While adhering to traditional dress and ornaments according to
regional dress codes, trousseaux today incorporate contemporary
designs and fashions.
According to Manu, the
author of Manu Smriti, the treatise on laws of life, there are
no less than eight forms of marriage indicating the various stages in
Held in high esteem was
the Brahma form of marriage in which the father invites the
bridegroom who must be of good character, well read in the Vedas and
from a good family and gives to him his daughter bedecked in her
bridal finery. When she leaves her parents house the bride is
given jewellery called stridhan over which she was absolute
authority. According to the Vedas, the daughter has no right over
the fathers property, thus the stridhan was one way of
giving her a share of the property which over the years has
degenerated to the evil connotations the word dowry
Yet, the trousseau was,
and still is, something more personalized. While adhering to the
traditional, the bridal trousseau has to an extent, followed the
dictates of contemporary fashions down the ages.
Wedding garments are
generally of rich materials such as silks and velvets and worked over
heavily in gold trimmings or brocade. Colours are reds, pinks, and
maroons. In fact, all the colours of the rainbow can be included
for the Hindu bride, with the exception of white- the colour of
widowhood- and black which is considered inauspicious. In India
exceptions to this rule can be seen among the Parsis and the
Catholics where white is a symbol of purity.
The trousseau of the
Indian bride goes a step ahead of containing only clothes and
ornaments. The quality and quantity of items given are dependent
upon the financial status of the parents. Yet there are some norms
which are adhered to by all, from the humblest to the most
aristocratic or the wealthiest. However, there is a marked
difference in the gifts given to the bride of the north and her
southern counterpart. The bridal trousseaux from Punjab, Jammu,
Uittar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan contain, besides the ubiquitous
sari, the salwar-kameeze or the lehnga-choli which are heavily
embroidered with thread. The chunri or veil in a bright red
and multicoloured tie and dye bandhini design is almost mandatory.
The Rajasthanis use it to cover the bridal bed on which the grooms
sit for the tilak ceremony after the marriage and is later
used as a veil by the bride.
Among the people of Uttar
Pradesh it is used for the gath bandhan (tying the knot)
ceremony during the marriage rituals. The brides of Bihar, however,
are simply dressed in a new unstitched saffron or turmeric yellow
sari but among the zamindars the sari undergoes a transformation.
During a special ceremony specialists of bandhini are invited to make
Phulkari, the traditional
hand embroidery of Punjab is manifested in the trousseau in the
form of a shawl or veil and muslin veils in a range of colours edged
with gold, are also included.
The Jammu belle is
dressed in tight trousers somewhat similar to riding breeches. The
kurta is usually made up of velvet and heavily embellished with gold
thread embroidery. The dress in olden days was stitched out of a
specially hand-woven silken cloth. The brides kurta and
chunni were usually of the same colour, an auspicious red or pink
or maroon and the trousers could be contrasting green.
In Maharashtra brides
wear a Paithani sari and shawl with its gold brocade border woven
intricately with birds, flowers and geometrical patterns. Other
woven saris from this region, such as Chanderis, Indoris,
Maheshwaris also form part of the trousseau with yellows, ochres and
greens being the dominant colours.
The ensemble of the
Muslim bride from Hyderabad is the zari-encrusted blouse with a
skirt. The veil is edged with gold tassels and embroidered all over.
Tissues and brocades are used in abundance.
The Tamil bride has a
minimum of five saris worn during the various rituals of the marriage
ceremony. For the main wedding rites, when the mangalsutra is given
to her, she is dressed in the nine yards red and gold sari made on
the looms of the famed Kancheepuram weavers of Tamil Nadu.
For the church wedding,
the Mangalorean, Goan and other Christian brides of India wear white,
with a veil on their heads. White too, is the traditional colour of
the Parsi bride. Resplendent she could be in either an embroidered
sari for which the community is famed or something as westernized as
Chantilly lace. The ornaments worn during the ceremony come from the
grooms family. The Bengali brides jewellery is all in
gold. Her bridal sari is of Benarasi silk with brocade weave and her
veil is of tissue.
Besides clothes ornaments
are the mainstay of the trousseau. Bangles, mangalsutras and toe
rings are all symbolic of marriage. Among the Dogras of Jammu and
Kashmir, the nose ring is important. It is usually a very large ring
o f pearls and precious stones. Even after the marriage the nose ring
is worn for most ceremonies.
The trousseau among the
Bengalis is a two way deal. The grooms family sends their gifts
to the bride before the wedding. They are beautifully displayed on
decorated salvers or cane baskets. Besides the clothes and ornaments
there are trays of sweets, curd, and a fish that is artistically
embellished with vermilion and is to be cooked and eaten on the
wedding day. The brides trousseau is similarly displayed in the
grooms house. A vanity case is also an essential item
especially in the north. It contains the seven adornments for ht
efface kajal, bindi, mehndi (henna), alta, kumkum,
(vermilion), a silver comb, a container for perfume, and some missi -
a lip colour which duplicates for lipstick.
Furniture and utensils
also form part of the stridhan. Copper or brass urns, plates, and
vessels are given containing grains or assorted dried fruits. The
Tamil Brahmin bride takes along her rose-water sprinkler and a
tumbler and spoon for prayer rituals, a lamp and a box for
vermilion. The Gujaratis include small boxes containing fifty-one
cloves and an equal number of cardamoms. The stools on which he bride
and groom sit during the nupitals are also part of the trousseau.
Finally the trunks or
boxes containing the trousseau, left open, are handed over by the
brides family to her in-laws signifying their faith and trust.
The bride then leaves her
home and begins a new phase in her life. She is secure in the
knowledge that her trousseau, her stridhan, is to help her set up
her new home. The things she brings with her are further blessed
with a sprinkling of water which makes the gift, so far accurate in
form, now a perfect one. As perfect as her wedding, the most magical
day of her life.