Parsi Wedding

In the Gathas (Yasna 53.5) Zarathustra addresses the marrying brides and grooms with the words, “May you two enjoy life and may each one of you clothe the other with righteousness. Then assuredly there will be a happy life for you”.

In the Zoroastrian faith marriage is encouraged and greatly favored by the religious texts; hence, a Zoroastrian wedding is considered to be an event which must be celebrated, not quietly, but with some éclat and must be celebrated in the presence of an Anjoman (assembly), which can bear witness to the event [1]. The marriage festivities last for four days and the wedding ceremony is performed in the evening of the fourth day just after sunset, but the nuptial ceremonies of the marriage-day are preceded by several other ceremonies.

Pre-Wedding Ceremonies

Rupia Peravanu
This is an occasion when both families acknowledge that their daughter and son have decided to marry one another. On this day the ladies from the boy’s family go to the girl’s home to present the girl with monetary gifts. The girl’s mother welcomes the ladies into her home by performing Achu-michu (a ritual), for which a tray containing a raw egg, coconut, dates, rice is prepared. First, a tila (mark) with Kunkun (red pigment) is applied to the forehead of all the ladies. Next, the egg is passed round their heads and then thrown upon the ground and broken. It signifies that evil may pass off to the egg and be destroyed with it. A coconut is then similarly passed round the heads and then broken. A little water is then poured in a tray, which is passed round the heads, and then the water is thrown on either side of the ladies. Some rice is thrown over their heads, as rice is considered to be the symbol of plenty and prosperity. The ladies present the girl with monetary gifts, then refreshments are served and the boy’s family returns home. Now, the girl’s family adds more to the gifts they received, and go to the boy’s house, where this ceremony is repeated.

Adrâvvűn (Betrotal)
This ceremony may be performed at any time after both sides have given their consent. The older term for Adrâvvűn is Nâm pâdvűn. It is derived from the Persian term Nâmzad kardan , which means to name. It is so called from the fact that after the betrothal, the brides took the names of the grooms. According to the Parsee custom, a girl's name is always connected with her husband's name in religious ceremonies after the betrothal [1]. On this day, the groom’s mother and other ladies of his family go to the bride’s home, where they are greeted with songs. The bride’s mother performs the Achu-michu to welcome them and when the ladies enter the house the groom’s mother places a coin in the deevo (oil lamp) that has been kept burning since early morning in the bride’s house. The groom’s mother then gives the bride a set of clothes (sari, petticoat, blouse etc). The bride changes into the new petticoat and blouse and then the ladies while singing traditional songs ceremoniously put the sari, which is sprinkled with rose water, on the bride and also adorn her with red bangles, as a symbol of her engagement. All the members of the bride’s family are also given gifts by the groom’s family, traditional refreshments are served, and the groom’s family then leaves, taking the bride with them. The bride’s family now adds more cash to what was presented to the ladies of their family and go to the groom’s home where the groom is presented with a new set of clothes and the entire process is repeated. The groom and bride also exchange engagement rings.

This ceremony is performed four days before the wedding by female relatives who have children. On this day, the families of the bride and groom each plant a young tree, symbolic of a wish for fertility, in their lawn or a pot. Curd is poured into the hole made for the sapling along with a few grains of rice and wheat. A handkerchief with gold and silver is tied to a branch and a garland is put on it. The plant is watered every morning till the eighth day after the wedding and then transplanted elsewhere. The second and the third days are known as Varadh-patra days when religious ceremonies in honor of the dead relatives are performed.

The third day before the wedding is also a day for gift exchanging. First the groom's family visits the bride's home to present her with gifts, clothes, jewellery etc. and the same is done by the bride’s family to the groom at his place. This is known as Adarni . Apart from the clothes and the usual gifts, they also carry trays of fish, sweets and a bowl of curd. However, while the bride herself may also go over to the groom's home for this tradition, the groom cannot do the same. Relatives and friends are invited to a traditional meal of sev (vermicelli) and sweet dahi (curd).

Rituals on the Day of the Wedding

On the day of the marriage, prior to the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom individually take a Nahn (sacred bath), by reciting prayers before and after the bath with their family priest.

At the wedding venue, the entrance doors are decorated with torans (hanging strings of flowers), the thresholds are covered with beautiful designs of colored chalk (powder), and usually a stage is set for the marriage ceremony. The groom puts on a white ceremonial dress, white being the symbol of purity, innocence and faithfulness, and holds a shawl in his hand, a shawl being considered in India a symbol of respect and greatness. The sari (outer garment) of the bride is a loose dress full of folds and curls, which signify the idea of mystery, modesty, respect, and rank. So, women generally put on such loose flowing dresses.

A tila (mark) with Kunkun (red pigment) is applied to the groom’s forehead. This mark is always long and vertical and symbolizes a ray of the sun, which is the fructifying agent in nature. The tila placed on the bride’s forehead is round, symbolizing the moon, which shines by the absorbed rays of the sun, and which therefore is represented as a conceiving agent. A garland of flowers is placed round the neck of the groom and bride as a symbol of sweetness and geniality. When the groom arrives at the venue the ladies of the bride's family perform a var-behendoo , (i.e., a water pot is presented to the husband), and they make him dip his hands in it. While doing so, the groom drops a coin into it as a mark of appreciation for the gift. Water is considered to be a symbol of prosperity and also of humility. The groom is then welcomed on the stage by the bride’s mother who performs Achu-michu . The groom then takes his seat on the stage, and waits for the bride, who comes after a short time. Now the groom’s mother performs the Achu-michu on the bride to welcome her on the stage.

Hathęvârô (Hand-Fastening)
Now begins the religious ceremonies, which is performed by two priests, one from the groom’s side of the family and the other from the bride’s side. The bride and the groom are at first made to sit opposite each other, separated by a piece of cloth held between them as a curtain, so that they may not see each other. This part of the ritual signifies that until now a separation has existed between them. The priest of the groom places the right hand of the groom in the right hand of the bride and unites them with a raw twist, which he puts round the hand seven times, with the recital of one Ahunavar (a prayer). A few grains of rice are given to the couple to hold in their left hands. After fastening the right hands, the raw twist is passed round the pair seven times, each time with a recital of the Ahunavar . The number seven plays a prominent part in some Parsi rituals as it corresponds to the seven Amesha-Spentas (the attributes of Ahura Mazda), and seven Keshwars (zones or regions). The process of encircling the bride and groom indicates that the couple is now united. The raw twist itself can be easily broken, but when several threads are twined into one, they cannot be broken. So it signifies that the union into which the couple is now bound may not easily be broken. At the end of the seventh Ahunavar the couple throws the rice they held in their left hands over one another. The one who throws the rice first is believed to indicate that he or she will be foremost in loving and respecting the other, and not, as is erroneously believed, dominate the other. The cloth-curtain between the bride and the groom is dropped and they are now made to sit next to one another. The groom is made to sit on the right hand side of the bride, which symbolizes a place of honor, as he is considered to be the leader.

Ashirwad (Benediction)
At the commencement of the Ashirvad or the marriage Blessing-prayer, known as the Paęvand-nâmeh, the officiating head priest says that the ceremony is avar dâd va âin-i-Din-i-Mazdayasni (according to the rules and customs of the Mazdayasnian religion). The two officiating priests stand facing the couple and two witnesses, usually married persons, one from the bride’s side and the other from the groom’s side are made to stand next to the bride and groom. The nearest relatives, usually married persons but not bachelors, stand as marriage witnesses.

The senior priest at first blesses the couple with the words: “May the Creator, the omniscient Lord, grant you a progeny of sons and grandsons, plenty of means to provide yourselves, heart-ravishing friendship, bodily strength, long life ……….”. He then questions the witnesses and the marrying couple if this wedding is by mutual consent and to make sure this is repeated three times. The bride and groom are asked to express their consent after "Tâ andâzandi paęmân pa râst manashni pasand kardehid" (truthful consideration).

This is followed by a joint address of (a) admonitions, (b) prayers and (c) blessings by both priests to the marrying couple and while reciting the prayers the priests shower the couple with rice and rose petals, as a symbol of good luck and prosperity.
(a) The admonitions consist of some practical advice about one's behavior in life.
(b) During the recital, they pray to Ahura Mazda to confer upon the couple certain moral and social aspirations.
(c) In the benedictions, certain departed worthies of ancient Persia are mentioned by name, and it is wished that the pair may be blessed with the such virtues and characteristics.

The ceremony ends with the recital of Tandorosti, a prayer of benediction, and the bride and groom exchange wedding rings. The following is a free translation of the Tandorosti prayer provided by Jivanji [1]:
"By the name of the bountiful, merciful and kind God, who is a kind and just Lord,
May (the names of the couple are recited here) have health and long life.
May they be worthy of piety and splendour.
O Omniscient Lord! let joy and pleasure, ease and plenty reach them and let Divine light and royal justice reach them.
May they have courage and victory.
May they be firm in their knowledge of the good Mazdayasnian religion by means of honest endeavour and good demeanour.
May good relationship, the birth of children and long happy life be their lot.
May their body be blessed with happiness and their soul with good government.
O Omniscient Creator! May the religion of Zoroaster prosper. - Amen.
O Great God! May you grant long life, happiness and health to the ruler of our land, to the community and to the couple.
Grant them all these for many years to enable them to help the worthy.
Give them a long life for many generations.
May there be thousands of blessings upon them.
May the year be happy, the month auspicious and the day propitious.
Grant that for several years, several days, and several months, they may be found worthy and fit to perform religious rites and deeds of charity.
Keep them pure for works of righteousness.
May health, virtue, and goodness be their share.
May it be so.
May it be more so, as is the wish of Ahura Mazda and the Amesha Spentas."

Post Wedding Ceremonies

The following rituals are sometimes performed for merriment:

Chheda Cheddi, which consists of fastening the garments worn by the bride and groom to signify unity and is usually accompanied by a song.
Pag Dhovanu, the feet of the groom are washed with a little water by the ladies from the bride’s side, indicating a welcome into the family. Sometimes the ladies would hide the shoes and only return them after receiving some payment from the groom.
Dahi Koomron, which consists of the bride and groom giving morsels of food, containing curd, to each other and this rite signifies that in the bond of marriage they have to share with one another.
Eki Beki, which is a game where each partner picks up a bunch of monetary notes in their hand and asks the other if the amount they have picked is eki (odd) or beki (even). The one who guesses it right wins and signifies his or her desire to love the other more ardently.

After the celebration of the solemn part of the marriage ceremony, the guests are entertained to a feast and Parsi weddings are well known for their enormous receptions, where food, drinks, dance and music flow freely till late at night.

The wedding day finally ends with the couple being escorted home by the bride’s family. A nuptial song is sung by the ladies, when the bride enters the house of her husband and the final Achu-michu is performed by the husband’s mother to the newly wed couple.

1. --- “The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees” by Ervad Dr. Jivanji Modi.

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