The Essential Guide to Maharashtrian Weddings: Wedding Traditions
Maharashtrian weddings involve a lot of tradition - and the wedding ceremony holds the most of them all. Each part of the ceremony has a religious aspect, which is meant to bond the bride and groom together both in this life and each after-life.
Be sure to check out the rest of our Maharastrian Wedding series below:
Maharashtrian Wedding Traditions - You are here!
One of the things you will notice that differ with Maharashtrian brides and groom are their headpieces. Both wear a mundavalya on their heads. These are strings of flowers and pearls that ornament the bride and groom's head during the entire wedding ceremony - and they are uniquely worn in Maharashtrian ceremonies, but other cultures have similar floral headpieces as well.
The rukhwat is not a ritual but rather a "decoration" for the wedding. As in most globals traditions, brides leave their family home, and move in with their new husband. They need to know how to cook, clean, decorate, and be artistic. As a way for families to show off their daughter's skills, they created the rukhwat.
The rukhwat is a table, with artwork the bride has made, along with gifts she will be bringing to the new home. Pots, pans (because she needs to be a stellar cook!), bridal trousseau (she needs to look beautiful!), and personal trinkets (to remember her own family), will be displayed.
Today, the rukhwat, is a bit more "modern." Below, you can see the rukhwat table at Preeti's wedding. The base is lined with all of her mother's crochet work and stitching. Gifted to the couple are handmade statues describing the wedding ceremony. Instead of showing off the bride's work, the family decided to share the whole wedding traditions in a miniature form, from all handmade artwork.
Check out our article on designing your own rukhwat at a wedding.
Poojas & Rituals:
This puja marks the entrance of the groom and his side of the family to the wedding venue. As he arrives, the bride's family welcomes him by washing his feet and providing his relatives with gifts.
Lord Ganesha is first prayed to on the morning of the wedding ceremony to bless the couple. He is an especially important deity to the Maharashtrians.
The puja includes the bride, the groom, the pundit, and usually both sets of parents.
The bride's family lays out a breakfast spread for the groom's side of the family, to be ready as he arrives. Generally, the bride's side is more involved in the early morning pujas and venue setting-up - so they are up much earlier in the morning to get everything ready!
As the groom's side of the family enjoys their lavish breakfast, the bride performs a gowrihar puja with her parents. The bride prays to the goddess Parvati, who represents love and devotion, for a happy marriage and new life. The puja is practiced by placing rice on the idol's head as a mantra is recited.
The antarpat is a silk shawl placed between the couple as they sit in the mandap and recite prayers. The bride and groom are not supposed to see each other until specific mantras are said, so the shawl keeps them from resisting temptation. After the mantras are recited, the shawl is removed.
The bride is escorted to the lagna mandap by her maternal uncle. This is the raised platform upon where the wedding prayers and official rituals will take place. The antarpat is raised so they cannot see each other. Sanskrit and Marathi verses called mangalshtakas are recited by the bride, groom, and overseen by the pundit.
Once the couple says the mantra which officially binds them as husband and wife, the antarpat is lifted, and guests throw rice upon the newly-wedded couple. The couple exchanges heavy floral garlands, also known as the jai malas, and are considered married.
The bride's brothers or other male members of the family are invited to the mandap to stand and draw a cotton thread around the couple. They form four corners and pass the thread around the couple. After, the priest, takes the thread and ties it with a turmeric tuber (a small piece of the root) and ties around the bride and the groom. This wards off any evil spirits.
This tradition is common for coastal Maharashtrians and some in the Brahmin community.
The bride's father gives his daughter's hand to her new husband, who then ties a mangalsutra (gold necklace worn by married women) around her neck and applies a vermillion tikka (sindoor) to the part in her hair. The bride then applies a sandalwood tikka to her husband's forehead.
The bride, bride's brother (or close male relative), and the groom light the wedding agni, or fire, together. This ritual symbolizes the support that a bride has from her brother as she enters into married life.
Pheras & Satapadhi
The couple takes the traditional Hindu seven rounds around the ceremonial fire, which symbolizes their partnership in the next seven lives, known as the pheras. The wedding party recites the holy vows of matrimony as the couple walks around the fire.
The bride also touches seven beetle nuts by her right foot for additional holy blessings, the satapadhi. Beetle nuts are placed on top of this small pile of rice. On the last, or eight step, he bride puts her right foot on a grindstone with the groom holding her hand (or her foot), symbolizing that she needs to be strong like a stone and that he will always support her.
The bride's athya (father's sister) unties the cloth knot between husband and wife (that was used to connect them in the pheras). As a fun custom, she makes the bride and groom say a silly poem or pay her off with a bribe before she does so.
To end the ceremony, the bride's father prays for his daughter's blessings and officially gives her away to her new family. A fun Maharashtrian custom follows: the bride's brother (or male relative) pulls the ear of the groom and warns him that he'd better treat his sister well! Often, the groom has to bribe his bride's brother with money or presents to let his ear go.
After the ceremony, the priest is released of his duties. His payment, or donation, is called the dakshina.
Some superstitions are followed during the auspicious wedding ceremony to ensure that the bride and groom are married without any bad luck.
The bride wears a black dot on the back of her ear, called a drushti, to ward off evil spirits. The bride and groom also carry a sharp object with them at all times during the ceremony - it can be a small nail cutter or pair of scissors to stay safe from any harm.
These pujas, rituals, and traditions all take place in the daylight - the entire ceremony is finished by dinnertime.
A Maharashtrian ceremony sure can be long and exhausting, but the family involvement and intimate affairs make it a very emotional affair. The post-wedding traditions involve the bittersweet goodbyes from the bride and a puja to initiate her new life.