Milni is a Sanskrit Derivative; meaning union of two. Milni at the Punjabi wedding ceremony is the meeting of the bride and groom’s families.
In the Punjabi tradition the groom travels to the bride’s home town or village to get married. The parents of the groom will invite his close relatives and associates to form an entourage who would follow the groom to witness and solemnize the wedding. This entourage is called baraat. Some dialects in Punjab call this a jan-jh.
In the past, Punjab was not well connected by roads and good transportation as it is today. In fact, the whole of India was not well connected. The means of travel were bullock carts, horses and elephants; depending on the socio-economic condition of the family.
A baraat sometimes travelled for days breaking journey in homes of relatives or gurdwaras of the villages, before they would reach their destination. With poor infrastructures and distant market places, the baraatis (baraat members) would carry trunks (metallic luggage used during those days in travels) stuffed with food and even stoves to cook.
Imagine them travelling in their traditional clothing for miles on their charts. They did not have simple clothes like jeans and shorts as we do today. Their toothbrushes were literally twigs of the Acacia trees. They would need to fetch water from wells and lakes during their travels. Over and above, there were poor toilet system.
Women were not allowed to form the component of the baraat as they would face much inconvenience. During those days there were poor sanitary systems to cater for their menstrual needs. Uncomfortable night-stays and lengthy travelling were main reasons for them not to be included in a baraat. Apart from this, there were plenty of dacoits to encounter in their travels who would attack and loot the jewelry and belongings of the women. Ladies in those days would vail themselves to shy away from males.
In that cumbersome condition, travelling for days would definitely pose a challenge to women. Last but not the least, men would get intoxicated with wine and drinks by night and are bound to misbehave. To avoid such circumstances that could cause unnecessary injuries to the baraatis’, the ladies were prohibited. Further to give a twist to this prohibition, bad omen of fear, like women in baraat would bring bad luck if the newly wedded couple were linked to it. Tales like the couple will not enjoy longevity and would not bear children were among the common curses linked to this prohibition. If unmarried girls follow a Barat then they are likely to remain unmarried. All these fear created a complex in the Punjabi women’s world in the yesteryear. For this reason, even today mothers of the groom are not allowed to witness the Gurdwara circumambulate (laavaa) ceremony.
Today things have changed with good travel infrastructures, good comfortable hotels to rest in. Hence, ladies are well encouraged to be part of the baraat. Infact their involvement has indeed added more colors and life to the baraat. Today the baraatis are more glorified with bands and decorated horses. In the olden days they would carry a drum (dholki and chamtta – traditional musical instruments) to play the songs sung by the baraatis while on the journey and at the time of milni.
DURING THE MILNI
The baraat would advance towards the home or the allocated point of meet with dances, drums and singing. At a final point, everything will stop with prayers in unison just as both parties come face to face. This prayer (supplication) is normally conducted by the granthi from the bride’s side.
The elder members of the two families will greet each other. The member from the bride would welcome the groom’s leader (usually the father), the groom and the entire baraat with a token of appreciation. Some would present their appreciation with a gold ring and some would present a gold bangle. They would then garland each other and hug as a sign of friendship in Punjabi culture.
A blanket is presented to the leader of the baraati. This is a significant gesture that most of us might not know. It is done with utmost respect and with some money placed underneath.
The blanket is a representation of honor, respect, love, care, protection, warmth and comfort. There is a silent message of the father of the bride.
“My daughter represents all these above virtues of my home, and today onwards I present this Bundle of Love to you and your family!”
“Hey the elderly of the groom, please make sure our love is not denied of all these which she enjoyed while I groomed her from childhood till today…Give her all the warmth, care, love and appreciate her for existence… She might err, let that not be a reason to shower hatred over her… To the members of the Baraat…You shall be the witness to this if she is denied of any…”
This blanket is presented. The groom’s father accepts it with respect and the money is returned to the bride’s father in a gesture that silently would say that, ”She is worth more than this” and a sense of promise is conveyed, that “every care shall be given to her in all possible manner.” These are hidden expressions deem present during this part of the ceremony.
Both the parents then hug each other. Sometimes counterpart uncles and aunties would hug each other as well. This is then followed by the baraatis being ushered to breakfast before the wedding ceremony commemorates.
SIGNIFICANCE OF BLANKET
We, the Sikhs would all know the title that is given to our 9th Guru Sahib, Guru Teg Bahadur Ji. He is titled Hind-Ki-Chaddar. Meaning “The Blanket of Hindustan”. To provide the then citizens of Hindustan freedom from Mogul tyranny he sacrificed his life. The Mogul were forcing the citizens to embrace Islam or face their sword. Guru Ji himself in the earlier instance denied conversion to Islam. Guru ji was very influential in the Indian Northern Province. By threatening Guru Ji to a decapitation punishment, Emperor Aurangzeb thought that the Guru would condone to conversion to Islam in fear any every of his followers would follow suit.
Instead Guru Ji stood firm agreeing to the punishment by giving his head away to fulfill the promise to save his fellow citizens from torture and assault. Guru Ji surrendered himself and was executed by way of decapitation of his head on 24th November 1675, at Sees Gunj, in front of Red Ford, Delhi. It was the darkest days in the Sikh history. Thousands of fellow Hindustani witnessed this cruelty. India had then declared a provisional, non-gazetted national holiday, in the memory of this heroic gesture of the great Sikh Guru and titled him as Hind-Ki-Chaddar.
SIGNIFICANCE OF BLANKET AT HOME
When the father or the mother checks in on their children in their bedroom while they are asleep, they would pull up the blankets over them to ensure warmth, comfort and care.
So a blanket commemorates Love, Care and Comfort in the Indian culture. Hence the significance of the blanket in Milni unifying two families.
Dr Balwant Singh Bains is a Malaysia-based kirtan enthusiast and a practicing physiotherapist with a chain of physiotherapy clinics.
A colourful Punjabi wedding (Asia Samachar, 29 Nov 2019)
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Bharaat and jana? Are they one and the same?
well said and good explaination I believed Dr.have more to share in future.
Thank you Dr Balwant Singh Bains for taking the time to write. I appreciate it very much.
A good information for present generation of old tradition with logic .
Thanks for this connect up in.present times.
Dr balwant Singh bains ji. I must say that this msg of the blanket had so many hidden interpretations . beautifully explained sir. Such articles on Sikhism and what the modern generation today can read. Is actually appreciated. Pls keep up good work