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  • Writer's pictureAmber

My Big Fat Indian Wedding: Haldi

When I arrived in India for our wedding, my mother in law drew a black spot behind my ear in eyeliner. She said it would protect me from the "evil eye." It's the curse cast on someone by a malevolent glare and manifests as injury or bad luck. Black is said to ward off negativity and evil energies.

Similarly, haldi (turmeric powder) also has the power to ward off negative energies. It also has a plethora of health benefits, such as the prevention of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's. It's anti-inflammatory, so it also helps with arthritis and depression.

The Haldi or Pithi Ceremony is ritual in which a paste made with turmeric in applied to the bride and groom's skin to protect them from the evil eye, give them a pre-wedding glow, and prevent blemishes on the face during the ceremony.

Traditionally, the bride and groom would each be at their own homes to celebrate with their own families. My mom and dad were the only two people on my side, so our ceremony was combined.

I arrived in the morning. I sat at a vanity in my in-laws' bedroom while my mother in law pinned my hair. She stood me up and dressed me, draping me in a beautiful yellow sari. The blouse fit perfectly. Our family tailor is awesome.

Ravi's cousin, Priyanka, is a jewelry designer. She designed the most fun peacock jewelry set for this occasion. It was so beautiful. The colors of the peacock feathers looked amazing with the yellow. The whole set was ornate, yet literally light as a feather.

Our ceremony began with puja, a worship service. The dining table was dressed in fine cloth and idols had been placed on top. We had roughly people at this function; everyone sang spirituals with us. We offered sweets, flowers, and coconuts to the idols, requesting their blessings.

I was led to the center of the room to a small stool. Fabrics had been draped across it. The crowd moved into a circle around the living room. My parents sat on the couch to my left. My mother wore a bright yellow blouse and a floral skirt. She looked beautiful and fit in very well.

Ravi's mother went back in to her room briefly and returned with several velvet boxes. In the smaller of the two, she pulled out two heavy silver anklets covered in bells. In the larger, a silver waist belt. I am so grateful for her. Her gifts were unexpected and melted my heart.

Turmeric leaves are used to apply the paste. I remember watching Ravi's mother instruct everyone of how to do it. Put the paste on the leaves, cross one hand over the other, then touch the face, the shoulders, the knees, then the feet.

One by one, family members came to color us yellow. Having cooked with turmeric before, I knew very well that it could stain me quite a bit brighter than expected. When I eat with my hands, my fingertips are often yellow for days. I pushed that thought aside while I was coated in paste.

It was very fun. The bigger the mess, the wilder everyone got. People were wiping their hands on each other and running around. It was funny to watch and everyone laughed throughout the morning.

Nearer to the end of the ceremony, the energy became slightly sinister. Ravi had been wearing ear plugs all morning since he didn't want any to get in his ears. It quickly became apparent that he may have been less than polite to his cousin's husband, our jiju, during his Haldi ceremony.

Ravi ended up with haldi paste everywhere. You may not be able to tell in the second photo, but our jiju ripped Ravi's kurta clean open. I'm certain he must have deserved it.

Thankfully, it was all in good fun and Ravi was still in good spirits. We took a few final photos in the next room before I had to clean myself up.

While the bridal glow is gorgeous, Ravi didn't want me to look like Marge Simpson.

We were headed soon to practice for Sangeet!

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