Some unknown author touched the right chord somewhere when he said that, “A daughter is a day brightener and a heart warmer.”
A darling daughter is lovingly brought up, protected, cared for, and finally given away to lighten a different home and fill unknown hearts with warmth. In the Indian context, it is no different. This giving away of daughters, and the various customs and rituals that form a part of it have been followed since the ancient times.
The Pag Phera is one such ritual where the married daughter (the bride) comes back home for the first time after her wedding, to ensure the best future of her parents. The Hindus consider daughters as a form of Lakshmi (goddess of wealth and prosperity). Hence, the Pag Phera ceremony is of special significance for a Hindu bride. The daughter who is now the wife to her husband is also an embodiment of Goddess Lakshmi and is believed to attract prosperity and good fortune. An important post wedding ritual where the bride throws rice behind her just before her Vidai is performed to ensure that the home she is leaving behind is not striped of its fortunes. She prays for the prosperity, happiness and well being of her mother’s home. The mother collects the rice and keeps it believing it to be blessings from Goddess Lakshmi. The Pag Phera, believed to be an important ceremony, is followed in all types of Indian Hindu weddings.
The Essence of Pagphera
– During this ceremony the newly wedded daughter comes back to her paternal home for the first time. It is the brother who usually goes to fetch his sister from her husband’s house. The bride stays with her parents for a day or two, after which the groom arrives to take his wife back. The groom in his first official visit to his in-laws place after the wedding is extended the warmest welcome. It is time for yet another feast especially for the groom. This is also the time for the groom to seek blessings from his in-laws and requesting for permission he leaves with his better half to begin the new journey together.
Almost all Regional weddings in India, have Pag Phera as an important post wedding ritual, but every community has their unique way of performing it and has a unique term for this ritual.
Pagphera in Punjab
The vibrant Punjabi community calls this ritual pag phera, phera dalna, or phere pauna, where the newlyweds visit the bride’s place a day after the marriage. The bride’s brother usually comes to his newlywed sister’s place to bring her back home. At the bride’s house, her parents prepare a lavish meal for the daughter and son-in-law. The newlyweds return with gifts and blessings from the bride’s parents.
Pagphera in Sindhi Community
The Sindhi community calls this ritual Sataurah, where the newlyweds visit the bride’s house for the first time together. The bride’s parents bless the couple with presents to embark upon a new blissful life.
Pagphera in Kashmiri Pandits
The Kashmiri Pandits however have a longer time period for this post wedding ritual. The Satraat is the bride’s first visit to her parents’ home after the marriage with her husband. The parents of the bride give her a new set of clothes and some salt and cash. The groom is also presented with new clothes including a dusa which is a six yard pashmina shawl. The bride and the groom change into new clothes before returning to the groom’s house. Phirlath is another ceremony which takes place when the newlyweds visit the bride’s parents for the second time. Gar Atchum is another ritual where the bride’s brother and sister come to the marital home to bring back the bride for a day. The bride usually adorns herself with all the jewellery given to her by her in-laws and proceeds to her parents’ home. A lavish spread is prepared by the bride’s family for the relatives from both the families. The newlyweds return with blessings and gifts from the bride’s parents, hence, marking off the beginning of a blissful life.
Pagphera in Marwaris
The Marwari community calls this post wedding ritual Pothmuda. For this ceremony preparations are done in both the houses. Here too, the bride’s younger brother comes to the bride’s marital home to accompany her back to her mother’s home. The bride’s brother brings a basket of sweets (choliya) with a saree and a blouse inside it. The bride’s brother receives gifts from the in-laws of his sister. On the evening of Pothmoda, the bride and the groom along with his brothers and sisters go to the bride’s parents’ home for a meal. After the completion of the meal, the groom puts some money beside his plate which is later distributed among the people who helped in cooking the meal. The ceremony gets over only after offering a paan to the groom and putting a tilak on his forehead. This is a ritual usually done by the bride’s sister-in-law.
Pagphera in Bengal
There is a similarity in what the people from Assam, Bengal and Odisha call this post wedding ritual. The Assamese people call it Aath Mongola. Here, the groom arrives at the bride’s home to bring back his newly wedded wife. His wife is already in her maternal home, as an Assamese bride is brought back after the ghor gosoka ritual (akin to grihapravesh) only to go back with the groom on the eighth day. The groom arrives at the bride’s house with a bunch of young people comprising mostly of his siblings and friends on the eighth day. A lavish Assamese spread with eight dishes is prepared for the bride, groom and his party and served in special bell metal utensils. The couple leaves with gifts and blessings from the elders and best wishes from the young; the bride and the groom, thus embark on a happy and harmonious journey.
The Bengalis call it Ostho Mongola, but among the Hindu Bengalis of Sylheit origin, this ritual is known as Fira-jatr. Eight days after the marriage, the couple visits the bride’s house and spends three nights there. There is feasting and merry making and the couple comes back loaded with gifts and blessings from the bride’s home. The gathbandhan which had been tied during the marriage is opened in the bride’s home during the stay of the newlyweds.
The Odia people call this post wedding ritual as Asta Mangala. The bride and the bridegroom are invited to the bride’s house on the eighth day of the wedding. Traditional Odia cuisine is prepared and served to the newlywed couple. The Asta Mangala custom is over with blessings and gifts for the bride and the bridegroom with wishes for a fruitful marriage.
Pagphera in South India
Going to the southern parts of the country, the Kannada weddings have a custom similar to the Pag Phera. Traditional Kannada weddings are simple but filled with traditional values that highlight the rich culture of the state. In a Kannada wedding, the second ritual after the Griha Pravesh of the bride is her coming back to her maternal home. This happens on the second day of the wedding. The bride’s family comes to take the newly wedded bride and the groom to their house. The newly wedded couple spends a few days at the bride’s house. This way the groom also gets to know his wife’s family and is able to come closer to them. The newlyweds come back only when the groom’s family comes over to bring the couple back to their new home, thus, paving way for a new beginning.
Marriage is a pledge to lead a life in union and harmony. It is a pledge to extend lifelong support and work to better the lives of each other. In the greater Indian context, it is much more than just the coming together of two individuals to lead a combined existence. With marriage come the customs and rituals which have their unique symbolic significance. These rituals not only bring the new families together, but also strengthen the bonds, paving way for a lifelong commitment.