Hindu Wedding Ceremony
our wedding we put together this "summarised" form of
the Hindu wedding ceremony to help explain the intricacies of a
traditional wedding to all our non- traditional friends and relatives.
in the Hindu religion is the 13th of the 16 ceremonies in a person's
life. It is a sacrament and as such is solemnised in accordance
with the VEDAS, the holy scriptures of the Hindu religion that date
back several thousand years.
Ceremonies seem to last for hours, days or even weeks. Although
the wedding itself is held on one day, there are a number of ceremonies
that are usually held on separate days preceding the wedding:
('Misri', the Ring Ceremony)
- this event is held to exchange the gold wedding rings. The couple
welcome each other with garlands and sweets are exchanged between
the two families. The engagement is often completed a dinner party
for friends and relatives. Among Gujarati families the bride's family
presents the 'Matli', which consists of significant quantities savoury
snacks and Indian sweets, to the groom's.
Party - This is a festive occasion celebrated by the
bride's family. The bride and close female members of her family
have henna painted on their hands and feet while the rest of the
family celebrate with songs. Mehndi signifies the strength of love
in a marriage so brides try to leave it on as long as possible!
Mehndi parties are often held at home and end with dinner for the
family and friends.
Garba (Sangeet Party)
In many families, the Sangeet Party is a much larger affair held
as a separate joint event for both families. It is an opportunity
to sing songs, eat, drink and dance the night away. Among Gujaratis,
Raas Garba is a favoured alternative. These are held in a hall and
involve traditional dance (Garba), and dandia raas (dancing with
sticks). The Raas Garba usually ends with a light supper for all
This is a religious ceremony performed on the eve of the wedding
day in the respective homes of the couple. The priest performs prayers
with rice, coconut, wheat grains, oil, betel nuts and turmeric.
During this event, the mother and close female relatives dress up
in their finery. They carry earthenware pots of water on their head
and plant a small stalk in their garden in celebration of the marriage.
Nowadays, the Ghari Puja is often combined with the cleansing ceremony
(Pithi) during which the bride and bridegroom are pasted with turmeric
powder in a beautification process.
The bridal outfit consists of a red and white sari heavily embroidered
with gold thread. The white signifies purity and the red signifies
fertility. It is customary for the bridegroom's family to gift the
bride a wedding sari, so she may actually end up wearing two saris!
The first, a simpler silk sari given to her by her maternal uncle
(mama), and covering her head, a heavier embroidered sari given
to her by her husband's family. The groom also wears white (ivory
or beige). His outfit can be a traditional Sherwani (long tunic
embroidered with gold thread) worn with Kurta pyjamas, or a simpler
dhoti and tunic. Both families use the occasion to wear their finery
and much of their traditionally ornate gold jewellery. This is not
custom, so much as fashion!
wedding day usually commences with a fast for both the bride and
groom. The groom will leave his house accompanied by his best man
and one of his younger female relatives whose job it is to keep
the groom awake by shaking a metal pot filled with a few coins and
a betel nut over his head. The history behind this curious custom
is that weddings in India were traditionally held in the evening
at which time many a groom might succumb to slumber!
leaving his house, the groom's car may be impeded by the younger
female members of his family who demand a "gift" in exchange
for allowing him to leave for his wedding ceremony.
majority of the wedding ceremony will take place in a Mandap (the
four-pole canopy at centre stage). The sacred fire in the Mandap
symbolises not only the illumination of the mind, knowledge and
happiness but is also a clean and pure witness to the ceremony as
ceremony itself is a collection of rituals performed by the bride,
bridegroom and their respective parents and close relatives. The
priest chants "mantras" from the Vedas that were originally
written in Sanskrit. He will also use the following in his ceremonies:
Fresh flowers - to signify beauty;
- to signify fertility;
jaggery and other grains - to signify the food necessary for sustenance
of human life;
(purified butter) - to feed the sacred fire;
(vermilion) - red powder used for marking the forehead to signify
good luck and to say that your soul (husband) is with you.
major stages of the Hindu Ceremony:
The wedding day starts with a prayer invoking Lord Ganesh whose
divine grace dispel all evils and promotes a successful and peaceful
completion of the ceremony.
Shanti (Worship to the Nine Planets)
This is a prayer to the nine planets of our Solar system. Ancient
Indian studies indicated that various celestial bodies have an influence
on the destiny of every individual. The effect of the nine planets
is meant to be the most profound. During this puja the Gods associated
with these planets are asked to infuse courage, peace of mind and
inner strength to the bride and groom to help them endure life's
The bride's mother welcomes the bridegroom with a garland and she
then escorts him to the mandap. The father of the bride washes the
right foot of the bridegroom with milk and honey. At the end of
the welcome, a white sheet is held to prevent this bridegroom seeing
the arrival of the bride.
of the Bride
The bride is escorted to the mandap by her maternal uncle (Mama),
female cousins and friends. In some wedding ceremonies she may be
carried in a small carriage to the mandap.
(Entrusting of the Daughter)
Consent of the parents is obtained for the wedding to proceed. The
bride's parents give their daughter to the groom by putting the
bride's right hand into the groom's right hand (Hastamelap, joining
of hands) while reciting sacred verse. The curtain separating the
bride and groom is then lowered and the couple exchange flower garlands.
The elders of the house place an auspicious white cotton cord around
the couple's shoulder's to protect them from the evil influences.
This also symbolises the couple's bond. The groom holds the bride's
hand and they both take vows to love cherish and protect each other
(tying the knot)
The priest ties the wedding knot as a symbol of the permanent union
between the bride and groom as husband and wife.
Puja (evocation of the holy fire)
The priest sets up a small fire in a kund (cooper bowl). Agni (fire)
is the mouth of Vishnu and symbolises the illumination of mind,
knowledge and happiness. The remainder of the ceremony is conducted
around the fire.
(stepping on the stone)
The bride places her right foot on a stone. The bridegroom tells
her to be as firm as the stone in his house so that the can face
their enemies and the difficulties of life together.
homa (putting parched rice into
the sacred fire)
Three obligations are offered to the sacred fire. The brother of
the bride puts into the bride's hand parched rice, half of which
slips into the bridegroom's hand. Mantras are chanted. The bride
prays to Yama, the God of Death, that he grant long life, health,
happiness and prosperity to the bridegroom.
(walking around the fire)
The couple walk around the sacred fire four times. Each time they
stop to touch with their toe a stone in their path. This symbolises
obstacles in life that they will overcome together. These four rounds
stand for the four basic human goals:
Dharma - righteousness
Artha - monetary accomplishment
Kama - energy and passion
Moksha - liberation from everything
groom, signifying his contribution in helping the union to attain
dharma, artha and kama, leads the first three rounds. The bride
signifying their continual journey spiritual liberation leads the
The bride and groom take seven steps together around the fire. It
is said in Hindu philosophy that if two people walk seven steps
together then they will remain lifelong friends. They exchange sacred
vows at the beginning of each encircling walk. At the end of each
walk, the open palms of the bride are filled with puffed rice by
her brother signifying wealth and prosperity. The seven steps and
their promises are:
1.Let us take the first step to provide for our household, keeping
a pure diet and avoiding those things that might harm us.
2. Let us take the second step to develop our physical, mental
and spiritual powers.
3. Let us take our third step to increase our wealth by righteous
and proper means.
4. Let us take out fourth step to acquire knowledge, happiness
and harmony by mutual love, respect and trust.
5. Let us take the fifth step so that we may be blessed with strong,
virtuous and heroic children.
6. Let us take the sixth step for self-restraint and longevity.
7. Let us take the seventh step to be true companions and remain
life-long partners by this wedlock.
Chinha (blessing the bride)
The bridegroom blesses the bride by putting kumkum or sindhur (vermilion
powder) at the parting of her hair (or on her forehead) and by giving
her a sacred necklace (Mangal Sutra). The Mangal Sutra represents
the couple's togetherness, love and sacred union.
(touching of hearts)
The bride and bridegroom touch each other's heart reciting promises
to each other.
The bride and groom feed each other four times for nourishment of
the bone, muscle, skin and soul.
The priest blesses the bride and groom. Flower petals and rice are
given to the guests to shower them on the bride and groom with blessings.
The wedding guests can then give their individuals blessings to
the bride and groom and once completed, the marriage ceremony ends.
Guests are invited to enjoy a sumptuous meal with the newlyweds.
The farewell to the bride by her family and friends is a very emotional
episode. The bride is leaving her parents home to build a life with
her husband and his family. She leaves with tears of joy and sorrow.
Before the wedding car departs for the Hindu temple, the priest
will place a coconut under the front wheel of the car and wait for
it to be broken by the weight of the car. The historic significance
of this is that in the old days the couple would use a horse drawn
carriage and the breaking of the coconut ensured that the vehicle
was roadworthy for the journey.
pilucinchuanu concludes the entire ceremony.