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One billion people, more than 1600 spoken languages, 28 culturally different states, over nine religions, one country. India defines diversity. This diversity, seen in every realm of Indian life. Consequently, starting with food & clothing to customs & traditions is reflected in Indian marriages as well.
In our culture, marriage symbolizes not just the sacred union of two individuals, but of the coming together of two families. And extended families as well. Their level of involvement is so profound that typically the family decides the bride/groom. In fact, even until a few decades ago the bride and the groom saw each other for the first time only on their wedding day. This trend has changed in urban areas. And in the present day, youngsters have a better say in choosing their life partner. Families search for eligible partners for their children through word of mouth or marriage priests primarily. However with the internet revolution in India online matrimonial sites are also becoming quite a hit!
Arranged marriages are strictly intra-religion and intra-caste. Horoscopes assess the compatibility of the couple, and if then an alliance is sought. In urban areas, the couple goes a step further to interact and see if their interests and natures match. If the coalition is agreeable to both parties, they proceed to plan for the engagement ceremony and the wedding.
Though arranged marriages are still the norm, love marriages are becoming a common occurrence these days, predominantly in urban areas. An engagement ceremony, known as Mangini (in North India) or Nischitartham (in South India), is held months before the wedding. The two families meet to perform rituals to make the engagement official.
A mahurat (auspicious date & time) for the wedding is decided based on horoscopes. Bride and Groom then blessed by elders of both families and is given gifts including jewelry and clothing by their new family. Ensure traditions, and engagement is marked by the exchange of rings between the bride and groom to be. Indian engagement ceremonies are very elaborate and vibrant, a sort of prequel to the central wedding, involving close friends and relatives.
And the period between the engagement and the marriage is one of great excitement and anticipation for both the bride and groom to be. It is with a lot of fun-filled activities, with both families getting to together to plan the wedding, to shop, and getting to bond. With so much of color, vibrancy, food, people, rituals, music, fun and frolic, the Indian wedding is indeed a festival in itself!