The next stage of a Guide to Punjabi Weddings is the Saahe Chithi, which is little known about until people have a close wedding in the family and they carry out this custom. It usually takes place a week before the wedding and tends to involve only close relatives.
The girl’s family prepare a wedding invitation for the boy’s family, which is splashed with a few drops of saffron. In India, the local barber is asked to take this invitation to the boy’s family and he is rewarded with clothes for doing so. Being asked to “be the messenger” is considered an honour for the barber. Although this is now a dwindling custom. Today, it’s usually key family members and/or the “middle person” (or matchmaker, otherwise known as bachola or bacholan), who will go to the girl’s house with the invitation. They may take gifts such as Indian sweets or dry fruit.
The traditional significance of this ceremony is to officially invite the boy’s family to the solemnisation of the marriage and implies that you should now begin preps for the wedding day. Although in modern weddings, planning could start years before to secure venue and temples on certain dates. But historically, weddings were a lot simpler and could be arranged within days.
The invitation is prepared in the presence of elders in the family, as a sign of respect. It is splashed with saffron, which gives a red stain. Red is the symbol of the renewal of life in Indian culture, which is what the marriage signifies.
The barber was traditionally sent as the messenger because historically it was considered discourteous for the girl’s family to visit the boy’s family too often. Also, travel was usually by foot so travelling to the boy’s house if it was in a different village or town could be timely. By rewarding the barber with clothing or some other sort of gift would be considered both charitable and auspicious to receive the barber’s well-wishes in gratitude as a result.
The gifting of Indian sweets or dry fruit is an age-old custom of not going to somebody’s house empty-handed, especially if they are your daughter’s prospective in-laws. There is a cultural bias for the girl’s family to hold the boy’s family in high-esteem to avoid any repercussions on their daughter’s married life. Although; opinion of this is subjective to each family.
Saahe Chithi Checklist
These are general guidelines. The “gifts” are not compulsory:
- Indian sweets – usually laddoo or mithai
- Dry fruit could also be taken – this is usually in odd quantities of the ingredients, for example 3, 5 or 7 ingredients mixed together.
- Gaana, which is a red thread used at many Hindu or Sikh ceremonies as a symbol of starting something new. This is sometimes tied around the invitation.
- And of course the wedding invitation.
So this was the Saahe Chithi. Next time in a Guide to Punjabi Weddings, find out what the Maiyan or Vatna ceremony involves as we approach the big day – the wedding!