USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘indian wedding’
Adulthood
Festival
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

West Bengal Wedding Traditions

Context:

The informant – RB – is a middle-aged Hindu woman, originally from West Bengal, India. She now works as a nutritionist in South Florida, and is one of my mother’s closest friends. The following happened during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about some of her favorite Indian folklore, particularly about wedding traditions.

 

Piece:

Indian weddings vary from state to state. In my state, the wedding traditions are different from in our neighboring state. I was just at an Indian wedding. Our wedding is typically a four-day affair. What happens is, the day before the wedding, the groom’s family invites their own friends and family – no one from the bride’s side – because, apparently, that is the last bachelor meal the groom is going to have. So it’s a big deal. When I went, they had invited over 100 people, there was catered lunch… The groom was served on silver platters with all kinds of silver bowls… everything! It was like a big, big, deal: all the groom’s favorite foods. It was almost as if you were taking him for his last meal before you kill him or something. We give gifts to the groom… anyway, that is the day before the wedding.

The morning of the wedding, the groom’s family sends all kinds of gifts to the bride’s family. Clothes, jewelry, anything… It depends how rich you are and how much you want to spend.

The morning of the wedding, there are some rituals from the bride’s side. One ritual is turmeric. It is considered very auspicious and anti-inflammatory. In the olden days, there was no makeup or anything, so I think that’s how it started. That, what they do is put a little bit of oil and turmeric on the bride and groom’s face, then take a shower, so you glow on your wedding. I think that’s how it started because it’s all organic. And they put fresh turmeric, sandalwood, and oil into paint, and you put it on each other.

That evening is when the groom goes to the bride’s house and the wedding ceremony takes place. The groom does not come back that night. In our culture, the bride and the groom spend the night at the bride’s house, because the wedding takes place all night long. There is music and dancing, everybody stays up all night long.

The next morning, the groom brings the bride home to his family. So when he brings the bride home, it’s like a big welcoming ceremony, because the groom’s side of the family invites all their friends and family to meet the bride, and they welcome the bride to the house. They shower her with gifts – usually lots of jewelry. Gold is considered as an asset for the women, because women were not allowed to inherit property, so during the wedding, the father of the bride gives whatever value they would give to the son, equal amount value in gold to their daughter. So that’s how the ritual started. But now, not so much, since women are allowed to inherit property, and are now very independent and professional, so they don’t need that.

Then, again, there is a big lunch where they invite friends and family to meet the bride. The following day, typically, there is a reception. There is no ritual that goes on; typically you just invite five, six, seven hundred people… it is a huge affair, with catered food, but there is no alcohol served: never on the wedding or reception day. This is just for your friends and family to meet the new bride.

 

Analysis:

It is interesting to hear how much bigger an affair weddings in India are than they are here. It seems as though Hindus really value large social gatherings, and will throw huge social celebrations for holidays and occasions, like weddings. In fact, it seems that the point of many religious occasions is much more social than it is religious. I was shocked to hear that a typical Indian wedding consists of 500-1,000 guests. I feel that this is likely the result of a seemingly much more inclusive and accepting religion, that values socializing and lifestyle over religious and social boundaries.

 

Customs
Game
Humor
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Indian Wedding Custom: Stealing Shoes

Text:

BH: “So one of the wedding rituals that all, or like most, of the Indian weddings have, is the joota churai [shoe stealing] of the groom, so basically the [to-be] sister-in-law that uh, whenever, so Indian wedding require you to remove your shoes whenever you enter into that pandar [ceremonial area] where the groom and the bride [perform the official religious marriage rituals] – they have to remove their shoes because shoes are considered to be something dirty and they’re entering into a pure religious place and that’s why they are asked to remove the shoes. So, as soon as the groom removes his shoes, it a battle, or kind of like a battle, between the groom’s side and the bride’s side because the bride’s sides – the sister-in-laws – are supposed to steal the groom’s shoes and at the end of the wedding [ceremony], the sister-in-law will present the shoes back to the groom in exchange for some money. It is like a ritual which shows the relationship between a sister-in-law and – like a very friendly relationship – between the groom and his sister-in-law, it kind of helps them bond.”

MS: “Have you yourself ever been involved in the stealing?”

BH: “So basically what happened – there’s a varmala ceremony [bride and groom exchange “necklaces” made of flowers, similar to leis, similar to the exchange of rings] that happens in Indian weddings. So the groom was [lifted] by his brothers onto their shoulders so that he could put the varmala on his bride. And during that time, all the sister-in-laws – because he was at a height – they, uh, removed his shoes without him knowing and we ran away and we hid them in a car and the whole time when he had to pose for pictures, he was just barefoot and then he had to go for the ceremony [where he would have had to remove his shoes anyway] so it didn’t really matter. But it was a good ice-breaking session for us, that allowed us to bond. Because then we had to uh – so once the wedding ceremony was over, we came to him with his shoes and we were basically bargaining with him for how much he’d be willing to buy his shoes for. Since there were a lot of saliyans [sister-in-laws], we negotiated to a high amount and in the end, it depends on the groom and his family as to what uh amount they want to give and that is split equally among the sisters…It helped us make – uh, it was an ice-breaking thing for us, because the next time I met him [the groom], I was very comfortable because I had led the negotiation earlier because I was the closest sister-in-law so it was very easy for me to maintain a good rapport with him later as well.”

MS: “Does it matter where you hide the shoes?”

BH: “Not really. You just have to make sure you hide them well because if the groom’s side takes the shoes, then you will not get your money. So we usually hide them in the cars so we aren’t really bothered during the long ceremonies that we have in Indian wedding that the shoes might be stolen back by the groom’s side.”

[Talking more about the negotiation over the shoes]

BH: “It’s a very very hard negotiation, so all of the bride’s family and the groom’s family come in to support both of them, though the bride doesn’t say anything even though she is pressured to say something, she will not say anything because she does not want to take anyone’s side…In the end, we just take – as the sister-in-laws, we just take whatever the groom is willing to give and whatever his capacity is to give and that is equally – but it helps because we make jokes about it in the future. Because a sali’s [sister-in-law’s] relationship with her jija [brother-in-law] is very fun and relaxed – it’s like friend-cum-brother so they should be able to have open conversations and this is one of the ways to establish that.”

 

Context:

The informant is a college student from India. The conversation was in response to my question about any wedding traditions that the informant has been involved in or seen in the past. The informant is also bilingual so the conversation happened in a mix of English and Hindi. I have translated the relevant Hindi parts to English as per my own interpretation and in an attempt to retain the meaning as best as possible. Certain key terms have been Romanized and their translations or explanations are given in brackets. The content has been lightly edited, and the removed content is indicated by ellipses.

 

Interpretation:

This was a very culturally dense discussion that took for granted a basic understanding of how Indian weddings work. Focusing specifically on the one ritual of stealing the groom’s shoes, it seems to be, as the informant says, a means to establish a relationship between the groom and the sister-in-laws. But it is also notable that the entire family joins the discussion about how much the groom is going to pay for his shoes, whose side you support becomes an identifier of whether you belong to the groom’s side or the bride’s side. In the same vein, the bride is not supposed to partake in this discussion because she is now supposed to be a part of both the groom and the bride’s sides. The exchange of money itself is also interesting and may have some historical basis in the fact that traditionally the expenses of the wedding ceremonies were paid for entirely by the bride’s side of the family – this seems to be one of the place where the bride’s side can some monetary and symbolic compensation.

Also interesting is the change that the informant implicitly mentioned from the traditional “battle” like nature of the ritual, where each side is supposed to steal back and forth from each other, to the more modern “we just hide them in the car and forget about them till the end of the ceremony”. Even though the practice has changed, its social significance persists.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Astrological Indian Wedding Ceremony

Context/Background: The Informant is an Indian-American who has witnessed wedding customs tailored to suit an astrological calendar in order to promote success and prosperity of Indian Marriages.

Informant:

“When you get married and you’re supposed to check like… the person’s astrological sign or something- or when they were born and then you like compare the two. And that timing will like… determine when it’s okay for the literal marriage ceremony to take place. So the wedding can go on for the entire day, but the time the wedding ceremony takes place happens at on specific dates and times. Obviously, some people just ignore it… but like… in the summertime, I was in India and my cousin fully like… he fully got married. Like had a wedding in the middle of the night. So that happened. If you look it up online, I’m sure you’ll find something. And there’s like a special calendar that you can buy from the temple that’ll like tell you! Like, Oh! This is your day, and this is their day, like it’s cool to get married on this day. And like, yeah my grandma has one in her kitchen and she like… refers back to it sometimes, and it’s like ‘When is it okay?'”

Introduction: The Informant was introduced to this custom through her family; more specifically, her grandmother.

Analysis/Interpretation: I find this ritual interesting because I’d never seen marriages that strayed from a daytime setting. The notion that the actual ceremony should occur at a specific time is actually really sentimental and I’d find much meaning in designating a particular time to get married. I feel as though many astrological encounters have been accentuated more recently in popular culture, but to find them more engrained seriously in cultures’ traditions opens up another insight on it. This leads me to wonder how other cultures may have additional differing wedding customs which I’d like to explore in more depth.

Customs
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Wedding – India

My informant is half Indian and Caucasian. She shared with me some of the rituals and customs that were practiced at her cousin’s wedding:

“For my cousin’s wedding, me and my sister were bridesmaids. It was at the beach last year in April. I wore a hot pink saree (traditional Indian clothing). It’s like a crop top that is all gold embroidery and jewels on it. Honestly I’m obsessed with all the outfits. Like that’s the one thing about Indian culture I’m so obsessed with. Everyone at the wedding wears Indian outfits, so seeing all the colors against the ocean was absolutely beautiful.

 

When my cousin had the wedding she had this thing called a mandap. And what that is, is they have them all decorated and it’s basically just the alter. Like the Indian alter where people get married is always decorated with a bunch of flowers.”

 

Isn’t there something that you guys do with henna tattoos too?

 

“Yes—there’s a ceremony. Everyone does it. Like the most people is all the women in the bride’s side of the family and like also her bridesmaid, so I did it and my mom did it. It’s also a really long ceremony.

 

The Indian ceremonies are really long— when they’re getting married can go on for 2 hours. It’s cause the Indian wedding is very ‘ritualistic’. You know how in Western ceremonies they’re like ok say you’re vows, blah, blah, blah, then you’re done? For Indians, they’ll do things like each of you touch a flower and that symbolizes one thing. Then they’ll put a little dot on them and that symbolizes…it’s just everything the priest does has an underlying meaning. They also bring up people, like my mom will go up there and bless them. Everyone is incorporated in it. It’s crazy because I swear I’ve known these people since I was born, but I don’t know their names because it’s a big extended family. So sometimes we’ll go to weddings and I don’t even know some of these people’s name”

 

Do you think you’ll have an Indian style wedding?

 

“For Indian weddings, a lot goes into it. So for me and my sister, first of all, we don’t even practice any Indian religion. We’re only half—not even full Indian. So to spend all that time and money into something that I’m not really 100% invested in, doesn’t make sense to me. Cause I was raised Christian, I would have a more Western style ceremony. But I still love the culture so it would be fun to still incorporate some Indian aspects into my wedding reception like the outfits.”

 

Weddings are a very sacred ceremony that unites two individuals as one. Because it is such a unique and monumental experience, it is understandable for people to feel pressured into spending an absurd amount of time and money for the occasion. However, there is absolutely no comparison when it comes to Indian weddings. They are by far the most lavish and extravagant events I have ever heard of. It is clear that marriage holds a great deal of importance in Indian culture. It is not just a critical life milestone, but an essential religious practice in Hindu religion. This explains why weddings do not stray, but strongly adhere to ancient customs and traditions. In addition, Indian weddings are not just about bonding the couple. Everyone in the family is incorporated into the ceremony to signify that a bond has also been created between the two families.

Adulthood
Customs

Indian Wedding Tradition

Informant:

Shehan is a sophomore aerospace engineering major from Atlanta, Georgia,  

Piece:

So ummm it is an indian tradition that when you have the bride and groom like the week prior to the actual wedding day they have this thing called a pithi. That’s a word in Hindi. But what they do is they get the groom and he sits on a chair all of his like bachelors like hang out and chill with him for a little bit and then they just like start throwing eggs at him and like ketchup mustard, mayo. really the plan is to like get him as dirty and gross as possible .the tradition is is like cleansing your body at the same time. They do the same thing to the bride, but with her they just put some sort of oil on her face, but for the groom it’s always like eggs yolks and always turns into a big food fight. And its like really fun, really gross and it happens before every wedding

Collector’s thoughts:

The most interesting part of this wedding tradition to me is that the informant says it is a indian bachelor party tradition, yet mustard, mayo, and ketchup are all very american condiments that are not traditionally indian. This reveals that while the tradition may come from the informant’s hini background, it has taken on a distinctly american twist in what foods are used to throw at the groom.

[geolocation]