A sarbala, in certain wedding customs from the Indian subcontinent, is a nephew or cousin of the groom who accompanies the groom during the ceremony as his protector.
The word “sarbala” (Punjabi), “shahbala” (Urdu) is derived from Sanskrit which means associate groom.
The sarbala often wears a similar outfit to the groom and rides a horse.
In the olden days, while the baraat was on the way to the bride’s village, they would be attacked by dacoits to rob the wedding procession of its valuables. Therefore, the concept of Sarbala was introduced to assure the groom’s safety. Often times the groom would get killed and the sarvalla would end up marrying the bride. The tradition continues till date, without having any practical use.
As times have changed, the Sarbalas have turned younger. Whereas, during the olden days grown-up men were involved and were expected to ensure a safe baraat and wedding. This word is derived from Sanskrit. But no references speak of the specific Sanskrit roots or detail its origin.
Sarbala is dressed in the same attire as the groom. Therefore, said to be a miniature version of the groom. Some prefer this in their wedding receptions too.