Tilak Ceremony is one of the most important Pre-Wedding ceremonies in Hindu customs. It is a significant ritual that marks the official meeting of the groom and bride’s families. This is a groom centric ritual, and the bride is not supposed to attend this function, which takes place on the eve of the wedding day or 2 days before. In some customs, even the mother of the bride is also not allowed to attend the tilak ceremony. Only the male members are to be present. The tilak ceremony is usually preceded by a small puja (worship ritual) to seek God’s blessings and to wish for a happy, successful life for the couple.
On this occasion, the bride’s brother, along with close family members, all well-dressed in traditional Hindu garments, visits the groom’ s house with a Tilak Thali. The tilak thali has various components which could vary depending on the culture and the region, however, there are some essential items which are in every tilak ceremony namely kumkum, kesar, diya, sandalwood and oil. The bride’s brother applies tilak (a dark red mark of power and piety) on the groom’s forehead. It is applied between the brows and symbolizes that the bride’s family is keen to welcome the groom as son-in-law. The bride’s brother then offers gifts (fruits, clothes, goods, and sweets) to the groom and other members of the family. All the gifts are elegantly wrapped. The groom’s family then reciprocates by sending gifts that may vary but must include sweets, coconut, rice, and henna to the bride’s family.
Both fathers, as head of their respective families will exchange “lawa”, a ritual, using different ingredients with turmeric which they mix together, symbolizing the union of both families. This paste will be shared between the two families, and this is what will be used by the women for the Saffron ceremony on both sides a few days later. To conclude the Tilak ceremony, a tea party is sometimes organized with lots of traditional cakes.
If in the past, a Tilak ceremony was traditionally an only male member function, these days it has become a very important function of any full-fledged wedding ceremony and is organized on a large scale with the ladies of both the families in attendance too. A function usually performed at the groom’s residence, a tilak ceremony these days can be performed at a banquet or venue keeping the convenience of both the families in view. Usually followed by lunch or dinner, a tilak ceremony is basically a bonding event for both families, an ice-breaking ceremony between the families of the bride and groom.