Last week, as part of my Guide to Punjabi Weddings, I explained the first stage of a traditional Punjabi wedding – the roka and/or thaka ceremonies. Now, for the next stage, I’ll be looking at what the chunni ceremony involves; the meaning behind it and have included a checklist of things you could need. I’m often asked what is given or needed for this ritual so all you need to know has been explained in the Epic Events blog!
The chunni ceremony is often referred to as the official engagement. The roka is an informal engagement when the couple are blessed and recognised by both families as to-be-weds. The chunni cements this and makes them official fiancés.
The ceremony involves the boy’s family visiting the girl’s house or venue that they have arranged to accommodate the guests. The boy’s family bring gifts comprising of fruit, Indian sweets, meva (dry fruit) and a complete outfit for the girl. Some families opt to bring many more gifts, although this is neither expected nor necessary.
Women who are closely related to the boy, usually his sister or sister-in-law, present the girl with a red outfit. Ladies in the boy’s family will then dress the bride in these clothes – in the privacy of a separate room of course! They usually bring matching cosmetics and nail varnish, which they also put on the girl.
Once the girl is dressed, she is brought back to where all the guests are congregated. The boy and girl are seated together, which is when the crucial ritual of the chunni charauna takes place. The boy’s mum places a red “chunni” (scarf) that corresponds to the outfit the girl has been dressed in, and places it on the girl’s head. Then she or other significant women in the boy’s family adorn the girl with other gifts they have brought – traditional jewellery set (which is usually gold), bangles, a red accessory in the hair and mendhi on her hands. The boy’s father will put handfuls of meva into the girl’s “jholi”. The boy’s parents will feed the girl a whole dry date.
Some families ask the boy to put sindoor (vermilion) on the girl, which is an Indian tradition originating from the Hindu community and can only be done by a man to his marital partner. It is a sign of a married woman. He will then put the engagement ring on the girl’s finger, hence this being the official engagement.
The parents will give sagan to both the boy and girl in the form of feeding them ladoo (an Indian sweet) and gifting them money. The rest of the family will follow and this is where youngsters in the family imitate paparazzi as they flash snaps of the sagan process!
Some variations exist between this ceremony in India and abroad. In India, the girl will also put a ring on the boy’s hand during the chunni ceremony because they do not exchange wedding bands in India. Some families opt to feed the girl boiled rice and milk in place of ladoo, but generally the concept is to feed her something sweet.
The meaning behind gifting the girl a red outfit and dressing her represents the boy’s family’s acceptance of her as their prospective daughter-in-law. This is why there is emphasis on them dressing her. It is called the chunni charauna ceremony because crucially, the boy’s mother will put the chunni on the girl’s head to dress her like a bride. The boy’s father fills her jholi with handfuls of meva as a symbolic token of welcoming her to the family.
This is a general guide of what the boy’s family will take to the chunni ceremony:
- Red outfit – could be lengha or sari but is usually a salwar suit
- Fruit, which is usually presented in a basket
- Meva (dry fruit) that must be made of an odd number of ingredients (5, 7 or 9), which could include almonds, raisins, mishri (crystallised sugar lumps), cardamom, cashew nuts, coconut flakes and dates
- Indian sweets – ladoo are traditionally fed to the boy and girl but other Indian sweets could be gifted additionally, and/or chocolates or sweets.
- Accessories with the red outfit – traditional jewellery set (usually made of gold), bangles, bindis, red ribbon for the hair
- Sindoor – optional and depends on the family
- Make-up, which usually consists of lipstick, eye-liner and lipstick although it is not limited to just these cosmetics.
- Bag and/or shoes – optional to add additional accessories to the girl’s outfit although some traditional families may not favour the idea of gifting their prospective bride with shoes before marriage.
- A simpler red chunni that the girl could wear when her outfit has been changed but before the boy’s mother has put the official chunni on her head
- Red handkerchiefs (or something similar) for the bride and groom to hold their sagan money.
- Flowers – optional for the boy to gift his prospective wife.
- And don’t forget the all-important engagement ring!
So this is the chunni ceremony. It can take place any time after the roka and before the wedding day. It’s now common for the function to be held at a venue to accommodate all guests and even a DJ to keep everyone entertained!
And following this is the kurmai, which I’ll be explaining next week so please continue your support by following the Epic Events blog.
If you’re planning your chunni ceremony, give us a call to find out how we at Epic Events could help!