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Maiyan or vatna is a cleansing ceremony done to purify the individuals getting married. Maiyan are for both the bride and groom and held two or three days before the wedding. The ceremonies take place at their respective homes with their family and friends. Vatna is the doughy paste created for this specific occasion. The paste is a mixture of tumeric powder, channa flour and mustard oil. It is used to rub over the arms, legs and face and is thought to beautify the bride or groom. Traditionally, once the ceremony has taken place the bride and groom are no longer permitted to leave their homes.

Preparing for Maiyan 

Materials Required:

  • Partri (a special red board decorated with embroidery that is very low to the ground – about 6 inches).
  • Coloured rice and powder

    Maiyan Rangoli

    Example of a Rangoli design made with coloured rice

  • Phulkari with a coin tied to one corner
  • Gana (red thread)
  • Silver tray or thal
  • Small bowl
  • Vatna Paste
    • Tumeric powder
    • Channa (chick pea) flour
    • Mustard oil
  • Baby oil
  • Long blades of grass (enough to create an applicator brush)
  • Small tie (to bind grass blades)

Time of day:

Usually it is performed in the early evening, but can be done at any time.

How it’s Done:

(Note: the following steps apply to both the bride and groom)

  1. Using the coloured rice and powder, create a rangoli design directly in front of where the bride or groom will be seated. These designs can be very elaborate or quite simple. Although the purpose of the design is decoration, it is also thought to bring good luck.
  2. Make the vatna paste by mixing 1 cup channa flour with 1 teaspoon tumeric and 1/3 cup of oil. Mix to a consistency of very soft dough. Place it in a container.
  3. Pour baby oil in bowl and create oil applicator brush using blades of grass and the tie.
  4. Tie a coin into the corner of the phulkari. Fold the phulkari into a square. Phulkari literally means flower embroidery. It is a shawl traditionally worn by Punjabi women during marriages and other festivities.
  5. Place all supplies (paste, bowl of baby oil, brush) into the tray. Place the tray on top of the partri and the phulkari on top of the tray. Hand the entire assortment to the bride.
  6. With immediate and close female family members around, the bride walks to the where the rangoli design has been created holding the tray and other items.
  7. The mother takes tray etc. and places the partri in front of the rangoli design with enough room for her daughter’s legs and feet.
  8. The bride sits on the partri with arms and legs exposed. Sometimes family members place a coin under each foot for good luck.
  9. The phalkari is spread out. With the embroidered facing down, the sisters, female cousins and friends take turns holding it high above the bride’s head.
  10. Beginning with the mother, and going through the hierarchy of the family tree, each female relative takes a small amount of the vatna and rubs it on the bride’s legs, arms and face and applies a small amount of oil to her hair.
  11. While the vatna is being applied the appropriate vatna song is sung by the women in attendance and while the oil is being applied, the related sohag sung. The sohag identifies each relative that is applying the vatna and oil and offers a blessing on their behalf.
  12. As this is taking place, one of the bride’s close female relative’s ties gana, red thread, to her wrist. The same relative then ties gana on all females in attendance.
  13. When everyone is finished rubbing the vatna and oil, the phulkari is bundled up and placed on the bride’s head. She stands and walks to take a bath, holding the phulkari in place.
  14. At the end of the ceremony the mother cleans the rangoli design with water. She then takes her dirty hand and places it 5 times on a wall (usually at the front) of the house.  They say the longer it lasts, the more love a mother has for her son or daughter.

Auntyji’s Approach

Bachai lok these days’ maiyan ceremonies are done in the week prior to the wedding, whenever it is convenient for the family. Many maiyan ceremonies are done a day or two before the wedding in the daytime or evening. Your Auntyji recommends doing the maiyan closer to the wedding day if you are going to follow the tradition of not leaving your house afterwards. After all, I know you have many things to still do and plan to get ready for your big day.

Also, in the true Punjabi tradition, maiyan take the form of a big celebration with lots of food and fun. Decorating your house with an Indian flare is a nice touch. And don’t forget that dancing is a big part of all Punjabi celebrations, so get ready for some giddha and bhangra!

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