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: Pithi/Haldi
Gujarati weddings are at least 2-3 days long as there are so many different vidhis (rituals) to follow. This is true for all Hindu weddings be it Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, Punjabi etc. Many Hindu rituals require that people performing the rituals are pure and clean before they begin and the same is true with the wedding festivities.
Pithi or Haldi is a vidhi performed for the bride and the groom individually at their own homes or at a designated venues separately. It is believed that applying this mixture of turmeric, sandalwood, coconut oil and rose water aids in purifying and beautifying the bride and the groom.
This vidhi originated in the times when there was no beauty parlor with facials, massages, manicures and pedicures. However our ancestors were so brilliant that they created this tradition that allows the couple to be married to get this treatment.
The bride or groom’s foi (Dad’s sister) begins this by putting a tilak of kanku on the bride or groom’s forehead and giving them a coconut. This symbolizes the beginning of this holy ritual by praying to the pure souls in them and reminding them to be like the coconut- hard on the outside but soft on the inside. Foi brings the bride to the mandap- the stage where the ceremony will be performed.
The pithi/haldi is a mixture of turmeric, rose water, sandalwood and coconut oil. In the old days the bride is asked to sit on a “baajath” small stool and the women in the immediate family apply this on the bride or the groom with a beetle leaf. It is rubbed down on their skin that is exposed.
There is lot of playfulness that happens here if the groom is getting married his Bhabhis- sister in laws get silly and apply it under his pant leg or behind his ears to tease him. In many non-Gujarati traditions after the haldi has been applied, the bride or the groom is showered with clothes on with milk to help the glow.
The women that participate in this vidhi are normally the masis, fois, mamis, bens, bhabhis and friends (maternal aunts, sisters, sister in laws and sometimes friends). Traditionally, this has been a ritual for the women only as a lot of skin gets exposed. However, there is a new trend in India these days where the brothers also come and apply the pithi. In return of applying the pithi these women receive a token gift from the bride or the groom’s parents.
Traditions says to donate the clothes that get all yellow from the turmeric including your undergarments to the village barber (Vaanand). Normally it takes a long time to wash all of this off but it is believed that this certainly brings a great glowing skin for both the bride and the groom and it allows everyone to be playful and enjoy the beginning of the wedding festivities.