Informant: SK

Ethnicity: Indian

Primary Language: English, Gujarati

Age: 24

Text: [SK] Indian weddings usually last a few days because of all the different ceremonies that take place. One of these rites is the Haldi ceremony, where family and close friends apply turmeric paste or water to the bride and groom to be. At my sister’s Haldi, we used water guns filled with turmeric water to drench her and her husband.

Context: The Haldi ceremony is a pre-wedding ritual practiced across most traditional Indian weddings. The informant noted that he participated in the Haldi ceremony at his sister’s wedding, as well as some of his cousins’ weddings. He mentioned that the ritual felt lighthearted and fun, but also made him emotional because it signaled the start of the wedding.

Analysis: Haldi ceremonies are rooted in the usage of turmeric, which plays an important role in Indian folk medicine. The plant is medicinally used for its antibacterial and antiseptic properties, but in many South Asian cultures, it is also believed to have the ability to cleanse one spiritually. Weddings are a transitory period, marking the shift from single to married life; purifying the bride and groom by applying turmeric paste or dousing them in turmeric water is a cultural practice intended to prepare them for the transition into this new era. Furthermore, the act of applying turmeric to the bride and groom is often turned into a lighthearted, candid act (as mentioned by the informant, who used water guns) as a preclude to the more serious main wedding ceremony. With only family and close friends being invited to take part in this celebration, the ritual also serves to strengthen familial bonds and other social relationships.