South Asian Weddings: Glossary Of Terms
Mandap, Shaadi, Vivaah and more...
Asian Indian weddings, no matter how small or large, are always a very colorful affair. They include multiple days of numerous rituals, and fabulous traditional food to be consumed at regular intervals. Every state in India adds its own share of traditions and customs, to the big (and ever-changing) "Asian Indian wedding pot." There is however, some similarity across most of the Indian wedding styles. To help you make sense of the most common rituals and ceremonies, here is a glossary of terms.
Aarti: The welcoming of the groom and his family with a ceremony, involving the use of fire, red turmeric and beetle leaf.
Baaraat: The groom’s procession. The groom usually comes on a white female horse, accompanied by family, relatives and friends.
Bindi: Derived from the Sanskrit word ‘bindu’. It is a mark (usually a round, red one) worn on the centre of the forehead, symbolizing a married woman. Since the most important chakra is considered to be the one between the eyebrows, the bindi is thought to prevent the loss of energy there.
Ganesha puja: Also known as the Elephant god. The son of Shiva (another God, one amongst India’s hundred or so gods), Ganesha is known as the remover of obstacles. Most auspicious Indian ceremonies (especially weddings across India and Indian populated states such as New Jersey) begin with the worship of Ganesha, so that he can help remove any obstacles that may stand in the path of this union.
Jai mala: The exchange of ‘fresh flower’ garlands by the bride and the groom.
Kanya Daan: The ceremony where the bride is given away to the groom, by the bride’s parents. The word can be broken up into ‘kanya,' meaning girl and ‘daan’ meaning donate.
Mandap: A hooded canopy, decorated with fresh flowers and other accessories, under which a hindu wedding takes place. The mandap could be in an indoor hall or in an open area, depending on the venue and the weather.
Mehandi: (Mehndi, Mehendi) Henna tattoos, usually applied by the bride as well as by female family members & friends. While the bridegroom applies it as a token on his hands, the bride applies it on her hands and feet making intricate patterns. Mehandi signifies the strength of love in a marriage. It is believed that the darker the Mehandi color, the stronger the love and bond will be between the bride and the bridegroom.
Milni: The meeting of the groom’s party with the bride’s family. Milni literally means ‘meeting’.
Pheras: During the wedding ceremony the bride and bridegroom are seated in front of a holy fire. A Pundit conducts the wedding, performs havan (offerings into the fire), and recites various religious sayings.
Pundit: Priest, the conductor of the wedding.
Sangeet: It’s a Hindi word, meaning music. In the wedding context, you can refer to it as the bachelorette party! It’s a time for the female members of the marriage party to get together, have fun, dance, sing and basically have a good time. Sangeet usually takes place the day before the wedding. The new trend, of course, is to have professional singers, DJs and live music for Sangeet these days.
Shaadi: A Hindi word that simply means marriage. Can be used in with reference to the male as well as the female gender. For e,g, “it is his shaadi or it is her shaadi”.
Sindoor: Vermilion powder usually worn by married Hindu women, in the parting of their hair. During the marriage ceremony, the groom applies sindoor to the parting of his bride's hair to show that she is now a married woman. Subsequent sindoor is applied by the wife as part of her morning dressing routine. Its also sometimes the ‘only’ way for people to know that a woman is married, especially as wedding bands is not a regular custom in Indian marriages.
Tilak: This refers to the sacred mark on the forehead, of both men and women. The mark itself could be pure sandalwood (referred to as ‘Chandan’ in Hindi), or Kumkum (a red Tumeric powder). It signifies the receiving of a blessing; hence you will notice that people always bow low whenever they receive that sacred mark, either in a temple or during an auspicious ceremony such as a wedding.
Vidaai: In this ceremony, after the wedding is over, the bride’s parents gives a warm send off to their daughter. They wish her a very good and harmonious long married life. From now onwards their daughter does not belong to them. This is perhaps the most emotional wedding ritual, especially for the bride’s father!
Vivaah: Another word for ‘shaadi’. It actually stands for the union of two souls (aatma). The Asian Indians believe that when people marry they marry for seven lives!
Thanks to Anika Sharma, contributing writer for NJWedding.com on South Asian weddings
Photo: RSVP Events, Princeton, NJ