Traditional Indian weddings are known to be elaborate affairs with a number of rituals. Goan Hindu weddings, too, involve a variety of ceremonies, depending on the community the couple belongs to. Some may choose to avoid certain rituals, while others stick with tradition.
Ahead of the wedding, families usually have a vagdan or sakhar puda. This is an engagement ceremony where rings may be exchanged by the couple to confirm the marriage arrangement between both families. Traditionally, some sugar is given too, but more contemporary celebrations might include an array of sweets and a sari for the bride.
Ganesh puja is an important part of any occasion in Goan Hindu families. As the remover of obstacles, the God of beginnings and granter of protection and success, he is beloved across Goa and invoked before wedding ceremonies as well. The first wedding invitation is offered to him for blessings before the rest are sent out. Most invitations will include an image of Lord Ganesha and a Ganpati mantra as well.
Many families also offer a puja to their family deity or kuldevta as part of the wedding festivities. The main ceremonies at a Goan Hindu wedding are the haldi and reception. As part of these, there are many traditions followed, varying according to community or caste.
Ahead of the haldi ceremony is the chuddo or bangle ceremony, a tradition that has been absorbed by the Goan Christian community as well. Delicate green glass bangles are placed on the bride’s hands, interspersed with gold bangles.
Payals, earrings and other ornaments are also worn by the bride. Traditionally, the ceremony is led by the bride’s maternal uncle and she may receive gifts from relatives.
These bangles are said to represent married life and many women wear at least one or two bangles throughout their marriage.
The haldi ceremony combines auspiciousness, skincare and fun, all rolled into one. Attended only by family and close friends, it’s a time when the bride and groom can relax, spend quality time with their loved ones and let their hair down before the wedding. The special mixture of haldi, milk and sometimes sandalwood and other ingredients is considered sacred, keeping away the evil eye and ushering in a life of prosperity.
In addition, turmeric is a natural beauty treatment for glowing skin thanks to its exfoliating and cleansing properties. This tradition too has carried over to Goan Christian communities, where they celebrate the ros, with coconut milk instead of turmeric.
Contemporary Goan Hindu weddings often combine the haldi ceremony with the mehendi and sangeet celebrations. Intricate henna designs are drawn on the bride’s hands and those of other female relatives and friends; the deeper the colour, the more auspicious.
There’s singing, dancing and merrymaking, with delicious food all around.
The wedding day is designed around the muhurat or the auspicious time, the exact moment when the couple is married. A number of traditions are followed throughout the day. Important ones include a puja of Shiva and Parvati, as a couple the newlyweds should model themselves after. The groom ties a mangalsutra around his bride’s neck, a symbol of the union of their souls and a promise to stay together forever.
During the vivah-home or marriage rite, the couple performs the saptapadi or seven steps during which they make vows to each other, symbolised by the knot tying their garments together. The marriage is thus solemnised and the duo garland each other as unbroken rice grains representing their long future together are showered over them.
It is followed by the reception involving a lavish meal – celebrations in temple precincts are strictly vegetarian, while those at other venues include non-vegetarian food as well. It’s the couple’s first public appearance as husband and wife, and a time to receive gifts, accept wishes from friends and obtain blessings from older guests of both families.
After the celebrations, the couple enters their new home as the bride turns over a small pot of rice grains at the threshold. Some traditional Goan celebrations include a naming ceremony as well, where the bride may take on a new name given by her husband.
Celebrations come to a close on the final day, when the couple returns to the bride’s home with the groom’s family for a meal together.