Simple advice for a better life.

Strawberry SeasonStrawberry season is in full swing now in my garden.  This year’s crop is quite abundant.

There are so many different ways to consume strawberries, such us serving it plain, sliced with whipped cream, baking a Strawberry Shortcake, making a berry smoothie, and also cooking a very refreshing summer dish – Strawberry Soup.

The recipe for the Polish Strawberry Soup has been posted by Barbara Rolek on her blog.

This weekend,  I prepared this dish  for my family, as it only took minutes to prepare.   It may be served as an appetizer, a refreshing drink any time, or with a dessert.

Barbara suggested serving it hot, or chilled, with pasta, however my family requested it chilled, without pasta.

I tried my strawberry soup warm, topped off with a scoop of Vanilla Ice cream, and it was just perfect!

We also agreed that it would be great as a base for a cocktail drink (with rum or vodka), or as a salad dressing for an exotic salad of fresh spinach with mandarin orange segments, walnuts and strawberries, maybe with a dab of vinegar to add some tartness to it.

If you had the pleasure of tasting Strawberry Soup, or decide to try some of the above suggestions, we would love to hear your comments.

TIP:  Any leftover soup can be used to make Popsicles.   Great for kids and adults!!

Wedding Reception - RROnce all the pre-wedding and the actual wedding ceremonies and rituals finalize, a very large wedding reception begins.  However, it is not unusual for an Assamese style wedding, to have a wedding reception even a week before the actual wedding.

The Assamese wedding reception resembles an American open house party, with a beautifully served buffet style meal, consisting of myriad of selections of fruits, sweets and an abundance of deliciously prepared dishes of fish and meat.  The reception area is elaborately decorated with lots of greenery and beautiful floral arrangements.

The bride and groom have a special reception area set up, where they  greet all their guests, coming up to them one by one, wishing them well, and presenting them with bouquets of flowers, and gifts.  After the greeting, the guests step up to the buffet, enjoy a meal, and leave the reception shortly afterward.

All the singing and dancing already took place during the pre-wedding celebrations.

There is no traditional wedding cake, nor any dancing and partying at the reception, unlike at a traditional American wedding.  Please note the bride and groom are wearing different outfits for the reception.  This bride chose a white sari for her wedding, but a beautiful blue one for the reception.  She is wearing a headdress for all the ceremonies associated with the wedding.  Also notice the numerous jewelry on her, as these were given to her as gifts by her in-laws and other family and friends as wedding gifts during pre-wedding ceremonies.

After the wedding ceremony, the bride visits the groom’s house, her future home, and the Ghar Gosoka ceremony takes place.

The Ghar Gosokastepping to the new home

The bride visits the groom’s home for the first time after they’ve been married. The bride and groom go to the groom’s home accompanied by the bride’s brother, cousins, and close friends.

The bride will participate in special ceremonial activities in the groom’s home, and play games with the groom’s immediate family.

After seeking blessing from the Lord, the bride along with her brother, cousins, and close friends, leaves the groom’s house, to return to her own home.

The groom remains in his own home that night.

The next day everyone stays at home and relaxes, and bid farewell to out of town guests, who are returning home.

Two days after the wedding, the bride will be escorted by her brother and cousins to her new home, the groom’s house.

This ceremony is called Bidaai.

The bride throws rice over her shoulder as she leaves her home, to ensure that prosperity continues in her home, as well as follows her into her new residence.

I also came upon a slightly different version of this tradition, which here is called Datar.

Datar – Salt ceremony

After the family and friends greet the newly weds, they leave for the grooms house, the new home for the bride.  As they arrive at the grooms house, his parents lift her feet, place a headdress over her head, and she sprinkles milk in all corners of their home, which signifies her respect towards her new family, her promise to diffuse any misunderstandings, and to maintain family unity.

The bride also picks up a handful of salt and places it in the groom’s hands, and he in turn returns the salt back to her hands, repeating the process three times, without spilling any of the salt.

The Datar is carried out with all the members of the bride’s new family.

This ritual of exchanging the salt, symbolizes the blending of the daughter-in-law to the groom’s family, just like salt

There is another post-wedding tradition for the bride and the groom to participate in, and it takes place eight days after their wedding.

Aanth Mongola  – the 8th day ceremony

This ceremony takes place at the bride’s parent’s home.

This is the first time for the newlyweds to visit the bride’s parent’s home, together, after their wedding.

Eight special dishes are prepared to honor this occasion.

This ceremony is usually very informal, and it normally includes only close family members.

I really enjoyed researching the information about Hindu Weddings, and interviewing Rishi and Ria about their Traditional Assamese  Wedding, as well sharing their pictures.

It almost feels like I just attended one of these weddings.

If you had the pleasure of attending an Indian wedding, it would be very interesting for all of us to hear about your experience.

R&RIndia consists of many different regions, with each region having its distinctive religion, traditions, rituals, foods, and of course, very special wedding rituals.

After the  Pre-Wedding ceremonies, the actual marriage ceremonies take place, so I will briefly touch upon the general Hindu traditions in part I,  followed by Assamese wedding day traditions, in part II.

The actual marriage ceremony begins in the evening, could be as late as 9 PM, and lasts for 6 – 7 hours.

Besides the bride and the groom, only family members and close friends attend this part of the wedding ceremony.

It is very spiritual, filled with numerous rituals performed by the priest, bride, groom, and family members.

Part I – Traditional Hindu Wedding Day Ceremonies

Vara Yatra – arrival of the groom and his party

When the groom and his party arrives at the wedding site, the bride’s parents, friends and family greet him by throwing handfuls of special rice (akshat) at him, and his party protects him with an open umbrella over him.  He also is presented with Tilak, plate carrying lighted lamp (arati), and a garland.

Grahashanti – Peace with the planets

Nine planets are invoked by name, to provide blessing from each, for the bride and the groom’s life together.

Kanyadan – The parents of the bride are offering their daughter in marriage to the groom

The bride is lead by her brother or uncle, to the mandap, where the groom is waiting with her parents.  Here the groom and the bride exchange garlands, and their feet are washed with milk and water to purify them.
The bride and the groom extend their hands with open palms towards each other, and the father of the bride places his open palms above their,  then the mother of the bride pours water over his hands, and the water runs over the bride and the groom’s hands.

Hastamilop – Joining of the bride’s and the groom’s hands

The bride’s right hand is placed on the grooms right hand, and tied together with cotton thread, wound up around several times to signify a unbreakable bond between hem.

Magnalfera – Four ashrams of life

The bride and the groom are seated under the Mandap, facing each other, with the sacred fire setting placed between them.  As the priest recites the different wedding mantras from the Holy Scriptures written in Sanskrit language (oldest language in India), the bride and the groom walk around the fire four times, and the family members make offerings into the fire.

Saptapadi –Seven vows

Seven vows exchanged by the bride and the groom, to seal the marriage forever, and to complete the wedding ceremony.  The groom also fills the sindor in the center of the parting of the bride, and places Mangalsutra around her neck, which has a strong religious sacred symbol of a married woman.

Dhruvadarshan – symbol of steadfast marriage

The priest directs the bride and the groom to look up on the pole star which is steadfast in the sky, while all the other stars move across the sky.  This should be an example for their marriage to remain steady, even though others might experience many changes.

Part II – Assamese Wedding Day Ceremonies

This section of the post has been prepared with assistance from my special guests, Rishi and Ria, based on their Assamese style wedding.

You will notice some similarities, and other quite distinct differences, between these two traditions ( Part I versus Part II) of the actual marriage ceremony.

Vivaaha – Wedding Ceremony

Mandap

Mandap - The main area (altar) where the bride and groom sit during the whole marriage ceremony, surrounded by their family and very close friends, sitting around on a lower level.

The four principles that form the foundation of Assamese Hindu marriage are:

  • Dharma -  Path of Righteousness
  • Artha -     Pursuit of Prosperity
  • Kama -    Fulfillment of Worldly Pleasures
  • Moksha - Salvation

Through Dharma, Artha and Kama, one may attain Moksha.

The priest begins the ceremony with an offering of prayers to God and all his representations.

The arrival of the groom calls for fun activities, after which the groom enters the wedding area, and is being greeted by the bride’s mother, who welcomes her future son-in-law.

The bride enters shortly after the groom comes in, while her siblings and close friends follow behind her.

Garland exchange 1 Garland exchange 2

The couple  exchanges garlands (instead of wedding bands), as well as wedding vows, amidst the chanting of mantras.

Conch shells are blown, to mark the official tying of the wedding knot.

Kanya Daan

Kanya Daan – Giving away the bride

The Kanya Daan is the highest gift that you can offer to the Lord in the Hindu religion. This takes place next as the priest recalls the names of the bride and groom’s ancestors. The bride’s father offers the hand of his daughter to the groom, as he asks for assurance from the groom that he will be able to take care of his daughter.

The right hand of the bride is placed in the right hand of the groom, as the priest prays for stability and longevity in their married life. The joining of the bride and groom signifies that the couple is united, and will live as one body, mind and soul.

Agni - RR

The Agni – Sacred Fire

The Agni is the witness in all Hindu weddings.
The brother of the bride helps the couple make offerings of puffed rice and ghee to Agni. The couple then circle the fire while family and friends of the bride and groom stand by.

The Sapta Padi – Seven Steps

The Sapta Padi is one of the most important rituals in the Hindu wedding ceremony, because it symbolizes the meaning of marriage and life as a couple.

This is the symbolic meaning of the seven steps:

  1. Prosperity
  2. Strength
  3. Wealth
  4. Happiness
  5. Children
  6. Longevity
  7. Companionship

Ashirvad

Ashirvad – Blessings

Ashirvad is the final step of the wedding ceremony where the priest gives his formal blessing to the newly weds and asks them to follow the path of Dharma, as well as the remaining three ancient principles of marriage.
The couple concurs, and then receives the blessings of their elders.

After the marriage ceremony is over (remember it lasted 6-7 hours), the bride visits the groom’s house, her future home, and the Ghar Gosoka ceremony takes place.

The groom’s mother does not attend the wedding ceremony of her son, but rather remains at home, and  awaits a visit by her son with his new wife.

The Ghar Gosokastepping to the new home

The bride visits the groom’s home for the first time after they’ve been married. The bride and groom go to the groom’s home accompanied by the bride’s brother, cousins, and close friends.

The bride  participates in special ceremonial activities at the groom’s home, and plays traditional games with the groom’s immediate family.

After seeking blessing from the Lord, the bride along with her “entourage”, leaves the groom’s house, to return to her own home.

The groom remains in his own home that night.

The next day everyone stays at home and relaxes, and bids farewell to all the out of town guests, who will not be able to attend the wedding reception, as some are from far away and need to travel back, and others whowere not able to secure sufficient length of time to spend at the wedding.

I also came upon a slightly different version of this tradition, which here is called Datar.

Datar – Salt ceremony

After the actual marriage ceremony, the bride and the groom leave for the grooms house, the new home for the bride.  As they arrive at the grooms house, his parents lift her feet, place a headdress over her head, and she sprinkles milk in all corners of their home, which signifies her respect towards her new family, her promise to diffuse any misunderstandings, and to maintain family unity.

The bride also picks up a handful of salt and places it in the groom’s hands, and he in turn returns the salt back to her hands, repeating the process three times, without spilling any of the salt.

The Datar is carried out with all the members of the bride’s new family.

This ritual of exchanging the salt, symbolizes the blending of the daughter-in-law to the groom’s family, just like salt

blends in food and flavors it.

Please stay tuned, as the final post will highlight the actual reception, and post-wedding ceremonies.

Juroon - RMarriage is the most important social, as well as religious, event in Indian culture.

Indian weddings are known for their grandeur and elaborate nature.

Most weddings in India last from 3-5 days, full of fun, frolic, numerous rituals, plentiful of delicious foods, and lots of music and partying.

As I mentioned in the previous post, there are pre-wedding, wedding, and post-wedding celebrations.

These are some of the Pre-Wedding ceremonies from an Assamese Hindu Wedding.

The Mehendi Celebration

Mehendi Celebration

Mehendi

The Mehendi function is usually organized with the sangeet function. So, it has a festive feel to it with the women dancing and singing traditional songs on the mehendi ritual.

The bride is dressed in light color clothes with light jewelry. According to the custom the bride must not step out of the house after the mehendi ritual until the wedding day which is usually after two days.

It is believed that the darker and deeper the henna stains,the more the husband and the in-laws will love the bride.

The ritual of mehendi signifies the strength and power of love in a marriage, so it is regarded good presage for the would-be bride.

It is said that the longer the bride retains the mehendi, the more auspicious would be her future.

It is also customary for the bride not to be allowed to do any housework after the wedding, until her Mehendi wears off.

Sangeet Ceremony

This ceremony is considered very vogue, and it takes place after the Mehendi Ceremony.

It revolves around the bride and groom, their love story, how they met, fell in love, etc.

It involves family and friends of the bride and groom, who throughout the night perform many choreographed dances, sing ritual wedding songs, and enjoy a myriad of foods and drinks.

Juroon Ceremony

This ceremony takes place a day or so before the wedding.

This is an Assamese ceremony that takes place in the bride’s home. The groom is not allowed to attend this ceremony.

Juroon - Mother of the Bride greets Mother of the Groom

Several women and few men from the groom’s family arrive at the bride’s home and the mother of the bride greets the mother of the groom.

Moral - R

The bride’s mother leads the groom’s mother to the morol, which is a decorated small mandap (wedding area), made of banana or mango leaves and flowers.

Juroon Sindoor

The bride is brought in and sits in front of a morol while the groom’s mother as well as other women from the groom’s family presents the bride with gifts. The groom’s mother also puts sindoor (holy vermillion) on the bride’s forehead during this time.

Holy water

After the Juroon, the bride’s mother and women from the bride’s family will leave for a nearby lake to collect some water which is treated as holy water. This ceremony is called Panitula (ceremonial bath). The bride’s mother will bring back the holy water from the lake.

The bride’s mother and relatives will then apply turmeric and yogurt on the bride and groom at their respective homes and bathe them with water.

Though the bride’s mother is the only one who will be collecting the water in a vessel, she is accompanied by other women who are singing traditional songs.

The bride doesn’t attend this ceremony and instead waits for the women to return back to her home for the next ceremony.

Haldi

The Haldi Ceremony

The Haldi (turmeric) ceremony takes place next at the bride’s home.

The bride will be seated on a small stool, while her body is anointed with turmeric, sandalwood paste and oils.

Their purpose is to cleanse the body, soften the skin, and make it aromatic.

The holy water that was collected by the bride’s mother is also used. All the women from the bride’s family as well as her female friends take part in this ceremony.

The women also throw rice on the bride as a sign of prosperity.

The significance of this ceremony is that in ancient times, when there was no make-up, this ceremony acted as a beauty enhancer.

Hindu Wedding Assamese Style – Introduction

GoddesI have been quite intrigued by the stories and pictures shared with me by my colleagues from India, who experienced their own traditional Assamese Hindu Wedding, and numerous others of their family and friends.

Marriages in India used to be arranged by the parents of the future bride and groom, but this practice has lessened considerably now, and the “in love” marriages are becoming more popular.  However, the parents from both sides still play a very prominent role in learning about each other families and providing the final approval and blessing of the marriage of their children.  Marriage in India is considered very sacred, as it is not only a union of the two people getting married, but also the union of the two families.

The courtship between the couple to be married, is fairly short, in comparison to the American tradition, as they usually get married within less than a year’s time from the beginning of their courtship.  In a traditional Hindu Wedding, family members of the prospective bride and groom, make arrangements with the priest for an engagement date called “Misri”.  This date is carefully selected, taking into account the celestial alignment of the stars, the sun and the moon.  The rings are usually purchased by the parents of the future bride and groom, and given to them as a gift.

This tradition is not practiced by the Assamese, however, they may receive rings as a wedding gift, but these are not exchanged as a part of their marriage vows, as it done in the US.  I will elaborate on this subject,  in a later post.

There are numerous wedding traditions, depending on the different religion being practiced and different geographic location of the bride and groom, as well as the caste, each family is a part of.  Most of the time, the bride and the groom are of the same religion, geographical location and caste.  However at times this might not always be so, in which case, their two different traditions are incorporated into one, and carried out during the wedding ceremony.

There are no wedding showers practiced in India, however the bride and groom’s family shower them with gifts in one of the pre-wedding rituals, as you will learn from my future posts.  Also, the guests attending the wedding reception, bring gifts to the bride and the groom.

There is a very interesting tradition associated with the wedding invitations, as there are two or even three different kinds of wedding invitations.

There are very formal wedding invitations, for the parents, grandparents and very close friends. These invitations are quite elaborate in style, texture, and artistry.  Most of these invitations are personally hand delivered, by the future bride and groom, with additional personal invitation warmly extended to these guests.

Fromal Wedding Invitation

The invitation I am displaying here, resembles an award like document, with silk cloth covering the padded, hard cover, two-fold invitation, imprinted with gold lettering, and three dimensional, box like, matching envelope, which basically resembles an over-sized, top of the line, chocolate bar.

Less formal wedding invitation

Then, there are less formal invitations, for the more distant family members and casual acquaintances.  These would normally be mailed out to these guests.

And last but not least, there are very informal invitations, via phone, email, or even very casually mentioned for their numerous everyday friends.

Indian weddings last from 3 days to a week.  Normally they are scheduled during evening hours, and consist of over a thousand of guests at the reception, but mostly very close family members attend the actual marriage ceremony.
All other guests only attend the reception, which resembles an open house party, where the guests stop by to greet the bride and the groom with well wishes, drop off gifts, help themselves to a bountiful buffet style meal, and leave the reception shortly afterward.

Different items are offered as gift, but money gifts are most favored.   Traditionally the amount of the gift of money needs to end in “one”. This means that a regular gift of money is given in a very elaborately decorated envelope, plus a 1 Rupee coin is included for good luck. The gift amount reflects the closeness of the guest’s relationship to the young married couple. The closer their relationship, the higher the amount

The usual attire for the bride is a red, or red and white sari, modestly draped over her head, and the groom wears a Kafni and Pijamo, which is a long shirt extending to the knees, and special leggings.

The women guests normally wear sari, and the men wear suits.  However it is traditional to wear sandals or other type of slip-on shoes, as one needs to be bare footed to be able to enter the Mandap, a canopy like structure, elaborately decorated with flowers, equipped with benches, and a special place for a sacred fire is set up in the middle, where the actual marriage of the bride and groom takes place.  As I mentioned before, only closest family members take part in the actual marriage ceremony.

Indian weddings are very joyous, full of frolic, color, and numerous secular and spiritual rituals.

There are pre-wedding, actual marriage, and post wedding rituals, which I will share with you in the next few posts, accompanied by many colorful pictures.  My friends Rishi and Ria, celebrated an Assamese style Hindu Wedding, and were kind enough to share their wedding pictures and many of the traditions and rituals included at their wedding.

Stay tuned, and you will most definitely expand your knowledge about the Indian culture, and Assamese style Hindu Weddings.

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