Since this is not a travel blog, and you really don’t need a reason to visit Manipur, I won’t bother mentioning any. For me, the highlight of course, was this refreshingly unpretentious Manipuri wedding. Sans loud baraatis and DJ parties. Guests are there to celebrate without being confused of their priorities. Devoid of the trend, of marriage being a medium to showcase social standing. Be prepared to actually attend a wedding rather than making a beeline for the quintessential car-o-bar.
The bride starts her day early in the morning as she begins to get ready for the wedding ceremony. As per tradition, part of her duty is to sew garlands of Jasmin flowers, which will be exchanged with the groom during the pheras. This is called Kundo Lengba.
The most striking aspect of a Manipuri wedding is the brides attire called Potloi of which the most notable is the Kumil. A Kumil is an elaborately decorated barrel shaped long skirt stiffened at the bottom and top. The decorations on the barrel include gold and silver embroidery, small pieces of mirrors, and border prints of lotus, orchid, and other motifs from nature. The dress is supposed to be borrowed and passed on from one bride to another. Usually going through a cycle of 3 brides. Months of shopping time is cut down for the bride, though many may not be too pleased about that!
The groom on the other hand has a leisurely morning at home, with little to do. Around mid-day his personal Bor Senaba arrives. Literal translation being Groom Caretaker. This gentleman is another unique aspect of Manipuri weddings. His duty is to guide the groom through every step of the way from getting him ready in dhoti and turban, to making sure he maintains proper demeanour through the ceremony. The bride has her own Kaina Senabi as a chaperon. The couple are instructed to respect the solemn rituals. It is seen as a sign of disrespect if they laugh or smile while performing a ceremony. If you were wondering why they have stern faces in most of their photographs, you know now!
The pheras are performed around a Tulsi plant, to the tune of traditional Manipuri wedding songs, being performed to indicate each progressive stage in the ceremony. The groom remains seated throughout while the bride walks around him seven times. Each phera ending with her showering him with flowers.
Once complete the newlyweds ask their elders for blessings, after which the groom departs to his house along with his entourage. The bride follows later, arriving at her new home by evening.
The functions are complete five days after the wedding, when a grand feast is organised at the bride’s house prepared and served by brahmins.