A Guide to Ismaili Weddings: Ismaili Traditions Explained

Written by: Samantha Michell, Toronto based Writer

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Weddings are a great way to embrace your culture and traditions that have been celebrated for countless years. This is especially true to an Ismaili wedding. Filled with colour, the Ismaili traditions offer a unique way of celebrating marriage and starting a new life with your spouse. Although too many to list, here is a select few of the traditions that you will most definitely notice at an Ismaili ceremony.

1. Chandlo

The Chandlo tradition is a symbol of purification and blessings. The bride and groom are greeted by the groom’s mother. She then places a yellow mark on the foreheads as a sign of good fortune. Afterwards, there is a showering of rice and rose petals, which symbolizes prosperity and love.

chandlo ceremony of purification and blessings

2. Puro Ceremony

In a Puro ceremony, the groom’s family brings gifts for the bride to welcome to her family. Trousseau trays are then carried by the groom’s sisters and female cousins. They are then greeted by the bride’s mother, and each girl carrying the tray is “ponked” by the bride’s mother as she enters the hall. The girls each receive a gift in exchange for the tray. Traditionally, this gift would be cash, or a gold or silver coin, but modern ceremonies offer the girls small gifts such as earrings or pendants.

puro wedding ceremony in Toronto

3. Pithi Ceremony

The Pithi ceremony is a joyful, fun occasion where family members and friends bless the couple with good wishes by rubbing a Pithi paste on the bride and grooms neck, face, hands and legs. The paste is made of chickpea flower, tumeric, sandalwood powder, herbs, aromatic oils, rose water, and other ingredients. The paste is believed to be an excellent cleanser for providing skin with a glowing effect, as well as soft skin. There is a modern interpretation to this tradition, where friends are showering the groom with condiments, eggs, flower and other household items to bestow him good luck.

Toronto pithi ceremony family members blessing the couple

4. Bandahani Shawl

The groom’s mother wraps a protective shawl, known as a Bandhani, over the couple, and symbolically leads them over the threshold of the family home.

bandahani wedding ceremony in Toronto

5. Ponkwa Ceremony

It is said that a Ponkwa ceremony will rid of evil spirits that interrupt the couple’s happiness. The groom’s mother places a betel nut in her hand and makes a circular motion around the couple to summon protective spirits. This is repeated four times.

Ponkwa ceremony in Toronto

6. Mehindi

In this tradition elaborate designs and patterns are painted using a paste made of ground leaves of the Mehndi tree. Afterwards, it is combined with tea water and clove oil. During the ceremony, a professional Henna applicator will arrive to the bride’s house to apply Mehndi on her legs and hands. The first application will go on the palms, then arms, and finally legs. Mehndi is believed to represent happiness, prosperity, love, and strength in marriage. “The darker the Mehndi, the deeper the love.”

ismaili ceremony mehndi

7. Gandi

The mother pours holy water onto the couple’s feet to purify them. The holy water is contained in a vessel known as a Ghadni.

8. Rukhasti

This is the official sendoff for the bride and groom! The person holding the ceremony will place their hands on both sides of the couples head, then place their knuckles on either side of their own head, and crack them. This is said to remove pain from the newlyweds. A betel nut is then wrapped in a shawl, and seven circular motions are made around the couple. The betel nut is then cast off and thrown behind them. This is repeated three more times so that the betel nut can be cast off in all four directions. The bride and groom then prepare to leave, and a coconut is placed under the front wheel of the car, which will be crushed when the car drives off.This symbolizes prosperity, generosity, and blessings. sources: