Monday, August 03, 2009

And so the season begins . . .

This summer I feel like I am 23 again! It is another summer filled with weddings. And the last time I had this many weddings in one summer was back when we were young and everyone was falling in love!

Saturday was the first 2 of 5 weddings that we were invited to. It all started with an early morning so we could be at Preet's wedding in time for the Baraat and the Milni. Jimmy and I were running late but thankfully so was the wedding party as we showed up 45 minutes late and still waited around for 20 minutes for the festivities to begin. In googling the Indian Baraat I found the following:

Indian Baraat

The traditional Indian wedding establishes a bond between two families and their cultures, apart from creating a very special relationship between the couple, who tie the nuptial knot.

The marriage ceremony is a series of colorful events, spread over two to three days. One of the important and fun ceremonies is the arrival of the groom on the day of the wedding, at the venue.

The groom's family members, relatives and friends accompany him to the wedding venue, in a marriage procession called 'baraat'. Groom's friends and relatives are called the 'baraati'. The wedding baraat is held with high esteem and the baratis are pampered by the bride's family, when they arrive at the wedding venue. The baraat is received in different ways in different parts of the country. In the following lines, we have given description about the baraat in Indian marriage.

Indian Wedding Barat Traditionally in north India, the groom, dressed in his wedding attire, is seated on a white decorated mare, when he heads towards the wedding venue along with the baraati. Before sitting on the mare, the groom is adorned with a saafa (turban, preferably pink or saffron colored) along with a sehara (floral veil), which is tied around his forehead, by his mother. Saafa is mandatory, but tying sehara is not a compulsion. In some
regions of north India, a sword is also provided to the groom. In the mare, the groom is accompanied by his younger brother, cousin or nephew who acts as his caregiver, who is called 'sarbaala'.

The baraatis are often accompanied by music band, which provides them with entertainment, while on their way to the venue. The baraatis dance to the tune played by the band. A vivid display of fireworks contributes to the festive spirit of the marriage procession. A contemporary approach to the ritual is to make use of a car, instead of mare. For the purpose, people rent a car, in which the groom is seated. However, to maintain the tradition, the groom travels a certain distance via car and then rides on the mare.

After reaching the wedding venue, the groom and the marriage procession are welcomed by the bride's parents and the elder members of her family.The bride's mother performs the aarti, when the groom enters the venue. In the mean time, the other members of the bride's family welcome others in the marriage procession. The groom's acquaintance is introduced to the bride's family, friends and relatives. This ritual is known as milni.

The barati who comes in the procession are garlanded and seated. Cold drinks, snacks and sweets are served to them. They are also invited for dinner as the guests of bride's parents.

I was so excited to be able to participate in this joyous celebration - even
though I had no clue what I was doing and being the tall white girl it's not
like I could exactly 'blend' in. However, my vantage point meant I was able to
capture some excellent pictures.

Above, you can see Josh's family dancing as he enters. The music was soo fun!

Next is the traditional exchange of garlands between the groom's family and the bride's family. Again there was much dancing and clapping and cheering between the families.

Preeti's mom is absolutely stunning in her pink sari.

Once the outdoor festivities are complete, the groom can now enter into the altar. Great giggling ensues as the bride's family tries to steal the groom's shoes. After much giggling, running about the hall and the groom's family managing to steal them back a couple times, Preet's family had them securely in hand. According to customs, then charge a fee for their return. Rumor has it - the initial price was $1100 but Preet's family finally agreed upon $300.

After the welcoming aarti, the groom is made to stand at
an elevated level while the bride enters the wedding place, along with her
sisters and cousins where the groom awaits in the Mandap.

Mandap is usually in the form of a canopy and is beautifully decorated with flowers, colorful personal adornment, and other items.In the mandap, the bride, the groom the parents of the bride and the priest sit, while the rest of the family members sit around the canopy.

Below, you see Preeti presented to Josh by her brother and family.

The two then stand facing each other, holding a wedding garland made of flowers. After the two exchange the garlands, the bride and the groom are taken to the mandap where the other rituals and rites are performed.

One of the most significant rituals the bride and the groom perform is the Saptapadi or saat phere around a scared fire and light, which is symbolic to God. While the bride and the groom take the seven circles, the priest or purohit recites the mantras and speak of the real essence and significance of marriage. It is also during this time that the groom fills vermillion or sindoor in the center parting of the bride and puts mangalsutra around her neck.

Mangalsutra is the token of dignity and love given to a bride by her groom. On the wedding day, the groom ties the Mangalsutra around the neck of the bride, while the priest recites Vedic hymns and prays. It signifies the union of the bride and the groom, amidst the presence of deities, who are believed to be attending the marriage. In some regions, the groom ties first and his sisters tie the rest. Talking about its appearance, this sacred thread is made of two strings of small black beads with a locket or pendant. Sometimes, it is also made of small beads of gold and black beads, with gold and diamond pendant.

So that explains all the background that took place during the wedding ceremony. The real show is the family and friends that attend this event. Unlike traditional Christian ceremonies, the atmosphere is very relaxed among the crowd. People feel free to move about the hall, refresh their coffee and tea, pass snacks and play various hand held games. We could not believe the bustling activity that it was.

It was an experience that I will never forget.

Once it was all over, Josh and Preet sat at the front of Mandap greeting their guests. Preeti was even more stunning close up. She is absolutely gorgeous!

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