AMAN GILL SHARES THE TRADITIONS BEHIND A WEEK-LONG INDO-CANADIAN WEDDING CELEBRATION
If you’re stepping inside the Abbotsford home of Aman & Sat Gill, you’ll likely be greeted with a cup of fragrant chai tea. “Serving is a blessing,” Aman tells us, “if anybody comes into my home, I will offer them chai or something to eat.” Today, the kitchen counter is filled with trays of colourful Indian sweets meant for sharing. It is an extra special day, as Aman and her family celebrate the Sikh wedding of her cousin Harleen. Aman’s husband of 16 years Sat, daughter Maiher, son Jahaan and extended family are getting ready for tonight’s 1,000 person reception, a finale to a week-long celebration.
Indo-Canadian weddings are known for being grand. “Back home in India, a village is like a small town where everyone knows everybody,” Aman explains, “you live as a family.” And when there’s a big celebration like a wedding, the entire family and village is invited. Aman laughs, “we say we go in packs.”
Aman goes on to explain what the week-long celebration has entailed. The week began with a blessing at the groom’s family home, a four-hour ceremony where the parents offered a token of love, gold jewellery. On the second day, extended family and friends started arriving from overseas at her aunt’s house. On the third night, an official ring ceremony was held at the bride’s home. Although the groom had already proposed to the bride, the ring was given again on this night, which also included blessings from the families and lots of food and dancing. The fourth night included a henna party, where a Mehndi artist created intricate henna designs on the hands and feet of the bride and other women in the family. “It’s all about being together,” Aman shares. The fifth night is Maiya, the night before the wedding. The bride and groom were both cleansed (separately with their side of the family) with corn flour and oil, a sign of purity. During the night, the bride was also gifted with special red and gold bracelets from her maternal uncles, the bracelets ran all the way up to her elbow and are meant to be worn for 45 days. “If you see someone wearing those bracelets, you know they’re a newlywed,” Aman adds.
On this day, the wedding day, the bride awoke at 4am to get ready, Sikh weddings always take place in the morning. The marriage ceremony took place earlier in the day at the temple, and included singing, prayers and blessings for the bride and groom in the presence of the Sikh Gurus. The day continued to the bride’s home, where her parents officially said goodbye to their daughter, and the groom’s side, where she was welcomed into her new family. Tonight – it ends with a huge reception and of course, lots of dancing – Indo-Canadian weddings are known for their electric dance floors with their deep roots in music and love of Bollywood. “The dancing goes on until the time is up,” Aman laughs, “we’ll pay you extra if needed!”
As Aman dons her custom black and gold lengha saree for the night, we chat more about her philanthropic work in the community. “My husband and I always focus on giving back,” Aman shares, “whether it’s time, guidance or financial support.” A few organizations near and dear to Aman include the Crystal Gala Foundation, the Abbotsford Police Board and GirlKIND Foundation. “My mom passed away from breast cancer,” Aman shares, “I was too young to realize what cancer was. I got involved with the Crystal Gala 11 years ago, now I can take care of other mothers out there.” Sitting on the Abbotsford Police Board is an ode to Aman’s father, who was a police officer in India. “The police protect the community and they wear so many different hats,” Aman explains, “it’s amazing the work they do.” As Director of GirlKIND, Aman helps empower girls and women to change cultural values. “It was a constant in my community growing up,” Aman tells us, “boys are OK to do this, girls are not. I was fighting for my human rights being a girl/woman.” Aman proudly shares that this year, GirlKIND will again be hosting ‘Every Girl Matters’ on October 11th, a day to recognize the global rights of girls around the world in conjunction with the United Nations ‘Day of the Girl’. “You have to give back,” Aman adds, “it’s the only way things will come to you.”
Photo Credit: Tanya Goehring, Post Photography