Indian Wedding
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Wedding

Hindu Wedding 

Hindu Wedding Marriage according to Hinduism is a perfect union of man and woman spiritually, mentally and physically, essential for the procreation and continuation of mankind. 'Grihastha ashrama' or a family life is an essential stage of an individuals life where he marries, has children and brings up his children in the right traditions. Although the basic rituals of a Vedic or Hindu wedding are the same, they vary hugely according to the different castes, regions and communities.  Customs may vary  depending on whether it is a South Indian wedding, or a North Indian wedding, or an East Indian wedding, or a 'mixed' wedding.

Hindu marriages always have a purohit (Priest) or Brahmin officiating the ceremony. The wedding day by Hindu customs is decided after consulting the priest, who will suggest an auspicious day and time of the actual 'hasta melap', having referred to the religious calender and matched the 'janma kundali' (horoscope) of both the bride and the groom. 

groom ritually ties In a 'mandapa' - canopy or marriage stage decorated with flowers and  with a fire as witness the Hindu priest begins the marriage ceremony with prayers and offerings which the bride's family and then others participate in. Offerings are made into a fire, considered holy and sustaining of life. The mother of the groom ritually ties the bride and groom together using scarves. The couple walks four times around the fire each time exchanging vows. It is a long and elaborate ceremony (The actual time for the ceremony varies with different castes and communities, can vary from 10 minutes to 1 hour to three days for some communities) with every step rooted in vedic tradition, signifying various aspects of life that is to follow after the marriage.  

wear a headdress of flowersThe bride usually wears saree or a lehenga or salwar Kameez or Kurta depending on the area. The sarees may be in red and white sari or full red or shades of red, pink or mustard including orange, pink, yellow, green, magenta, saffron or other bright colours embroidered in gold and the bride is usually adorned with lots of gold jewelry. In the northern part of India, she may wear a headdress of flowers; in the southern region, her head is usually bare. The groom also generally wears white. The loose, long-sleeved shirt is un-tucked and embroidered with golden threads. Depending again on the village, grooms may wear loose pants or a sarong-like skirt. In northern India, elaborate headdresses with strings of flowers almost covering the face adorn their heads. In the South, the groom's head is generally bare. The bride and groom exchange flower garlands of roses, jasmine or marigold that hang almost to their knees.

bride and groom around the fire The groom with the wedding procession will be greeted by the bride's relatives at the entrance to the wedding hall. The groom and his best man, 'the Armania' will be invited to the extensively decorated 'Lagna Mandap'. Here, in the centre, there is a small rectangular shaped fire-place, called 'Chori'.  The ceremony consists of three parts: In the first, called kanyadaan, the bride's parents wash the couple's feet with milk and water to purify them for a new life. In the second, called hastamelap, or the 'joining of hands'. After verses from the holy scripture are chanted by the priest, a loop of white, raw cotton wound 24 times is placed around the shoulders of the bride and groom, symbolizing their bond. Then, a small open fire is lit in the center. A white cloth is tied to the bride's sari and placed around the groom's shoulders. The bride's brothers--and sometimes her male cousins--are called up to lead the bride and groom around the fire a number of times. (How many times the couple walks around the fire depends on the village where you come from. And in the southern state of Kerala, there is no fire. Instead the couple walks around coconut blossoms.) In the couple's hands are grains of rice, oats and leaves, signifying the four blessings of wealth, good health, prosperity and happiness. At the end, the groom's brothers may sprinkle rose petals over the couple to ward off evil. When the ceremony is over, the bride feeds her groom five mouthfuls of Indian sweets, showing that it is her duty to cook and care for him and their family. The groom then reciprocates, signifying that it is his duty to provide for her and their family. Then relatives are invited under the canopy to place a red dot on the couple's foreheads and sprinkle some rice grains, wishes for a long, happy and prosperous life together.

The Hindu priest will perform various ceremonies, initially between groom and the bride's parents and or bhai-bhabhi or other close relation couple. The bride who will have her wedding dress and the best make-up will be escorted to the mandap by her Mama. She will take up her seat opposite the groom across the chori. A clean sheet of cloth will be held between them. The priest will perform the ceremony of Hasta-Melap, where the right hand of groom is placed in the bride's right hand, while he is chanting the holy verses. At the end of this the priest will signal the removing of the cloth and the completion is announced by spontaneous beating of the drums (playing of music in modern time) and the ladies start singing from both the parties. The bride and groom will garland each other to complete the Hastamelap. This follows, the ceremony of Kanyadan performed by the priest with the bride's parents, symbolising offering of Kanya (Bride) to the VER (Groom). The ceremony of Mangal Fera, performed by circling round the chori four times both by the bride and the groom, solidifies their marriage and declares them as husband and wife. The congratulation ceremony follows, where the close relatives and friends would queue up to place Kanku-chanla and rice to the foreheads of the couple and give presents.

To symbolise your union, the priest ties your garments (your veil to your groom's shawl) while you stand facing each other (Gath Bandham) before you exchange garlands and rings.

The universal wedding is known as the Vedic marriage, named after the Vedas (holy book). However, there are regional variations with their different traditions so see our individual ceremonies below for more specific information. Before the ceremony, the priest blesses your bangles and it is considered unlucky if you remove them before forty days have past.

Your groom arrives with his wedding party (baarat) and is received by you and your family (milni). Some brides greet their groom by garlanding him (jayamala) after their mother has already done so (aarati) and he may choose to reciprocate.

Moving inside the temple, the priest calls for Ganesha's blessing for success (Ganesh Puja) followed by the Navgraha prayer (asking the blessing of all of the planets for peace and wealth). Your Mamaji (maternal uncle and your sisters) walk you to the mandap (wedding tent) where your father performs kanya danam (handing over ceremony). By spreading turmeric on your hands, you acknowledge your change in status from a single woman and daughter to a wife. Your father then places your dyed hand in your groom's where he holds it as a symbol of your everlasting love. By pouring out some of the sacred water, your father 'washes his hands' of you and gives you away at which point your groom recites Vedic hymns to Kama, the God of love, asking for the blessing of pure love. To prove that he is worthy, your groom must promise your father three times to help you realise dharma (enlightenment), artha (wealth) and kama (true love), great achievements in the Hindu world.

To symbolise your union, the priest ties your garments (your veil to your groom's shawl) while you stand facing each other (Gath Bandham) before you exchange garlands and rings.

While you are facing east and your groom west, he takes your hand again (Hasta Milap) and recite Vedic hymns for longevity, happiness and a lifetime of marriage:

O Sarasvati, gracious one, rich in off spring, you whom we hymn first of all the Gods, may you prosper this marriage.

Concluding, "I seize your hand".

The Marriage Fire (Agni)

The marriage fire, representing the divine witness as well as sanctifying the ceremony, is lit and you perform the Offering of the Parched Grain (Laya Homa), a sacrifice of food for the sake of prosperity. Your brother, or another male relative, pours the grain into your hand signifying his continuing support of you. Looking at your groom, you say:

"This grain I spill. May it bring to me well-being and unite you to me. May Agni hear us." 

At this point the male relative knocks you so you spill the grain into the fire and says:

"This woman scattering grain into the fire, prays: Blessings on my husband. May my relatives be prosperous. Svaha!" 

The Seven Steps (Sapta Padi)

Seven is an important number in Hinduism and you and your groom walk around the fire (Agni Parinayai) seven times after God's blessing has been invoked by offering samagree (a pungent mix of sandalwood, herbs, sugar, rice, ghee and twigs). Some communities, such as Gujarati, require you to walk around the fire only four times. As you walk, you both make offerings to the fire, touch each other's hearts and pray for the union of your hearts and minds as well as reciting Vedic hymns to the gods calling for wealth, good luck and fidelity. As you are walking, your groom says:

"First now, they bring to you in bridal procession this Surya, guiding her steps in circular motion. Return her now, O Agni, to her husband as rightful wife, with hope of children to come."

As you are walking, your sister (or another female relative), reads a passage from the Holy scriptures (Geeta).

At the end of each circling of the fire, both of you stand on a stone (Shilarohana, the mounting of the stone) and pray for your love to be firm. While you are standing on the ground, your groom says, "Come, beautiful one," and let you put the tip of your right foot on the stone. He encourages you to stand on it by saying, "Come, step on the stone: be strong like a stone. Resist the enemies: overcome those who attack you."

The ritual of The Seven Steps is the most important part of the ceremony where the two of you walk seven steps together, either forwards or round the fire. At each step, you both ask for blessings: 

May the Lord lead us to sustenance

May the Lord lead us to strength

May the Lord lead us to prosperity

May the Lord lead us to the source of all bliss

May the Lord lead us to good progeny/children

May the Lord lead us to enjoy all seasons and longevity

May the Lord lead us to union, devotion and companionship. 
The ceremony concludes with a prayer that the union is for life. At the end of this, you will be husband and wife.

Your new husband then stands over your right shoulder and touch your heart (Hradayaparsh) as he declares, "I hold your heart in serving fellowship, your mind follows my mind. In my word, you rejoice with all your heart. You are joined to me by the Lord of all creatures."

mangalsutra A custom-made gold chain with black beads (mangal sutra) is tied around one of your necks. Some versions use thread with the marks of the Hindu gods, Vishnu or Shiva instead (Mangal Sutra Dharana). To show that you are married, your husband puts red powder (sindhoor) in your hair, this tradition coming from the north-east of India.

Your new in-laws welcome you to your new family after blessing the pair of you, by offering you cloth or a flower and your guests shower you both with flowers to ward off the evil eye and bless you on your marriage.

Traditionally lasting two days, the wedding ceremony is often shortened

Hindu Marriage - Introduction

1. The Hindu marriage is considered to be a sacrament, which implies that dissolution is not permitted. Many of the rites testify to this concept. The Vedic marriage is the universal form and the rites associated with it are a recurrent motif in Hindu marriages throughout the country.

2. The customs and traditions in a Hindu marriage are multifarious, yet, by and large, they have some underlying similarities. For example, the venue of a Hindu marriage is very identifiable; strains of the shehnai are a common feature. In the past, artistes were generally present in person. Today, electronic equipment helps create the ambience.

3. Some important rites are performed after the ceremony, often away from the site of the marriage; the initiation of the bride into the groom's household is elaborate as well as beautiful. The general idea is that she is Lakshmi (the goddess of prosperity) who will bring prosperity to the household. Her feet are dipped in milk reddened with alta, a red colour used for dressing feet and she must leave her foot prints all over the house. Rice grains are strewn at her feet suggesting the promise of opulence; milk is made to boil over, oil is spilled all to the same purpose. She is ceremoniously given charge of her new duties - these vary from people to people.

A marriage consists of various stages:

Selection of the Couple 
The Betrothal 
Pre-Wedding Rituals 
Traditional Decoration 
Beautification of the Couple 
The Wedding Ceremony 
Post Wedding Rituals 

Select a community to find out about wedding rites and rituals.