02/07/2015 6:21 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

From Kashmir To Kanyakumari: The Glory Of Indian Weddings In Pictures

Arjun Karta

Across India, through its mind-boggling diversity of cultures and languages, one thing remains more or less similar--the centrality of weddings as the biggest social occasions. While the customs and rituals vary, there are some threads that run through them all--Mehndi, red sindoor and saat pheras, for instance, in Hindu weddings. Ultimately, all those beautiful rituals and customs and the happy faces of the bride and the groom make for a great visual spectacle.

So we asked several real Indian couples to share photos and experiences of the most important day of their lives. The weddings were very different from each other, but some ceremonies are common to many. The haldi ceremony, a beautification ritual where both the bride and groom are slathered in turmeric, is common in many parts. The bidai that involves a family bidding their daughter farewell as she leaves to live with her new family after the marriage is also a feature in many communities.

The Bengalis and Assamese engage in ululation at the main ceremony to mark the end of the official ceremony. “A traditional Bengali wedding used to be arranged by ghotoks or matchmakers (professional or friends and relatives) who were presented gifts if a match was realised,” says Delhi-based Joyeeta Bhattacharya. The entire affair then begins with pati-patro to fix an auspicious time and date of the wedding. “An important ritual during the actual ceremony is the saat pak where the bride circles the groom seven times, while covering her face with betel leaves,” she adds.

Another common rite across several communities is the bridegroom making a show of anger and pretends to run away just before the wedding. "The to-be groom pretends to leave the house or run away from his future marital responsibilities,” says Saroj Malpani who married her son off in true Marwari fashion a couple of years ago. “The uncle of the bride then has to persuade him to come back.” In Kannadiga and Tamil traditions, this rite is referred to as Kashi Yatra (literally translated: a journey to Kashi, a place of pilgrimage), whereas the Marwari sect refers to this practice as Janev. “Marwari weddings traditionally start with a Ganesh pooja, followed with Mahira Dastoor, a custom where the maternal uncles of the bride and grooms distribute gifts in the house,” says Delhi-based Anuj Maheshwari.

South Indian weddings are generally less elaborate than their North Indian counterparts (although this varies depends on castes and communities), but have their own host of rituals: During Telugu weddings, for instance, the bride and groom dunk a gooey mixture of jaggery, ghee and cumin seeds on each others heads,” says Paridhi Gupta. “This ceremony known as Jilakarra Bellamu officially marks their union as husband and wife.” Talk about setting expectations low.

Dinaz Rustomji, who married her daughter off recently, reveals the reason behind serving fish at a traditional Parsi wedding feast: “It is a symbol of good luck, just like fire is an important symbol in our faith,” she says.

Here are pictures and snippets of various customs from different regions, religions and communities of India. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but we would love to see more in the comments.

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