Weekend Wedding Post V: Nepali Wedding Paraphernalia

I’ve mentioned a few things in passing that some of you might be familiar with, and some of you might not. So I thought I’d do a brief post to explain some of the Nepali wedding paraphernalia.

It goes without saying that Nepal, although a small country geographically, is very ethnically, socially and religiously diverse. Thus the things that I mention are not necessarily universal for all Nepali weddings, but happen to be used for our wedding that included mainly Chetri and a few Newari cultural elements (such as the sagun bags).

While some elements of the wedding—such as the use of sindoor– are similar to some Indian customs, other elements might be different, or have a different twist.

Sindoor pot with my wedding sindoor

One such twist is that Nepali weddings don’t necessarily use a mangalsutra, but instead give a different type of necklace called a tilhari made out of small pote beads and a gold pendant. The tilhari is worn for your wedding, and on the festival of teej, and pote necklaces (without the gold tilhari pendant) are generally worn on a regular basis as a symbol of marriage (much like a western wedding ring). Sometimes the potes are thicker multi-strand necklaces, and sometimes they are long single strand necklaces.

My wedding tilhari

The other Nepali culture twist is the dubo ko malla. I’m not sure if there are groups in India who use this type of malla (garland), but in the three major Nepali weddings I’ve been to the bride and groom have each had one. The mallas are made out of grass, and seem to be an important part of the ceremony, although I’m not fully clear on the significance behind them. For AS and N’s wedding AS’s mother sent the mallas through an acquaintance travelling to the US for a visit, and we kept them in our refrigerator wrapped in wet towels for two weeks before the wedding. In our case, P’s parents did the same, smuggling them in their checked luggage, and refrigerating them wrapped in wet towels for a week and a half before the wedding.

Pic 1: N and AS wearing their dubo ko malla; Pic 2: S and R wearing their dubo ko malla

I tie on P's dubo ko malla

Our dubo ko malla post-party. Now they are dried out and hanging on our wall at home.

A Nepali groom’s traditional wedding outfit is also different than what you might see when you think of an Indian wedding. Instead of a kurta outfit, the groom wears a specially woven outfit made out of dhaka fabric called a daura suruwal. Several of our male Nepali red wedding guests also wore white, tan or gray shaded daura suruwals.

P prepping for the ceremony in his daura suruwal, helped out by his mom and N

P and I waiting for the ceremony to start. P in his full outfit. Note the khukuri knife sticking out of his side.

To show the difference between a wedding daura suruwal (P) and the regular traditional daura suruwal (U standing left and Daddy standing right) which are often worn with blazers/jackets

Lastly I was going to point out the Nepali khukuri knife. Again I don’t really understand the significance of the knife as part of the groom’s wedding attire, perhaps a symbol of “manhood”—but in a “white” wedding you don’t necessarily see the groom “packing” a weapon for the ceremony. This bit of khukuri history is from Wikipedia: “The khkuri is a curved Nepalese knife used as both a tool and as a weapon… The cutting edge is inwardly curved in shape and is the icon of Nepal. It was, and in many cases still is, the basic and traditional utility knife of the Nepalese people. Very effective when used as a weapon, it is a symbolic weapon of the Nepalese Army, and of all Gurkha regiments throughout the world, signifying the courage and valor of the bearer in the battlefield.”

P shows off his weapon

The unsheathed khukuri

6 responses to “Weekend Wedding Post V: Nepali Wedding Paraphernalia

  1. Wow, I like the knife.

    A. (my former housekeeper) as a Nepalese Lama and Buddhist had totally different Nepali wedding. She wore a wedding outfit that looks similar to Tibetan clothes and a married woman’s apron is an integral part of that outfit. It is a fancier version of their daily wear outfit. Saris are not used at all by members of her community, though in big cities shalwar qameez are popular for them for daily wear. Her wedding necklace is a cord with a long slim football shaped bead in the middle with two round beads on either side of it. There are also some specific types of wedding gold that her husband’s family made for her, and turquoise and jade are special stones for them.

    That’s funny about sneaking in the grass malas. Your green tilhari is beautiful.

    • Sherpani chupas and their marriage aprons are beautiful– I love the colors of their blouses and the weaves of their aprons. I have a plain chupa I wore sometimes in India, although I wish I had bought a more colorful one!

      Hill and mountain culture groups (especially the Buddhists) have very different customs then what I’m describing. It’s a totally different process. Our friends R and S went to a Nepali wedding a few months ago where the groom was Newari but the bride was Sherpa, and many of the wedding customs were unfamiliar to them– including a 12 hour gambling session during the reception!

      Buddhist Nepalis also generally give khatas (white/cream colored prayer scarves) as offerings for weddings. I wouldn’t be surprised if/when we do a reception in Nepal we get a few of these from neighbors who come from Buddhist ethnic groups.

  2. Sounds exciting! I liked reading about the differences between Indian and Nepali culture.

  3. Congratulations on your wedding from a long-time lurker! I just returned to Europe after nine months in Kathmandu, and your blog has been really helpful to me in getting to know Nepali customs and culture. I hope you and P will be very happy!

    On the khukuri – I attended the wedding ceremony of a Chetri friend in Kathmandu, and his brother said that the khukuri was worn as a symbol of the historical role of the chetris as warriors. But then again, for every Nepali tradition there seems to be a thousand different explanations…

  4. Rabindra’s khukri knife hangs proudly on our loungeroom hall under the nepali calendar.
    nice touch to p’s outfit i reckon

  5. congratulation on your wedding from a long time

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