Manipur means “Jeweled Land” is home to many tribes like Thadou, Mao Naga, Kabul etc. But the predominant group is the neo-Vaishnavite Meitei. Manpuris have immense love for their culture which comprises their personalities with vibrant color and pleasant aura. Like any other states of the North-East India, its culture, traditions, customs and rituals are filled with vibrant color and grandeur. Same is it, when it comes to a Manipuri Wedding as well. A Manipuri wedding is an event filled with color, joy & love. For all those who have witnessed a Manipuri Wedding will surely agree to the fact that their tradition is full of extravagant celebrations made in the brightest ambience.
The initiation of marriage
The lads and ladies get various occasions to meet each other. The “Magh” boys and girls meet on the eve of New Year and then seek the consent of the two families. They also meet at market places where girls come for purchase and sell. Marriages in Manipur are performed in accordance with the traditional customs and this happens in four stages in the following order – ‘Hinaba’, ‘Yathang Thanaga’, ‘Waroipot puba’ and ‘Heijapot’.
The women in the North-East India belonging to the planes or the hills hold an honorable position in the society. They have equal participation not only in all spheres of life, may it be the labor or a say in daily or matters of utter importance. They enjoy far greater freedom in marriage, divorce and other matters, compared to that of an orthodox Hindu society. So, the first of all the customs is called ‘Hinaba’ where parents of the boy go to meet parents of the girl before the marriage. This starting approach is termed ‘Hinaba’.
Throughout India, believing in horoscope and relying on it for a secured future is very common. So, in the next stage, the horoscopes of the lad and the lady are compared and if both the houses believe in the compatibility of the two, they then agree to the next date for a third meeting. The next meeting is called ‘Yathang Thanaga’, where the consent of the girl’s parents is taken. In the next stage called ‘Waroipot puba’, the groom’s family members bring food and the marriage is finally sealed. This is when the engagement is declared amongst the friends and relatives, which brings us to the final act of the custom play. This is called ‘Heijapot’.
Friends and relatives from the house of the groom then go to the house of the bride with food, fruits and presents. The bride’s parents also invite their family, friends and relatives. The marriage as usual is fixed by the Brahmin.
Although Manipur means “a land or gold and gems”, unlike the rest of the Indian states, where a bride is almost covered in gold jewelry from the tip of her head to her ankle and even fingers on her feet, a “Manipuri” bride wear only a very limited variety of jewelry. Costume of a Manipuri bride is much unique. The bride wears the “Raslila” skirt on the day of her wedding. “Chakmas” bride wear “Pindhan”, a red and black sarong along with a blouse called “silum”. A “Magh” bride wears a sarong called “thami” that covers her body from bosom to the knee over a full-sleeved jacket or choli. The bridegroom’s costume consists of a white dhoti, kurta and turban.
A marriage attended by a procession of cars is considered a status symbol, thus any marriage in a Meitei house in Imphal inevitably shall be attended by no less than thirty cars.. The men are generally dress in dhoti and kurta and a shawl wrapped around upper torso and women in pink ‘fanek’ and white chadder. A very formal reception is held.
Color rich wedding podiums are made. The bride and groom move around the pandal meeting guests who greet them with paddy and durva grass. At the entrance of the pandal gate a Meitei woman greets the guests extending a plate called Thali containing a banana leaf in which the betel nut, tamul and pan is kept in fashionable way. Betel nut plays an important role in Manipuri and in general the North-East traditions and occupies a place of honor for its use in social and religious functions. It has a significant role in marriage, love and separation.
Every house grows a Tulsi or basil plant at the centre of the house, mounted on a rostrum. All ceremonies are conducted around this plant. Tulsi is worshipped like a deity throughout India for its extensive use in religious rituals. Thus, the Pandal and the sitting arrangements are made near the Tulsi plant of the house and the guests are then directed towards them after the initial welcome at the entrance. A Diya is lit in respect of the Groom and a young boy comes to wash the feet of the Groom.
The fish is considered sacred in the north-east and generally has some association with wedding rituals. Up next, two women, one from each house of the bride and the groom, put a Taki fish in water symbolizing the couple and reading the future by the movements. If these fishes move side to side, it is considered a splendid omen. Kirtans and Shahnai music is started when the bride and the groom takes seven rounds around the Tulsi plant.
The bride follows the steps of the groom in rhythmic style with the music of Shahnai. Then, the Deities are offered lavish food and the two houses of the bride and groom seek blessings for the newly married couple. The couple is then pronounced as man and wife for the rest of their lives. The sweets and laddoos are distributed after the marriage ceremony is completed. Dowry is not as a compulsory practice but the parents of the girl provide essential items for her use such as utensils, clothes, sewing machine etc. Manipuris feast on fish on the fifth day of the wedding when the bride returns to her parental house to visit them. An extravagant feast is arranged from the house of the bride.
People of Manipur consider wedding to be one of the most auspicious occasions. Not only do they enjoy this sacred ritual where two people tie a bond of affection and love, but also they understand weightage and respect the vows and commitments that the two people are bound by.