If you have been to traditional Brahmin weddings you are sure to see a ritual called the Kasi Yatra. This is a ritual where the groom pretends that he is starting to take a trip to Kasi but is stopped and invited by either the groom’s brother or father back to the mandap after cleansing his feet and some cajoling.
The Significance of Kasi Yatra:
The significance of this ritual is that every man after his student life has two alternatives- Married life or Ascetic life. Wishing to escape the tribulations of married life, the groom, with second thoughts, starts to make his way to the holy city of Kasi or Varanasi with slippers, umbrella, fan, etc. as his possessions. The bride’s father intervenes and advises him on the superiority of married life over ascetic life, promising to give him his daughter as a companion to face the challenges. The umbrella serves to remind him in the future of this advice.
Kasi Yatra Today:
While this ritual was started as a way of explaining the importance of married life to the groom and encourage him to enter into the second stage of his life, today it has become more fun and games. At weddings sometimes we have confused grooms who really don’t know the ritual well and never need much persuasion to come back to the mandap. There are others who engage in humorous banter and create some very memorable moments. There are more serious and stringent followers of tradition who don’t consider the tradition lightly. They perform it rather grimly and with the utmost adherence to tradition. In Telugu weddings, it is the brother of the bride who persuades the groom to marry his sister. And he persuades by placing a small piece of jaggery under his chin.
This tradition is not preferred by many communities today as they find it unnecessary to perform this. This may be because they feel that it’s unnecessary or even in some cases demeaning. This happens when the tradition moves away from its original meaning and moves to a ritual that is used to look down upon the bride’s family. But one must remember that the tradition did not originate with the intention of washing the bridegroom’s feet and showering him with gifts. It was meant to educate the groom about what marital life entails. It was the knowledge that was passed down from one generation to another.
In many weddings, the Kasi yatra has become another event where gifts are showered on the groom and his family. A gift for the groom and the people accompanying him that would shine and sparkle in the wedding pictures and videos. In return, the groom also has to gift the bride’s brother either money or gold. The competition to outdo each other at the gifting session does nothing more than drive up wedding costs.
Going on a Kashi Yatra is making a statement. It is telling the world that you have seen enough of it, and that you’re ready to move on. Many families have done away with this tradition as the importance of passing on that knowledge isn’t significant in today’s times. Others have held onto it as it’s seen as a fun event in the wedding ceremonies that everyone enjoys. But if any tradition is respected for its original intent then it remains to be enjoyable for years to come.