Exploring the Enchanting World of Punjabi Weddings

by Saloni Poddar

STOP whatever you are doing and for a moment just imagine a kaleidoscope of colors and loud boisterous laughter among thumps of ‘dhol’ and the gorgeous aroma of food wafting through the doors… you got it right! It’s a Punjabi wedding scene!!!

The Sikh culture revolves around the belief that the sure-shot way to a full and peaceful life is through giving and receiving love because bonds like marriages are seen as a key to getting closer to the divine. As it is always asserted, Sikhism’s central principle is equality and a wedding reflects just that: equal union and purpose for both man and woman. A fiesta of celebration through songs, dance, prayer, togetherness, the opulent Sikh culture, and rich Punjabi traditions make the entire wedding process enchanting…like a fairytale.

Having talked about the spiritual and religious bit of Punjabi weddings, now let us dive headlong into the fun part of the celebrations; it starts with the ‘Roka’ and ‘Thaka’ ceremonies where the consent of parents and elders of the family is sought.

While all the pre-wedding rituals are taking place, there is a parallel search going on! ‘The ‘Auntyjis’ flaunting their ‘Canada returned’ son or daughter! Looking for a suitable match, exaggerating about their achievements, bragging about their ‘Kothis’, and so on!! In the midst of this hullabaloo, what comes to rescue is always “Punjabi Music”! The thumping beats of dhol and peppy lyrics have become souls of a wedding, be it a Punjabi one or one from any other culture or country. So much so that no “shaadi” can be complete without a “kaala chashma” from the Bollywood movie ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ or a “Saturday Saturday” from ‘Humpty Sharma ki Dulhaniya’, Punjabi music has taken all our weddings by storm. Even across the border, Pakistani ‘nikkahs’ are incomplete without grooving to Punjabi songs.  

Anyways, back at the wedding, the ‘Maiya’ and ‘Vatnaa’ takes place where the respective relatives of the bride and groom apply a mixture of turmeric, and mustard oil on their body to make their skin clean and glowing. Like others, these festivities take place amongst songs sung by women and dancing by relatives. Again, it will not be an exaggeration to say that this tradition is being portrayed even in South Indian weddings! Even in Netflix series ‘Bridgerton’, the second season partakes a Haldi ceremony…Punjabi wedding traditions in British television series!!

Next is the ‘Warna’ ceremony when relatives wave money around the couple’s heads. This money is usually donated to charity or distributed among house help. What is fun to watch is the fact that Punjabis always have a never-ending supply of 10-Ruppee notes for ‘Nazar Utarana’. This goes on and on till the bride reaches her ‘Sasural’. The weddings progress with ‘Mehendi’ and ‘Kalire’ ceremonies. Talking about ‘mehendi’, any wedding, of any cultural background, cannot take place without this fuction and ‘kalire’ have become the Bollywood bride’s quintessential ornament!

As the groom gets dressed in splendid attire just like the bride and guests, the gravity of the celebration comes forth. It’s larger than life! The riot of colors; pinks, reds, yellows, purple, the bling of gold, not to forget the contagious spirit!! Thus, begins the never-ending journey, ‘Baraat’. Here all the dancers come alive. Cousins go berserk, uncles do ‘Nagin’ dance, aunties give ‘thumkas’, but the groom? The poor guy just sits on the ‘ghodi and smiles while giving ‘galis’ in his heart. Does nobody realize the hurry he is in!! Once the baraat reaches the wedding venue, the bride’s family welcomes the groom’s family with gifts and warm hugs. Wait! Do you think a Punjabi wedding can progress so far without lavish food and drinks? Not at all!

Food, spreads of it, is a central part of Punjabi life. All this while, as the celebrations are taking place, there are tables loaded with ‘chole bhature’, ‘tandoori chicken’, ‘naans’, ‘kulchas’, ‘gulab jamuns’, ‘phirnis’… phew… the list is endless. But there’s still a missing link. You know what I’m talking about! Right?  Yes, ‘car-o-bar’ time! At all weddings, there are men who keep coming and going out of the events with big smiles plastered on their faces. A vital requisite of a Punjabi wedding is ‘daaru’ without which festivities are incomplete.

Getting back on track again, ‘Anand Karaj’ takes place next. After bowing down before the Guru Granth Sahib, the bride and groom start the Laavas (wedding vows) while circling around the Holy Book. Back to food as the ceremony concludes! The guests are served a vegetarian lunch at the Gurudwara. In the evening, a reception is planned by the Groom’s family to welcome the newly-wed couple. Finally, it’s ‘Vidai’ time and the bride says her final goodbyes as her parents and relatives bless her and set her off on a new journey!

All in all, just like their energy and zest for life, Punjabi weddings are king-size! They do not believe in mediocrity. Everything, from clothes to jewelry, from food to music, has to be exquisite and glorified. That is a Punjabi wedding. Beautiful. Fun. Pious. Over-the-top. And an integral part of Bollywood. It seems like Punjabi weddings have captured the Indian movies completely for no wedding in a Hindi movie can happen without a Punjabi silhouette; music, food, attire, traditions…there’s a bit of Punjab everywhere!!

To wrap up, it can be easily seen that these days Punjabi wedding traditions can be witnessed not just in Indian cultures and religions but globally. They have become infused in everybody…undivided by caste or creed.

Saloni Poddar

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