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MAHARASHTRIAN WEDDING & CEREMONY 

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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. 

Here are the ceremonies that take place. Click on each to find out more !

 

Selecting the 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. 

Matching the Stars

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

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.) 

Kelvan
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.

The first 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.

Every 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. 

Haldi 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. 

Chuda 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

The actual 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.

Meanwhile, the 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.

Mangalashtakas 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.

 

After this 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 the seven 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 hospitality.

The marriage is completed with a feast or reception.

The wedding 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

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 extinct. 

Ganpati Puja

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 goddesses).

Halad

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.

Seemant Puja

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. 

The bride's 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.

Vraprasthana

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).

Rukhvat
This 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.

Gowrihar Pooja
While the 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).

Mangalashtakas

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.

Kanyadan

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 emotional ceremony. 

Lajahoma

 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!

Saptapadi

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.

Lakshmi Poojan

 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 throughout life.
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 marriage pandal).

Griha Pravesh

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.

Wedding Dinner

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.

 

 




 

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