After the heijingpot is the Lugongba or the wedding day. It is a day long ritual and comprise of different stages of rituals which lay the foundation of a new life for the couple. (Read more about the significance and meaning in our post). We have covered tried to cover the most important rituals according to the sequence of events here.
The wedding day begins with the lei-lengba (garland making) and the pham-thaba (setting up the bridal bed) both of which are considered very auspicious and important.
On the wedding day, the bride is expected to make two garlands for the main ceremony in the evening. The bride makes a pair of garland with the jasmine flowers. She will be guided by the arangpham (the official arranger-cum-manager of the ceremony) or by an elderly woman.
According to tradition, the bride is suppose to think of good thoughts and pray for prosperity while making the garland.
During certain seasons when the kundo is not available in huge quantity, the flower is mixed with other similar looking white flowers. But a few buds or pieces of the flower is mandatory for the main garland.
The setting up the bridal bed is considered an auspicious ritual. While the bride is making the garland, the aunts of the bride along with the bride’s unmarried sister will proceed with the pham-thaba (arranging the bridal bed).
For this occasion, the mother of the bride will select a few married women (preferably three) to set up her daughter’s new home. The selection of the married women is done according to their social standing, their relation to the bride and also whether her first born is a son or not. It was believed that doing so will enhance the possibility of a prosperous future just like those of the three women. However this practice has been replaced and the bride’s aunts and other close family members take charge of the ritual. Before the visiting party leave for the groom’s place, the mother of the bride with the help of the elders in the family will arrange the bedding on the porch of the bride’s residence.
The same is then carried to the house of the groom and re-arranged. The visiting party will also make necessary arrangements for the bride’s clothing and other essential items in her new home.
Once the visiting party leaves, the groom gets ready for the wedding procession to the bride’s house.
The presiding pandit and the arangpham will arrange for the bor-jatra (initial rites of the groom). During the bor-jatra, the groom will be made to sit on the Kouna Phak (mat made of water reed) on the porch, facing east. In front of him a host of several ingredients for the puja will be arranged. It includes fruits in two decorated banana-leaves, betel-leaves, a Ghot chafu (a brass pot), incense, husked rice, sesame seeds, mango-leaves and tingthou (a type of grass). Towards the left side are white colour flags, a pot filled with water, white flower, Lei-Chandan( flower and sandal), a betel-nut, one banana, Dakshina, Dakshina and Tusli-leaves, milk, ghee, rice, gold, silver and five different dona(bowls made from banana-leaves).
With all the above ingredients placed in front, the pandit will make offerings to the deities. Then, the groom will seek blessings from both the parent and wear the kokyet.
With the blessings of his parents, the bor-jatra is initiated. After this, the bor (groom) leaves for the wedding venue (generally the bride’s residence). The bor will be accompanied by the Bor Senaba (guide) who will guide the groom through the ceremony. He will also be accompanied by a few close friends who will carry the umbrella over his head, the chaisen (a broad mouth utensil made of brass) and a mirror.
The procession is led by a band party, followed by the Jatra Pubi, then the mother of the groom and finally the groom. The rest of the wedding party will follow them.
At the gate of the bride’s residence, the groom is greeted with a traditional torch made of bamboo, flowers, incense sticks and puffed rice showers.
The groom will then be welcomed by the mother of the bride inside the wedding venue.
From there he will be seated in a designated area until it’s time for him to enter the mantap. Through this entire string of events and later, the groom is guided by a designated person called the bor senaba.
At the bride’s residence, there will be sankritan pala (the traditional singers and musician) singing praises to the Gods (especially Lord Krishna). As soon as they are informed about the arrival of the groom, the lead singer will initiate a new song. After the first notes of the new song is completed (raga taba), the groom can enter the mantap for the wedding rites.
The groom will be seated on the luhong-phan (the wedding bench) and wait for the bride. The priest will take charge and begin the puja which will be held in the presence of the father of the bride (or the brother). This is followed by the entry of the bride into the mantap.
As the bride enters the mantap, there will be the blessing rituals where the mother of the bride will bless the couple by tying the hands of the couple with the sacred thread. This is followed by lei-koiba and kundo hukpa (exchange of garlands). The kujaba punba along with the kundo hukpa are the two most important rituals on the wedding day. To know more about other intricacies of Meitei Weddings you can check out our post on Luhongba: Meaning and Significance.
The rituals of the mantap will come to an end with the exchange of the garland. Hereafter, the bride and the groom are considered as one. From the mantap, they will be taken to the bride’s home for the next set of blessing rituals called the “kwa lannaba” and “kangshubi chaba”.
The kwa lannaba (exchange of the betel leaves and nut) is a formality after the wedding rituals. It is a formal introduction of the bride and the groom as a lifelong couple to the family and friends who have gathered around. This is also a formal blessing ceremony from both sides of the family. This is followed by the “kangshubi chaba” where the pandit passes the kangshubi (a sweet made of the peril seeds) to the groom who feeds it to the bride. It is symbolic of the love and affection that he will shower on her through life.
This brings us to the end of the rituals at the bride’s residence. After the photo session, the groom will leave early with his friends.
As the groom gets up to leave for his home, the friends and sisters of the bride tries to hit the groom. It is believed that the bride will have a stronger say in the relationship.
At the courtyard, the groom will make his final bow on his way out. This will bring the Sankritana to an end and it is finally time for the bride to leave as well.
As the bride leaves for her new home, she will be blessed by her mother at the doorstep.
She will then be blessed by her father and uncles at the mantap.
From there the bride leaves for her new home. At her new home, she is welcomed by her mother-in-law.
She is guided by her mother-in-law into her new home. After praying to the Lainingthou, she will then be taken to her room where her friends and family will be waiting for her to help her settle down.
After she has changed and settled down, her first maternal uncle will come and bless her. This is the last ritual on the wedding day.
The wedding day is then followed by the Luhongba Nonganba (the day after the wedding) visit. This is a custom which is very special to the mother of the bride as the mother does not accompany the bride to her new home on the wedding day. So, the day after the wedding day, the mother of the bride along with close friends and relatives will visit the newly married couple.
On this day, both the elders of the family will discuss about the forthcoming reception and the rituals that are to follow. The groom’s mother will also offer either monetary assistance for the Chakouba or the wedding reception. However, this trend is hardly in practice these days.
Weddings are beautiful celebrations. It celebrates life and love. And the significance they hold in our life is much larger than the drama and all the hiccups of wedding planning.
We have more coming in from Manipur. Keep watching this space.
Picture Credit: We are eternally thankful to Epic Films Imphal, Rashingam Ngoruh and Micheal Nongthombam for letting us use the above photos and many other on our blog.