Curious Indian wedding traditions and why we follow them

Over the past few years, Indian weddings have attracted global attention. This is mainly because of their multi-day celebrations, whopping budgets, enviable destinations and never-ending guest lists. Each community in India has its own varied traditions. But what binds them is an underlying sense of sanctity mixed with a healthy dose of hilarity. From the groom threatening to run away in Tamil weddings to being welcomed ‘Tomatina’ style by the Sarsaul tribe, there are enough Indian wedding traditions that will leave you laughing!   

Indian Wedding Traditions
Indian Wedding Traditions

Let’s look at a few of them, their origin, and modern avatars.

Kashi Yatra:

In the Tamil tradition, just before taking wedding vows, the groom pretends to have a change of heart. Instead of marrying the bride, he would rather go to Kasi and pursue sanyas (the ascetic path). Distressed father of the bride then has to persuade him to come back to the mandap and marry his daughter. This tradition is symbolic of a bygone era where the groom had a chance to decide between family and ascetic paths. Now, the focus has shifted to props needed for this ritual – umbrella, hand fan, Bhagwad Gita, and a pot of water – and the fun the guests have trying to lure the groom back!

Kanya Daan:

The Indian wedding tradition of Kanya Daan or ‘giving away the bride’ is fairly common across cultures but takes various forms depending on the community. Bengalis carry the bride while Telegus bring her in a basket, but the inevitable act follows. And while this tradition is one of the most emotional moments in a wedding, for a self-respecting bride, the primary focus is to shed extra pounds before the ceremony, and not be remembered for the wrong reasons!

Marrying a tree or an animal::

The idea here is to exorcise ghosts or break the curse. When a bride’s astrological chart does not bode well for her husband, she’s married to a tree which is destroyed immediately after the actual wedding. This ensures that her actual husband is technically her second and thus saved from the bad omen. In some cases, it is a human-animal wedding that sometimes precedes an actual one. One can marry any animal, but dogs seem to be a popular choice. Thankfully, nobody expects this mock-wedding to be consummated and a regular one can follow

Welcoming the groom:

While the Marwaris beat their groom with a neem stick, Gujaratis wash his feet with milk & honey. Assamese relatives greet the groom with quiz and riddles, and Punjabis steal his shoes and return them only if handsomely compensated! In the tribal town of Sarsaul, instead of rose water and flowers, the groom is welcomed with tomatoes and abuses. After all, it can only get better from there!

The-day-before rituals:

Wedding rituals one day prior to the wedding also take comic forms. In this Indian wedding tradition, Sindhis prepare their groom by pouring oil on his head and breaking a pot. Sombre right? Married relatives then tear off the groom’s clothes! Batna or Haldi is a common ceremony where the couple is scrubbed with turmeric and curd. It is said to make them look their best with glowing skin and golden tone.

Other Bizarre Traditions :

Indian wedding traditions may be bizarre, but one need not look far to realise that ours are not the only bizarre ones. In Mauritania, the bride is force fed 16000 calories/day so she can achieve shapely curves and stretch marks for her big day. In Fiji, the best way to ask for permission to marry someone is to gift the bride’s family the tooth of a sperm whale!

These obscure, comic or simply illogical Indian wedding traditions may evoke a range of reactions among participants. But are not easily forgotten and are often the very elements that make a wedding memorable.

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