The Wedding Ritual Of Baraat: Why Should Grooms “Take Away” The Bride After Marriage?

Regressive Indian wedding rituals, Regressive wedding rituals
A big soundbox, a crowd of people swaying in the air of decadence and a man riding on a decorated car- this is how a baraat or marriage procession of Indian weddings look like. As the tradition has it, in a marriage, a man is supposed to reach a woman’s house or the wedding venue to take her away following certain regressive rituals.

A man arrives at his wedding riding on the back of a horse or on the seat of a lavishly decorated car while a woman is supposed to leave her house in doli or the husband’s car. The idea of baraat and bidaai is common in every Indian wedding but the question that was never raised is why does the groom always get to lead the marriage processions? Why can’t brides come with a crowd of proud people dancing to music? Why is it assumed that the bride should always be the one waiting for the baraat of the groom to arrive?

The major idea behind the whole concept of baraat is that in marriage, a woman is ‘given away’ to the groom and his family as an object of donation. While the groom and his family arrive at the bride’s house to take her away to their homes as a daughter-in-law. But these biases are only an off-shoot of the patriarchal conception of marriage. According to the patriarchal mindset, a woman must always be the one who moves to her marital house which is the house of the husband in the problematic custom of bidaai. While a man is never expected to shift to his wife’s house.

Moreover, patriarchy has already defined how a good bride should be. A bride is expected to be shy, terrified of the changes that will happen after marriage and cry for being separated from her parents. In such cases, it is just not perceived as normal for a bride to be happy and dance at her wedding. Customs like baraat, dances and enjoyment is reserved for the groom and his family who gain a family member rather than losing one as is the case of the bride and her family.

But how long are we going to abide by age-old patriarchal customs? Why should marriage mean changes and compromises for the woman alone? Why does marriage mean enjoyment for the groom and misery for women? Why can’t women too expect the groom to change his lifestyle and undergo compromises after marriage? Why can’t the groom move to the wife and his in-law’s house? Why should it always be a woman who must cry about being separated from her former life and family?

With the changing discourse around marriage and responsibilities, it is time we change the age-old wedding rituals too. The rituals that have been written by male-centric minds should be made more inclusive of women’s concerns and agency. Rather than objectifying women as objects of exchange, wedding rituals must respect women’s agency and choices. The ritual of baraat should not be male-dominated. It should be normal for a woman to reach the marriage venue with dancing crowds while the groom can be the one waiting to receive and respect the bride and the bride’s family.

Views expressed are the author’s own.