J for Juta Churai
Of all the fun customs in a wedding, the one which clearly steals the shoe..errrrr I meant steals the show is Juta Churai. Set at just the right time when the wedding ceremony is happening under the "Mandap", this is a perfect filler item to add a little excitement to the otherwise- starting-to get-tiring night full of "Mantras" and serious wedding rituals.
Basically for this custom, the siblings of the bride are entrusted with a serious mission of stealing and hiding the shoes of the groom. The groom is caught vulnerable at the opportune time when he has to sit in the mandap barefooted to start the wedding ceremony. Right at that time, his shoes are taken away from him right under his nose. To get those shoes back, which by now, are not just his shoes but his pride as well, he has to beg, threat or bribe his sister in laws.
The activity pumps up energy even in the friends of the groom, who are trying to guard the shoes or get them back from the not-so easy-to-fool sisters of the bride. In all my Juta Churai memories I have till now, the best is when I had stolen the shoes in my cousin's wedding. It was a fight to the finish, and the groom's cousins and friends left no stone unturned to reclaim those shoes from us. When nothing worked, as a last resort they stole the footwear of all the bride's sisters, as a barter bargain for the groom's shoes. Ofcourse that didn't work either and finally we did manage to get what we wanted from the groom. Our demand was simple .. we did not take money (which usually is the custom) but instead asked our otherwise shy "Jijaji" (groom) to sing a song in praise of all his sister in laws.
Juta Churai is so famous that even Bollywood has banked on its popularity. Have a look at this sing from Ham Aapke Hain Kaun
I feel this custom would have started in order to bring the two families closer. Over the time, people have started taking this ritual too seriously, and instead of bringing people closer, it ends up in a tussle. But of-course that is only momentary, and later on people do look back at it with fond memories.