world in focus
Marriage is a significant occasion in any society. All relations develop with the marriages, as the husband and wife and then kids come from the marriage. Marriages are significant for the formation of any society. Marriages in Nepal also have significant importance as other societies in the world. Most of the marriages are arranged; the parents select the spouses for their children. A marriage proposal comes through a lahmi (middle man or woman). The bride or groom is chosen based on her or his education and economic background. The horoscopes of the bride and groom are also checked for a good married life. Both parties’ parents confirm the character of the partners. If both parties agree, the marriage date is fixed. Both parties give a gift to the lahmi as he or she brought a good proposal. Before the marriage ceremony, a small engagement ceremony takes place.
There are many rituals performed in Nepal at the wedding. Hindus and Buddhists perform their wedding ceremonies with religious traditions and values in temples. The most well-known temples are Pashupatinath Hindu Temple, Balaju Water Garden, Gujeshwari Temple, Budanilkantha Narayanthan and Dakshinkali Temple.
Buddhists do not perform engagements before the marriage ceremony. However, some modern families do perform engagement ceremonies. However, Hindus have an engagement ceremony before the marriage. The local term used for this ceremony is ‘tika-tala’. The family, including the groom, visit the bride’s home.
Some religious rituals such as arthi are carried out in the bride’s home and a red dot is put on the groom and bride’s foreheads. The local priest or pundit fixes the marriage date. Astrological data is used by both sides. Nepali weddings depend on star orientations and favourable dates. The muhurat (time of wedding) is decided by the pundit, who checks the bride’s and groom’s horoscope. He decides which date would be favourable for both the bride and groom. Now that engagement preparations are over, the preparations for the wedding ceremony start. Replete with fun and joy, Nepalese weddings are the most modern weddings in South Asia. Hindu pre-wedding celebrations and traditions are also observed in Nepal, especially Brahman and Chhetri. There is an exciting aspect of Nepalese marriages. They do not select an odd number for the wedding day.
‘Badgan’ Ganesh pooja is a significant event in Nepal. The girl’s father places a coconut, a betel nut, an areca nut, a sacred thread and some rice in a Kalash or pot. He put the Kalash on the head of the daughter and declares now he has given his daughter into the groom hands.
Then the marriage ceremony starts with kanyadaan. The groom sits in mandap with a yellow cloth spread over the bride and groom. The family gives presents to the bride such as coconut, sacred threads, and anything that is considered essential for the family.
The bride’s relatives wash the groom’s and bride’s feet in a copper pot. This is called the godadhuwa ceremony. The groom then eats a particular food item which contains ghee, yoghurt and honey. The person who performs the kanyadaan is responsible for paying money to the priest. He also gives a gift such as a cow besides the money. This is done to save the couple from any evil eye in the future. The bride and groom then go to another room called guptaghar. The groom gives some clothes to the bride. He also gives new clothes to the bride’s family. The groom holds the bride’s thumb and makes a vow which is translated as: “You are the earth and I the sky. Please let us marry and have children. May they be strong and successful. May we live for a hundred years in good health.”
Then the groom puts sindoor (red colour) on the bride’s hair parting. The groom also gives a necklace to the bride as a gift. After the bride and groom perform the essential ceremonies, they both play a game called pasa. The game helps the bride to overcome her shyness in front of the groom. Then a piece of cloth is stretched over both of them and relatives throw fried paddy on it. The priest applies tika on the foreheads of both the bride’s and groom’s forehead.
The weddings ceremony ends after which the couple applies ashes from jagya or homa to their bodies. In the end, fathers of both the bride and groom hug each other. Anthropologists say that marriages define the roles and responsibilities of two persons and their families in the society.
The writer is a PhD scholar in Anthropology at Sun Yat-sen University. Her primary work is on China Pakistan Economic Corridor and Cultural Anthropology. She can be reached through [email protected]
Article originally published in Southasia magazine