Everything You Need to Know About the Wedding Baraat—And the Customs and Rituals Involved

Let's unanimously concur that the procession is the *best* part of the wedding, shall we?

If you're a regular at Hindu weddings, we shall assume that the grand, albeit noisy, procession falls right at the top on your list of 'Things to Love About the Quintessential Big-Fat-Indian-Wedding’. A bunch of boisterous lads dancing along the street, accompanied by an entourage of trumpet players? Why not?

While the traditional baraat—one of the many preceding celebrations in the multi-day desi affair—doesn’t hold religious significance, it is an important custom nonetheless. Let’s address the first query: What is all the band-baaja for? Now, a baraat involves four things: the groom atop a ceremonial horse (or a coupé convertible, an elephant, or a swanky, vintage car), a brass band, baraatis (exclusively from the groom’s side unless, of course, the bride’s troop sneaks into the procession), and ample song and dance.

The idea of a baraat originated when the groom’s family would travel relatively long distances to wed. They would stay at the bride-to-be’s hometown, and over the next week or so, wedding rituals would commence in full fervour. In today’s day, the baraat is much shorter—since the distance required to travel is brief—and may involve members of the bride’s family as well.

The rituals begin with the sehra bandi, which involves the act of tying the sehra (headdress) around the groom's head right before he leaves for the bride's house. You may often find the bride’s sisters feeding the ceremonial horse grains before the groom perches himself atop the animal—this is often done for good luck, and to ensure that the horse transports the groom to the bride’s doorstep safely.

The baraat is then welcomed by the bride’s family, in a ritual known as the milni (referred to as, in the Punjabi culture). The bride’s mum applies a tilak (ceremonial red dot) on the groom’s forehead and carries out an aarti. In some cases, the rest of the bride and groom’s families exchange garlands or malas as a symbol of merging into each other's families—and lives.

You’d be intrigued to know that while the baraat is a custom that spans across the country, different Indian communities have added their own cultural touch to the practice. Amongst Gujaratis, the welcoming of the groom’s family is known as Ponkvu or Ponkhana. The varghodo (essentially sitting atop a horse) involves a series of rituals, such as a bowl of coins wrapped in a cloth that the groom's sister swirls around his head to ward off evil spirits. Although, it is the nose-pulling ritual that is most fun! The bride’s mother attempts to pull the groom's nose in jest to remind him to be humble with her daughter. Before entering the wedding venue—and making way to the mandap—the groom must crush a couple of earthen pots to illustrate the power he holds to overcome the impediments that may come in his way.

As per Maharashtrian rituals, as the baraat arrives, a seeman puja takes place. In this ritual, the bride’s parents wash the groom’s feet and apply kumkum tilak and akshata on his forehead during the aarti. Next, the groom sits on a chaurang (stool), where his in-laws offer him blessings and gifts.

During Tamilian nuptials, the bride and groom must take a manglasnanam (an auspicious bath) on the morning of the wedding. This is followed by the Kashi Yatra, where the groom pretends that he is headed for Kashi, and the bride’s father must convince him to return to the mandap. During the Pada Puja, the bride’s mum washes the groom’s feet with kumkum, chandan, and water, after which the official wedding ceremony commences.

Let’s travel to the Northeast—in an Assamese ceremony, rice is showered upon the groom by the bride’s family and friends, from which the groom’s best man must shield him, perhaps, using an umbrella. Amongst Marwaris, only male family members are included in the baraat, each carrying a sword. Before entering the venue, the groom is asked to hit the toran with a neem stick to ward off the evil eye.

Lastly, during a Muslim nikah, the groom is greeted with flower garlands and rose petals. Before entering the wedding venue, the bride’s sisters welcome him via a ritual known as the Rasm-e-Dhood Pilai, where the groom is required to consume a glass of milk which symbolises richness and purity.

All in all, the wedding procession is hella fun—and you'd certainly enjoy being part of one. 

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