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One of the most talked about pre-wedding events, the Sangeet, is a celebration of coming together of the two families in the union of their children. The ceremony offers respite from all the hectic seriousness of the wedding preparations. Women of the family get together several days before the wedding day with dolaks and spoons, surround the bride and sing traditional wedding songs. Subjects of the song range from about daily life of women to teasing the bride about her upcoming wedding and her groom. Some referred to the dreams and hopes of the bride who is parting from her family while some tell of the pain parents go through while sending their daughter off to her in-laws. The groom is referred to as Banna in these songs whereas the groom is known as Banni or Banno. Popular traditional songs include ‘Mehendini Mehendi’, ‘Lathe di Chadar’, ‘Laung Gawacha’ and ‘Kala Doriyaan’. There would be dancing as well, with the women of the household dancing away along with the bride participating with gusto. Previously, it used to last for a few days, but nowadays its mostly one day, and sometimes one evening.
Although the Sangeet ceremony is observed by most north Indian communities, it is most popular among Punjabis and Gujaratis. The traditional Punjabi sangeet generally includes performances of Bhangra and singing of Gidda songs. The Gujarati Sangeet ceremony is often accompanied by performances of garba, the traditional dance of Gujarat that involves women in brightly colored ghaghra cholis, clapping their hands keeping in tune with the music and moving in circles.
Then and Now
Weddings in India have gone from being this austere and sacred ceremony signifying the union of two souls, to pomp and show. As the glam quotient of Indian weddings rose, the sangeet ceremony evolved into the focal point of the pre-wedding celebration. The days of singing simple traditional songs about Banna-Banni with dolaks, spoons and harmonium, are over. It’s not just an assembly of women, singing songs and teasing the bride, but a painstakingly planned event that is an elaborate and extravagant affair nowadays. The participation is not just restricted to the bride’s family, and women. Nowadays, wedding planners, event management companies and choreographers are involved to provide a seamless experience. Sometimes there is a set theme for the event. It may be Casino night, where the event includes setting up of card game stands where you can play using fake chips. Another popular theme may be Disco, where the guests have a set dress-code as 80s disco icons. Or may be an Indian Princess theme, where the stage is set like a castle on Rajasthan.
Sangeet nowadays is celebrated by both the bride’s and the groom’s family together at a common venue. A grand stage is set where the performances take place. The choreographers teach cool dance steps to the entire relative bandwagon. The relative perform in pairs or in groups. Generally the bride’s and groom’s parents have a set.Several sets of uncle and aunties from each sidealso prepare dance performances to popular Bollywood tunes. The sisters and brothers from each side will generally dance in groups or will perform skits. Even the bride and the groom take part in the performance, dancing to romantic numbers. DJs are hired to create an ambience where guest can dance their hearts out. In over the top NRI or uber-rich businessman weddings, Bollywood celebrities are hired by the event management companies to dance at the event. Some even hire famous musicians and singers to present beautiful melodic performances.
The sky is the limit when it comes to planning a sangeet. There are no set rules and you can pour out all your bridal dreams if you have a permissive budget. The attire one chooses for the sangeet is one of the best in the trousseau, second only to the wedding attire. But unlike the wedding attire, one can experiment here with several styles and designs. The bride might choose to wear a dress instead of a lehenga or saree, and even if she is wearing a leheng she can go with any color, cut or design. Designers like Rohit Bal, Abu Jani & Sandeep Khosla, Anamika Khanna, and Anita Dongre, design some funky modern lehengas that will let you turn up the glam quotient and yet allow you enough comfort that you can dance without a worry. The groom and other gentlemen of the family may turn out in Kurta Pajamas or latest designer choices of Indo-western outfits like wearing dhoti pants with kurtas, or donning a suave waistcoat or Nehru jacket over it.
Apart from song and dance, the sangeet ceremony might involve interactive games like karaoke, or arranging an award-like event, where they are lauded for their performances. You could get creative with the cocktails and hire a performing bartender to entertain the guest with his antics. There can be competition between the bride’s and groom’s side on games like tug-of-war or Guess Who. One can even be innovative with the theme of the modern sangeet ceremony, like going with a Bollywood Night, Princess Dream, and Magic themed or even Harry Potter theme, Casino Night or Disco Night. Event management companies look after the whole event, right from providing the perfect venue, to selecting the choreographer and even arranging for celebs to participate in performances. They manage every detail from food to song selection, from lighting to photography. All the bride and groom have to do is to show up and make themselves the star of the party.
The Sangeet is traditionally a fixture in most north Indian weddings. Recently, the culture has started to feature in other cultures such as Bengali or South Indian weddings as well. It presents an exciting and fun-filled concept for the two families about to be joined in matrimony to let loose and get to know each other in a less formal setting. Plus it adds a lot of fun and color to any marriage ceremony, across any culture. During Sangeet, the family comes together to celebrate the act of two young hearts coming together. Relatives from out of state and even out of country gather and bring bits and pieces of their newly adopted cultures. In olden times, the sangeet used to serve as a respite from all the tensions and seriousness of the wedding preparations. The women of the house will prepare the bride for her wifely duties through simple songs, at the same time conveying to her their love. Ceremonies like this prove how much of a social importance and event like wedding holds in the lives of Indians.