Rasams: The Special Frenzy of Desi Weddings

What is it about Pakistani weddings that sets them apart from the rest of the world?

Is it the vibrance? Is it the extension over an entire month? Is it the liveliness?

Well, the answer to all of these lies in one sole factor, the driving force, the reason why our weddings are so festive, our “RASAMS”. If you take a look at a Pakistani wedding, you’ll notice how different and intricate they are. Most are spread over three days, but the celebrations start a month before. From dholki nights every day to uptan, maiyon, mehndi, Pakistani weddings are a full package.

Suffice it to say, Pakistani weddings are incomplete without “rasams”. So while we’re at the topic, let’s dig a little deeper into how we went from a simple nikah and khana to an entire month of wedding festivities.

History and Origin of Rasams:

Rasams vary with places, ethnicity, and cultures, however, rasms like maiyon, mehndi are common for the majority. Each of these rasams has its own unique meaning and origin.

1. Doodh Pilai

The most common among all rasms is doodh pilai. Every younger sister’s dream, and every groom’s nightmare. Mostly done on the day of the barat, or the wedding day, doodh pilai adds a fun undertone to an overall emotional day. The younger sisters of the bride present a well-decorated glass of milk to the groom, which he has to drink if he wants to take the bride home and has to pay for it as well. All the sisters and cousins of the bride look forward to the witty bargain. Everyone has different ways to do it, decorating the cups differently, replacing plain milk with flavoured ones, adding their own unique touch to it.

The idea of the whole procession is

“You’re not taking away our most valuable person just like that, so pay up”.

The milk symbolizes purity. After the groom has paid up, he can finally join the bride.

2. Joota Chupai

Another common rasam that takes place on Barat day is Joota Chupai or Shoe-Snatching. As soon as the groom enters the wedding hall, his shoe is taken off, and hidden by his sisters-in-law. The sisters demand money (bargaining tips if you need them) for returning the shoe whereas the grooms brothers try their best to find the shoe for their brother. The friendly banter helps break the ice and allows couples and their families to bond thus leaving no room for the nervousness that usually follows on the wedding day. This ritual is prevalent in both Pakistani and Indian cultures and is known to have an Indian origin.

3. Rasta Rukai

Another rasm that highly favours the bride’s sisters, is Rasta Rukai. As soon as the groom enters the wedding hall, the saaliyan stop him from entering and reaching the bride. A friendly and enjoyable tug-of-war goes on between the bride’s sisters and friends and the groom’s family.

4. Ubtan/Maiyon

Also known as the no-makeup rasam, this rasam has a unique origin. The bride sits “maiyon” a couple of days before her wedding, in which she does not wear any make-up, applies oil in her hair, leaves ubtan on her face, and only wears yellow. The significance of this rasam is that the bride avoids all things unnatural so that she looks even more beautiful on her wedding day. The ubtan, which is made up of sandalwood powder, turmeric, oils and herbs, is supposed to enhance the bride’s beauty and is to be applied regularly till the wedding day.

People decorate whole arrangements of ubtan, oil and sweets, to present on the maiyon. Nowadays, this rasam has evolved into a function in which the bride wears a yellow dress and has no make-up on, and her friends and family put ubtan on her face and oil in her hair. Duas and Salamis are given as add-ons.

5. Dholki

A wedding without a dholki is incomplete. The first sign of “shadi wala ghar” is the sound of dholki, and the fairy lights with which the house is adorned. For some people, a month before the wedding, every night is dholki night. Family members come together and sing all night long. They sing tappay, songs dedicated to the bride, songs dedicated to her parents, all to the rhythm of the dholak, adding all the festivity in the wedding.

This event promotes the rich cultural background of Pakistan. All the songs unite the lovers who made it, the parents, and the siblings. These songs mostly originate from Punjab folklore. Dholki sessions provide a memorable bonding experience with family.

6. Sehra Bandi

This happens on the wedding day (Barat), at the house of the groom, before he leaves for the wedding hall. A whole veil of flowers is put on his head and covers his face. The groom is given salami and prayers by the guests, and so is his Sarabalab. Siblings of the groom are given gifts by the groom.

It originates from the Mughal Muslim culture, wherein white flower strings were tied to the turban or Pagh of the groom and suspended to cover his face, just like the bridal “goonghat”.

7. Mooh Dikhai

A unique face-reveal, wherein the bride is given gifts by the family of the groom, and the groom himself, on lifting the veil from her face. The more significant mooh dikhai is the gift given to the bride by the groom on their wedding night, it is usually a ring or a jewellery set made out of gold. Everyone has different ways of this rasam, but the most common is that the bride sits with her veil on her face after the rukhsati and the family members give her gifts one by one after lifting the veil.

The tradition of mooh dikhai celebrates the transition of a girl from daughter to bahu. It signifies her welcome into a new home, with new people, who accept her as one of their own and embarks the end of the wedding journey and start of the marriage.

8. Maklava

A predominantly Punjabi custom, Maklava is the first breakfast after the wedding day, given by the bride’s family. They come the morning after the Barat. In the older days, when marriages were only arranged, it took time for brides to adjust to their new homes. So the morning after the wedding day, the bride’s family bring breakfast and take the bride back home for a day to give her time to adjust to the changes.

9. Tawao

Originating from Chitral, a rasam that represents the beauty of togetherness, and equality in marriage. The bride is asked to make her first “Roti” on her wedding day, whereas the groom is to accompany her in the task. The two work together with their first Roti, setting the framework of cooperation for the years to come.