The engagement ceremony is an important pre-wedding ritual among Hindus. Some people think that the trend of an engagement ceremony before marriage came from the West. But, a deeper look into Hindu traditions will reveal that Hindu engagement ceremonies have existed in some form among different communities for a long time. The engagement ceremony is known as mangni, aashirwad and misri among different Hindu communities.
The Engagement Ceremony
It is celebrated in almost the same form except for certain variations based on family rituals and community. Generally, this ceremony is held at a banquet hall or at the bride’s residence. The relatives and families of the groom and bride join together to celebrate the first party of the impending wedding. Both families exchange good wishes, gifts and sweets.
A formal ring exchange then solemnizes the occasion. The girl puts the ring on the boy’s right hand ring finger. The boy puts the ring on the girl’s left hand ring finger. The ring finger is chosen as it is believed that it connects to the veins of the heart. In some ceremonies, a priest is invited to recite holy mantras. The prospective groom and bride are made to meet each other’s family. A lunch or dinner is then organized, depending on the time of the ceremony, for all the guests and family members.
The Significance of the Engagement Ceremony
These engagement rituals are significant as they serve to form a bond between the would-be marriage partners. The prospective bride and groom meet each other, face to face, probably for the first time. They get the chance to perform a formal introduction.
Gujarati Engagement Ceremony
In Gujarati tradition, the engagement ceremony is known as sagaai. In this function, the bride’s family presents a ‘matli’, or steel container filled with gifts and sweets for the groom as well his family.
North Indian Engagement
In many North Indian states, this ceremony takes place immediately after the marriage is finalized. Apart from the traditional ring ceremony, the bride’s mother applies ’tilak’ or vermilion paste and rice to the groom’s forehead. After this, both families exchange baskets of sweets, fruits and dry fruits. The groom’s family may also gift the bride with traditional family jewelry.
South Indian Engagement Ceremony
South Indian Hindu families observe a different type of engagement ceremony compared with their North Indian counterparts. In the south Indian tradition, the presence of the bride and groom is not compulsory. The engagement function involves both the families giving their commitment to the forthcoming marriage. An important ritual is the exchange of the engagement plate, which contains betel leaves, betel nuts, turmeric, flowers and coconut.