In this blog series we will be exploring different rituals and traditions of Gujarati culture and we shall begin with Gujarati Wedding. There are so many traditions associated with Gujarati weddings as normally it is a 3-4 day affair. Let’s begin with the pre-wedding rituals.
Gujarati Wedding Rituals: Engagement
Many Gujarati marriages are still arranged. However nowadays couples fall in love or find each other first before they disclose their intention of marrying each other to their families. Some call them arranged/love marriage and this could mean, they fell in love prior to the wedding or they fell in love after the engagement during their courting time. Regardless of how their union comes to be, there are certain pre-wedding rituals that most Gujarati couples follow.
This vidhi(ritual) has different names in different parts of Gujarat. Gujarati people believe that marriage is a union of two families as well as the bride and the groom. These traditions prior to the wedding allows everyone to get to know each other and show their acceptance of the new family members. It is filled with lots of blessings and when I say blessings it can simply mean a verbal blessing or as it is most of the time in form of cash in an envelope to help the new couple start their beginnings.
Here are few familiar names for Gujarati engagement:
1. Chaa Paani: Many families in Surat call this ceremony Chaa Paani which literally means tea and water. It is a little more than that though as most bride’s families go all out with a Gujarati feast and inviting guests for this occasion. In the old male dominant times, the men in the family made major decisions and so during this ceremony 5-7 older male members of the groom’s family visit the bride’s family with a promise and intention of allowing their son to marry the bride. They arrive with gifts of food, jewelry and “blessings”. The bride’s family also showers them gifts and food.
2. Mehmaan/Parona: This ceremony is exactly the same as “Chaa Paani” but with a different name. Mehmaan/Parona means guests. Again the intention is to get to know each other and work on planning of the wedding. In the old days most brides did not get to plan their own wedding the elders in the family planned it for them including the guest list, budget, food, clothing, jewelry and other details.
3. Chaandlo/Chaandlaa vidhi: This is also very similar to the other two mentioned. When the five male members from the groom’s family visit including the father of the groom, he puts a red dot (from the red vermilion powder) on the bride’s head welcoming her into his family this symbolizes the new promise and union. Gifts are exchanged as a form of “Shagun”(good luck).
4. God Dhana/Gor Dhana: Gol Dhana literally translates into Coriander seeds and Jaggery. Some families perform this ritual a couple of days before the wedding and some perform it few months prior to. The bride’s family visits the groom’s family and presents them with gifts of sweets and savories in traditional pot known as “Matli”. The bride and the groom exchange rings. Five married women, each from the bride’s and groom’s family, take turns and bless the couple-to-be for a happy married life.
No matter what name is used for the pre-wedding ritual, the intention is to honor the promise of the marriage, welcome new family members and bless the couple on their new journey as one!