Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Passage to India ii

Gujarati people are known for their rich culture and traditions - and they bring all of this to their marriages. Pre-wedding ceremonies are an integral part of a Gujarati union, and we're going to look at some of those rituals today - through the lens of UK-based photographer Dinendra Haria.

A day or two before her wedding, intricate motifs are painted in Henna onto the bride's hands and legs, while music and folklore keep the guests present in her parent's home entertained. This is known as Mehndi.

The Mandap Mahurat takes place from a couple of days before to the day of the actual wedding nowadays. If the Mandap is to take place the day of the wedding, then it is an early start indeed. As early at 7 a.m. in most cases.

The ceremony is conducted separately for the bride and groom. At the wedding venue for the bride, and at his home (or somewhere close to the venue) for the groom.

A priest, known as a Maraj, presides over the ceremony.

Since the ceremonies takes place simultaneously, bride and groom have separate priests and photographers. I say this by way of explaining that the bride and groom featured in this blogpost are not connected. Dinendra could not be in two places at once, but has been gracious enough to share two sets of photos with us.

During the course of the Mandap, a puja is performed by the Maraj to seek the blessings of Lord Ganesh (who is believed to remove all obstacles) - to bring good luck and prosperity, and to ensure that no negative energy is present at the upcoming wedding ceremony.

A bindi is applied to the forehead of both Lord Ganesh and the bride and groom, and bathing of Lord Ganesh (in plain water and in milk) is conducted under the direction of the Maraj.

When the bathing ritual is complete, and Lord Ganesh has been adorned with garlands, blessings are asked of him by the bride and groom.

The coconut plays an important part in the wedding ceremony - but we will learn about that in due course.

The Griha Shanti Puja is performed by the bride as well as the groom's family, at an auspicious time after the horoscopes of the prospective bride and groom have been matched. All family members attend this auspicious ritual. In fact it should be noted that, all told, between 50 and 100 people are present at a Mandap.

In addition, if the bride or groom happens to be the firstborn, a Mamero ceremony is also conducted. This is where the respective maternal uncles and aunts bring gifts for the family member getting married, their parents, and their siblings.

I invite you to join us again in a month to see the changes that the bride undergoes between Mandap and the wedding ceremony proper. Among other things the make up is altered and the color of the sari changes from green to white.

These changes take time - and are mostly the reason why the bride's Mandap takes place at the wedding venue itself, whereas the groom's takes place either at his home or somewhere close by.

Again, many thanks for Dinendra Haria for sharing his wonderful photos with us.

Dinendra can be reached through his website, or on Facebook.

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