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Our Story : “Swayamvar” ceremony- Part 41

This is a continuation of my previous posts. Please read the previous posts here.

Swayamvar ceremony is the main event for the whole wedding and it literally means ‘Choosing the Groom by the Bride’. In the past, the bride had the right to choose one among many suitors. Nowadays, in the majority of marriages, Swayamvar is just a ceremony followed by Janti in Newari / Nepali wedding. For us the Swayamvar ceremony and Janti ceremony took place in two different days.

The Sahit sent during the Supari ceremony has an auspicious time written for the Swayamvar ceremony. For us the date and time was 24 June at 9.00pm. Therefore, it was going to be an evening ceremony.

Swayambar (2)

For this ceremony, I wore a red Dupata (silk with sliver work) sari, Dupata shawl around my arms and Ghumto (net red shawl similar to a veil) to cover my head. I went to the beauty parlour for hair and make-up.

Swayambar (3)

Before 9.00pm, all my family and I arrived at the venue. Due to the monsoon season, it was raining heavily. Everyone told me that the rain was a good sign for weddings. Anyway, all of us were waiting for the groom and his family to arrive for the ceremony. When they arrived, I was asked to go to the room upstairs so the groom and family could be welcomed and when everything was ready, I was to enter the room where the mandap was set.

Wedding Ceremony

In this mean time, my dad and uncles welcomed the groom and his family. They put Tika on the groom’s forehead, garland around his neck and escorted him to the mandap room. Once everything was settled, my cousin asked me to come down. I had my veil to cover my face and I was looking down as I walked towards the mandap.

Swayambar (4)

When I saw AS , I was so happy. He was wearing a Daura-Suruwal, Nepali national costume in light grey colour with dark blue coat and Nepali Dhaka topi. I was asked to sit next to him and the ceremony began.

Swayambar (5)

There were two priests, one from my family and one from his. They both told us to do lots of things, like doing Puja and saying mantras in Sanskrit and we were meant to repeat it after them. Vedic hymns and prayers invoked the blessings of all Hindu gods and the support of every element under the sun that will have a role in the conjugal life of the couple. The five basic elements of earth, air, fire, water and sky are highlighted time and again.

Swayambar (7)

The Swayamvar ceremony continued with me circling AS thrice holding the Supari (from the Supari ceremony), Dubo ko mala (garland made out holy grass) and Ful ko mala (flower garland). Once I was done, I stood in front of him.

Wedding Ceremony

We exchanged Dubo ko mala and Ful ko mala.

Wedding Ceremony Wedding Ceremony

Then my aunt bought the tray with two traditionally dressed dolls (Bride and Groom) and all the jeweleries nicely displayed.

Wedding Ceremony Wedding Ceremony

Now AS put the diamond necklace and Tilahari around my neck and golden bangles on my hands. Then we exchanged rings. It was followed by me putting a gold chain around his neck and watch on his wrist.

Wedding Ceremony Wedding Ceremony Swayambar (16) Swayambar (17) Swayambar (18)

Then priest asked me to sit down for the most important Sindoor ceremony. My aunt put golden and red clothe around my face covering my eyes, holding it from the back. Then the priest instructed AS to take a pinch of Sindoor in between his ring finger and thumb. He had to put that first to his forehead and then put on my forehead. Wedding CeremonyHe had to then move it into my hair partition still touching the forehead.

Swayambar (20)

This step was repeated two more times and now I was officially married to be his wife. Wedding CeremonyI touched AS’s feet for his blessing as his wife, and he handed me the Supari.

Wedding Ceremony Wedding Ceremony Wedding Ceremony Wedding Ceremony

Under the Hindu (Newar) tradition the sindoor and tilahari are the signs of a married woman. Finally, the priests pronounced that AS and I are husband and wife. He explained that as his wife, it is his duty to protect me and to make me happy.

Swayambar (24)

Now the priest asked us to share yogurt from the plate. AS ate a spoonful and then hand it to me. I had one spoon too. It was a bit hard to eat when everyone is watching. After this, we bowed to all elder relatives to get their blessing.

Family photos followed the ceremony and yes a Bhoj (party) as well. Once the ceremony was over, everyone was relaxed and started enjoying the food and company.

Swayambar (25) Wedding Ceremony

AS and his family left after the ceremony and we went home as well. I was so tired after such a long day but I was a married woman that day. It felt good.

Wedding Ceremony

More on the wedding in the next post.

Take care,

M from nepaliaustralian

XOXO

P.S: Do not forget to vote your favorite blog . NEPALIAUSTRALIAN’s Blog Award 2014

Go to Part 42

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Our Story : Supari ceremony – Part 40

This is a continuation of my previous posts. Please read the previous posts here.

Wedding Ceremony

The Supari is the Newari equivalent of the engagement ceremony in western weddings; a formal announcement/acceptance of the relationship. The bride’s family isn’t able to proceed with any of the wedding parties until the Supari is received from the groom’s side.

Supari (12)

Supari is the Nepali word for betelnut and the deal is sealed by an event called ‘Gway Bigu’ or the sending of 12 pieces of supari (betle nut) from the groom’s family to the bride’s which is used during the “Swayambar” ceremony. The family of the groom-to-be also presents a set of clothes along with jewellery, lots of rotis, fruits for the bride as a sort of first gift to the soon to be daughter-in-law. In most cases, this supari-taking ceremony occurs four days before the actual wedding ceremony, but it can be earlier or later to suit the families.

Supari (13)

When I woke up that morning, I had butterflies in my stomach. I was relaxed before but suddenly I was a bit scared as it was getting very real with the upcoming Supari ceremony. It is funny how you can easily get overwhelmed by the situation looking at what is happening around you. My house was full of people, relatives and friends. It was noisy and everyone was busy doing something or other. They all seemed to be busy but I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I asked my mum what things are to be done before I go to beauty parlour to get ready. She asked to have breakfast and go so I can come back as soon as possible. I had made an appointment in nearby salon and the lady had told me, it would take up to 3 hours to do my hair and makeup.

Wedding Ceremony Wedding CeremonyWedding Ceremony

When I came out of the parlour, I felt like a real bride. I was wearing a red sari with green border which had golden work done with beads. I had bought this sari while I was in India and loved the simple style and the border. I had my hair made up in a bridal way complementing my bridal makeup. I wore lots of Chura (glass bangles) to match the sari.

Supari (1)Wedding Ceremony

I also wore a gold necklace set and golden chura my parents had made as part of my wedding jeweleries.

Supari (2)

My friend came to pick me up when I was done. From there it was straight to the venue where Supari ceremony was happening. As we were early and the photographer was already there, we had the opportunity for some photos. I am not sure what I was feeling because it was the first ceremony with so many people and things started to get more real.

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Then most of the relatives and friends started to come. The groom’s family informed us that some of the family members were on the way for Supari ceremony. Like in most Asian society, wedding is the time when the family status is displayed by showering the bride with expensive jewelleries. My parents and MIL had made sure that nothing was spared in planning so I was getting lots of jewellery from both side of the family.

Wedding Ceremony

For this occasion, the groom doesn’t come but had sent his 4 cousins with trays of gifts like jewellery, Saris, cosmetic, shoes, bags (I went shopping with my mother in law beforehand and she let me pick everything of my choice which was so nice of her), fruits, Nepali Roti, Masala and much more. There was Supari (betle nuts) and coconut nicely decorated in red clothes and beads, fish decorated with lots of glitter, and decorated yogurt.

Wedding Ceremony

One of the biggest highlights was the cake(remember all the drama I had to get this cake done and I am so glad the final outcome was so good). It was a white forest two level cake with a traditional topper (two men carrying bride in Doli) . Everyone loved it. I am glad we selected that.

Wedding Ceremony Wedding Ceremony

There was a diamond necklace with earrings, a pearl set and the important Tilhari (necklace made of small pote beads with a gold pendant) and Sindoor (Vermilion).

Wedding Ceremony

But the most important out of all this is Sahit paper (The paper which has the details of date and time for our Swayambar). An astrologer decides on an auspicious date, or Subha Sahit, after gauging the influences of the celestial bodies on the bride and groom based on the dates and times of their birth. Fixing the date is but an end of a long, tedious process of setting everything on a right course. Preceding it are labyrinth of activities, like matching of kundalis and comparing and cross-checking of gotras, or ancestral lineages, of the couple. The Sahitpaper was framed nicely in a silver frame.

Supari (23)

The ceremony started with my aunt (eldest woman in the family) doing some Puja and then they handed me all the gifts including Sahit paper, Sindoor and Tilhari. The priest was instructing my aunt on what to do and with the help of my mum the ceremony was concluded. Wedding CeremonyWedding Ceremony

I was so preoccupied during the ceremony that I missed lots of the things that happened. Luckily, there is a video as well as photos for me to relive all the wonderful memories from the day.

I wore all the jewellery and some glass bangles.

Supari (19)Supari (17)

Then it was time to cut the cake. In Newari wedding, both the cakes are cut by bride herself. I cut a cake and it was given to everyone. A big piece that said A weds M was sent for AS so he can have later.

Supari (20) Supari (21)

As you know, no ceremony in Nepali culture ends without the big Bhoj (party) so there was Bhoj and refreshment for everyone including AS’s cousins.

Wedding Ceremony

It was a simple ceremony but it had a great significance as it formally started the wedding 🙂 .

Supari (15)More on the wedding in the next post.

Take care,

M from nepaliaustralian

XOXO

P.S: Do not forget to vote your favorite blog . NEPALIAUSTRALIAN’s Blog Award 2014

Go to Part 41

Post marriage attire for women in Nepal

I was talking to one of my good friends on Skype recently. She is happily married with a 4 years old daughter. We have been friends for a long time but as she lives in Nepal and I live here, talking to her is always a treat. Every time we have a conversation we share our personal life and feelings.

I knew she hasn’t been very happy about a few things after her marriage. But recently I found her really happy and alive. I commented to her how glad I was to see her so happy. She told me she is happy because now she is free to wear what she wants. She said she is feeling better about herself now that she has control over her life.

Right then it struck to me that for the first few years after her wedding, she was wearing only Sari and Kurta. So here I am writing about the marriage attire for women in Nepal after marriage.

I have never lived outside of Kathmandu in Nepal. Both my parents are originally from Kathmandu so whatever I am going to write will most probably be the view of city life in Nepal.

In Nepal, for a long time, girls have freedom to wear what they want. I am not talking about low cut short skimpy dress but still they are allowed to wear what they want to a certain extent. I have seen my mum’s photos from her school and college days where she was wearing bell-bottom pants or big floral print t-shirt or beautiful colourful dresses.. Normally people let their daughters wear what they want and these days fashion in Kathmandu is not far behind western cities. So every time I go back to Nepal, I am amazed to see girls wearing low cut dress, short shorts or boob tube dresses and tops. I remember when I was there even halter dresses were not popular. But these days there seems to be not much restriction on what you can wear.

But things turn 180 degrees once the same girl gets married. Let’s take an example of my friend. She was wearing whatever she wanted for the last 20+ years of her life but as soon as she was married, she was forced to wear only Kurta and Sari for 2 years after the wedding. She did want to wear pants and dresses but her MIL and her husband’s immediate family member were against it so she couldn’t do anything about it. It is like my daughter/sister can do anything but if the girl is my DIL or SIL then they have to be seen as a traditional Nepali woman. I know things have changed a lot in the last few years as most of the women work after the marriage as well so they have to wear a uniform or still wear pants as it is more comfortable. But at the same time I have seen many families that didn’t allow their daughter in-laws to wear what she wants but instead says “You are a daughter in law now so you must wear only traditional attire. What will the neighbours says if they see you in pants or dress!” What a double standard.

I know in Nepal not only the in-laws but your own family will expect you to change how you dress, like my mum expected from me once I was married, but I believe society should accept the newlywed woman even if she prefers to wear pants or any other dress than just laying down a rule that married women must wear a Kurta or Sari. If she chooses to wear Sari and Kurta , let her but don’t make it compulsory. I love wearing Sari and Kurta on occasions as I feel very feminine in them but I can’t wear them everyday. For me it is not practical.

I have a cousin who got married recently and changed her dressing style completely after the wedding. I believe it is all expected from you and if you want no conflicts with your new family, girls just follow the rules.

So the normal accepted attire for women after wedding in Nepal are Kurta and Sari with Sindoor(vermilion) on their head, glass chura(glass bangles) on their hands and pote (Glass beads) around their neck. My mum thought I would be wearing pote and chura after the wedding even here in Sydney. The first time I Skyped with her after our return to Sydney, post wedding, she suggested to me that I should either wear chura or pote now onwards. I told her I do wear them when I am wearing Sari or Kurta but I can’t wear them with my pants and dresses. I am sure she is not very happy about it but she does understand my point and hasn’t said anything after that. My MIL on the other hand has never mention anything close to this yet and  I am very glad because I can’t be blunt with her, like I can with my mum, about my reasons for not wearing them here. But the best thing is that she is very understanding.

After the wedding I stayed with my in-laws for 10 days before leaving for our honeymoon. On those 10 days I wore only sari. Mostly it was my choice as I was having fun being a new bride and loving my saris and also it was expected that a woman to look certain way once they are married.

I am not sure how things will be when I go to Nepal again. To start with, I have to live with my in-laws most of the time. I will be visiting my parents but will be expected to spend more time in my husband’s house. So there will be the problem like what I will be allowed to wear or what is accepted of me.

Here in Australia, I wear whatever I want. I haven’t changed my dressing style after my wedding so I am not sure what I am going to do when I go to Nepal. I am sure I can’t wear shorts and short dresses. Normally I used to wear pants with a not too tight t-shirt but I am not sure what will be expected of me. May be I will just wait for now and worry about it when I book my next flight to Kathmandu. But thinking about it sometimes gives me a headache.

I believe that woman should still have the freedom to choose what they want to wear after getting marriage just like before marriage. I am sure we won’t dress like teenagers when we are in our mid 20s. Otherwise if society forces women to dress in a certain way then it might make them unhappy, like my friend, which will affect the relationship with the in-laws. I hope this will change soon so a woman doesn’t feel obligated to do things she really doesn’t want to. I know society changes according to time so I hope Nepali society will change in this aspect soon and will not differentiate between married women and single women in terms of clothing.

Bahra

As I mentioned in my previous post Ihi’, every Newar girl have to perform the ritual called ‘Ihi’ and after ‘Ihi’, they have to perform the ritual called ‘Bhara’.

Bahra’ is also known as ‘’Bahra tyagu” in Newari and Surya Darshan or Gufa rakhne in Nepali. In this ceremony, the girl is married to the sun.

In some culture, this ceremony is done when the girl has her first menstruation and in other cultures, it occurs after they get an auspicious date from a priest .

It is believed that the girl is protected by the sun from bad people and the evils after this ceremony.

For this ceremony, a girl will stay in a room of her house for 12 days without seeing sunlight and not meeting any male person. ( I still don’t know the reason for this so please share if you know).

In the room at one corner, a cloth is put as Bahra Khayak (ghost) and worshipped by the girl as she is believed to be in possessed by evil. Before she eats anything, one portion needs to be separated for Khayak. If the ritual is not followed, it is believed, the Khayak will scare the girl at night. 

My Bahra ceremony

The hardest part of the ritual is not to eat salt during the first 6 days. I was only 13 years old when I had my Bahra and I remember crying for salt everyday as food doesn’t taste good without salt. As this culture is different among different families, I am writing about how members of my own family go through this tradition.

After the sixth day, close female relatives like maternal uncles (mama), dad’s sisters (fufu) and other relative will come and meet the girl with food like popcorn and Rotis and fruits. Also from the sixth day, there will be powder called ‘Koaa’ which is used by all the women to make them look beautiful. You have to follow a special direction to use this and it is meant to clean the skin. It is used especially by the Bahra girl to look good when she come out of hiding on the 12th day.

Step to use Koaa.

  • Wash your hands, legs and face with water first.
  • Mix the ‘Koaa’ with water and make a paste. Then put the paste all over your face, legs and hands
  • Leave it for a few minutes to dry.
  • Now rub oil on your hands and remove the paste from your face, legs and hands.

    Alha during Bahra

In these 12 days the girl will be entertained by her female friends and relatives. While I was in my room we had ludo, snake and ladder and dolls to play with. As my family was ok for me to hear male voice we had radio so we used to play it loud and dance.

Some days went really quick as I had many visitors around and then there were days which were so long, I couldn’t wait to go out.

On 12th day there will be a big celebration of the ending of this ceremony.

Surya darshan during Bahra

In the morning, the girl purifies herself  by taking a bath. Then she is dressed in bridal sari and make up. She will then be covered my shawl and take to the open space where Puja is performed. There will be Ganesh Puja first and then Surya Puja followed by Surya Darshan. It will be the first time the girl will see the sun in 12 days. Also Sindoor is put on the girl’s forehead as a symbol of marriage to the sun and a yellow string is put around her head.

Like in Ihi, there will be a special person who cuts toe nails for the girl and then paints the feet with red colour called ‘Alah’. Also, ‘Thaa bu’, a plate which has eggs, yogurt, wine, fruits, Roti, meat, fish and much more for the girlsto eat is served like in the real wedding.

Then she will be given Sagun and gifts by family and relatives. Also after this Puja, the girl will go with her relatives to a nearby temple and do more Puja.

In the evening of that day there will be a big bhoj (party) and lots of relatives and friends are invited.

After this ceremony the girl becomes an adolescent.

Widows in Nepal

I want to start this post by saying; whatever I am going to write in this post is solely my opinion and understanding and hold no disrespect for any culture or tradition. 

In Nepal, if a Hindu woman loses her husband, she has to wear a white sari for a whole year. She also has to give up all signs of marriage like pote, glass chura and sindoor. 

After one year, she is allowed to wear clothes with colours other than red or shades of red or other bright colours and she still can’t wear pote, glass chura and sindoor. They are also forbidden from remarrying. It is believed if a widow marries another man; her deceased husband’s soul goes to hell. I know it sounds ridiculous but that is what the widows are led to believe. 

In ancient times, there used to be ‘Sati’ practice in which if a married man died, the widow is coerced to join her husband in his funeral pyre. My grandma used to tell me the stories about how she knew people who she lost due to this practice. This was outlawed only around 70 years ago. 

I don’t know why the husband is never made to undergo such cruel customs on the death of his wife. And men can remarry if they want. 

My paternal grandmother was widowed when she was quite young. Her youngest child was only 2 years old at that time. I know she suffered a lot as a widow in a conservative Nepali society. She was not invited for many religious ceremonies and considered an outcast for lots of Pujas. My grandma is a survivor and she managed to ignore all the brutal treatment from the society and brought up all 7 kids all by herself. She made sure that all the kids went to school and were well-educated despite the fact that she was uneducated and alone. All the kids grew up to be successful in their lives and all the credit goes to my grandma. 

I never saw my grandma wearing any bright colour saris even after 50 years of the death of my grandfather nor did she wear any glass chura. She used to have a few golden bangles and that was it. She told me lot of stories where she felt like an outcast from the society after her husband passed away. 

I know an aunt who lost a husband in a freak accident after just 3 years of marriage. At that time she had a year old baby boy and she was only 26 years old. I really thought it was cruel that she couldn’t enjoy her life just because her husband had passed away. Her MIL blamed her for her son’s death and made her life into hell. I am sure she missed her husband terribly and on top of that she had to deal with the cold behaviour from relatives and the society. I strongly believed that she should have been allowed to remarry and live the rest of her life happily but I was just a kid and my opinion would have brought an outburst among my relatives. 

Recently, I read news that the Nepali government are giving RS 50,000 (AUD 600) to the couple if a man married a widow. I find this wrong in so many levels. A widow is a woman and not some broken furniture which you pay the removalist to discard. No one should be given monetary incentive to marry; it should be purely out of love. I also read lots of news later that people were marrying only for the money and it was not helping the problem of widows in Nepal. 

I know there are so many human rights organisations that are fighting for this cause and I salute them but this problem is not going anywhere until we are able to educate people and make them understand that death is a natural process so no woman should suffer her whole life just because her husband died. 

I know things are changing slowly but still the majority of Nepalese people do not accept widows as a normal woman. I want them to think what they will do if the window is their own daughter or sister. I am sure they want them to be treated as equal to any normal woman and allowed to remarry if they wish to and live their life happily.

Reliving our Big day

It is 95 days since our wedding. I know it is funny I am counting days and I hope to count them in years as time pass by. We had big wedding (Big, Loud, Crowded, Nepali wedding) and I enjoyed every minute of it. It involved lots of culture, tradition and people I never knew. So I decided I should write about my experience before it goes fuzzy in my head. We had Nepali Newari wedding. I am going to write about our engagement and will continue with all the steps of our wedding. The steps were as follows:

  •  Engagement ceremony –  The day we were officially engaged.
  • Mehendi” ceremony – The day where all girls including Bride get henna tattoo on their hand.
  • Supari” ceremony (from Groom to Bride) – The day when Groom’s family send lots of gifts like jewellery, Saris, cosmetics, shoes, bags, fruits, Nepali Roti , Masala and much more.
  • “Swayambar” ceremony -The day where all the marriage ritual happens and groom put Sindoor (Vermilion) on bride’s forehead and parting of her hair.
  • Bride side Reception – Reception from bride and her family for all their relatives and friends.
  • Janti -The day groom and his family come to bride’s home to take her to their home.
  • Groom side “Supari – The day where Bride is officially introduced to Groom’s family and they give bride jeweller or money.
  • Groom side Reception Reception form groom and her family for all their relatives and friends.
  • Mukh herne” ceremony – The day when Bride’s family come and meet Bride with lots of gifts like jewellery, Saris, cosmetic, shoes, bags fruits, Nepali Roti , Masala and much more
  • WanjalaThe newly married couple visit the temple (Kul Deuta)
  • “Jwain Bhitraune” ceremony – Days when Groom is invited to close relative of Bride for Sagun.