Updated: May 9, 2019
The engagement ceremony is an important pre-wedding ritual in Indian cultures. Let’s take a look at various customs and rituals associated with this pre-wedding ritual!
The engagement ceremony is an important pre-wedding ritual in Indian cultures where the would-be-bride and the bridegroom-to-be come face to face and are formally betrothed to each other by their families. The Hindu tradition of ‘Vagdanam’ dates back to Vedic ages, and it involves the groom’s family giving their words to the bride’s family that they will accept their daughter and will be responsible for her future wellbeing. It is sort of an exchange of pledges between the families and a chance of getting to know each other’s customs or rituals. In historic times, this ritual involved elaborate announcements in case of Royalties. In Rajput traditions, this betrothal generally takes place soon after the birth of a girl so as to ward of other suitors.
Engagement ceremonies are uniform across most religion and ethnicities across India, differing in nuances and details of the rituals. In some cases, the engagement ceremony marks the formal announcement of the betrothal, while in others it marks the ceremony where the official date of the wedding is determined. In some cultures the engagement precedes the actual wedding by as much as a year whereas in others they are held a day or two prior the actual wedding. Exchanging of rings is not mandatory in all cultures across the country, but it is almost always involves the ritual being the formal announcement of the impending nuptials.
Muslim Engagement Ceremony
In India, Muslims generally follow the marriage customs as delineated in the Holy Quoran. The traditions of wedding and pre-wedding functions have been handed down by the invading Sultans and Mughal rulers. Muslims consider marriages to be an act of worship and obedience to Allah, following the rituals of utmost devotion. The engagement ceremony is termed as the Mangni in traditional Islamic wedding rituals, and generally takes place the day before the wedding after the Istikara and Imam-Zamin rituals have been completed. During the Mangni ceremony, the groom’s family visits the bride’s house with gifts of clothes, sweets and fruits. The bride’s dress for the occasion is presented by the Groom’s family along with jewelry. The betrothed couple exchange rings and pledge their intention to solidify the union during Nikaah.
Christian Engagement Ceremony
Christian weddings are not like wedding ceremonies from other cultures across the country if compared in terms of duration and ostentatiousness. It is generally a one-day affair with the wedding and reception happening on the same day. In Christian traditions, the engagement ceremony consists of the sole pre-wedding ritual. The function is generally hosted by the bride’s parents and the guests include the closest friends and family. The bride and groom-to-be exchange rings and there is generally a party after the ceremony is over. The event is announced in the local churches and sometimes it is advertised in local newspapers as well. In case of Christians, the engagement is the formal announcement of a couple’s intention to marry and the following engagement period may vary from weeks to years, depending on the date set for the wedding.
Hindu Engagement Ceremony
Hindu engagement ceremony traditions vary across different states and ethnicities. There are various terms associated with it like Mangni, Sagai, Ashribaad, Nishchayam etc. Major cultural traditions across various provinces are outlined below:
The formal engagement ceremony among the Kashmiri Pandit community is known as Kasamdry. The dates for the occasion are fixed by the family priests according to Kashmiri Calendar. The elderly of both families meet at a temple and exchange flowers to signify the purity of the process of formalization of betrothal in front of the idol. This is followed by a traditional Kashmiri meal being served to the groom’s family by the bride’s family. In the house of both the boy and the girl, an elderly female relative, preferably an aunt prepares a special rice pudding known as Var, which after feeding the bride/groom is distributed among relatives and neighbors. Modern traditions include the boy and the girl to accompany the elders to the temple and exchange rings.
The formal engagement ceremony in both Punjabi Hindu and Sikh traditions are termed as Kurmai or Shagan. This event may take place either several days before the wedding day or just the day before. This ceremony either takes place at the groom’s place or at a Gurudwara. The bride’s family visits with gifts of clothes, sweets and dry fruits. In Sikh practices, the bride’s father presents the boy with a Kada (traditional Sikh bangles), a gold ring, and gold coins. This seals the betrothal and generally a feast follows (Langar in case of Sikhs).
The engagement ceremony here is referred to as the Sagai. It also refers to the period of engagement prior to the actual wedding. On the day of the engagement the groom and his close relatives visit the bride’s home and present a ring to the bride. The bride wears this engagement ring on the ring finger of her left hand and this mark the bride as a betrothed woman.