The North-Eastern Indian state, Manipur is blessed with a rich cultural heritage and verdant scenic beauty. The word ‘Manipur’ means the land of gems. This tribal state is famous for its colorful festivals and other traditions. Mostly this land is occupied by tribal folks and these folks spread in the neighboring states as well.
Their weddings are as colorful and spectacular as their traditions. All the tribes follow almost similar rituals with slight variations in the customs and costumes. People of Manipur prefer weddings in their own community, but are not opposed to inter caste marriages outside Manipuri community too.
Among the tribes “Magh”, young men and women select their partners at the grand New Year Festival when they get an opportunity to know each other closely and inform their parents and seek their approval. Young girls from the tribes Garo, Tippra, Khasia and Magh often go to the market to buy and sell goods. The boys and girls use this opportunity to know each other closely, choose their partners and with the consent and blessings of the parents get married. Young men and women of the tribes “Santal”, “Garo” and “Manipuri”, while working in the fields together, come to know and understand each other well and are able to select their life partners.
Manipuri weddings are held according to the customs and traditions. In the starting approach, known as “Hinaba”, the boy’s parents visit the girl’s house and meet her parents. The horoscopes of the boy and the girl are matched. If both the parents agree the nest meeting, termed as “Yathang Thanaga”, is fixed. In this meeting the parents of the girl give their consent for the wedding. In the next ritual, “Waroipot puba”, the boy’s relatives bring food items and finally contract for the wedding is sealed. Then the engagement, known as “Heijapot” is announced among the friends and relatives. The groom’s friends and relatives bring fruits, food and gifts to the bride’s house. The relatives and friends are invited and the Brahmin priest finalizes the wedding date and rituals.
A “Manipuri” wedding party puts up a grand spectacular show, but very little is spent on feasts. Usually a wedding in a “Meitei “house in Imphal, the capital city of Manipur, is attended by not less than thirty cars. When a wedding is attended by a convoy of cars it is considered as a status symbol. The men come in dhoti and kurta and a shawl wrapped around while their women come in pink “fanek” and “chader”.
Manipuris erect beautiful and spacious wedding “Pandals”/sheds in which the bride and groom walk around to be greeted with paddy and “durva” grass. For the reception ceremony, at the entrance a “Meitei” woman offers a “thali” or plate with a banana leaf containing betel nut, betel leaves and “tamul”. Seats are provided around a “Tulsi” platform. In every platform a ‘tulsi’, a sacred plant, is grown over a raised platform around which all the auspicious ceremonies are performed.
The groom is given a warm welcome by lighting a “Pradip” and washing his feet by a young boy accompanied by the singing of “kirtan” and playing of traditional music. “Kirtans” and “shahnai” music are played while the couple completes the seven “pheras”/rounds, the bride taking the steps in a rhythmic style with the music.
One woman from each side releases a pair of “Taki” fish, representing the bride and groom, into the water. If the pair of fish swims side by side it is considered as an auspicious omen. Garos follow a similar ceremony in which a cock and hen with throats cut are left to the ground. If they come together to die it is taken as a good omen. Otherwise, to get rid of ill omen, remedy is done through payer and spell by a “khamal”, the mendicant.
Manipuries offer exceptionally special food to the Gods and other deities on this occasion. These people believe, by pleasing them, the Gods will bless the couple in abundance. On the fifth day after the wedding, the Manipuri bride comes to her parents’ house for the first time. All members of the clan are invited to this ritual and they all participate with gifts such as rice, meat, fowls, pigs, money or alcohol and a prolific feast is served to them.
The costume of a Manipuri bride is very unique; she wears the “Raslila” skirt on her wedding day. “Chakmas” brides wear red and black sarong called “Pindhan” along with a blouse called “silum”. “Magh” bride’s puts on a “thami”/sarong that covers the body from chest to knee over a full-sleeved jacket or choli.
Though a land or gold and gems, the “Maniprri” brides wear only a very limited variety of jewelry. In North Bengal the various tribal women wear almost similar ornaments. “Santal” and “Oraon” tribal women wear jewelry such as necklaces bangles, anklets, nose-rings and earrings. “Oraon” women put up their hair in a peak style and adorn their forehead with a jewelry called “tikli”. Brides of “Chakma” tribes wear necklaces, coin earrings, bangles and anklets. “Garo” brides do their hair style using a bun, adorned with flowers. “Magh” women brighten their faces with a kind of herbal powder or wood paste.
The bridegroom’s costme consists of a white dhoti, kurta and turban. Lower class “Garos”, even today, wear a small piece of cloth, just enough to conceal nudity. In the deep hilly forests the tribasl use leaves as their wedding dress. “Santal” groom’s outfits are called “Panchi”, “Panchatat” and “Matha”. The main wedding dress of the “Chakmas” is a “lungi” worn along with a shirt.