Spicing up married life with turmeric

2011-07-13 00:00

THE beat of the dhol (traditional Indian drum) mingles with the lilting voices of the women singing traditional songs. The bride-to-be is resplendent in a yellow sari, and her older female relatives are getting ready to smear her with turmeric paste, in a special cleansing ceremony held a day before the wedding.

A similar situation is being played out at the groom’s house.

Known as Hardi in Bhojpuri and Haldee in Hindi, simply put, the terms translates as “turmeric” and is used to describe the premarital ceremony of applying the turmeric paste to the bridal couple.

As ancient as Hinduism itself, the custom is still practised today.

Smearing the bride and groom with an ointment of turmeric root paste and mustard oil is an old Indian tradition. By virtue of its yellow colour, turmeric stands as a spiritual plant, giving a divine glow. Hurdee paste smeared on the face and body is noted for its lasting and penetrative properties, leaving a bright hue. Yellow is also an auspicious colour.

The exact reasons for applying this paste before the wedding ceremony are as follows:

• It is the tradition of the kul (family lineage). The kul devas (gods) and ­devis (goddesses) are worshipped with turmeric.

• The time of marriage is a defining period, as there is a change in a person’s life cycle. To ensure a safe passage into the new stage, the Hardi is applied to protect the bride and bridegroom against evil forces, and strengthen them in the face of challenges in the Grihasthashram (householder’s life). The Vedic mantras that are pronounced help to create the right atmosphere and strengthen the bride and groom.

• According to the Ayurvedic ­tradition, Hardi helps keeps disease away.

• By virtue of its yellow colour, turmeric, when applied on the bride or the groom, gives them a divine glow. The Hardi is a beautifying process that beats even modern cosmetics.

The ceremony itself entails the ­turmeric paste being blessed by the priest, and then applied to the bride and groom.

First offered by the officiating priest so that its protective force is further strengthened with the recitation of sacred chants and mantras, the paste used includes those Hardi roots that were mixed and separated during the Tilak ceremony.

Each party separates the Hardi roots in the Lagan Kholai (opening of the roots) ceremony, in which five married women sort out the Hardi and grass. The boy’s and girl’s Bua (father’s sister) at their respective place, make a paste of the Hardi and mustard oil. The mustard oil enables the Hardi to penetrate deeper in the skin pores. The oil gives warmth and strength when rubbed on the skin, and also gives a shine.

The ground Hardi is initially kept in a katori (a small steel bowl) at the prewedding altar. In the Hindu tradition, even the beautifying process needs the blessing from God. The officiating priest takes a bunch of the grass, applies it to the katori full of turmeric paste, and touches the altar with it before applying it to bride’s and groom’s limbs — from the shoulders to the, knees, feet and hands. The turf is noted for its auspiciousness, growth, prosperity, abundance and progress in the Hindu tradition.

It is the officiating priest who has the honour of applying the Hardi first, followed by the bride or groom’s father and then mother.

The Hardi ceremony is an occasion for much teasing, with a relaxed and pleasurable atmosphere. Overzealous friends and relatives rub an overdose of the turmeric paste on the face of the bride and bridegroom, who sit patiently and have no say in the matter, bearing all the pranks and mischief of their relatives and friends with a smile.

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