Punjabi Wedding Traditions and Customs
The Punjabi’s, known for their zest for life, vivaciousness and of course, the bhangra, know how to pull all stops when it comes to celebrating. And what better occasion to celebrate than a wedding in the family?
Punjabi wedding traditions and ceremonies are traditionally conducted in Punjabi and are a strong reflection of Punjabi culture. While the actual religious marriage ceremony, among Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Jains may be conducted in Sanskrit, Punjabi, Arabic, by the Pundit, Qazi, Granthi, or Priest, there are commonalities in ritual, song, dance, food, and dress. The Punjabi wedding has many rituals and ceremonies that have evolved since traditional times, including many famous Punjabi dances.
Important wedding songs
Songs of the bridegroom’s side
- Mangane di geet: sung at the time of engagement
- Maneve de gaon: songs sung to welcome the bridegroom
- Gharouli de geet: sung for the gharoult or dowry
- Chounki charanvele de geet: songs sung when the bridegroom sits on the chounki wooden bathing seat
- Sohhle: songs of happiness and joy
- Ghoriyaan: sung at the time of riding to the bride s house
- Sehra: sung at the time of tying the bridegrooms flower-veil
- Kangana: sung when the bride and bridegroom enter the house together for the first time.
Songs of the bride’s side
- Suhag: sung by the bride in praise of her parents and the happy days of her childhood and in anticipation of happy days ahead.
- Jaggo: procession song to call the neighbors to the wedding.
- Churra charan vele da geet: sung when the chura, ceremonial bangles are worn by the bride.
- Janj: sung when the janj, marriage procession, is to be greeted.
- Milni: sung at the ritual introduction of the two sides.
- Ghenne de geet: sung when the bride is adorned with jewels.
- Siftan: a song in praise of the bridegroom
- Chhandh: evolved from poetry, songs of joy.
Sitthniyan (crude, teasing songs)
- A song is sung when the bridegroom s procession is being welcomed.
- A song is sung when the wari, or gifts from the bridegroom’s side, are being exhibited.
- A song is sung when the groom s party sits down to the meal.
- A song is sung when the daaj, dowry or the bridal gifts, are being displayed.
- LavanPhere : sung at the time of the actual wedding ritual.
- Mahinya : sung when the girl is preparing for the wedding and is bathed by the women at home. It goes for both men and women.
- Vedi de geet: sung while erecting the marriage pandal.
- Khatt: sung at the time the maternal grandparents present gifts to the bride on an overturned tokra, or basket.
- Pani vaarna :welcoming the bride to her new home.
- Bidaigi:sung when the bride is being sent off in the doli.
- Ghughrian : sung when the doli arrives at the groom s house.
- Shahana: sung by mirasis in praise of the bridegroom.
- Til Methre : sung while welcoming the bride and orienting her to the family.
- Pattal : song sung before the meal.
In this ceremony, the boy and the girl commit to entering wedlock, and won’t consider any more matrimonial proposals. Ardaas is done, followed by the exchange of gifts.
The Engagement. Usually very high profile. This is when the boys’ side of the family goes to the girls’ side with gifts, jewelry, and other goods, to confirm the engagement.
The main engagement. See Anand Karaj for more details on what events happen on this occasion.
When the boys’ side goes to the brides home, a day or two before the wedding, and take a red chunni and place it on her head, and also apply makeup, indoor, jewelry, mendhi, red nail polish, bindi, and other accessories to symbolize her new life with her in-laws.
Can be one day or many days, a usually high profile in a banquet hall, ladies sing traditional Indian songs, and it is the Indian version of the western Bridal shower.
A night of mehndi, in the atmosphere of a party. The bride and other ladies get mehndi done, on their hands and feet. For the bride, the mehndi is sent by the future Mother in Law.
Rituals Observed on Wedding Day and Mayian:
Kund Paat Puja
This ceremony is optional but is strongly suggested for a strong married life. It is a three-day prayer before all the other functions are to start. Here the Guru Granth Ji Sahib is present and reads non-stop, and divas and incense are also lit. Guest can come whenever they wish, in the first two days of the prayer, but should be present on the last day of the prayer in the morning hours. It is done in the morning hours because Sikhs believe that the morning is the most peaceful time of the day. At this prayer, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided depending on when you are present at the prayer.
This ceremony is performed by the maternal uncle and aunt (mama – mami) of the bride. The chuda which is a set of red and cream ivory bangles are touched by all present to signify their blessings and good wishes for the bride. The girl’s maternal uncle and aunt, friends, and cousins tie kaliras (silver, gold or gold plated traditional ornaments that are tied to the chuda). Before departing for her husband’s home, the bride must tap one of her unwed female friends or cousins with her kaliras. According to popular belief, the one who is tapped thus will be the next one to marry.
This ritual demands that the bride-to-be stays at home in her old clothes for a couple of days before her wedding. Before her bath, vatna (a paste of powdered turmeric and mustard oil) is applied to her body by female relatives and friends. Both, the ghara ghardoli and the vatna ceremonies are also performed for the groom at his house. Here the decorated pitcher of water (ghadoli) is brought for his bath by his bhabi (elder brother’s wife).
The Jaggo ceremony is where the family dances and sings on the road in front and around the beautifully decorated wedding home. Jaggo is in the last hours of the night. They decorate copper vessels called “gaffers” with divas (clay lamps) and fill them with mustard oil and light them. The bride/bridegrooms maternal aunt (mammi) carries it on her head, and another lady will have a long stick with bells, and she will be shaking it. The ladies will then go into other friends’ and families’ homes and be welcomed with sweets and drinks, they will then dance there and move on. It is a loud ceremony, filled with joy, dancing, fireworks, and food. And if the family wishes the ladies’ sangeet (ladies night of singing) and mehndi will follow the mayian and dinner.
A young nephew or cousin also dons similar attire. He is called the sarbala (caretaker of the groom) and accompanies him.
Sehrabandi: his relatives bless his sehra or turban.
The groom’s bhabi lines his eyes with Surma (kohl). After this, the groom’s sisters and cousins feed and decorate his mare. varna, a ceremony that is supposed to ward off the evil eye. The cash is given away to the poor.
(means “Introductions”) The Ardas is performed by the priest (Giani) followed by the formal introductions of the main male players in the families. The example both eldest Chachas (father’s younger brother) will come together and exchange garlands of flowers and money. After or during the wedding, ladies will do the same thing, but a much smaller affair.
After Milni, the bride and groom come to the middle of the circle where the family is standing, and place a heavily made garland made of flowers on each other to state, that they accept each other and will love and live together with one other.
The bride’s father puts a ring on the boy’s finger and then he gives his daughter to the boy.
Depending on a Hindu Punjabi Wedding or Sikh Wedding, the Bride and Groom will walk in tow around the Guru Granth Sahib four times at the set intervals, if Sikh and if Hindu around the Agni, (sacred fire seven times).
This is when the girl’s young relatives grab the groom’s untended shoes and hide them away to be returned after the ceremony for a fee which is Kalecharis of gold for the bride’s sisters and silver for her cousins. This joyful custom is called juta chhupai.
Vidaai marks the departure of the bride from her parental house. As a custom, the bride throws phulian or puffed rice over her head. The ritual conveys her good wishes for her parents. Her brothers accompany the bride. Her relatives throw coins in the wake of this procession.
Rituals Observed at the Groom’s House:
The groom’s mother performs the traditional aarti with a pitcher of water. She makes seven attempts to drink the water from the pitcher. The groom must allow her to succeed only at the seventh attempt. The bride must, with her right foot, kick the mustard oil that is put on the sides of the entrance door before she enters the house.
The newlyweds visit the bride’s parents on the day after the wedding. The bride’s brother usually fetches them.
Everyone participating is fair game for leg pulling including the mother-in-law, priests, the boy, and all relatives. An overdose of food, liquor (where acceptable), dhol music, and mirth generally pervades.
Suggested Read: Wedding Tradition in India