Having lived in Delhi all my life, I have been pretty used to the idea of attending loud and boisterous North Indian weddings. But when I had the pleasure of attending an Assamese wedding, a couple of years ago, it immediately won my heart for its sobriety and simplicity. My friends Anindita and Alok decided to tie the knot in their hometown of Guwahati in Assam during one spring and I decided to take that journey along with them to be a part of their wedding festivities. We arrived on a balmy day in Guwahati and were told by the groom about the Juroon ceremony, which formally begins the wedding ceremonies. Juroon is a pre-wedding function; it begins in the groom’s house where mango leaves are tied as torans on every door of the house, to ward off any bad luck. In the afternoon the groom's mother along with other relatives visits the bride's side and offers some gifts to the brides. The groom's party is greeted with ululations, believed to drive away evil spirits. The ceremony is highly symbolic where the future mother-in-law gifts the bride a brass plate with a betel leaf and nut. The bride is also gifted a mekhela chador, the traditional Assamese sari to be worn during the wedding along with the ornaments from the groom's side of the family. All the women of the house participate in this ceremony. Another important ritual to be performed during the ceremony is Tel Diya. As a witness to this special ceremony I found it extremely engaging when the mother of the groom poured some oil on a betel nut that was placed on the bride's head. After which the mother in law puts some sindoor on bride’s hair parting. Unlike north Indian weddings it's the mother-in-law not the groom who puts sindoor on the bride. The bride is also offered other gifts including fish and curd. The mother in law is also gifted clothes as a mark to show her respect. The party continues with a simple but delicious meal comprising fish and rice. In the evening the bride party now returns to the grooms side and some of the items gifted to bride are divided and shared with the groom, a process symbolizing that the two share everything from now on.
The next day is the day of Pani Tula ceremony. Here I accompany the womenfolf from the house to a nearby pond or a water body. The female members of both sides collect some water to be taken back and used to perform a ceremonial bath of the bride and the groom. The women sing wedding songs on the way. The traditional, I am told also commands carrying of coin and a knife, which is then given to the bride and groom, to be tied in a gamcha is to be kept safely till the wedding gets over.
In the morning we get up early to attend the Nuoni, where both the groom and bride are seated on a pedestal in their respective homes surrounded by banana stems. An urban of Haldi is applied and washed off with the sacred water to prepare the couple for the wedding.Usually, the Salima or reception from the groom's side is held a day or two after the wedding. According to Islamic principles, walima is supposed to be a bigger gathering where the groom side can invite all their guests.The idea is to limit the Barakat to a minimum people so as not to burden the bride's family. The Salima is a reception ceremony and is just a wedding feast thrown to all the friends and family. The bride and the groom meet and greet the guests as god food sets the tone for the evening.
I am told that back at the Beg household, a similar ceremony is being held for Adil, the groom. The boy's side of the family too smears an urban on the groom and there are some singing and dancing to mark the celebrations. The groom is often also tied a safe (turban) around the head to distinguish him from rest of the crowd. The day after is the Mehendi (henna) ceremony and everyone is already talking about what they will be wearing on Mehendi. In a traditional Muslim wedding, there is no concept of a cocktail party as the religion forbids them to consume any alcoholic beverage. The Mirza household is all decked up on day 3 of the ceremonies with fairy lights all over the house and in the front balcony. Today Shahana is wearing a green sharara and all the ladies of the house are getting henna patterns done. Shahana's henna is the most elaborate one. Traditionally this is also the day when the groom's side of the family sends over the dress and jewellery that the bride is supposed to wear on the day of the Salima or the wedding reception thrown by the groom's side of the family. Now everyone is waiting for the big day – the day of the nikah. The Mehendi and traditional wedding songs, often coupled with some religious naats (hymns) are sung by ladies till late into the night as everyone awaits the real celebrations.