The Essential Guide to Mughal Weddings: Engagement and Pre-Wedding
Mughal engagement ceremonies were often lavish and extravagant, mostly because the upper-class members of Mughal society were royalty. Since these marriages were often arranged for political gain – such as the expansion of an empire through a marriage – engagement ceremonies were a chance for each family to show off their wealth and status.
Continuing our Mughal Wedding series:
Mughal Engagement/Pre-Wedding Traditions - You are here!
Traditional Muslim pre-wedding ceremonies are similar to ancient Mughal customs since they originated from the Persian Empire. However, the practice of Hindu-Muslim marriages of Mughal prices to Rajput princesses (such as that of Jodhaa Akbar) involves some Rajput engagement customs as well.
Mughal marriage were usually arranged by elder family members, or in some cases, emperors and rulers themselves. Today’s Muslim equivalent of this arranged marriage process is called istikhara – where the religious or political head of a community takes rights from Allah to perform and approve the marriage ceremony.
The Mughal betrothal process called magni involves a display of affection and wealth from both the bride’s and groom’s sides of the family. The groom and his family pay a visit to the bride’s home with sweets and gifts – including silk clothing and gold jewelry. The brides family reciprocates with similar welcome and presents.
The pitha ceremony is also known as manjha in Muslim culture. Mughal brides would wear bright yellow and gold lehengas while they were covered in turmeric (haldi) powder by her female relatives. The haldi makes the bride’s skin glow naturally – reflecting her happiness for her wedding day. After this ceremony, the bride would not leave the house until her wedding ceremony arrived a few days later.
The pitha ceremony is the ancient equivalent of today's haldi tradition followed in both Hindu and Muslim wedding cultures.
Perhaps the most famous and most replicated Mughal pre-wedding custom is the mehendi ceremony – which has grown in popularity across all of India, and is now spreading to the West! Intricate floral, peacock, and mango print designs are delicately painted in henna paste on the hands and feet of the bride. It is ancient tradition to have the groom’s name hidden in the bride’s mehendi design as well – so that he will spend the whole night searching for it!
Despite the commonality of Hindu-Muslim marriages amongst royalty, Mughal customs were primarily practiced with adaptations from Hindi traditions. The process of magni was followed in both cultures, as well as the haldi ceremony.
Mughal engagements were truly a royal affair – drawing attention from across entire empires in the case of royal arrangements. The engagement ceremonies were conducted a few days before the actual marriage – so spirits ran high and colors shined bright for at least a week altogether!
After the engagement and pre-wedding traditions, the big day arrives with similar cultural Wedding Rituals - explained in our next series.
Photo courtesy of www.artnindia.com.