The rich Gujarati culture is deeply rooted in traditions and customs. These are very energetic and enthusiastic people who celebrate their special occasions and festivities with magnificence and splendor. A Gujarati marriage ceremony is a classic example of this ethnicity where people dress up in all the lovely colors of the rainbow. The Gujarati wedding attire displays their rich and colorful culture. A Gujarati wedding consists of many fun-filled rituals along with a lot of food, fun, and firecrackers. The wedding celebration lasts for days beginning with the engagement, or Sagai, to the wedding and the Gujarati wedding reception. There are even special, meaningful and fun rituals following the wedding reception. It’s not all about the fun though as there are many spiritual aspects to the Gujarati wedding as well.
As in most of the other Indian communities, Gujaratis make marriage matches for their sons and daughters within their communities. When his daughter has grown up, her father immediately begins seeking a match for her. Gujaratis like for the boy and the girl to see each other and make the final decision of whether or not they will marry. If the couple decides they wish to marry, then begins the preparation for the Gujarati wedding as well as all of the traditional customs that entails.
Once the couple decides to become engaged, the Sagai is held. This is the ceremony that makes the commitment of the prospective bride and groom to each other official. The bride travels to the home of the groom taking an earthen container, or matli. Modern times makes this container available also in steel. The matli is filled with gifts and sweets for the groom and his family. Acceptance of the couple by each family is goal of this ceremony. This is followed with another ceremony during which 5 lades from both of the families come forward and bless the couple. Then they give their words to each other. Now it is official. The man and woman are engaged to be married.
To prepare for the engagement ceremony, some key items are needed. These include a ring, coconut, chundri, sava rupaiya, bangles, sweets, sari, bindi, and kumkum. When you have these things together, the ceremony will go off without a hitch.
The Mandap Mahurat is a very important part of a Gujarati wedding. The purpose of this ceremony is to invoke Lord Ganesha. The ritual is performed a few days before the wedding. All members of the family sit together while the pundit performs the Pooja of the Hindu God, Lord Ganesha. This is done so that Lord Ganesha will take away any and all obstacles that could get in the way of the wedding. With all of the obstacles out of the way, the wedding can be successful and conducted peacefully. The Pooja is held at the homes of both the bride and the groom. To conduct this ritual, you will need a painting of Lord Ganesha, Pooja Samagri, and flowers to decorate Ganesha Sthapan. A statue of Lord Ganesha should be installed in the house prior to the ritual.
The Griha Shanti is a very important prayer session or puja that is held at the homes of both the bride and the groom. An auspicious time is chosen for this ritual by the family pandit. On this day, the horoscopes of the bride and the groom are matched, which is a rather important part of the entire process. This is followed by the prayers. It is performed by an acharya with the participation of the family members and relatives of the bride’s father.
The Pithi is a ceremony where members of the family apply a paste made of turmeric, sandalwood and saffron, or Pithi. The ingredients of this paste clean the skin along with putting a healthy glow on the faces of both the bride and the groom. In order to make sure this ritual works out the way it is meant to, you will need to arrange to have a paste of turmeric, sandalwood, and saffron.
The Garba, or dance, ceremony gives both families the chance to enjoy the traditional Garba together. Friends and family members of the bride and groom drag them into the circle. They dance using 2 wooden sticks called Dandia while hitting the sticks of their partners. Music is a vital part of Garba. Musicians, usually a band, play different instruments. The Dhol, harmonium, and flute stand out. One of the customs of Garba is to tie fresh knots between the future bride and groom. To arrange for this ceremony, you will need a DJ or musicians, Dandia, snacks such as Gota, Khaman, Samosa, and fafda, along with soft drinks.
A very interesting and unique ritual is called Jaan. The groom, along with his family and friends, arrives at the home of the bride in order to ask the blessings of his future mother-in-law. To follow the custom, the groom bows his head and clutches his nose, in a gesture meant to symbolize his humility and understanding of the huge sacrifice his bride-to-be is about to make. Then the groom’s future mother-in-law gives her blessing along with performing a small ritual of her own that is meant to keep away the evil eye. She then attempts to catch his nose, reminding him that he is the “taker” as he will be taking away her daughter, while she and the bride’s father are the givers. This ritual is symbolic as it shows that the groom must rub his nose on the doorstep of his father-in-law if he wants to win his bride’s heart.
The ceremony of Jaimala/Varmala is both beautiful and amusing. The prospective bride and groom exchange flower wreaths with each other. As a part of this ritual, when it is the bride’s turn to place her wreath around the neck of her groom, friends of the groom will lift him up so high that the bride cannot reach his neck. While it is funny to watch this, this symbolizes that the bride will never be able to take the groom away from his family and friends, even following the marriage. However, the groom is then lowered more to the bride’s level so that she is successful in placing her wreath around his neck. To prepare for this ceremony, flower wreaths for both the bride and the groom need to be available.
Madhuparka is the next Gujarati wedding ritual to take place. The groom is welcomed by his future mother-in-law into the mandap, where the bride’s parents wash the feet of the groom. He is given milk and honey to drink while this act is being performed. This is also when the bride’s siblings steal the groom’s shoes and hide them. Known as Juta Churai, this is a highly entertaining ritual. The groom gets his shoes returned only after he has paid some money to the siblings, so it is considered wise that he bring a bit of extra cash along with him when he attends this particular ritual.
The Antarpaat follows as the next Gujarati wedding ritual. The bride is invited to the mandap where the pandit shouts out “Agman Kanya.” Gujarati custom dictates that the bride’s maternal uncle, called mama, brings her to the mandap. If mama is not available to do this, the bride’s cousins, or mama’s sons, will take over this part of the ritual. The bride and groom are separated by a curtain called an Antarpaat. When this curtain is lowered, the couple place garlands around each other’s necks. Conducted by the pandit, the entire ceremony takes place before a sacred fire.
A word should be said here regarding the Gujarati wedding attire for the bride and groom. Most Gujarati women choose to wear a sari that is draped in the proper style of Gujarati. These saris are typically a beautiful, brilliant red in color. It is then accessorized using the appropriate jewelry. In more modern times, however, more and more women are choosing to wear designer bridal lehangas. These are available in a wide variety of shades, and are very stylish and chic in appearance, which makes them perfect for that most special day in a Gujarati woman’s life.
Traditionally, a Gujarati groom always chose a dhoti kurta to wear in the marriage ceremony. However, in metropolitan cities currently, this traditional clothing is slowly being changed. These modern men are choosing to use designer Gujarati wedding attire such as indo western kurta pyjamas. In addition, formal suits are becoming more and more popular as the wedding clothes for the groom.
Whatever the prospective Gujarati bride and groom choose to wear when they become husband and wife, there are still many rituals and ceremonies that will be observed. These never cease to be quite moving, beautiful, and meaningful to all who are fortunate enough to bear witness to them.
The Kanya Daan, the first of the Gujarati wedding ceremony rituals, is considered by Hindu scriptures to be the biggest daan for any human. This means that someone who is giving away his daughter is the luckiest person on earth. The bride’s parents give away her daughter to the groom in this ceremony. A part of this ritual dictates that the bride’s parents fast until after the Kanya Daan is completed to make themselves pure in body and in mind for this very important event. In keeping with the Holy Scriptures, the bride’s parents keep their hands folded during this ceremony. This shows their hope that their new son-in-law will take very good care of their daughter and never hurt her. They wash the groom’s feet to show they believe he is the Lord Vishnu and they are handing over their daughter, the Goddess Laxmi, as his rightful mate.
The literal meaning of Hast Milap is the joining of hands. However, the much deeper meaning is that this ritual is a union of 2 souls. In this ritual, the scarf or shawl worn by the groom is tied to the bride’s sari and symbolizes the union of 2 souls that are now joined together in holy matrimony. This knot is tied by the groom’s sister. Mantras are chanted by the acharya to ask for the blessings of the Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Parvati for the wife, or saubhagyavrata. Family and relatives who are present join to bless the happy couple with showers of rice and rose petals.
The ceremony of Mangal Pheras occurs as the couple encircles the sacred fire while mantras are chanted by the Acharya. These mantras are also recited by the groom, showing his expectations and the seeking of love and support from his wife. He also hopes for a peaceful and uncomplicated marital life. The couple makes 4 circles around the sacred fire, symbolizing the 4 basic human goals. These goals are Dharma or religious merit, Artha or prosperity, Kama or happiness, and Moksha which is the detachment from worldly pleasures. At the conclusion of the pheras, the bride and groom break into a run to see who will be the first one to sit. It is believed that whichever one sits first will rule the house.
Saptapadi is considered to be the most vital part of the whole Gujarati wedding ceremony. In this ceremony, the couple joins together and takes 7 steps around the sacred fire while making 7 vows to each other, called the Seven Sacred Steps. With each round of steps the groom recites mantras. He makes requests of his bride and she promises to fulfill them. The groom says “With God as our guide, let us take:”
The 1st to nourish each other, the 2nd step to grow together in strength, the 3rd step to preserve our wealth, the 4th step to share our joys and sorrows, the 5th step to care for our children, the 6th step to be together forever, the 7th step to remain lifelong friends, and the 8th step brings together 2 perfect halves to make 1 perfect whole.
The conclusion of the Satapadi ceremony is done with a prayer for the union to never be dissolved. It is at the end of this part of the Gujarati wedding rituals, with much anticipation, that the bride and groom officially become husband and wife.
Immediately following the wedding, a lavish reception is held. This is the chance for all the relatives, friends, and other well wishers to offer their blessings to the newly weds. They all enjoy a delicious meal together along with the giving and receiving of gifts. Much dancing, music, and merry making occur at these receptions which are very much like high energy parties. This part of the celebrations can even include the use of firecrackers to enhance and accentuate the celebratory activities. There is nothing like loud noise to show that people are having a lot of fun.
A small, but very meaningful, ceremony is the bestowing of the Blessings of Saubhagyawati Bhava. This has great value to the bride, who is blessed by only the other married women in attendance. Blessings are whispered into the right ear of the bride by 7 married women. These are wishes for a lifetime Saubhagya for the bride. The bride holds these blessings in her heart and carries them throughout the rest of her natural life. She will remember the blessings from these women at different points in her married life when she faces some of the difficult moments that come into every marriage, no matter how happy the union is.
A rite just for the groom, called Chhedo Pakadvo, involves him holding the sari of his mother –in-law while asking for gifts for himself and his family. This little ritual can often net the groom quite a bit of “extra cash,” as others at the reception drop gifts of money into this sari. The groom can enjoy this ritual and make it more fun by acting in either a pitiful, pleading manner or an expectant and superior way as he holds out the sari.
The Vidaai occurs at the end of the reception when it is time to bid farewell to the bride and groom. Amid happy tears and well wishes, the bride is carried out by her brother. This is a very sweet ritual where the brother of the bride gets his turn to shine. It is very touching to watch as the brother lifts his sister and carries her from the room.
Now that the bride is officially a member of the groom’s family, she is thought of as the Goddess Laxmi , or the “ghar nu laxmi,” to the family of the groom. Her first step into her new home is considered an auspicious occasion as she is believed to bring good luck and wealth to her new home. The bride’s new mother-in-law puts a steel vessel called a kalash full of rice at the entrance to the house. Before entering the house, the bride takes her right foot and gently knocks the vessel over, causing some of the rice to spill out of it. The rice represents wealth. By following through with this ritual she is saying that she understands her duties and responsibilities regarding her new home. She is now liable for the peace and pleasures of the household.
Once the new bride has completed her ritual and entered her new home, there is an entertaining and interesting ritual awaiting the new couple. There is a game called Aeki-Beki that is made just for the newly weds to play. A vessel is filled with water, milk, and sindoor and then put in front of the bride and groom. Into the water, a few coins and a ring are added. At the signal to start, the couple starts searching in the vessel to find the coins and the ring. The custom states that the one who finds the ring 4 out of 7 times is the one who will rule the house. This can be quite amusing to both the newlyweds and the family members who watch as the coins and ring are frantically fought over. Much laughter and cheers are heard as the victor holds up the ring for the 4th and final time.
In spite of all the games played to see who gets to “rule the roost,” it would seem that the vows and promises a Gujarati couple makes to each other show that the responsibilities of the household will be a shared venture. A true love match, followed by the many special blessings and rituals, hold out much hope for a long and happy life for the newly married couple. They have experienced a “union of the soul” and this is something they do not take lightly. With the support of their families and friends, along with the many rituals performed along the way to their uniting with each other, sets the couple on a wonderful and promising path to everlasting happiness.