As diverse as the landscape of India is, so are its pre-wedding rituals and customs. Customs and rituals in
India are as diverse as the country’s landscape. Weddings here are celebrated with not just the union of
the bride and groom but that of their families. In that way, Indian weddings are mini-festivals in their
own right with rituals that carry on for a few days.
Pre-wedding rituals, in essence, are focused on the coming together of the families of the bride and
groom in unity. The whole process starts with choosing a suitable groom or bride, a mantle that was
traditionally borne by the elders in the family. More recently, the traditional process of match-making
is being rejected in the more urban parts of the country, with individuals choosing their own spouses,
while it is still a dominant practice in most regions of the country.
Ceremonial pre-wedding cleansing baths for the bride and groom
Across India, the significance to ward off buri nazar or evil eye with a cleansing bath ritual is known as
Mangalasnanam in the South, Nahaan in Parsi and Pani Tula in the North-East.
In Parsi weddings, the bride and the groom both perform a ritualistic bathing ceremony aimed at
purifying their body and soul called Nahan. After this ceremony, the bride or the groom is prohibited to
touch anyone outside his or her family. They then get ready for the wedding ceremony. Mangalasnanam
is an auspicious bath that is performed on the day of the wedding. Both the bride and groom are bathed
with pure waters at their respective houses to deeply cleanse and purify not just their body but also
bring about positivity and wellness of the mind.
The essence of turmeric and gold in Indian weddings
The auspiciousness and purity of hand-ground Turmeric is celebrated across India, known as Haldi in
North India, Manjha for Muslims, Supra nu Murat for Parsis and Roce for Christians to ward off evil
spirits and purify the souls of the bride and groom.
Manjha is the Muslim equivalent of the Haldi ceremony. It takes place two days before the wedding.
After Manjha, the couple is not supposed to leave their respective homes until the wedding day. The
Parsi equivalent of a Haldi ceremony is called “Supra Nu Murat”. Five married women take part in
this ceremony as one of them sits in the middle surrounded by four others and she makes a paste of
turmeric and milk with a traditional mortar and pestle called Khalbatto. They exchange a special bundle
containing betel leaf, betel nut, turmeric, dates and a piece of coconut, known as supra, between them
seven times. The five women pound the turmeric paste together. This is then applied to the bride/groom. Similar to the Hindu Haldi ceremony, a haldaat takes place among North-Indian Christians where turmeric paste is applied to the bride and groom in the Roce Ceremony.
Even pre-wedding rituals such as the Ros ceremony held among Goan Christians is much the same compared to the Haldi ceremony carried out in certain Hindu communities, which is also considered to be a purifying ritual. Another dominant feature at Indian weddings, gold is an ancient symbol of good health, prosperity and femininity, it is traditionally believed that gold has the power to purify anything it touches. For ages, gold has been revered for its beautifying, illuminating and healing properties in Ayurveda, often referred to as the “Key to Youth”. The lotus-eyed Goddess Lakshmi — the harbinger of good fortune, wealth and purity – is believed to have pioneered the use of gold in skincare, using the precious metal for her radiance and beauty rituals.
As per the Puranas, Soundarya Lakshmi is believed to have transformed Rati, the daughter of The
Creator, Lord Brahma’s daughter, into the most beautiful woman in the three worlds using pure gold in
her rituals. It is also said that the Solah Shringar, or ‘The sixteen adornments of beauty’ used by a Hindu
bride, was first given to Rati by Soundarya Lakshmi.
The significance of flowers and henna in pre-wedding rituals
In Kashmir, the Phoolon ka Gehna is a ceremony where the bride is adorned with flowers instead of
jewels by close female friends and family. Approximately two days before the Kashmiri wedding,
flowers, jewellery and tinsel are sent to the bride from the groom’s family. These gifts are called
Phoolon ka Gehna. In North India, the bride decks herself with delicate floral jewellery to symbolize her
first “shringar”. Mehendi is also a part of the ‘solah shringar’ recommended by ancient texts to get the
bride ready for her new life. Not only is it considered to bring luck, joy and beauty, but its scent is also
said to have aphrodisiac properties. In most Hindu weddings, the bride’s hands and feet are decorated
using rich Mehendi with intricate designs, to draw out heat and cool the body.
With inputs from Mira Kulkarni, Founder of Forest Essentials.