Weddings are auspicious affairs of as much spiritual significance as cultural and traditional. These special occasions of life are marked by aspirations for luck and love in every part of the world, ushered in thus through a systemic set of customs. From the rituals and the ceremony to the dress and drapery, weddings everywhere are a conglomerate of uniqueness in which emotions express as their purest iteration even as the physicalities of everything from food and finery to style and show are as freely favoured.
Weddings are soulful spectacles in which is exuded the exuberant charm of hopeful beginnings. Essentially complementing this profusion in sacred happiness is an associated wedding trousseau of cultures the world over. Dresses that are specifically meant to exude the wedding vibes and uphold its sentiment are specially regarded as part of one’s culturally ethnic repertoire. Replete with such themes of colors and motifs, designs and patterns that each are significant and sacred and celebratory in their own way are wedding dresses that are held in utmost reverence both in their essence and the aesthetics.
Traditional Wedding Dresses of India
Indian wedding dresses are particularly flamboyant pieces of ethnicity that brides and grooms traditionally wear on this defining day of their lives. Each region of the country, every community and tribe have their own unique signifier of this nuptial nature with additional elements of adornment and a corresponding beauty attached as well. This shaadi season, let’s explore some of the unique elements of traditional wedding dresses in India-
Perhaps the most recognised entities of the wedding trousseau that is most prominently a north Indian identity happens to occur as the groom’s affair. Sehra is a type of traditional headdress that attends to the very specific purpose of shielding the wearer’s face. It is a belief commonly held in almost the entirety of the Indian wedding scape that the bride and groom should not see each other’s faces through a stipulated period of their marriage ceremony. The traditionally flower made, now beaded construct of the sehra therefore is an integral part of the groom’s wedding wear with the bride having her veil to see through the proceedings.
A one dimensional structure that is tied around the groom’s head over his turban or pagdi, the sehra bandi tradition is a quintessential shaadi happening. There’s even a certain ‘code of conduct’ as to who traditionally ties the sehra after it has been ‘blessed’ by the family members. This certainly is one of the standout features of the traditional wedding ‘dresses’ typical to India and one quite aesthetic as well.
White has not been the color of Indian weddings across most of its happening. But sidestepping the riches of the reds and the exuberance of the brides is the traditional dress sported by brides in the state of Kerala in south India. It harbours particularly the airs of a Malayali wedding through which the richness embodied in simplicity shines the brightest. An off white sari with a gilded border sums up the wedding attire of brides who deck themselves up in traditional jewelry that so brilliantly flashes through their sitting upon that pristine premise. Their grooms too complement them in wearing a similar fashion character. A specific make of the kasavu mundu, the melmundu is what occurs as the dress code for Kerala grooms, again in the same gilded assertion in twinning with their betrothed.
The purity of white dresses also defines the traditional wedding scene in the state of Assam in northeast India. Both the groom and bride who wed as per Assamese rituals wear dresses in this shade of a greater global connotation. For the malefolk, it is an elaborate ensemble of dhoti with kurta and a cheleng sador that is specific end as their OOTD. The bridal trousseau comes across as an exemplary display of the state’s famed silky sheen, encompassed in the traditional dress of the mekhela chador. It is imperative indeed that both bride and groom be dressed in white through the ceremonious carrying out of the wedding rituals that they change into in honoring the tradition.
Forehead attires are key also to curating the wedding look of a Maharashtrian nature. The pearled strings form part of both the bride and the groom’s ensemble and have also their own significance. The two threaded presence is supposed to symbolise the togetherness of the couple and is therefore of utmost importance in every wedding.
One of the more regal shows of wedding splendor unfurls across the royal reaches of Hyderabad where the traditional bridal attire assumes identity as khada dupatta. Hyderabadi Muslim women partake of this truly royal experience in wearing as a tradition indispensable to their wedding ceremony as one of the many elements curating that identity of the big fat celebrations exclusive to India.
A custom that has historic roots, dating to the Mughal era of the 17th century, this ceremonious specification comes across as a three piece set of a kurta, chooridar and dupatta. With such a legacy to draw upon, this emerges as one of the most exquisite of Indian bridal trousseaus. Crafted in impeccable display of traditional artistry is every single make of the Khada Dupatta. The kurta is made in fine silk while the pant or the churidar is made of fine Banarsi brocade. The dupatta happens to be even more prominent- a six yard long piece of fabric intricately designed and worn also in a certain set manner that elevates further the complete bridal look to one of royal elegance.
Mehendi and Alta
Mehendi might be one of the more contemporary elements of wedding pan India but the essence of this body arts manifests also as a traditional requisite of the dresses and adornment for brides. In many communities of the country, brides need to flaunt the tints on their hands that is also ceremoniously applied. It even is customary for grooms of certain communities to partake in this practice of cultural significance.
Another distinct tradition that involves coloring certain parts of the body with a dye called alta occupies prominence particularly in Bengali weddings. The hands and the feet of Bengali brides are necessarily adorned with this bright red shade of religious as well as cultural significance. Needless to say, customs like these are what makes Indian wedding affairs unlike any such similar observance of special life events the world over.
So enchanting is the wedding sari worn as traditional dresses by Gujarati brides that has even assumed its own singularness. The Panetar stuns with its medley of colors that fuses the purity of the whites with the richness of the reds in vibrant ethnic patterns. Also worn as a more muted off white and maroon combination, that still is elegant in its characteristic style, the panetar is a heavily embellished saree with also an accompanying gharchola. The beauty of the Gujarati bridalwear though isn’t just a matter of its appearance. In signifying the coming together of two families with the maternal gift of Panetar and the in-laws offering of the gharchola worn alongside each other, it truly reflects the beauty of the emotions fostering the relationship.
Another striking sight encountered within the dynamic range of traditional wedding in India relates not to dresses but yet again to the fore of headgear. The Topor is a definite existence upon the spectrum of Bengali Hindu weddings, donned by the groom in much religiousness. A white colored sholapith make, this conical presence upon the groom’s head is complemented by a similar mukut that though happens to be a more unidimensional figure.
By far the most interesting piece of clothing to emerge from the traditional wedding trousseau would be the one of its kind polloi worn by Hindu Meitei brides of Manipur. Also the costume of the Manipuri Raas Leela dancers, this is a hollow cylindrical skirt that while comes across a gorgeously adorned satin gown is in fact held up with bamboo. Worn with a blouse and a shawl wrapped around the waist completing the attire, the poloi however is quite expensive even by celebratory standards. But it definitely is the most unique of all dresses that is traditional to any wedding ceremony of India.
Traditional wedding dresses of India does not get any more vibrant than the Odiya drape of the Boula Patta. A yellow saree with bright red borders, the Boula Patta is perhaps among the most vivid assertion of the hues associated with marriage. With such a dramatic combination of color, the wedding saree is all that is needed to instantly rev up the bridal glow. This surely is one of the best shaadi looks that one would instantly fall in love with.
Once again an emerging upon the realm of Bengali weddings is yet another uniquety that is specific to the bridal trousseau. Specific patterns of Chandan bindis called kolka are painted upon the foreheads of brides in a distinct fashion through such artistry that inevitably captures attention. Together with the white mukut and the resplendent makeup, Bengali brides are a different vision of beauty in that trail of the chandan bindi acting almost like jewelry in furthering their sheen. Flanking the centerpiece of the large red bindi are these beautiful patterns that every Bengali bride would definitely sport in proud upholding of traditionality.