Out of all the wedding rituals and ceremonies, the haldi and choora ceremony has a special significance. While most other wedding ceremonies have now become elaborate affairs, with hundreds of guests attending opulent events, the haldi and choora have remained an event that’s all about close family members and simple prayer.
Not only does the choora ceremony hold a surprise in store for an unsuspecting female family member, the haldi ceremony has various cosmetic benefits as well.
The haldi ceremony in essence is to prepare the bride and groom for their big wedding day, cleansing their skin and healing it. Turmeric has several medicinal properties, but apart from that it is also auspicious in Indian culture. The auspiciousness of this color seeks to usher in a life of prosperity and wellbeing for the couple, as they set out on this new venture of life together.
The ceremony is seen as a way to ward off any bad omens and evil spirits before the couple’s holy union. The family is very involved in the haldi ceremony as they are the ones to apply the turmeric paste to the bride and groom. The elder women bless the bride and the rest of the women take turns to apply the haldi on the bride’s arms, legs and face. Traditionally, the family is even supposed to help the bride wash off the haldi!
The Choora ceremony takes place on the morning of the wedding day or a day before. The choora are a set of red and white bangles that are presented to the bride by her maternal uncle. The whole process of adorning the bride’s wrists with the stunning choora is quite fascinating. Her eyes are covered as the family puts the choora on, as out of excitement her own evil eye might bring misfortune! Red in our culture is a sign of fertility, prosperity and maturity, and together these colors signify the new role of the bride as she transitions from a girl to a married woman.
The Kalire are umbrella shaped hangings that were traditionally made of dried coconut or silver and often encrusted with dry fruits and makhane. They signify a blessing of plenty, of wealth and prosperity. The kalire now are often highly ornamental and decorated, but still hold the original essence and provide good wishes to the bride and remind her of all her loved ones that will be with her on her new endeavor. The friends, sisters and sisters-in-law tie the kalire to the bride’s wrists while surrounded by the rest of the family. A part of the kalire ceremony involves the bride making all of her single female friends sit in a row. She proceeds to shake her kalire tied wrists on all their heads and if a kalire falls on any of the girls, it is said she will find a good-looking match and tie the knot soon!
The prayer is at the essence of the haldi and choora ceremony. The whole event is centered around blessing the bride and groom as a whole family and calling upon the divine forces to do the same. Even though so many aspects of the great Indian wedding have evolved as our culture became westernized, the prayer remains untouched in it’s form. The purity and spiritual power of the flame is called upon in the havan and traditional elements and materials like haldi, coconut and the paan leaf for example still hold their importance. Beyond all the glamour and celebration of weddings, there’s an underlying connection that establishes itself within the close-knit family and friends that participate in the prayer and bless the bride and groom.