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India is a land of diversity that boasts of a myriad of rituals, ceremonies, cultures, customs and traditions. When it comes to big fat Indian wedding the rituals and celebrations differ from region to region. Talking about Indian weddings one simply cannot miss out the festivities from the northeastern states. The land of the seven sisters features quirky wedding traditions and customs that have been sidelined and gone unnoticed.
Unlike the other Indian weddings which are centred around a couple, the weddings from the land of seven sisters are bride centric. The wedding customs of the northeastern states have deep-rooted beliefs and are beautiful gestures of love. The land of the seven sisters which consists of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur witnesses wedding traditions that differ over each state. So here is a peek inside some of the unique and interesting wedding customs and rituals of the seven sisters which sets it apart from the other Indian weddings.
Breaking the stereotype of the bride leaving the home after marriage Meghalaya has challenged the societal norms with their wedding tradition in which the groom after marriage leaves the home. As per the ritual of the Khasi community of Meghalaya the man after the marriage has to leave his home and join his wife’s family, settling in her ancestral home. Eradicating the need for dowry and changing the norm of the bride having to leave her family and home after marriage Meghalaya surely has brought about a change in the society.
Another interesting ritual of Meghalaya is the children taking up their mothers maiden name as their surname. In other parts of India where it is a male-dominated society with the women being limited to the 4 walls of the house, Meghalaya shuns this norm and regards women as the sole custodian of the wealth of the society.
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What sets the Assamese weddings separate from the Bengali wedding is their wedding rituals. The Assamese weddings have several pre-wedding rituals but what makes it unique is that the wedding reception is held just after the completion of the pre-wedding rituals. Unlike other Indian weddings where the reception is hosted post the wedding, the Assamese wedding have it before the wedding.
Another quirky ritual of Assamese wedding is that the groom’s side of the family has to pay a heavy price to be accepted into the bride’s family. Seems like the Assamese people value their girls more than their boys, right!
The wedding ceremonies in Assam are known as biye and the women sing cultural songs known as Biye Naam or Biye Geet. The songs which tell the tales from mythology about marriage and love are sung from the first day of the wedding ceremony to the last day of the wedding.
Also known as the land of the blue mountains, Mizoram and its natives have their way of celebrating the marriages. A unique custom of weddings in Mizoram is marriage payment where the groom pays an amount to the bride’s family. The wedding ceremony is only solemnised only after the groom has approached the bride’s family and settled the price for the bride.
Since the citizens of Mizoram have converted to Christianity the wedding ceremonies of the place are a mixed bag of traditions that is an amalgamation of age-old beliefs and modern dating. The couple before the wedding is given ample amount of time to get to know each other and determine whether they are a perfect match or not. Post their consent only their wedding is solemnized.
Another interesting ritual of weddings in Mizoram is that the bride gifts the groom a Puandum which is a traditional rug that is wrapped around the body of the groom upon his death. Although it might sound bizarre it is an important tradition. At the wedding, the ladies of both the families have to wear traditional colourful wrap that is known as Puan when worn by the grooms family and Puanchei when worn by the bride’s family.
The land of the Nagas, Nagaland is the home to 16 different tribes where each has its rituals and traditions. In Nagaland apart from the Konyak chiefs, the tribals of the same clan are deterred from intermarrying. A bizarre ritual of the Angami tribe which serves as the deciding factor for the solemnization of the marriage is by strangling a fowl. Although the ritual might sound cruel that is how marriages are decided in this tribe. In the ritual, the bride’s father strangles a fowl and the way the fowl crosses its legs while dying serves as the deciding factor. If the legs of the fowl are placed in an inauspicious manner then the marriage is called off.
In the Ao tribe the groom chooses his bride and for doing so offers fish to the bride’s parents as a token of acceptance of the bride. They also sacrifice fo there fowls during various ceremonies. The Ao tribals send the engaged couple on a trading expedition of 20 days where they have to conduct successful trade to sanctify and solemnize their marriage. Only if the expedition proves to be profitable is the wedding finalized else the engagement is called off. Also if the girl dreams of something inauspicious the marriage is called off.
The tribes of Manipur, unlike other states, are open to inter-caste marriages. They have a ritual which is known as Hinaba in which the bride and grooms parents meet with each other. Unlike other Indian states where the groom’s family has to give their consent to the marriage first Manipur witnesses the opposite of this thus breaking the stereotyped norm. In their Yathang Thanaga ritual, the bride’s parent visits the groom's house to give their consent for the wedding.
At their Waraipot Puba ceremony, the groom’s family brings food for the bride’s family. In their leilenga ceremony which takes place on the day of the wedding, the bride is supposed to make a garland for herself and her partner. She is also asked to say a prayer for a peaceful and joyful ceremony in the ceremony. The Manipuri bride has to wear a Rasleela dress on her wedding as she emanates Radha. Five days post the marriage the bride’s family her at her husband’s house to ensure her well being. Also on the occasion, Mangani chakouba which refers to a feast is organized at the bride’s home.
In Tripura, the groom is put to test to find out whether he is worthy for the bride or not. All the hapless groom who intends to marry is tested and has to immediately relocate to his to be wife’s home for a period of 6 months to 1 year. At her house, he has to prove his worth of being a potential mate by taking care of her and her household. He has to fulfil the tasks given by the bride and her family and in between this if they dislike him or he flunks the test the groom is deported back. So only the grooms who can stand up to the challenge given by the bride can marry.
The marriages in the state follow the system of Hamjwk Tubui Kaimani where the bride and groom do not have a say in the marriage and it is decided by the elder members of the family. In traditional Tripuri weddings, the women mark betel leaves and nuts with the names of the bride and groom. They just like in Bengali weddings make a sound of the Ulu which bestows blessings on the couple. The entire ceremony is known as Kuaitano.
In Arunachal Pradesh, three different types of weddings are practised. The first wedding is known as Aaw Long Aaw which means the marriage of negotiation. The second wedding is known as Thok no Chaii which refers to the marriage of eloping and the third marriage is known as the Aan Shieo Aaww which is the marriage by capture.
In the marriage of Aaw Long Aaw the bride post marriage is welcomed in the grooms home by his parents with sugar known as Hopha and a plate full of blooms known as Ban Moya. The bride, later on, is presented with pha which is a smoked fish and Khaw Tom which means cooked sticky rice and Wan Khai which refers to bowls that are full of eggs given by the groom’s parents.
People of Arunachal Pradesh consider daughters as their economical asset which is why the groom’s family has to pay to the bride’s family the bride price. The groom’s family usually gifts the bride’s family with a Mithun which is the type of cattle, fabric and cookware as a token of acceptance of her into their family.
In the marriage of eloping the groom has to make a ritual sacrifice before entering the bride’s village. The ritual is all about the groom trying to convince the bride’s parents that he is worthy of their daughter. After the bride’s family when gives the green signal then the groom’s side packs enough food and stay amenities for 4 days of an extended stay. The groom’s family then have to climb a hilltop near the village and shout Ho to showcase their arrival. The bride’s family prepares lunch for them there which is followed by feasting and a part where women disguise as men to surprise each other during the songs played. On the third day following the ritual and post marriage, Holi is played between them as a park of the celebration of the marriage.
Marriages in the land of the seven sisters are meant for the bride tribe. So these are a few beautiful and unique rituals from the northeastern states of India. Which states wedding ritual amazed you most? Share with us about your views and choice in the comments below.
By Shashank Gupta | 06 May, 2019
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