part 2 can now begin


At Runners Up, we hold this step towards equality very close to our hearts. In honor of gay marriage being legalized in the US, we thought it would be a good idea to share our gender & sexuality theme once again. We hope this theme, and also Runners Up in general, has helped you feel a little less alone in this world. That’s why we created this zine in the first place. If you feel like there is no place where you can express who you are, don’t worry. We’re right here.

Week 20 of Runners Up will be gender & sexuality part 2, and you can begin submitting now.

The 21st Century Guid to the Punjabi Wedding - Part 1: The Roka

Welcome to Manveer’s Declassified Vyaah Survival Guide. In this series I will attempt to explain the nuances and various parts of a traditional Punjabi wedding.

Disclaimer: This series deals with the cultural practices observed in Punjabi wedding, and isn’t so much about religion.


Prologue: While I was growing up, I was the oldest child in my family, and practically had no friends, except my grandma, and her circle (what can I say? Bibis love me). This gave me access to our Punjabi cultural archives (ie. Bibi gossip sessions), where the traditions from past generations were passed down onto me orally. I know that oral traditions become unaccessible because of language barriers, so this is a small attempt at keeping these traditions alive within our culture.


Part 1: The Roka (not the leafie green some people put in their salads)

Punjabi weddings, as you all may know, are made up of numerous events, days, ceremonies, songs, food, etc. Keeping track of it can be very hard, so let’s start in chronological order.

Let’s take this back to good old days before eHarmony and You lived in villages, and everyone in the village was related to you in some way or another, so when you came to a certain age, your parents would begin starting to look for a partner for you. Rishte, alliance proposals, would come in and your compatibilities would be matched, and often times several rishte would come by before you were matched with “the one.” In this time, you would often entertain rishte from multiple people, and once you found someone, the families would have to rok (stop) other rishte, so that you and your newly found match could be an item now.

This ceremony, called the Roka, takes place even today. Nowadays it’s not so much a YES-WE-FOUND-YOU-A-RISHTA type of thing, but it’s more of a okay-you-can-stop-secretly-dating-now-and-begin-preparing-to-settle-down-with-one-another type of thing.

The Roka, also sometimes called a Tthaaka, is the simplest of all the wedding traditions. Either the girl’s parents visit the groom, and vice versa, or the two families will meet with close relatives in one setting. Sometimes an Ardaas (Sikh prayer of supplication) or Puja (Hindu veneration) is done to mark a new turning point in the girl’s and the boy’s lives. The Roka and Tthaaka are now a combined event, with both ceremonies done at the same time, but back in the day they would be separate:

Roka: In the Roka, the girl’s relatives would visit the groom’s family (without the girl) and place a coin in the boy’s hand as a symbol of the Rok. The elders would then give sagan to the boy. 

Tthakka: The Tthaaka is similar to the Roka, but it would take place in the girl’s home with the boy’s family visiting (in this ceremony, the boy would accompany the family). The two would sit together for the first time as a couple, and the boy’s female relatives would give the girl a chunni, or a veil, as a symbol of accepting her as a part of the family. The couple would then be given sagan.

(Sagan will be a recurring theme in this series. Sagan means “auspiscious” or “good omen” and is given in the form of food or money. Sagan is fed to the couple by elders in the form of sweets- as a wish for a sweet life together; the elders will feed the couple with their right hand an odd ammount of time- either three, five, or seven. Sagan is given by attendees as money to the couple- which is places into the bride and groom’s lap. This is also given in odd numbers. Odd numbers are of importance in Punjabi weddings because they represent a wish for abundance. Even numbers are even and are paired up in twos, but an odd number has one extra, which is what the giver of sagan is wishing upon the couple; an abundance of happiness. PLEASE NOTE: Sagan is not the same as vaarna. Vaarna is when you take money and wave it in a circular motion over the couple’s head and give it as charity; this serves two purposes, warding away the “evil eye” and donating in the name of the couple, so if you do vaarna, do NOT put the money into the couple’s laps as sagan.)

If there was a vichaula (literally translated meaning is “middle person,” it refers to the matchmaker) they would be present at this event to facilitate the introduction of the two families. So after all the sagan-giving, the two families begin to get to know one another more over a meal (what is a wedding ceremony without food?) and the wedding planning can now officially begin!!


Tune in for Part 2 of the series: the Mangani.