The Indian Wedding: Part I

“I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance,

A church filled with family and friends.

I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for,

He said one that would make me his wife.”

Weddings are one of the most important parts of our lives. We plan for them, we wait to find the right person and we plan, we wait to tell our families and we plan, we decide the dates to our weddings and we plan, we plan, we plan. At least that is true with us, the species from Venus!

And as a country diverse and vast in tradition, India does not lack elaborate wedding rituals and traditions. So today, I’m going to talk about the “Big Fat Indian Wedding”. I have wanted to do this post for quite some time now, but I was waiting for the time when I actually attend a wedding myself. But I haven’t gotten a chance to attend anyone’s wedding recently, so I decided to take the help of my dear friend, Google Images for the snaps.

So I am gonna split this post into parts, starting with the Indian Wedding Attire today! We Indians are extremely fond of flashy wedding attires ranging from our sarees to our jewellery. Here are some snaps of the different kinds of sarees available:

Banarasi Shalu

This saree here is a Benarasi Shalu. No Indian woman can feel like a bride without one of these! These sarees come from a place called Bearas or Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Paithani

This saree here is a Paithani, made in the Maharashtrian town of Paithan. This type of saree boasts of embroidery in gold threads.

Kanjeevaram

This here is a Kanjeevaram Saree which belong to the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Gadwal Silk

The Gadwal Silk Sarees are a specialty of the State of Andhra Pradesh.

Patola Silk

Patola silk sarees are hand woven sarees from the place called Patan in the state of Gujarat.

There are a lot more types of sarees available in myriads of beautiful colors. The sarees combined with the traditional jewellery create an absolutely stunning combination.

The Maharashtrian Bride

This is a picture of a Maharashtrian bride with the traditional green glass bangles and mehendi (henna) on her hands and feet. I’m going to get to the mehendi ceremony some other time. She has an armlet on. I think the jewellery will also have to wait for some other time.

Nauvari

This is another type of Maharashtrian Saree called Nauvari. I know there are a lot of Maharashtrian things in here but being a Maharashtrian myself I think that’s the only part I know the best!

South Indian Bride

This is a South Indian bride with the tradition Kanjeevaram Saree.

This is a picture of a North Indian Bride in Lehenga. Lehenga is a long skirt usually adorned with embroidery and beads work.

Now, we’ll move a little towards the grooms.

The Indian Groom

Usually, the Indian groom wears a pagdi or a pheta, the headgear. The kurtas that are worn have embroidery or jardosi work. (Jardosi is a kind of stone work)

Shervani

The long coat is called a Shervani and is an integral part of Indian groom attire.

Dhoti

This is a traditional Dhoti worn by men below the kurtas. The footwear here is called mojadi.

This is all I have today on the Indian Wedding Attire. As you can see, there are very few pictures of the attires of grooms as compared to the brides. The reason could be, one, women are more enthusiastic about weddings, need more variety, need something that is unique at least for their weddings and number two, even Google agrees. Even if you search for Indian Grooms, you still end up with a lot of pictures of the brides!

Disclaimer: As we all know India is a huge country with 28 states and 7 union territories with people majorly following about 7 to 8 different religions. Covering the weddings of all the people from these myriad backgrounds seems a little difficult. So the series of posts on Indian wedding is just sort of an overview of the big fat Indian wedding as I understand it.

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The Wari of Pandharpur

I am going to start this journey with a pilgrimage. I’m going to write about the Wari of Pandharpur because it is happening right at this moment, in the Indian state of Maharashtra where I live. It is one of  the many Indian traditions that was started  long, long ago, somewhere in the ancient past. Some  say it was started about 800 years ago, others say it was about 500 years ago. In any case, it’s been around for longer than the USA!

I happened to pass the procession on Friday and was mesmerized by the spirit of the people! It was a beautiful, cloudy day and the Warkaris(We’ll get to who they are in a short while) looked so serene and at peace with what they were doing. The beauty of that morning made me want to write about it, and here I am!

The Hindu religion has its own calendar. Ours is a lunar year, with months following the waxing and waning of the moon.  Every year on the eleventh day of the  waxing moon in the Hindu month of Aashaadh, several thousands of devotees of the Warkari clan, singing and dancing to the beat of cymbals and the Mrudunga (a traditional Indian drum), reach the temple town of Pandharpur, to pay homage to the Hindu deity Lord Vitthal. The clan, which had only a handful of followers about half a century ago, today boasts of four to five hundred thousand pilgrims or warkaris as they are known. Songs are sung, stories told, strangers become companions and friends. It’s a scene straight out of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and it happens every year.

The Warkaris in the ghats

The warkaris walk to Pandharpur for about 20 days every year with intermittent stops at different places. The local people at these stops make arrangements to lodge and feed the warkaris. The pilgrims sing, dance and chant bhajans (devotional songs that praise the Lord, kind of like psalms). Reaching Pandharpur in the hundreds of thousands, the warkaris represent an enigmatic unbroken tradition, which has cut across centuries and barriers of caste and creed, despite the austerity and hardships involved. In this procession, a wide variety of people from all social and economic backgrounds join the sea of Warkaris and worship with same fervour & devotion. Professors, doctors, businessmen and administrators rub shoulders with poor farmers, labourers and artisans. For those 20 days at least, there are no differences between the pilgrims.

This pilgrimage has loads of positive effects, quite apart from the spiritual satisfaction of doing it. People get to know about diverse regions, social variety and change. They also try to bring about a social change by banning narcotics, like alcohol and tobacco. Most importantly, this helps people to realize how to live life on just the bare necessities. People who have experienced  a lot of sorrow in their lives can achieve a sort of detachment from everyday life and  get at least a temporary relief from it. This detachment from the material world and concentration on the spiritual world is central to the Indian concept of Moksha, the state of mind that leads to Nirvana, or heaven. In their own small way, the pilgrims aim to reach heaven, at least during the Wari.

The Warkaris sacrifice all pleasures and comforts while on their way Pandharpur. They uphold a strict vegetarian diet throughout and observe fasts during the pilgrimage. Warkaris wake up early in the morning, take a quick bath and get ready for the day’s journey. Women rise earlier than men to complete other chores. A Tutari or wind instrument is blown thrice to signal the start of that day’s pilgrimage. Warkaris divide themselves into small groups called Dindis.  Each Dindi is lead by a flag bearer, followed by women carrying sacred Basil plants and pots of water for the pilgrims on their heads. Each Dindi prepares food for itself, erects tents and has its own water tankers. People who gather along the road to witness the procession offer fruits, vegetables and other essentials to the Dindis. A true sense of brotherhood grows among complete strangers, reflecting the true spirit of Wari.

According to the Warkari ideology, the soul is the essence of every being’s life. God is a part of this essence. So, the sole objective of a Warkari in life is to ensure that the divine remains a part of the living experience. The warkaris have always worked  for social causes like women’s rights and liberation, or fighting against alcoholism. Lately, they have tried to tackle more modern problems like AIDS through awareness.The pilgrimage ends when the Warkaris reach Pandharpur and bathe in the Chandrabhaga River. They then proceed to worship Lord Vitthal, thus completing their magical journey.

 

Photo Courtesy: Shalvika P and Google Images

What this is about

Every country has its own treasure trove of beliefs and traditions and customs. And I have always found it enriching to read about cultures across the globe. It always fascinates me to find out about different societies and their customs. And  I’m lucky enough to be from a place that’s abundantly rich in culture and traditions: India.

I am going to keep an account of all the unique traditions and customs that are so peculiar to Indian life, here in this space.  I want to share the beauty and the expanse and the unbelievable richness of India’s culture with all of my friends here who haven’t gotten a chance to experience what  our life is like.

I hope you all will find this experience as intriguing as I did. And I would really appreciate your opinions about this section.

 

Photo Courtesy: Google Images