Kumaoni are people from the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand in India. In local parlance, the people of Kumaon are also referred to as "Pahari". Pahari or Kumaoni weddings are unique in their intricate rituals and ceremonies that are filled with cultural richness. The alliance between two families begins with an engagement ceremony which in itself is unique. In Kumaoni tradition, the father of the boy and girl exchange rings instead of the bride and the groom. The engagement ceremony is followed by the Mehendi ceremony in which the bride applies intricate henna designs on her arms, hands and legs. The groom also gets a simple henna design done on his hands as part of rituals.
Preparations for the big day of the wedding begin with the Ganesh Puja where Lord Ganesh is called upon to remove any obstacles that may come during the ceremony and after. During this time, a combination of turmeric pieces, roli, supari (betel nut), akshat (soaked rice) and coins are placed together in three pieces of cloth. One cloth is placed in the kitchen, one at the entrance of the house and the third is tied to a pan which will later be used for cooking. Idols of in-laws are made using til (sesame seeds), rice flour and jiggery and are exchanged on the wedding day.
Next is the Suwal Pathai ceremony where thin papads are made from wheat flour, dipped in dry flour and then dried in the sun. These are fried in oil and offered to God and to the guests. These are also sent to the groom’s house after the wedding as a tradition. On the wedding day, the haldi ceremony is performed where friends and relatives apply haldi or turmeric on the bride’s arms, feet, knees, hands and face. On the day before the wedding, the purwang ceremony is performed in the morning. During this, the bride’s parents keep a fast and a puja is performed. The bride’s father ties the kankan (a yellow or pink piece of cloth) on the left wrist of the bride. A similar cloth is tied on the left wrist of the bride’s mother and on the groom’s right wrist. The cloth piece contains one whole betel nut, turmeric piece, coins, akshat and roli. They are opened on the fourth day of marriage.
The attire of a kumaoni bride is the Ghagra-Pichora. The ghagra is a full-length skirt and has a choli or blouse. The rangwali pichora, as it is referred to, is hand-made and dyed with vegetable colors of saffron and red. The pichora is then printed with hand – usually in a polka dot print. The polka dots are concentrated near a swastika symbol which is artistically made using traditional motifs like the moon, bells, sun and conch shells. It also has silver and gold embellishments. The men wear a dhoti-kurta or pyjama-kurta and the traditional kumaoni headgear.
The wedding procession of the groom’s side or baaraat is welcomed through the dhuliargh ceremony. The baaraat is led with a white flag representing the groom known as the nishan along with a traditional band lineup. The last man of the marriage procession carries a red flag that represents the bride. Once the baaraat arrives at the venue, the groom’s feet are washed and a puja is performed.The bride’s mother applies tilak on the groom’s forehead to keep away any evil. The groom is soon joined onstage by the bride. The bride wears the ghagra –pichora and is adorned with jewellery and make-up on her face with traditional nath, mukut and maang teeka. Following this, garlands or jaimaalas or varmalas are exchanged. Both then take seven rounds around the fire, groom applies sindoor in the bride’s hair parting and ties a mangalsutra around her neck.
Next is the kanyaadaan ceremony where the girl is symbolically given away by her parents to the groom’s side. The procession departs with the red flag leading and the white flag at the end.