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.
Typically held in the days or weeks before the wedding ceremony, the sangeet (sometimes called a “ladies’ sangeet”) is a night of singing, dancing, and merriment. This event was traditionally meant for women only, and was hosted by a bride’s family and friends to send her off to her wedding. The sangeet is the traditional Hindu wedding equivalent of a bridal shower, though gifts for the bride and groom are not mandatory.
In modern times, the sangeet is a co-ed pre-wedding event usually held the night before the wedding ceremony. This event will typically involve performances by guests for the bride and groom; in some cases the bride and groom will even perform themselves! Do you have a special talent, like guitar playing, singing, or dancing? If so, don’t be surprised if the couple being honored asks you to put together a brief performance for their sangeet.
Sometimes the sangeet is combined with the mehndi party (two birds, one stone), but it is also common to see these as two standalone events. If the sangeet and mehndi are combined, don’t be surprised to see women playing the dhol and singing folk songs which poke fun at the bride’s future in-laws and give her advice for how to be a successful wife and daughter-in-law.
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.
First, the arms!
Step 1: Raise your arms.
Step 2: Bounce your shoulders.
Step 3: Twist your wrists.
Now, for the hips!
Step 4: Wiggle your hips.
Step 5: Keep wiggling.
Oh hey, you’re dancing.