Vows in Nainital
Nainital - an Indian city of lakes - blessed with abundant natural beauty, pristine mountains and serene valleys. As a little girl, I never imagined that I would wed by the side of Naini lake and the mountains would stand guard to the rituals of our Kumaoni wedding.
Hailing from Punjab, I was more accustomed to boisterous and cheerful weddings. But my own wedding brought simplicity, subtlety and deeper meaning to the nuptial ceremonies.
On a cold November morning, we were still sipping our tea, when mum received a phone call. The conversation was going on and I could infer that it is about the wedding date. I got engaged in summer and knew that finalising a wedding date would be the next step. But for a daughter it is never too soon to leave the nest and build her own. Everyone was elated and seemed energised for the upcoming marathon task. I was the only one picking up memories and counting days – only a handful before I wed in January…before I bid adieu to me and mine.
The trousseau: blessings wrapped-up
Days and months pass so swiftly in preparing a wedding trousseau. More so, when the bunch of aunts and grandmothers gather at home and promise to embroider and handcraft the special chunni and the beautiful bed spread. My mum and nani handpicked my jewellery and ensured that each piece was ethnic yet gorgeous, something that can be treasured for years and wouldn’t loose its charm. As I was going to be a winter bride, I chose thick fabrics like tussar, raw silk and brocade in bright hues of scarlet, gold, rose, and emerald. I balanced these by including georgette, chiffon and chanderi in pastels.
I asked my maternal family to pass me a saree or a piece of clothing they have cherished. Mum gave me a royal blue Mysore georgette saree with tiny, gold paisleys (she wore this on my first birthday). Nani handed me a beige and black jamawar pashmina, a perfect gift to remind me of her warmth. My artistic masi brought along a beautiful madhubani painting. Few days before the wedding while wrapping all these up, I lovingly admired each, trying hard not to cry.
Being a Punjabi-Kumaoni bride: the flag-bearer of two cultures
My mama tenderly slipped each bangle of the red choora in my hands as the womenfolk sung Punjabi songs. The brothers and cousins were determined to introduce the fun element, knowing how weepy I had been in past weeks. They joined the womenfolk on the singing pedestal and distorted the traditional songs; and in turn received glares and frowns yet they were able to amuse everyone.
Amidst all this, I was ready to embrace the new life as I changed into my crimson lehenga. I completed the look with the Kumaoni jewellery my new family gifted me: the mammoth nath (the nose ring that must be large enough to touch the jawline; some elderly women even possess naths that hang merrily down their necks). It is a symbol of prosperity and is believed to bring fortune to the new couple. Alongside my choora, I wore Pauchi, (little shell-shaped, gold beads are woven together to make this stunning bangle).
Dressed in the finery, I walked the aisle beneath a glittery sky, my hands cold from the lake’s chilly breeze – the love and the promise of tomorrow was enough to warm up my heart.
The wedding vows: may you have a steady matrimony
The priest dutifully lit up the sacred fire and blew the conch shell, reminding me of the last few hours with my family as their easy-going, jovial daughter.
A red and yellow hand-dyed dupatta called pichhora was draped over my shoulders marking my entrance in the wedlock. It is an integral costume of a Kumaoni bride and is worn on all major festivals and auspicious occasions. As we completed the pious seven pheras, the priest explained that each of the pheras ties you to the duties of the household and its well-being. He asked us to hold hands as a couple and look for the Dhruv taara or the north star in the sky. Puzzled with this ritual I looked up at the priest, he smiled and explained, “so you may have a steady and undeterred matrimony just like the north star.” I happily complied and along with a wish for my life ahead, I couldn’t help pray for my reason of existence – the parents and family that I’ll leave behind.
Many thanks to our beautiful bride Ridhima for sharing her story. Have a blessed marriage and we wish you many happy returns always.
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