performed when the groom crossed the
border of the bride's village. Nowadays, seemant puja is performed in
a temple on the marriage day. A "Seemaan
pooja" (the boy's family crosses the Seema or limits
of the girl's residence) is conducted.
parents wash the feet of the boy, his parents and traditionally the
womenfolk of his family and generally welcome the bridegroom. He is
offered a seat on a decorated "Chaurang" (pronounced
"tsow-rang", a low square stool). At this point, any
gift/s that the girl's parents wish to give to the boy are handed
over. Ring, watch, gold chain etc. are usual gifts. The boy also gets
silverware (plates, glasses, bowls, spoons etc.), which may be used
immediately in the meal that follows.
The bride's mother then washes
the feet of the groom's mother and performs an oti-bharan ceremony
for her as well as for the other female relatives of the groom and
give them gifts.
The boy's party goes in a
procession to the girl's place where Suvasinis (married women)
greet the boy by waving a lighted lamp. He is then led into the
marriage hall to sit on a Chouranga (low square stool).
involves a ceremonial breakfast offered by the bride's parents to the
boy and his family including his friends, sisters, cousins, etc.
This lavish breakfast consisting of savory as well as sweet items
served to the groom's family is to give the boy's side an idea of the
hospitality that they can look forward to throughout the wedding.
bridegroom eats, the bride is in another room performing a Gowri-har
pooja of the Devi, whose likeness is kept on the bride's
Chaurang. She is brought in for the antarpat by her Mama
(mother's brother). She wears a yellow sari and green glass
bangles. She also wears a Sehra (flower or pearl arrangement
around the head, like a crown, with loose strings hanging on the sides
of the temples - the face is NOT covered).
The ceremony begins with the
bridegroom standing and facing the east, while an antarpat (silk
waist-cloth) with a swastika mark is held in front of him. The bride
adorned with jewellery, flowers and perfume and draped in a beautiful shalu
(wedding saree), is then brought by the maternal uncle to the
pandal amidst chanting of mantras and shlokas by the Brahmins, to
stand opposite the groom with the antarpat between them. Both the
bride and the groom hold garlands while the priest chants
managalashloka. When the auspicious moment arrives, the antarpat is
withdrawn towards the north, and as the musicians start playing on the
instruments, the guests shower akshatas
(colored rice) on the couple. The vadhu garlands her var, gives him a
bouquet of flowers and touches his feet to seek his blessings. The var
then garlands his bride. Then five married women, suvasinis, from both
the families come forward and perform an arti on the newly-weds.
Kanyadaan is considered to be
the biggest daan (donation). In this ceremony, the parents of
the bride hand over their beloved daughter to the bride groom and his
family with the assurance that they will take proper care of her. In
this rite, the girl's father tells the groom that he should not prove
false to his daughter in dharma, artha and karma, and the groom
responds with words, " I shall not do so". This is a very
This is performed after
igniting the sacrificial fire. The bride makes three offerings of
lahyas (parched grains) while mantras are repeated by the groom. The
fourth and the last is made by the bride silently. The couple takes
mutual oaths before fire, earth, priest and gods that they will be
each other's partners throughout life for better or for worse. It is
now that the groom places the mangalsutra (gold chain with black
beads) around the bride's neck, proclaiming that she belongs to him.
He then puts jodave (toe-rings) on her toes. Then he places sindoor
(vermilion mark) on her forehead. All these are symbols of a married
lady and are very precious to her.
Next, the groom is made to
stand behind the bride. With their hands touching, they offer lhaya
(dried rice) to the sacred fire. The bride's brother puts some into
her hands, assuring her that even in bad times he will be there for
her. He then performs the kaanpilne wherein he pulls his new
brother-in-law's ears as a mock warning that he better take care of
his sister or else!
The marriage becomes final and
irrevocable when the ritual of saptapadi (seven steps) is performed.
In this ritual seven small heaps of rice with a betel-nut, are
arranged around the altar and the sacrificial fire rekindled. The
bridegroom leads the bride, putting her right foot on the rice heaps
one by one at each step, while the priest chants sacred verses. Then
the couple offer parched grains and ghee to the fire.
Now the couple perform
the Lakshmi Poojan where they pray to Goddess Laxshmi and then the
groom is asked to give a new name to his wife, which he writes on the
rice with a gold ring.
After the Saptapadi the bride
and groom bow to the Pole Star with folded hands which is symbolic of
their firm determination to observe constancy of the marital vows
The wedding rituals conclude with the Varat (bridal procession). The
Grihapravesh (bride entering her new home), the Devakotthapana (taking
leave of the deities) and the Mandopodvasana (dismantling of the
The first ritual for the bride
as she crosses the threshold of her new home is as old as the Deccan
hills. The bridal house is festooned with mango leaves and marigolds.
The bride lifts her pretty henna'd foot and gently kicks a wooden
measure piled high with grains of rice. The grains spill over and
scatter inside the living room door. At this moment, the bride is
supposed to be an incarnation of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth,
bringing to the family fortune, as symbolized by the rice grains
spilling inside the marital home.
At the culmination of the
wedding ceremonies, is the wedding banquet, which is attended by all
the family members, relatives and friends of the bride and the groom.
The diners sits on paats (low platforms) set on the floor. The bride
sits on a red paat.
She is draped in a nine yard Paithani
Saree of royal blue silk edged with maroon and gold. A black
dot of coal is placed on her cheek to keep evil spirits away. The
floor where diners is decorated with rangoli curlicues made with red,
green and white colored powders. Incense is burnt while large metal
plates are set in the center of each rangoli pattern. The food is laid
out on plates set in a special unchanging order.
Maharashtrian food normally
consists of puri baji, shrikhand, bhasundi, masala bhat and bhajiyas.