Rajputs are a sub sect of Hindi speaking Kshatriyas. In olden times the term was applied only to the kinsmen of ruling dynasties. However after the disintegration of the feudal system the term has lost its implied connection to royalty. The Rajputs not a race but a group of clans of distinct origin. Rajput has no reference to race, meaning by that term common descent or blood relationship. The diverse origin of the Rajputs show that they were descended from distinct racial stocks. It is their war like occupation coupled with their aristocratic rank that gave them a distinctive common feature and made the Brahmins recognize them as Kshatriyas.
Rajputs are the only clan perhaps who have carried forward the tradition of the royal family weddings, the grooms' riding of elephants and the brides' decked up in diamonds and other precious stones. The ceremonies are always solemn and the proceedings are marked with ostensible firmness. Thus, in a way marriage is regarded as a very serious affair in which not only the boy and the girl of both the families are involved but also the their parents and the entire family lines.
The Rajput marriages , as a rule, are grand traditional affairs. The royal weddings extend to days and is mind boggling. There are innumerable events and exhaustively rich. Even the Rajput marriage of the bourgeois class is an elaborate affair - with scores of traditional customs and rituals.
Rajput gives special attention to the matchmaking aspect of the marriage . The match between a boy and girl is made by taking into consideration many important facts. The family is the first and the foremost significant of all factors. Every care is taken to ensure that the alliance is perfect. The status of the families have to be at par. It is also very important that the bride and the groom hail from separate clans. The horoscopes have to be approved and matched by the family astrologer. Rajputs prefer to marry within the community only. However, exceptions are made if either the bride or the groom comes from a royal family.
Rituals Before Marriage
This is the official engagement ceremony wherein only the male members of the girl's family goes to the boy's house. Only the bride's father, brother and other male relatives take part in this ceremony. No ladies accompany the men in this occasion. The ceremony, as its name suggests, has the girl's brother applying the tilak to the groom's forehead. The men from the girl's family usually present the boy with gifts such as a sword, other presents, clothes, sweets, fruits etc. This ceremony makes the engagement or alliance official.
Ganapati Sthapana and Griha Shanti Ceremony
Few days prior to the actual marriage , takes place the Ganapati Sthapana and Griha Shanti ceremony. These are held as very important as it takes place in lieu of the ring ceremony. A havan is performed by the groom or bride's parents to propitiate the gods and an idol of Lord Ganapati is installed. All ceremonies commence only after the sthapana (installation).
Pithi Dastoor Ceremony
This is an exquisite ceremony which takes place at both the bride and the groom's places. This ritual applies to both the bride and the groom. It would continue till the final wedding day. The rites include the application of turmeric and sandal wood paste to the one going to get married. The bride and the groom would not be able to leave their respective houses as soon as the pithi starts. The pithi dastoor takes place on a large scale at the bride's house. For the occasion, the bride has to wear an orange Rajasthani dress. She is made to come under a silken canopy, which is held with the help of swords at the four corners by four ladies. These ladies eventually belong to the same clan. Then she is brought to the ladies gathering and these ladies then apply the paste to her. The pithi at the groom's place is held on a minor scale. Dholans (women singers with dholak) sing auspicious pre-wedding songs while the ceremony is in progress. Throughout the wedding celebrations, the dholans are omnipresent, along with the Shehnai and the nagara players, though the latter remain at the courtyard or the garden.
Mahira Dastoor is again a custom exclusive to the Rajputs only. It takes place at both the girl and the boy's houses. This particular ceremony involves the maternal uncle of either side. The maternal uncle alongwith his family arrives with much fanfare. He is received with much greetings by the respective families. The uncle then gives clothes, jewellery and sweet delicacies to the entire family. It is a ceremony symbolic of the fact that the maternal uncle has to lend a hand of help at the expenditure that his sister undergoes during her child's marriage .
Janev ceremony is an important ritual of the Hindu marriages . It has the rite of making the groom wear the sacred thread. The janev is worn by men only. The groom is made to wear the janev on the eve of his becoming the house-holder. He is made to wear a saffron robe and perform a yagna with the priest. The Rajputs wear the saffron robe with the thought that the groom has two choice before him. One that of renouncing the world by becoming an ascetic and the other is of getting married and accepting the responsibilities of marriage . At the end of the yagna, the groom has to act as if he wants to become an ascetic by running away. And the maternal uncle tries to stop him and convince him to get married.
Palla Dastoor is a custom quintessential to the Rajputs. It involves the people from the boy's family coming with the trousseau - known as the palla dastoor. A day or two before marriage some relatives from the boy's family come along with a set of things like the clothes and the jewellery which the bride has to wear at the wedding and also some gifts.
Rajput Baraat is different from all other Indian baraat styles. It is elegant, poised and individualistic. For one thing, the Rajput baraat is again an all men's affair. So, to speak it consists of only the gents of the groom's family. Ladies do not take part in the procession. As much as that there is no dancing as the baraat progresses through the street. The groom usually rides an elephant or a horse and carries a sword. Also, each of the other male members of the family carry a sword.
The groom is taken by the bride's mother to the ladies section after performing the traditional Aarti. He is then proceeded towards the wedding mandap. In all this only a married male relative or a brother or a male cousin accompany him. The wedding takes pace as usual with the yagna fire and the vedic mantras. There are the pheras also. The only exceptional thing about the whole thing is that the bride has to keep her face hidden behind a long veil throughout the marriage . It is mostly attended by the women folk of the family as the men of the house remain busy tending after the barati and other guests.
RITUALS AFTER MARRIAGE
Grihapravesh is actually the entry of the bride into her husband's house for the first time. There take place the essential puja and other rituals as the bride arrives at the sasural (father-in-law's house).There take place certain games between the bride and the groom, those alike to the usual games that take place in other Hindu weddings.
The day following the grihapravesh, the pagelagni takes place. This is a ceremony where the bride, still in veil, is formally introduced to all the family members of the groom who bless her and give her gifts. The veil is then finally removed.