Memoirs from a Muslim Wedding

Just as the Islamic month of Ramadan was over, the flurry of activities at Mirza household heightened. Last summer, I had the pleasure of attending my friend Shahana Mirza's wedding in her hometown of Old Delhi, an extremely congested but bustling part of Delhi that still retains some nostalgic charm reminiscent of the times of nawabs and the Mughals.

The celebrations spread over a fortnight comprised of various ceremonies and rituals. I arrived at the Mirza haveli on a Friday, a sacred day chosen by the elders to commence the formal festivities for the upcoming wedding.

While Shahana and Adil met during college years and introduced each other to their respective families, it was now time for elders to formalize and give their consent to the bond. The first function was supposed to be the engagement ceremony held on a Friday evening. The men of the house performed the special jumah namaz (Friday prayers) in the afternoon and sought the blessings for the impending wedding. The womenfolk held a joint congregation in the house, performed the namaz, followed by a short prayer for couple's well being and lasting bond. The rest of the afternoon was spent as men supervised the khansamas cooking a feast comprising mutton korma and biryani. As the air became redolent with the aroma of the rich feast, the gusts began arriving dressed in fineries. Traditionally a Muslim engagement is a small, cultural celebration where just a few close friends and family members participate. The idea is that both the bride and groom's families formally promise the match to each other.

The groom's side arrived with the groom and just the immediate family members and a couple of closest friends. The ceremony started with Shahana's paternal uncle the eldest member of the family welcoming the groom's family with warm handshakes. Over sweet milky tea and balushahi, the ceremony started. Adi's mom Mrs Beg made Shahana wear her heirloom kangan as a token to solemnize her as soon-to-be Beg daughter-in-law. Shahana looked resplendent in a green salwar kameez while Adil wore a crisp white kurta pyjama. Now the soon to be bride and groom exchanged rings as the families cheered Mubarak ho to each other. The Beg family also carried dry fruits and dates for the bride's family. Now Shahana's mom Mrs Mirza showered blessings on Adil and made him have a mithai. The families exchanged mithais and the Mirza family handed over the wedding card to the Beg family extending their warm welcome for the wedding ceremony that was ten days away. The Mirza family also gifted Adil, a silver coin which I was told had been their family tradition and was not really a religious obligation of the ceremony. The two families also discussed the amount of Mehr (Dower), a certain amount that is to be given to the bride from husband's side as a security sum before the nikah is solemnized. While there is no specified sum in Islam that is mentioned for mehr, usually the families decide the amount depending upon their financial status. The sum being agreed, the party moved to the dining area where the feast continued till midnight. The families promised to see each other soon for some of the other ceremonies

(To be continued)

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