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Wedding traditions vary across religion, caste, ethnicity, language, region, etc. This
article will touch on a traditional Hindu wedding.
Traditional Indian weddings are generally structured into pre-wedding ceremonies, wedding
day ceremonies (consisting of the Baraat, the Varmala and the Phere), and the Vidaai.
An example of the complexity of an Indian wedding can be seen from the various phases of a
wedding in the North. The following events take place in a typical Eastern Uttar Pradesh
Before the wedding day
Bariksha (Var-iksha probably) is when the bride's parents have informally shown intentions
that they want a particular groom, and the groom and his family have agreed. Retracting at
the end of this stage is frowned upon but is acceptable.
Tilak is when the bride's parents travel to the groom's place to formalize the
relationship. A large feast is organized by the groom's family to celebrate this occasion.
Only a nominal number of members of the bride's family are present (usually only very
close relatives, often in tens of numbers. Typically, female relatives from the bride's
family are not present.) After this stage, the retraction of the marriage proposal is very
Varmala/Jaimala is the next phase of the marriage ceremony. In older times, varmala was a
part of the main marriage ceremony. Practical considerations have forced weddings to take
this new approach. Eastern/North Indian weddings usually take place late in the night,
often starting at about midnight and lasting until the early hours of morning. The main
wedding event usually is accompanied by the groom arriving with his family/friends in a
procession called a Baraat (baa-raat.) Owing to the fact that the wedding ceremony is
usually accompanied by a reception and a feast, the main marriage ceremony has been split
into two parts. Varmala+Reception and then the more ritualistic part involving a priest.
Wedding in Bangalore, ritualistic part involving a priest.Immediately after the groom has
arrived with the Baraat, the groom and bride meet and exchange garlands in the Jaimala
ceremony. Once this ceremony has finished, the well wishers congratulate the groom and the
bride and present gifts to them. Food is served during this ceremony, and pretty much
everyone except closest relatives leave once the ceremony has finished.
The main part of the wedding starts after the Jaimala ceremony has finished. The groom and
the bride sit beside the fire and the priest chants shlokas (hymns) and the groom and the
bride exchange vows in front of many gods and goddesses. Towards the end of the marriage
ceremony, a ritual called Phere (pronounced: Fair-ey, meaning "revolutions") is
performed. In the Phere ritual, a part of the groom's attire and the bride's attire are
tied together (symbolizing that they are now united) as they go around the ceremonial fire
seven times. Each round about the fire symbolizes a part of life. The bride leads in first
three rounds symbolizing that the earlier part of marriage is led by the bride. The groom
leads in the last four rounds symbolizing that the latter part of life will be led by him.
Sometime during the ceremony, the groom puts a little sindoor (red powder) in the parting
of the bride's hair and puts a mangalsutra (necklace) around her neck. These tasks
symbolize that she is now a married woman, as all married Hindu women are supposed to wear
sindoor in the parting of their hair for the rest of their lives.
On the morning following the Varmala/Phere, the groom has a final breakfast at the bride's
place, and the bride leaves her parents' house escorted by the groom. Traditionally, this
phase is accompanied by the bride's family shedding many tears and throwing raw, white
rice as she parts from the home where she grew up to start a new phase of her life. This
part of the marriage ceremony is called Vidaai.
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