We are fast approaching the Big Day in a Guide to Punjabi Weddings, and the countdown begins with the maiya ceremony. Traditionally, the maiya is conducted three times. This usually takes place two days before the wedding day, when it’s customary to start before midday. The second time is in the morning of the day before the wedding and finally, it is applied that night too. Both the boy and girl undergo the same process and after this they are traditionally confined to remain at home and not change their clothes! Why? – you ask. Well, read on!
Initially, a rangoli design is made in the garden or veranda of the wedding home. This design incorporates rangoli (coloured powder), flour and rice. The design could be as intricate or adventurous as you like! This is usually done by relatives from the boy or girl’s maternal family, although there is no strict rule to this.
The boy or girl are brought out to where the rangoli design has been made carrying a thaal (tray), which has vatna (mixture of turmeric powder, flour and mustard oil that is kneaded into a moist dough-like consistency), a fatti (traditionally a rectangular piece of wood), gaaney (auspicious red thread) and dupatta (Asian scarf).
They are sat down on the peeri, the fatti is placed under their feet so it is adjacent to the rangoli design. The dupatta is held above them by four people from each corner. The mother or any other elder in the family, wipe mustard oil on the boy or girl’s head with a few grass strands. Originally, the oil was applied to the entire hair, which has excellent conditioning properties. Over generations this has reduced to a few dabs on the forehead leaving them looking greasy until the wedding morning, which is when they could wash their hair!
Family and friends then begin rubbing the vatna on the boy or girl. This is concentrated on the face, arms, hands and feet. The maiya ceremony is a playful and cheeky affair when relatives will often mischievously apply the vatna on every available body part! Ladies traditionally sing jovial folk songs to enhance the celebratory atmosphere.
Once everyone has taken it in turns to rub the vatna; the mother attempts to feed a rice and sugar mixture to the boy or girl. Their sister-in-law (brother’s wife) playfully tries to stop the mother from doing this by smacking the mother’s hand away. This is another feature of the comical nature of the maiya ceremony.
Meanwhile, all guests are given a gaana (auspicious red thread), which they tie around their wrist. Designs can vary and people tend to be creative with bells and beads to accentuate the gaana.
The boy or girl is then led away with the tray in their hands and dupatta on their head. They are suggested to feed any singletons the remaining rice and sugar mixture as good luck for them to get hitched soon!
The boy or girl’s mother then clears the rangoli. Before she does this, she steps over the design either side seven times, then uses water to collect the rangoli to bring it to a paste. This is thrown over the house or on a rooftop for birds to feed from it. This is also considered auspicious. She will then leave three handprints on the house, because her hands would be stained after clearing the rangoli. This was traditionally done on the front of houses in India as a sign that it is a wedding house.
As I mentioned earlier, the maiya is conducted another two times. The second time is the following morning (the day before the wedding) but this is simply a process of the boy or girl applying the vatna to their body themselves. The third and final time is that evening, at the jaago night. This is another big get-together where friends and relatives will be involved.
Once the maiya ceremony has been done two days prior to the wedding day, the boy and girl are generally refrained from leaving the house (although this tradition is largely ignored now). The main reason behind this is to ensure the security and safety of the bride or groom-to-be.
They are told not to bathe or change their clothes until the wedding morning, which probably sounds repulsive! But the rationale behind it is quite the opposite. The clothes aren’t changed because otherwise they would be stained with turmeric. The vatna is a natural skin purifier so acts like a face and body mask. This is why it is applied three times before the wedding day. So the main purpose behind the maiya ceremony is to beautify the couple!
- Rangoli – the quantity and range of colours depends on your design choice
- Flour (just a handful)
- Rice (just a handful)
- Peeri (stool) – available to rent from Epic Events
- Fatti (rectangular piece of wood) – available to rent from Epic Events
- Vatna – made of turmeric powder, mustard oil and flour kneaded to a moist dough
- Gaaney (auspicious red thread) – the number depends on how many guests you’re expecting
- Thaal (tray) – available to rent from Epic Events
- Boiled rice and sugar mix
- Dupatta (scarf) – Punjabi’s tend to go for a traditional fulkari design
- A few strands of grass
- A few drops of mustard oil
Watch this space as A Guide to Punjab Weddings takes you through the Mendhi and Sangeet night when the festivities start mounting with plenty of singing and dancing!