You might hear people at an Indian wedding talking about a “ghori” a lot, especially when you’re starting the baraat. It might sound like they’re saying the word “gory” a lot. You might start to wonder why they think this beautiful festival of dancing and singing around a horse is so filled with gore. You don’t see any gore around here. Are they offended by horses? What is going on?
The “ghori” is actually the horse. In many traditional Hindu weddings, the groom arrives astride a white, female horse. This “ghori” usually has some decorations on her bridle, and may be wearing festive gear to celebrate the wedding.
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The groom in an Indian wedding will often participate in a flashy and energetic baraat, which we’ve written about before. And who tags along with the groom during his wedding processional? The sarbala.
In English, we might call him the best man. But really, he’s usually a young boy. Most grooms will choose their nephew, younger brother, or cousin to be a sarbala. If the mode of transportation allows it (e.g., riding in a chariot behind the horse rather than astride the horse itself), some grooms might choose to have multiple sarbalas.
The cutest part? Some grooms will opt to have their sarbala dress like them, so a mini-groom rides in with them to the wedding.
The sehrabandi, or sehra for short, refers to the face-covering headdress that many Hindu grooms wear to the ceremony. This headdress looks rather like a miniature hula skirt that is tied around the groom’s head and which shields his eyes during his baraat and the wedding ceremony. In a way, this is like a veil for the groom. The sehrabandi is tied to the groom’s head during a ceremony known by the same name. The groom’s sister or female cousins usually ties the sehra on his head, but in some cultures this differs.
The sehrabandi may be made of flowers, beads, or thin cords, and usually is some combination of white, gold, and silver in color. The veil is thought to protect the groom from evil, which is a nice sentiment. In some cases, the sehra will be removed before the wedding ceremony, mostly because it’s a mild annoyance to the groom.
Not all Hindu wedding ceremonies will involve a sehrabandi. This practice is most common in Punjabi weddings.
The baraat is the arrival of the groom to the wedding site. Most grooms will choose to arrive riding a white female horse, but in modern day weddings you will see grooms arriving in fancy cars (anything with a horse in its logo is a popular choice), on an elephant, on foot, or in a pedicab. The groom will arrive surrounded by his family and friends, who dance and celebrate the joyous occasion. It is common for the groom’s sisters and female cousins to tie a decoration on the horse and feed it some lentils before it begins its journey, as a symbolic gesture of how sisters once sent their brothers off on a long trek to marry and bring home their new brides. If you’ve ever seen a large group of Indian people dressed to the nines dancing to loud music and walking down the street, there is a good chance that you’ve witnessed a baraat.
The baraat is the symbolic arrival of the groom from his hometown to the site of the wedding. It occurs on wedding day just prior to the wedding ceremony itself. The groom traditionally arrives on horseback, but grooms today are choosing different modes of transportation more in line with their personal style. Consider some of these ideas for your grand entrance:
- Go big! Arriving on a elephant will be a moment to remember
- Rent an exotic or antique car
- Hire a professional dance group to accompany you (even better if you can join them for a routine!)
- Go green: environmentally conscious grooms can still arrive in style on a blinged-out cruiser bike
- Surprise everyone with a flash mob!
- Get loud! Hire a local motorcycle club to escort you to the venue