Maharashtrian Wedding Rituals

Maharashtrian marriages are never performed at night. These weddings usually take place in the morning hours. Sometimes, they are also conducted in the afternoon, depending on the muhurat. Such a muhurat is called a goraj-muhurta (when the cows return from grazing).

Engagement Mangalsutrabandhan
Muhurt Karane Vivah Hom
Gandgner / Kelvan Lajja Hom
Halad Chadavane Saptapadi
Simant Pujan Manpan
Sankalp Lunch
Ganapatipujan Reception
Punyahvachan Varat
Devdevak Griha Pravesh
Gaurihar Puja Suhagrat
Lagna Muhurt Halad Utaravane
Kanyaadaan Tikhati Mejwani
Akshataropan
Engagement
Normally, the engagement ceremony is conducted at the bride's place. 
Engagement or Sakharpuda literally means 'a packet of sugar' which is given to each other. It could be a simple affair wherein the bridegroom and his close relatives come to the bride's home. But it could also be organised by bride's side on a larger scale inviting more guests. 
The bride flanked by her parents and karvali i.e. bride's sister sit in a row on pat - wooden board. The bridegroom's mother applies haldi-kunku and gives a sari to the bride into which bride is supposed to change. Thereafter the bridegroom's mother does Oti Bharane and gives Sakharpuda - a cone shaped decorative parcel filled with pedhe. Giving gifts to the bride's parents and karvali is optional. This means first, bridegroom's side has to give their word to bride's side that they have fixed the alliance. Similarly, to give their consent in return, the bride's mother invites the bridegroom, his parents and karvali to sit on the pat. She applies kumkum tilak to the groom and his father and haldi-kunku to groom's mother and karvali and gives a pant and shirt piece or any clothing item as also Sakharpuda to the groom. Again gifts to all others are optional. After this ceremony, the bridegroom puts a ring on the bride's ring-finger - anamika -of the left hand. The similar process is repeated by the bride. 
The guests are given pedhe, some refreshments or a full meal. The engaged couple meets the guests and pays respect to elders by touching their feet. This ceremony signifies the agreement of the alliance witnessed by many people.
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Muhurat Karane
On an auspicious day, months before the wedding day, both the sides start wedding preparation. Traditionally, it is called muhurt karane when at least five suvasini - married women are invited. With iron pestle tied with mango leaves, one by one suvasinsi pound halkund (dried kaccha haldi) in iron mortar into fine haldi powder, which is used during halad chadavane. Thereafter they roll out papads and make sandage (soaked dals grinded with spices are made into tiny balls and dried in the Sun). These days, this tradition is given a go-by. 
After muhurt, both the sides, especially, bride's side goes on a shopping spree. The bride's side prepares for rukhvat - an exhibition of gift articles, decorative pieces, handicrafts, eatables such as five types - each of dry fruits, fruits, ladoos, moramba, sweets etc. Actually this is to convey bride's various skills but it goes without saying that anyone can contribute to this exhibition. 
On an auspicious day, the first invitation is given to Lord Ganesh by visiting his temple and then to other Gods. Thereafter, invitations are given personally by parents or uncle-aunts, or any relative as per the seniority of the invitees. Typically, the ladies carry a silver kunku karanda and silver bowl with akshata -coloured rice. The inviting lady applies kunku to the lady of the house while the inviting gentleman gives invitation cards topped with akshata to the man of the house and both formally utter the invitation. The inviting couple is given some sweets or sugar to accept the invitation and the sweet news. Because of distances and want of time, the invitations could also sent out by the post or courier.
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Gandagner / Kelvan
The bride's close relatives and friends call over the bride and her family for a meal and give her a gift and do oti bharane. The bridegroom's side do the same to the groom. Two-three days prior to the wedding day, for gharacha gadgner, close relatives are invited for a meal at the bride's place where gharacha aher i.e. parents' and close relatives' wedding gifts are given to the bride and similar ceremony takes place at groom's side among his folks. The parents formally give expensive clothes, jewellery, silverware etc to the bride.
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Halad Chadavane
On the day before the wedding day, haldi powder pounded on the muhurt is made into a paste in a plate. One by one, the five suvasini dip mango leaves - one in each hand - in plate of haldi paste and apply it first on feet, then on knees, then on shoulders and then on forehead of the bride. Each suvasini does this three times. Thereafter, the bride is given a nice massage of haldi paste depending on her consent. Since these days the brides wear make-up they do not like too much yellowness on the skin. Same ceremony takes place at the groom's side. Often, ushti halad i.e. haldi paste left over after applying it to the groom, is taken to the bride's place and is applied to the bride. The significance of haldi ceremony is that the aspiring couple is not supposed to go out and expose themselves. This may take place on the wedding day before the ritual bath.
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Simant Pujan
Simant literally means boundary. The groom and the marriage party (barati) are welcomed at the boundary of the bride's village and her mother does puja of the groom. These days, it is done on the wedding day itself at the venue of marriage. Bride's mother washes the groom's feet by pouring a little water over his feet in a plate, does kumkum tilak, puts akshata on groom's head, does arati and gives some sweet or madhupak (mixture of honey and curd). Groom's folks are also given sweets or madhupak. The groom is made to sit in the venue and bride's father gives gifts like suit, jewellery etc to the groom. Groom's mother and ladies go to bride's quarter and give her five saris, jewellery etc.
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Sankalp
The day before the wedding day, parents of the bride and the groom in their respective places announce the marriage that is witnessed by the priest. This ceremony may take place on the wedding day itself.
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Ganapatipujan
The auspicious wedding ceremony begins with Ganpatipujan and a prayer is performed for Lord Ganesh's blessing to take the wedding through without any problems or obstruction (nirvighna). This prayer is performed at both the groom's as well as bride's quarters.
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Punyahvachan
For purification of minds and place, priests asks groom/bride and his/her father to pray and ask for the blessings of everybody at their respective quarters.
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Devdevak
It is also called kuldevata sthapana wherein the family deity is invoked to bless the bridal couple and the ceremony takes place at groom's as well as bride's quarters.
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Gaurihar Puja
The bride attired in a yellow sari given by her maternal uncle and mundavalya (decorative strings of pearls, beads, flowers) tied on the forehead apart from other jewellery and facial make-up is all ready to get married. She sits on a pat in her room and in front of her, a silver idol of Parvati is placed on a heap of rice on another pat. She keeps on taking some rice with both her hands and puts atop the idol while praying the Goddess Annapurna. At this moment, the bride is not supposed to talk and instead needs to concentrate on her prayers.
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Lagna Muhurat
Everybody present in the mandap is given akshata and everyone stands close to the mandap. The groom, dressed in dhoti-kurta or salwar-kurta, head covered with topi and mundavalya tied on the forehead, is invited to the mandap where he stands on a pat facing west and holding a thick garland. The priests hold a cloth screen called antarpat in front of the groom chanting mangalashtaka. The bride's maternal uncle escorts the bride to the mandap and she is asked to stand on the other side of the antarpat also holding similar garland. Respective karvali stands behind the bride/groom with a copper kalash containing holy water and topped with betel leaves and coconut. Another young girl stands with arati. Mostly the bridegroom's mother stands behind the bride with eksari - black beads string with big gold bead in the centre .

Enthusiastic relatives, friends and guests also get chance to sing their own compositions of mangalashtaka which are typical Sanskrit or Marathi verses invoking Gods, describing the ceremony, praising the bridal couple's family members, giving advise to the bridal couple and finally giving blessing as also best wishes for the life together ahead. The Groom's mother puts across eksari around bride's neck and is supposed to tie a knot at the end of each stanza of mangalashtaka. Each stanza ends with "Kuryat Sada Mangalam, Shubh Mangal Savdhan" and everyone showering akshata on the bridal couple. 
At the stroke of the muhurt, the priest chants last verses of the mangalashtaka loudly removing the antarpat and among the traditional music of vajantri (consists of shehnai and choughada) and/or modern band, the excitement builds up for the zero hour. The groom first puts a garland around the bride's neck. The bride also does the same. The respective karvalis apply holy water from the kalash to the eyes of bride and groom and perform arati. 
Ladies are given haldi-kunku and all are given sweets mostly pedha.
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Kanyadaan
Bride's father gives the bride away to the groom. The priest asks the groom to join both the palms and receive in it stream of holy water poured by bride's mother while bride's father says that he is giving away in marriage his daughter to this gentleman so that both of them can start together a life of Dharma, Artha and Kama. The groom accepts it saying that this is giving away love for love. The one who gives love is also one who receives love. The groom tells the bride that she is the shower of love, which has been given by the Sky and received by the Earth. He asks the elders to bless them. 
Then the bride asks for a promise from the groom that he will never violate her limits in Dharma, Artha and Kama. The bride promises the groom that she will always belong to him like Sita-Savitri and always be by his side. 
The bride's parents perform Lakshmi Narayan Puja of the bridal couple considering them to be avatar of Lakshmi Narayan.
The couple ties on each other's hand a halkund with a thread and this is called kankan bandhane. 
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Akshataropan
The bridal couple is asked to hold akshata in left hand and shower them with the right while expressing their desire for gunsamriddhi, dhan, dharma, santan (children), kirti etc. The priest and elders pray that all their desires be fulfilled.
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Mangalsutrabandhan
Chanting mantras, the groom puts mangalsutra around bride's neck.
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Vivah Hom
A stone is kept to the west of the homkund (fire) and a pot of water is kept to its northeast. To the north, four darbhas are spread on which there are two vessels. A pot of Ghee is kept nearby. The priest tells the bridal couple that having taken the oath of marriage now, the same is to be taken in the witness of the fire (agnisakshi). Then the priest asks the groom to give ahuti of ghee in the name of Skanda, Prajapati, Agni and Som. The groom prays to Agni asking to make them pure and keep their enemy away; asking for children and their long lives; asking to protect his bride and make her give good progeny whom she would see by living a long life.
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Lajja Hom
The priest asks the bride to join palms in which the groom puts a spoonful of ghee, a fistful of lahya (puffed rice) and again a spoonful of ghee. The groom holds with both his hands the bride's joined palms and puts this ahuti in the fire chanting mantras, which means that this girl has worshipped the fire, which will never make her break loving ties with her in-laws. 
The groom holds the bride's right hand and goes around the fire and the pot of water chanting mantras that mean, "I am Purush, you are Prakriti. I am the Sky, you are the Earth. I am a Song, you are a Chhand (tune). With these conceptual ideas and love in mind, let us unite forever to procreate. Let us live hundred years and always have mutual understanding. The bride is asked to stand on the stone kept to the west of the fire. The groom asks her to remain steadfast like the stone.
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Saptapadi
Having worshiped the fire, the priest asks the couple to take seven steps with the same thoughts and determination. The groom, with his right hand, holds the bride's left hand and starts taking step towards the north-east direction. First, the right foot is taken forward and then the left foot is joined with it while chanting mantras. Like this, seven steps are taken. At every two feet, small heaps of rice are kept on which they are supposed to tread. The couple asks for seven needs of life - one each at each step. These are food, strength, wealth, happiness, progeny, pleasure of enjoying various seasons and immortal friendship. The priest says that this sanskar has extremely strengthened the bond of friendship between you (the couple) and may your lives be united like two bodies with a single soul! 
The couple is asked to stand facing each other and touch their foreheads - literally meaning putting their heads together for decision-making henceforth. 
A touch of humour is added to the ceremony with the bride's brother twisting the groom's right ear to remind him of his responsibility towards his sister. 
Bride's mother does oti bharane and gives a sari to the bride, which she wears. The groom may also change into another comfortable pair of salwar-kurta. The couple touches the feet of elders and get blessed.
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Manpan
The bride's mother does oti bharane and gives saris to the groom's mother, sisters/sister-in-laws. Bride's father gives gifts like pant-shirt piece to the groom's father and brothers/brother-in-laws. Similarly, groom's parents give gifts to the bride's family. In tond dhune, the bride's mother gives a sari and a jewellery piece like motyache tode or a gold ring or a pearl string to the groom's mother along with a tea-set etc. In vyahi bhet, bride's father gives a silver glass to the groom's father. The tond dhune and vyahi bhet are generally performed next day morning and are optional.
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Lunch
If the Lagna muhurt is in the morning, there is a lunch party and a reception may be held in the evening. If the Lagnamuhurt falls in the evening, then the dinner party combines with the reception. 
The groom's side is first invited for lunch after which other invitees follow. Bride's parents personally look after each and every guest. Also the bridal couple meets each guest during lunch and often serves sweets like bundicha ladoo or jilebi. The guest may insist that the bridal couple take each other's name in verses - nav ghene. When bridal couple, groom's parents and karvalis sit for lunch, bride's mother and other suvasinis perform arati of the couple and groom's parents and karvalis. Amidst a lot of fun and laughter, the bride feeds the groom a morsel of sweet and takes his name in verses and vice-versa. After meal there is lavangtod - another humorous ritual wherein the bride holds a clove between her teeth and the groom cuts it with his teeth.
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Reception
The bride wears shalu - jari brocaded silk sari given by the groom's side and jewellery while the groom wears suit given by the bride's side. Guests greet, bless or give good wishes to the couple along with the wedding gifts. A feast is organised for the guests. Close relatives and friends are given return gifts. The bridal couple with their families sit together for the meal and share joy and happiness of the occasion.
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Varat
The ultimate emotional scene of the entire ceremony is when the bride is bid a goodbye. The groom picks up the silver idol of parvati that is still sitting on gaurihar. The couple touch the feet of elders and the bride meets with all family members who give her a tearful hug. The couple sits in a vehicle and the procession, with a band and fireworks, goes to the groom's place.
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Griha Pravesh
The couple comes to the doorstep and the groom's mother does arati of the couple. The bride topples map - a measuring vessel - filled with rice. It signifies that this bride - a Lakshmi - will bring so much luck that prosperity will flow in the house like the rice flowing out of the toppled vessel. A white sheet is spread in front of the couple and the bride dips her feet in a thali filled with a watery kumkum paste and places it on the sheet. These are considered Lakshmi's steps.
The couple sits and the groom places the silver idol of Parvati that he carried and places it in a plate of rice and writes the bride's new name. The groom's mother does oti bharane of the bride. The groom's mother sits between the couple and sees the bride's face in the mirror - this is called soonmukh baghane. The couple gives sugar to all present and they have to take names in verses several times.
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Suhagrat
The couple retires to a decorated room with a bed bedecked in flower, to consummate the marriage. The bride takes glass of warm milk for the groom and awaits him. The young relatives tease the groom to heighten the excitement and send him into the room.
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Halad Utaravane
Next day morning, five suvasinis do the same as halad chadhavane but in reverse order. This is to signify that now the couple is free to go out. The groom mother unties kankan - halkund tied on the couple's hand.
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Tikhati Mejwani
Among non-vegetarian Maharashtrians, especially CKP community, a non-veg feast is organised at both the quarters separately for the close relatives within a day or two. Typically, the main dish is mutton-vade or mutton biryani and the liquor may be served before the food. In olden days, even women used to sip liquor from small silver bowls and was funnily called nathi vagdya karane i.e. to take aside nose rings to facilitate the sips.
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