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Wedding » Indian-weddings » Custom-rituals-061010
 
Rice n "Love"ly
A traditional marriage staple
 
Rice n "Love"ly Rice is probably the one staple that transcends culture where in the west it is thrown to commemorate a wedding and in the far-east it is an intrinsic part of custom and ritual through religious offerings.

Shaaditimes sprinkles new insight into one of the most important connubial rituals around the world and especially in India. The significance of one of the most potent symbols, an ingredient that is present in rituals world over, for its blessing of fertility, prosperity and plenty. The grain of rice.

No other physical ingredient has unified communities and religions while symbolising abundance and richness. All which are pious blessings for the couple. In Indian rituals rice is present in most ceremonies of most cultures. In the Orient throwing rice is a way of wishing a couple plenty.

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Rice in Indian rituals
In Kashmiri weddings, the famous kanishtran, the pre-nuptial bath of the bride contains rice besides milk, water and curds along with flowers. Rice also figures in the actual marriage ceremony wherein a plate of rice, with some money on it, is touched to the right shoulder of the groom. Meanwhile his uncle ties a turban on the groom's head readying him to go to the bride's house.

The Punjabi traditions aren't complete without the symbolic ritual of the bride throwing puffed rice or phulian over her head at her bidai ceremony. This conveys good wishes for her parents and also marks the start of a new life leaving her past behind. During the ceremony of chunni chadhana the bride receives a duppatta and various other gifts from her in-laws and her mother-in-law feeds her boiled rice and milk as part of the ritual.

In the Parsi tradition, the bride and groom play a game of throwing rice. The aim to display strength not only in the physical pursuit of rice, but also symbolically to show strength in spirit and love both emotional and physical. The bride and bridegroom are given a few grains of rice in their left hand. After that, a little frankincense is sprayed on the couple, which is a signal for the couple to throw the rice they hold in their hands over one another. The one that throws rice first over the other is said to win. It is also sprinkled over the couple while the benediction is being pronounced as the priest gives his blessings.

"It's raining rice..." literally at Assamese weddings. The best man has to actually shield the groom with an umbrella as he is greeted by the bride's family with a whirlwind of granules. During the ceremony the bride and groom perform the prayers with rice in their hands (as the grain is considered holy for its properties of fertility and prosperity), which then is offered to the holy fire.

Interestingly, we find similar ritual in Tamil and Telugu Matrimony where the groom accepts the popped flakes from the bride's brother and offers it to the sacred fire. In Telugu weddings this is called "Akshata" the offering of uncooked, turmeric coloured rice. There is also a rice-fight at the end of the marriage ceremony where the bride and groom throw mounds of rice over each other and enjoy it thoroughly!

In Bengali weddings rice plays a predominant role in various forms such as the pre-marriage ceremony offering to Saint Kuber. This continues to the big day where the mandap, the alpana or rangoli is made with rice paste. The plate of grains that welcomes the groom called the Baran Dala, has rice in ample quantities. The Bou Baran, to welcome the bride, also has rice and rice husk as a form of the offerings on the plate. The gifts that welcome the bride and groom after marriage too include rice and rice husk in good quantities.

In Gujarati weddings the "ghar ni laxmi" ritual sprinkles the couple with rice as the bride crosses over the threshold into her new house. This is done with a lot of fanfare and her first step is considered auspicious. She is portended to bring in prosperity with her, hence, she performs a symbolic ritual at the entrance of the house before entering. The mother-in-law places a vessel, filled to the brim with rice, at the entrance of the house. The bride must knock the vessel down gently with her right foot, spilling some of the rice over. The rice is a symbol of wealth and by following the ritual she conveys her full understanding of her duties and responsibilities towards her new home.
 

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