Customs & Rituals
A Sindhi Hindu Wedding is not simply an exchange of vows and rings. It includes a number of religious rites before and during the nuptials, which are performed in the presence of family deities. These represent the importance of the bond between a husband and wife. A Hindu marriage or "Vivaha" is incomplete without the blessings of a spiritual or divine element.
Nav Graha Puja
Misri (Ring Ceremony)
All prayers in Hindu ceremonies start by invoking the blessings of Lord Ganesha (Lord Ganesha unlike all the other Hindu deities has an elephant head as a result of the unfortunate conditions explaining Lord Ganesh's elephant head - his own father axed off his son's head and then replaced it with that of the first animal he saw - the Hindu devout shows his lack of preference between the Lords by making his preliminary prayers to Lords, Ganesha). Seven married ladies (portraying 7 forms of God for each day of the week) use red powder to make a Ganesh sign (clockwise swastika) on a pot of misri (crystalline sugar) asking him to bless the couple and ensure that the ceremony goes well.
The ladies also sew designs on a white piece of cloth to ward of any 'Nazar' (evil eyes cast) that may come upon the happy occasion. This cloth is worn by the couple on the wedding day. (Some couples leave the preparation of the white cloth until the Ghari puja.)
A puja is done by the couple and their parents welcoming God in different forms and asking for his blessings. They pray to Lord Ganesha, Varun Devta, Laxmi & Narayan, the Gods governing the 9 planets, and Om (i.e. Triumverate of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).
Garlands are exchanged by the couple in order to welcome each other into their lives. This part of the ceremony is known as the Varmala.
As gold lasts forever, rings made of gold are exchanged by the couple in order to represent a long married life. It is believed that the fourth finger of the hand has a vein leading directly to the heart. Hence the groom wears the ring on the fourth finger of his right hand and the bride wears hers on the fourth finger of her left hand in order to form a complete heart.
The groom's family places a basket of fruits, clothes, cosmetics or ornaments on the girl's lap (in her jholi) to represent their acceptance into her family and bestowing her with happiness and prosperity.
The groom's family gives a verbal promise of marriage and feeds misri (crystalline sugar) to the girl's family to confirm the engagement. The eating of sweet is considered auspicious by the Hindus and thus is eaten on all happy occasions.
Mehndi (Henna - Painting of Hands & Feet)
This festive occasion, originally of Muslim origin, is usually held in the late afternoon. This is primarily a ladies tea party, however allowing the male relatives to be present. On the "mehndi", the future bride has her hands and feet intricately patterned with a paste, which is a recipe of henna, oil, lemon juice and some water tinted with tea. The application of mehndi or henna takes about four hours to complete. Ideally, the bride-to-be should not wash her hands until the paste has completely dried. Invitees at the party also design each other's hands with mehndi. Mehndi signifies the strength of love in a marriage. The darker the mehndi, the stronger the love.
Sangeet Party (Musical Party)
Music is the soul of any wedding ceremony, regardless of faith or origin. Without music & festivity, the wedding lacks sparkle. On the Sangeet night, entertainment is provided with the help of professional singers who sing 'ladas' and popular hindi songs. Family and friends eat, drink and dance the night away.
The sisters and female relatives of the groom visit the bride-to-be in her home. They bring with them perfume, cosmetics and flowers that are strung together in the form of earrings, bangles, hairpieces and garlands. The sisters adorn their sister-in-law to be with the flowers, suggesting their affection for her. The purpose of this ceremony is to increase familiarity between the bride and her new family, creating an atmosphere that is fragrant and beautiful.
Nav-Graha Puja (Worship to the Nine Planets)
This is the prayer to the nine planets of our Solar System. Ancient Indian studies indicate that various celestial bodies have tremendous influence on the destiny of every individual, and among them the effect of the nine planets is "supposed" to be the most profound. During this puja, the Gods associated with these planets are asked to bless the couple and their families.
This is the final and most important religious custom that is performed on the eve of the wedding day. "Ghari Puja" is carried out in the respective homes of the couple. The priest performs the prayers with rice, coconut, wheat grains, oil, betel nuts, turmeric and a number of other spices. Married ladies grind wheat on a small old-fashioned grinder symbolising that the home will always be prosperous. The groom offers a handful of grains to the priest indicating that although he is changing his lifestyle, he will always give to charity and look after those less fortunate than himself.
The mothers of both the bride and groom dress up in their bridal finery. Carrying an earthen pot of water on their heads, they walk to the threshold of their homes. The sons-in-law of the respective families cut the water with a knife to ward off any evil spirits. The parents are adorned with garlands of flowers and money by their friends and relatives. The bride and groom wear old clothes that are torn off by their friends and family members amidst merriment, illustrating the end of their old life.
After the bride dresses up in her wedding ensemble, her sisters or female relatives escort the groom to the bride's house. At the entrance, the groom places his right foot on the top of the bride's foot, signifying that he should be the dominating strength in their life together. After the groom enters the house, the bride's parents rinse his feet with milk and water. It is believed that due to all the prayers that have preceded this moment, the groom is an embodiment of Lord Vishnu on this wedding day.
Hathialo (Joining of the Hands)
In this ceremony, the corner of the bride's sari is tied to a scarf, which is worn by the groom. The right hands of the couple are tied with a thread that has been blessed with religious incantations. The typing of the hands signifies an eternal bond that will join them forever. The couple then prays to the Gods to give them strength and bless their union.
The Wedding Ceremony
The wedding ceremony is performed by the priest in the presence of family and friends. The bride and groom are seated in front of a holy fire and the priest recites various religious sayings from the Holy scriptures. According to the Hindu religion, fire is considered the sustainer of life. It is believed that the Gods and Goddesses sit around this auspicious fire. The priest directs various family members to give offerings into the holy fire. The couple walks around the fire four times exchanging vows of duty and love, fidelity, respect and a fruitful union. the groom then places the brides hand on his forehead, to denote that he accepts her as his wife for better of for worse, in health or in sickness and that it his destiny to marry her. The couples heads are held together implying that although they are separate individuals, from this day onwards, they are one in body, mind and spirit.
Kanya Daan (Entrusting of the Daughter)
The bride's parents entrust their daughter in the safe keeping of the groom and his family.
Datar (Salt Ceremony)
After friends and family have greeted the couple, they leave for the groom's house. At the entrance of their new home, the bride's feet are rinsed by the groom's parents. A cover is placed over her head as she sprinkles milk in all corners of the house. This signifies that she will maintain the respect of the family and that if there are any misunderstandings within the family, she is supposed to help solve or "cool" them. Surrounded by her new family, the bride picks up a handful of salt and places it in the hands of her husband. He passes it back into her hands without spilling any salt. This is done three times. Similarly, the "datar" is carried out with all members of the groom's family. Exchanging salt symbolises that just as salt blends in and gives taste to food, so must the bride blend in and become a part of her new family.
This article on Sindhi Marriage Rituals was researched by Sonney Lalwani। We also thank Chander Navani for his help.