Jun 25, 2003, 9:13 PM

ARDEBIL, June 25 (Mehr News Agency) -- Ardebil is a province in north-west Iran. The region is on a plateau about 1,525 m (5,000 ft) above sea level.

Because of a healthy climate and warm mineral springs in the vicinity, Ardebil was a favorite home for rulers of Iran. Historical landmarks in the city include the tomb of Shah Esmaeil I, founder of the Safavid dynasty (1502-1736), and the home (now a Muslim shrine) of Sheikh Safieddin. In the Middle Ages the city was important because it was near Tabriz caravan route.

Ardebil has a rich history of social behavior and relationships. Its distinctive culture, beliefs and standard of behavior, and, in particular, meanings, values, and codes of conduct, have passed through many generations. What follows is a brief account of the wedding ceremony in Ardebil, with its traditions and values. Some of these ancient ceremonies are still practiced in many rural areas and villages.

Shawl and Ring

Prior to the wedding ceremony, once a girl is chosen to get married, a formal proposition takes place in her house. The symbol of "yes" by the girl is typically a cup of sweet tea. In this extraordinary day many close relatives come together for a tea drinking ceremony afterwards. It is at this time that conditions of the marriage are decided by both sides. What follows is a formal engagement ceremony, known as "Shawl and Ring".

Engagement Day

Both the religious and formal engagement is usually carried out by a local clergy. All relatives are invited to the ceremony –- typically adult men. The pledge takes place in the bride's house, paid by the groom's family. As the ritual takes place, guests recite verses from the holy Qoran and pray for the happiness of the new couple, who are about to become intimate. The bride sits on a copper dish in a separate room. As sugar is grinded over her head covered with white textile, the clergy reads verses from the Qoran and declares her a common law wife. Every one congratulates the newly engaged couple, as they eat pie and drink tea.

Textile Cutting

There is another festivity among women before sending the bride to her new home called "Textile Cutting". The main purpose of the episode is to get together and make a wedding dress for the bride. Nevertheless, the ritual has been replaced with an official festivity of showing ready-made dresses and jewelries sent by the groom to the guests. A few days after relatives of the groom turn up at the bride's house likewise to cut some textile in order to make a dress for her as well.

Henna Night

"Henna Night" is the night prior to the day of the wedding. The long-awaited festivity takes place in the houses of both the bride and the groom. The extraordinary night in bride's house is for women only from all sides. On this night they gather to take the bride to a traditional bathhouse. After the ceremony they return for celebration until late. They then dye bride's hands with henna at the end of the festivity. A similar ceremony takes place in groom's house that is now surrounded by lots of friends and relatives.

Wedding Night

Weeding takes place during the day where every one is present for lunch. After the formal ceremony, it is usually in the afternoon that the bride is taken to her new home by the groom. In older times she used to ride on a horse. It was then replaced by a cart, and now a car. Prior to this, the new house for the couple is decorated with carpets, handicrafts, dishes, kilims, oven, food, mirror, clothes, bed, et al.

The bride is usually accompanied by a close relative in order to teach her the basic requirements of marriage. Before the emotional send-off, her parents and the rest of the family pray for her happiness. In groom's house dinner is prepared for all. It is a tradition for him to throw three apples at the back of the bride, along with candies and coins as she arrives. A copper dish is placed at the entrance of the new house for her to step into in order to reinforce lasting happiness in her new life.

Tarak Polo

The following day, "Tarak Polo" is prepared by the bride's mother and sent to her house. The traditional food is decorated with saffron, sugar and oil, mixed with cooked rice, and served with three different stews. A few guests from both sides are likewise invited for the special lunch.

Face Opening

As many newly married young men prefer to stay in their father's house, their wives have to live with them as well. Once a bride enters the place, she has to hide her face for sometime. That is why no one is able to see her face unless she is given a separate gift, usually gold, in order to reveal it.

Bandeh Bakht

Since it was difficult for the family of the groom to wait ten days for any guest to arrive, the waiting game was gradually reduced to three days. "Bandeh Bakht" is a special day for all parts to have dinner together and talk about different social issues.

Foot Opening

"Foot Opening" is the final stage of the wedding ceremony in Ardebil. On this traditional occasion the newly married couple is invited by turns for dinner with relatives. After each dinner they collect a gift, keeping in mind that one day they too will have to invite other married couples for such an occasion. 






News Code 167

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