- The Bride's Face first Seen in a Mirror
In that remarkable book, "The Prince of Destiny," in which the author (Sarath Kumar Ghosh) represents a future day of union in aim and thought, not only between England and India, but among all the nations of the world, perhaps the true millennium, we are told that a Hindu marriage of ceremony needs several months of preliminaries.
But the services themselves vary with individual instances. The festivities precede the marriage, and while the bridegroom is the central figure of these, the bride suffers a series of mental and physical tortures in preparation for her wedding day. Unlike a Western bride, who enjoys every opportunity of looking her best on her wedding day, the Eastern girl is obliged to blacken her teeth, shave her head, and otherwise mar her beauty.
The bridegroom presents the bride with her nuptial girdle and her wedding-gown, or the material for making it. and he, for his part also, receives from her his wedding garments. Publicity, however, is the great and characteristic feature of Eastern marriages; something discreditable is supposed to attach to a quiet wedding.
A Mohammedan marriage is of peculiar interest because the ceremony does not take place in a mosque, and because no specified religious service is ordained. The bride and bridegroom are free to arrange any religious rites according to their own wishes. The celebrant is a lazi, or religious judge. Three days' festivities precede the marriage, and, during these, the bridegroom is surrounded with attention, compliments, and adulation, while the bride is kept shut up in a small room, sometimes in darkness.
On the morning of the ceremony her feet and hands are dyed with mayndi, her lips, gums, and teeth with antimony; and in her nose is inserted the ring presented by the bridegroom's family. When she is ready, and the wedding portion prepared for her to take with her, the bridegroom arrives with a procession of friends. The assembly for the actual marriage must include the lazi, the bride's lawyer, and the witnesses.
All being ready, the lazi asks the woman, "Is it by your own consent that the marriage takes place with------?" The bride replies,
"It is by my consent." Then the marriage law of Mohammed is read, verses from the
Koran, and the young man (he is often a mere boy) repeats his creed. Then the lazi requests the bride's lawyer to take her hand, and to ask the bridegroom, "-------'s daughter, by the agency of her lawyer and by the testimony of two witnesses, has, in your marriage with her, had such and such a dower settled upon her. Do you consent to it?"
A typical Hebrew woman in marriage costume
A wealthy lady from Tangier in Mohammedan Morocco Photo, Valentine
The bridegroom replies, "With my whole heart and soul, to my marriage with this woman, as well as to the dower already settled upon her, I consent, I consent, I consent!" The marriage ceremony then concludes with a prayer by the lazi. The bridegroom receives the congratulations of his friends, and embraces them. The bride plays a passive part.
A Mohammedan is allowed to marry four free women.
A Buddhist marriage, as celebrated in Japan, carries with it for the bride a sentence of absolute separation from the oarental home. To carry out the idea that she is henceforward dead to them, she is carried away from their house wrapped entirely in white, the Japanese colour of mourning, and her head covered with a long white veil. Laid on a bier, she is borne away as a corpse would be, and her girlhood's home is purified, as if after a burial.
A Dakkhan lady. The Brahmin marriage ceremonial is a slow and complicated process
Escorted by a long procession, she is then taken to her future home. At the entrance the bier is laid upon a strip of white matting. Her relations have assembled, waiting her arrival. Presents are exchanged by bride and bridegroom, and the former is then carried into all the rooms.
Rites symbolising the unity of wedlock are performed. One of these is the fusion of the wicks of two candles, which are fastened together and allowed to burn in unison for some time before being extinguished. Rice, too, is pounded in two different mortars, and, as the bride passes, the contents of both are mixed together. There are no vows, no prayers, no promises in the Buddhist marriage. No formal words are spoken. There is not even a hand-clasp. The binding action consists of the bride handing the bridegroom nine cups of wine, each containing just one sip. She passes him three at a time, and he reciprocates in a similar fashion.
Meanwhile, the guests eat delicacies, such as turtle dove, fish, rice cakes, sweetmeats; and drink sake. The bride and bridegroom retire to don richer clothes, and the room is rearranged during their absence for a reception resembling that usually held at English weddings. Wine is handed round in richer cups than those used in the ceremony, and the festivities continue while the bride is formally introduced to her parents-in-law and her husband's other relatives. To each of these she pledges her obedience in wine.
Homage to dead ancestors by the newly married pair concludes the ceremonies, and is the sole religious rite in the whole of the proceedings. A few days later the bridegroom sends presents to the parents of the bride by way of compensation for their outlay on the marriage.
In Korea, that distant land of strange people and customs, the bridegroom plays a more picturesque part than with us, for he rides in state to his wedding, accompanied by his friends, one of whom leads his horse and another holds over him an umbrella, a sign, in the East, of dignity and importance.
Younger still than the Buddhist bride and bridegroom are most of those who are
Brahmins. A boy in his sixth year may be betrothed to a child some years his junior. The marriage ceremony is performed when he is about ten, and five or six years after the two begin to keep house together. The preliminary marriage ceremonies last about a week, and sometimes cost so much money as to cripple the two families financially for years. Half-way through the festivities the guests assemble in a large room, at one end of which the couple to be married are seated on stools, facing each other. Two officiating priests squat upon the floor at one side of them, and the bride's parents occupy a similar position on the other side. One of the priests takes a piece of consecrated cloth, and fastens one end to the bridegroom's dress, the other to the bride's. Her face is covered by a red veil. Their hands are then joined while their faces are daubed with red paint, and their shoulders are garlanded with flowers by two of the ladies present. The flowers and the ugly paint are symbolical, respectively, in contrast, of a piece of revolting mythology and of the beauty of wedded love.
A Greek peasant bride in bridal array, her costume heavily adorned with gold Photo, Underwood
Belles of the East Two Japanese ladies
A consecrated cord is now taken by one of the priests and wound round the necks of the man and woman, uniting them, while he murmurs prayers. Then the bridegroom's hands are put in milk, bathed, and powdered. After this the festivities re-commence, and go on until the eighth day, when the young couple go together to worship in the temple.
In the older form of the marriage ceremony, the following words were spoken by the bridegroom, while he led his bride round the sacred fire, "I am male. Thou art female. Come, let us marry. Let us possess offspring, united, illustrious, well-disposed towards each other. Let us live for a hundred years."
Then, leading her to ascend upon a millstone (used for grinding corn, etc.), "Ascend thou this stone. Be thou firm as a rock." Again making her take seven steps forward, " Take thou one step for the acquirement of force. Take thou two steps for strength. Take thou three steps for the increase of wealth. Take thou four steps for well-being. Take thou five steps for offspring. Take thou six steps for the seasons. Take thou seven steps as a friend. Be thou faithfully devoted to me. May we attain many sons. May we attain to a good old age."
The bridegroom has not once during the whole of these ceremonies seen the face of his bride. He may never have seen her. After the marriage he goes to a room where she and her mother are sitting, and finds the former unveiled. Custom ordains that he must see it first in a mirror, before which she sits as he enters. He takes his place by her side, and it may be imagined that he looks very curiously at the reflection of the girl to whom he has just united his future life.
A bridegroom going to his wedding in Seoul, the capital of Korea