Kulbir + Manpreet / Hamilton

Colour, culture, family and laughter were embedded in the three day event that was the wedding of Kulbir and Manpreet. I was privileged enough to capture the three days of tradition and rituals leading up to the wedding day, dating back as far as anyone can remember. I only covered the girl’s side while Sanele Chadwick captured the boy’s side and the reception. I anticipate this being a fairly lengthy post as I’ll try and explain the traditions and rituals that have been captured.


Day 1 - Maiya, Mehndi and Sangeet Night
The day started off before midday at Kulbir’s parents place with a maiya ceremony. Initially a design is made of coloured powder and rice, which was made by Kulbirs sister, cousin and sister-in-law. Kulbir was then bought outside carrying a thaal (tray) that had a few things on it and sat by the rangoli design. A vatna (mixture of turmeric powder, flour and mustard oil that is kneaded into a dough) was one of the things on the tray.

Family members took turns rubbing the vatna on Kulbir. Once everyone has rubbed the vatna on Kulbir her mum clears the rangoli after stepping over it seven times. She uses water to collect the rangoli and bring it together as a paste. Then she applied the paste has a handprint to the house three times, this signifies that this is the wedding house. The main purpose for the maiya ceremony is to beatify the couple, as the vatna is a natural skin purifier thus acting like a face and body mask! 

Kulbir then headed into town to have her mehndi applied. This was no short process! Traditionally mehndi is applied to the feet and hands. It is considered auspicious and a symbol of celebration, and it looks pretty! The designs are very intricate and done totally by hand. It is thought to be that the longer the mehndi is kept on, the stronger the love between the couple. 

The sangeet night takes place two days before the wedding. The main focus is the traditional folk songs sung by the women. In this case the women and children were in the lounge as it was so cold outside! Once the traditional songs were over everyone got involved, dancing and singing the night away. 

Day 2 – Jaago Night
The jaago night takes place a day before the ceremony. There is singing, gift giving and dancing, a lot of dancing! It started with the family bringing gifts for Kulbir, the gifts are known as naanki shak. After the gifts there is a choora ceremony, which only takes place on the girls side. It is when the maternal uncle puts the wedding bangles on bride to be after dipping them in a water and milk mixture. Traditionally the bride would wear 21 red and ivory coloured bangles on each arm. Odd numbers are considered auspicious in Indian culture, and a lot of traditions are auspicious!

Now for the jaago night. Centuries ago, wedding invites weren’t sent out, instead the family of the bride or groom would go around the village singing and dancing as an open invitation to the wedding. Nowadays, the aim of the jaago nights is to make noise and party, which Kulbirs family definitely delivered on!

Im not sure what was said here, but I couldn't have timed this photo any better!

Day 3 - Wedding Day
The day started very early for Kulbir who started getting ready before the sun came up! There wasn’t a lot happening at the house compared to the past two days but an important ritual was when Kulbir’s aunty and uncle covered her head with the bridal scarf. Once everyone was ready and the wife’s had pinned the corsages on their husbands we slowly left the house and convoyed to the temple.

The coming together of families is more than just turning up and taking your seat. Kulbir was hidden away in a room while some formalities took place. The family were all gathered outside the temple and a pundit (priest) started with a prayer. Then came the milni (meeting) ceremony in which key members of both sides of the families hugged and exchanged a garland of flowers.

It was then time to enter the temple where everyone sat and ate together before the main ceremony.

The Sikh marriage ceremony is the anand karaj, or blissful union. It took place in the main hall of the temple. As everyone entered the hall they paid respect to the Guru Granth Sahib (holy book) before taking a seat on the ground. Manpreet’s family came into the hall first and he took his place in the darbar (on the stage). The priests began reading hymns from the holy book.

Kulbir was brought in with her two brothers with the rest of the immediate family behind her. She offered a ramalla (gift) to the holy book like Manpreet had also done. She then bowed and took her place in the darbar next to Manpreet. Kulbirs dad then ‘gave away’ Kulbir by attaching the palla (fabric) from Manpreet so that they were now ‘one’.

Kulbir and Manpreet then stood and circled the altar (where the holy book is) for the laavan (marriage hymns). Four laavan take place, they are both teachings and vows that Kulbir and Manpreet take to seal their marriage union. Kulbir’s brothers took turns to hold her and guide her around while Manpreet lead.

After a few more hymns that essentially brought the main ceremony to an end. We then all made our way to the reception venue where Kulbir and Manpreet had their legal wedding ceremony.

The reception consisted of a delicious meal, speeches and lots of dancing! For the final part of the day we headed back to Kulbir’s parents for the dholi, which is when the bride departs for her new home. Before Manpreet was allowed to enter her had to pay a ‘ransom’ the sisters and girls from Kulbir’s side, it’s a good laugh! After everyone at the house gave their blessings and farewells it was time for Kulbir to leave. It was a very emotional time for Kulbir’s family. Traditionally it may have mean the bride was moving far away from her family, today in New Zealand that is not so much the case.

That concluded the day for the girls side.