India is a land of great diversity. People from many religions castes and creeds live together in this great melting pot. Indian culture is such that individual differences blend and shine, instead of merging and fading away in this great civilization! Each state in India has different cultural and semantic systems. From languages, dialects to societal set-ups – there is something unique in every part of India.
With so much diversity, understanding and experiencing every bit of India is indeed not easy. But, there sure is a way! Weddings are a great way to experience firsthand the culture, rituals and lifestyles of any community. A look at this elaborate event – and you can get a 360 degrees view of the food, clothes, life, snapshots of people’s mindsets, behavior, rituals, gender equations, family hierarchy and more.
Here, with this article, we attempt to bring you interesting nuggets of information about the famous Indian state of Gujarat – through its bridal and wedding customs –
1. There are many local sub-cultures and castes within the state of Gujarat
Not all Gujaratis are the same. There exist differences between these communities, their marriages included. Although, essentially everyone speaks Gujarati, a regional Indian language, with its roots in Sanskrit and Hindi, there are variations to it too. For example, people with the South Gujarat origin pronounce many syllables quite differently from other Gujaratis. Wedding customs of various communities like Jains, baniyas and Patels differ too.
2. Gujaratis prefer marrying within their cub-castes
Caste system is still pretty evident in this, otherwise, progressive state. So, weddings are, preferably, fixed within the same societal set up. A Patel girl marrying a person of a lower caste or even another caste is still seen as non-viable!
3. Both sides – the bride’s and the groom’s – are given the equal importance
Even though, local customs vary vastly within the great Western state, one thing is uniform – both the parties in the wedding process are given equal significance. Unlike many cultures, boy’s side is not considered stronger or more revered than the girl’s side. This may be more of a modern set up, but is quite admirable.
4. Vegetarianism still rules the roost in Gujarat
With Jains and Vaishnavas topping the list of Gujaratis, Vegetarian is the way of life for most Gujaratis. Weddings in Gujarat, thus, typically serve vegetarian delicacies. Fried snacks, known as farsaan, and Indian sweets are very important in Gujarati weddings’ fare.
5. Garba and Dandiya – Gujarati folk dances and music – percolate every bit of life, including weddings
6. Brides traditionally wear bridal Panetar saree
The ethnic wedding saree of a Gujarati bride is a vision in white and red. The Gujarati bridal saree is called as a Panetar. Despite new trends like bridal lehenga choli making inroads in a great way, many Gujarati families prefer that their girls wear the traditional cream/ white and red saree for, at least, the wedding rituals.
However, with changing demands and fashion, even the regular Panetar have experienced many changes. From color variations to different embroideries, fabrics and embellishments, Panetar sarees are now available in endless varieties. Many girls also go for Panetar style wedding lehenga choli that is made in white/ cream and red colors.
The latest Panetar lehenga is the most loved choice of Gujarati brides now, as wearing this they still manage to adhere to their traditional customs, but with a modern and fashion-forward twist.
Panetar inspired lehengas are in high demand among Gujarati community in India or abroad. Gujarati brides accessorize their bridal look with lots of interesting but heavy, traditional jewelry. To complement the family heirlooms that are in real gold and kundan, Panetar generally has embroidery in metallic gold and its many shades.
Kundan necklace, heavy jadau earrings or jhukas, also known as ‘kan ni butti’ in Gujarati, rings, nathani or nose ring, armlets, hand ornaments, anklets, bangles, hair ornaments, maang tikka or the forehead jewelry and a kamarbandh – ornamental waist band – comprise the entire array of jewels the bride adorns herself with.
7. The gift from groom’s family – Gharchola
Apart from classic red and white, all shades of green and other hues from the hot colors palette like flaming orange, deep yellows, mustard yellow and dark pinks are considered very auspicious for weddings and related functions in Gujarat. Brides also wear fine Bandhani sarees during their wedding ceremonies.
One such glorious Bandhani saree is called as Gharchola – which is traditionally made in the colors of red/ maroon and green with Bandhani work and metallic and thread embroidery.
Gharchola – you can read all about it – is the gift from the mom-in-law to the bride, so the new daughter-in-law has to wear the Gharchola gifted to her by her in-laws, during the bidai ceremony – i.e. when she leaves her parental home for her husband’s home.
Gharcholas are gorgeous creations – as they are meticulous handiwork of many artisans. A Gharchola begins as a cotton silk fabric – woven to produce the gorgeous grid-like pattern, characteristic to these wedding sarees. Then each check in the grid is hand-tied to produce fine Badhani patterns. The Bridal Gharchola saree is then dyed in traditional colors. The finished saree is then embellished with hand-work.
Ornate patterns of various scenes depicting a Gujarati wedding are embroidered on Gharcholas. You will often see the scenes of baraat, the groom arriving on a horse, the band, trumpet blowers and wedding party following him. Animal and bird patterns are also made on these traditional sarees.
8. Patan Patola
Anyone who has experienced Gujarat would not have missed the revered Patan Patolas and the legends surrounding them. Although, not everyone can afford these glorious sarees with great historic value, they are an integral part of Gujarati culture and even weddings. They are considered symbols of good luck, and are offered to Goddesses and revered ladies of the family, during weddings. Many times, these extremely expensive and rare sarees are passed on through generations as family heirlooms, so some brides are fortunate enough to receive a real Patan Patola – as a gift from her mother-in-law or grand mother-in-law!
Rajkot Patolals are also quite famous and relatively less expensive. So, they are what generally constitute the wedding saree fare. You will see many senior ladies wearing this gorgeous Patola silk saree, during wedding festivities. These days, many girls also choose Patola lehenga cholis for these special days.