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Wedding-rituals » Indian-customs » Mooh-dikhai-041005
Mooh dikhai ki rasam

Indian weddings are elaborate affairs full of pomp and splendour. The laughter, the songs and dances, the aroma of rich food that fills the air, the taste of a salty tear on a quivering lip, the warmth of affectionate smiles and tight embraces around you. Finally it's time to take the hand of the man you love and accept his family as your own and be accepted in turn.

The bride goes to her new home and is welcomed by the entire family. The family now indulges in a series of games and post-wedding rituals, amidst much laughter to make the new member feel comfortable. One such ritual is the Mooh dikhai ki rasam.

Mooh dikhai Introductions
Literally translated, mooh dikhai means 'show your face', but this is a ritual, which helps to introduce the newly wed to members of her husband's family! Each member of the groom's family comes in turn to make an acquaintance with the new bride and shower her with gifts. The mother-in-law showers her with jewellery, clothes and money. The other close relatives of the family also offer her gifts and money.

The history
The ceremony is performed in slightly different ways across the country depending on the customs of that particular region. The most common way of performing the ceremony has the bride sitting with her face covered by a veil. The relatives come one by one to lift the veil, viewing the bride for the first time after the wedding and showering her with gifts. In olden times particularly this custom was very important because most of the womenfolk would not attend the wedding. The baraat generally travelled to the bride's village for the wedding. Because the travel was on foot or by horse, womenfolk generally stayed back. When the baraat came back with the new bride, the mooh dikhai custom gave all the women a chance to meet the new member.

The Gujarati rituals
In Gujarat, when the couple returns to the groom's house after the wedding, they find the entrance blocked by the groom's sisters. They playfully refuse to let the bride in until they have seen her unveiled and been given some shagun money by their brother. Once inside, she touches the feet of all the elderly relatives present and receives their blessings. The groom's mother then takes the bride aside and after blessing her, presents her usually with gold or perhaps a sari

Bihari Kayasth rituals
After the kanyadaan ceremony the groom retires to the 'janvaasa' while the bride goes to change for the 'kanya nirakhshan' or mooh dikhai ceremony. The groom's father accompanied by the groom's elder married brother or 'bhaisur' now arrives to adorn the bride with the jewellery sent by her mother-in-law. This ritual is called 'bhaisur nirakshan'. This is the only time during the entire wedding that the 'bhaisur' is allowed to touch the bride or even enter the 'mandap'. His head must be covered with a 'rumaal' (handkerchief) or a 'topi' (cap) at this time. He first blesses the bride by placing his hand on her head and then presents her with two saris (one is the wedding sari and the other is the 'gouna sari'), two 'chunris' (veils) and a set of 'lehenga-choli' (long ethnic skirt with a blouse). He then adorns the bride with all the jewellery sent for her by her in-laws.

Rajput rituals
Once the four pheras have been taken in a Rajput wedding, their immediate family takes the couple into the puja room. Tradition demands that the girl's family fast for all the days of the marriage until all rituals have been completed. Before that, the bride, still veiled, is made to sit and a bowl of ghee is placed before her. The bowl of ghee catches the reflection of her face and once they have seen the bride's face, the bride's family can break their fast. The groom is the first to actually unveil his bride in private. One seeing her the first time as his wife, he gives her gold jewellery.

The groom's family sees the bride the next day in a ceremony called paay laagne. At paay laagne, the unveiled bride is blessed by all the groom's relatives and given presents. The traditional veil is removed and after this the wedding is now considered to be complete.

Muslim rituals
Muslims too have a ceremony where the groom's family sees the bride. The bride, escorted by her husband, enters her new home where her mother-in-law, who has not attended the wedding function, receives her. Outside a sheep is sacrificed in the bride's honour and in the name of Allah. The mother-in-law lifts the bride's veil and gives her a ring and a gold bangle, called a husk kaanth, on seeing her the first time as a married woman.

The tradition of mooh dikhai celebrates the transition of a girl from daughter to bahu. Demurely veiled she sees the lighter side of a hitherto unknown set of people. They tease and cajole her and accept her as one of their own. And so the journey through a wedding ends. And another one through the marriage begins.

Pooja Mittal-Aggarwal
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