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Beliefs and practices
Hindu wedding ceremonies are traditionally conducted at least partially in Sanskrit, the language in which most holy Hindu ceremonies are conducted. The local language of the people involved is also used since most Hindus cannot understand Sanskrit. They have many rituals that have evolved since traditional times and differ in many ways from the modern western wedding ceremony and also among the different regions, families, and castes such as Rajput weddings and Iyer weddings. The Hindus attach a lot of importance to marriages and the ceremonies are very colorful and extend for several days.
In India, where most Hindus live, the laws relating to marriage differ by religion. By the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 passed by the Union Parliament of India, for all legal purposes, all Hindus of any caste, creed or sect, Sikh, Buddhists and Jains are considered as Hindus for the sake of the Hindu marriage Act — and can hence intermarry. By the Special Marriage Act, 1954, a Hindu can marry a non-Hindu employing any ceremony provided certain legal conditions are fulfilled.
The pre-wedding ceremonies include engagement (involving vagdana or oral agreement and lagna-patra written declaration), and arrival of the groom's party at the bride's residence, often in the form of a formal procession. The post-wedding ceremonies involve welcoming the bride to her new home.
Just as Hinduism is hard to grasp and contrast against the newer, book-defined, structured religions such as Christianity and Islam, India's prevalent wedding traditions are also hard to categorize purely on a religious basis. They have a closer similarity to ancient cultures such as Greek, Roman, Persian, Egyptian and Chinese.
An important thing to note is that despite the fact that the modern Hinduism is largely based on the puja form of the worship of devas as enshrined in the Puranas, a Hindu wedding ceremony at its core is essentially a Vedic yajna (a fire-sacrifice), in which the Aryan deities are invoked in the Indo-Aryan style. It has a deep origin in the ancient ceremony of cementing the bonds of friendship/alliance (even among people of the same sex or people of different species in mythological contexts), although today, it only survives in the context of weddings. The primary witness of a Hindu marriage is the fire-deity (or the Sacred Fire) Agni, and by law and tradition, no Hindu marriage is deemed complete unless in the presence of the Sacred Fire, seven encirclements have been made around it by the bride and the groom together.
The ancient system of Hindu/Vedic marriages did not differentiate between male and female, as is done in modern times.
- The basis for a fulfilling and happy life
The sage of the above mentioned vedic — aca, has emphasized that the basis of happy and fulfilling married life is the sense of unity, intimacy and love between husband and wife. Thus, marriage is not for self-indulgence, but rather should be considered a lifelong social and spiritual responsibility. Married life is considered an opportunity for two people to grow from life partners into soul mates.
Te santu jard—istayah sampriyau royisnu sumansyamanau|
Pasyema sharadah shatam jivema sharadah shatam shrunuyam shardah shatam||
“We should be able to live a graceful life that is full of mutual love and warmth. Our sentiments should be auspicious.
We should be able to see for a hundred years, live a healthy life of a hundred years and listen the music of spring for a hundred years.”
All of the rituals vary based on family traditions. The names of the rituals also vary.
Prior to marriage
Conducted at the homes of the parents of the bride and the groom.
A decision made by the parents in front of the community members to marry their son and daughter, sometimes using a document. Both families will also come to an agreement about the date of the wedding.
Approximately 15 days prior to the actual wedding, on an auspicious day, the pundit will perform a puja to Lord Ganesh (the remover of obstacles). During this puja, a piece of mauli (thread) is tied to the hands of the groom, and his parents. This puja is done to humbly request that the wedding happen without any problems, apart from the occasional trivial mishap. After this day, the family performs a puja to Lord Ganesh every day until after the wedding is complete.
The mamara is an important ceremony, common to both the bride and the groom’s families. This ceremony is performed by the maternal uncle of the groom/bride, who, along with his wife and family, arrives with much fanfare, and is received by the bride/groom’s mother with the traditional welcome.
The sangeet sandhya is an evening of musical entertainment. The bride’s family puts on a show for the groom and bride. Included as part of this event is an introduction of all the family members for the bride. This is almost always a feature of weddings in North India, but is not considered a staple of weddings in the South.
Tilak is a mark of auspiciousness. It is put on the forehead using Kumkum, a red turmeric powder. The male members of the bride's family, like her father, brother, uncles place a tilak on the forehead of the groom. This is typically followed by giving some gifts to the groom and the groom's accompanying family members requesting them to take care of the bride later.
Another name for “Vivaah” is “haath pila karna” or simply translated, making hands yellow. Mehendi (henna) is applied to the bride’s hands and feet. In the right hand, a round spot is left open for Hathlewa.
During marriage festivities
The groom, leaves for the wedding venue riding a decorated horse or elephant. This is a very colorful and grand ceremony. The groom is dressed in a sherwani (long jacket) and 'churidars' (fitted trousers). On his head he wears a 'sehra' (turban) with a 'kalgi' (brooch) pinned onto it [South Indian grooms typically will wear a dhoti instead of a sherwani-churidar, and will not wear a sehra]. The turban usually has flowers extending from it to keep the grooms' face covered during the wedding ceremony.
Before he departs, his relatives apply the ceremonial 'tilak' on his forehead and his sister feeds the horse or elephant sweetened grain. The 'baraat' (consisting of the groom seated on the horse or elephant, and relatives and friends of the groom) is headed by the dancing of the congregated folks. Accompanied by the rhythm of the north Indian dholak, the baraat reaches the place of the wedding.
Upon arriving at the venue of the wedding, the groom is welcomed by a welcome song. This is called "talota". Then the groom knocks on the door with his sword and enters.
Var Mala/Jai Mala
In most Hindu weddings, the groom is led to a small stage, known as mandap, where he is greeted by the bride's family. The maternal uncle, brother or brides' best friends bring the bride to the stage. The bride and the groom are handed the garlands while the priest is chanting the religious hymns. Following this, the groom and bride exchange garlands, which are the var mala or jai mala, signifying their acceptance of each other as husband and wife. Then, the groom’s mother-in-law measures the groom’s chest, and pokes and prods him to make sure he is tough enough to defend her daughter. She then puts kajal on the groom to ward off evil spirits.
The 'baraatis' (groom's party) are received by the bride's family and at the entrance to the wedding venue. The bride's mother welcomes the groom by performing the 'aarti' (traditional Indian welcome ritual with a lamp or 'diya' placed on a platter or 'thali') to welcome her son-in-law and placing a tilak on his forehead
This event takes place the day of the wedding. The bride's sisters hide the groom's shoes and ask for money if he (groom) wants them back and be able to go home with the bride.
Kanya Daan, which means the giving away of one's daughter, has been derived from the Sanskrit words Kanya which means girl and Daan which means donation. Kanya Daan is a very significant ritual performed by the father of the bride in presence of a large gathering that is invited to witness the wedding. The father pours out libation of sacred water symbolizing the giving away of his daughter to the bride groom. The groom recites Vedic hymns to Kama, the god of love, for pure love and blessings.
As a condition for offering his daughter for marriage, the father of the bride requests a promise from the groom for assisting the bride in realizing the three ends:
The groom makes the promise by repeating three times that he will not fail the bride in realizing dharma, artha and kama.
Ideally, the parents of the bride place the right hand of the bride over the right hand of the groom and place their own left hands at the bottom and the right hands (the two of them) on top, securing the Conch with gold, betel nut, flowers and a little fruit (in it) placed in bride's hand. It is at this point that the purpose of the Kanyadaan is clearly stated per scripture and the names of the parents and forefathers are stated from both sides. Wedding can not legally proceed without this Kanyadaan step in which parents of the bride agree to the wedding.
This must be remembered that in Hindu wedding, the bride and groom marry each other and the priest only assists with the Mantra. He can not declare them married as no authority is vested in him to do so. Agni, gods and the invited members of the family and friends are the witness.
After being led to the wedding mandup, the bride and groom have their hands tied together. The priest does a puja to Lord Ganesh and then puts a coin & mehendi on the bride's right hand where the round empty spot is (where no mehendi was put) and ties his hand with the brides. This puja is done schedule in advance based on an auspicious time & date.
In this ritual priest tying a knot using the ends of the clothing worn by the bride and groom. The priest ties the end of the groom's dhoti or the kurta; whichever he is wearing, with that of the bride's saree, the knot signifying the sacred wedlock.
The ritual connotes the actual core wedding ceremony, for the very meaning of the word "vivaah" is-marriage. The groom and the bride then circle the holy fire seven times, making seven promises to be fulfilled in the married life, after which they are considered to be 'married' to each other. This ritual is called "phere". Traditionally, there were three pheras. But now this has been mixed with saptapadi and now seven pheras are done for each "vachan".In the south,most of the non-brahmin communities perform only three pheras,holding hands.
The Saptapadi (Sanskrit for seven steps/feet, c.f. Latin cognates septum+pedii) or the saat pheras is perhaps the most important component of Vedic Hindu weddings. The couple conduct seven circuits of the Holy Fire (Agni), which is considered a witness to the vows they make each other. In some regions, sashes worn by the bride and groom are tied together for this ceremony. Elsewhere, the groom holds the bride's right hand in his own right hand. Each circuit of the consecrated fire is led by either the bride or the groom, varying by community and region. Usually, the bride leads the groom in the first circuit. In North India, the first six circuits are led by the bride, and the final one by the groom. In Central India, the bride leads the first three or four circuits. With each circuit, the couple makes a specific vow to establish some aspect of a happy relationship and household for each other.
- To provide for food always.
- To give you excellent health and energy.
- Todained in Vedas, during your life time.
- To give you happiness in life.
- To make your cows and good animals to grow in strength and in numbers. (Animals such as horse can now be substituted with "Car")
- To make all the seasons be beneficial to you.
- To make the homams (sacrifices to be done in Holy Fire) to be performed by you in your life as ordained in Vedas, successful and free from hindrances.
A joint vow is usually made at the end of the seven steps, which varies by region. A typical vow is:
- After crossing seven steps with me thus, you should become my friend. I too have become your friend now. I will never discard this friendship and you should also not do that. Let us be together always. Let us resolve to do things in life in the same manner and tread the same path. Let us lead a life by liking and loving each other, having good hearts and thoughts, and enjoying the food and our strong points together. Let us have undivided opinions. We will perform the vrithas united. Let us have same and joint desires. I will be Sama (one of the vedas); you will be Rig (another Veda). Let me be the Heaven; you be the Earth. Let me be the Shukla (Moon) and you be its wearer. Let me be the mind and you its spokesman (Vak). With these qualities, you be my follower. You the sweet tongued, come to me to get good children and wealth.
In North Indian weddings, the bride and the groom say the following words after completing the seven steps:
- "We have taken the Seven Steps. You have become mine forever. Yes, we have become partners. I have become yours. Hereafter, I cannot live without you. Do not live without me. Let us share the joys. We are word and meaning, united. You are thought and I am sound. May the night be honey-sweet for us. May the morning be honey-sweet for us. May the earth be honey-sweet for us. May the heavens be honey-sweet for us. May the plants be honey-sweet for us. May the sun be all honey for us. May the cows yield us honey-sweet milk. As the heavens are stable, as the earth is stable, as the mountains are stable, as the whole universe is stable, so may our unions be permanently settled."
Also called rukhsati in North India. This is considered to be the most emotional ritual, when the bride leaves her parents' home and makes her way to her husband's. Family and friends, who also shower her with blessings and gifts, give her a tearful farewell. The male members of the bride's family bid farewell to the groom by applying the traditional 'tilak' (vermilion) on his forehead and shower him with gifts.
In earlier times the bride use to leave in a palanquin. These days the couple leaves in a decorated car.
At their new home
After Vidaai, the couple first visits a temple, preferably that of Lord Rama and Sita, to seek their blessing from where they move towards Groom' house.
After leaving the groom’s father-in-law’s house, the couple come home. They are stopped at the entrance of the house by either the groom’s sister or his father’s sister. There, in an earthen vessel, the sister/aunt uses a mixture of salt and water to ward off evil spirits from the groom. After this, the pot is thrown on the ground and destroyed. After this, the couple enter the house.
When the bride arrives at her new home, her mother-in-law, who welcomes her with the traditional 'Aarti’. At the entrance, she puts her right foot onto a tray of vermilion powder mixed in water or milk, symbolizing the arrival of good fortune and purity. With both her feet now covered in the red powder paste, she kicks over a vessel filled with rice and coins to denote the arrival of fertility and wealth in her marital home.
The family now indulges in a series of games and post-wedding rituals, amidst much laughter to make the new member feel comfortable. One such ritual is the Mooh dikhai. Literally translated, Mooh Dikhai means 'show your face', but this is a ritual, which helps to introduce the newly wed to members of her husband's family. Each member of the groom's family comes in turn to make an acquaintance with the new bride.
In some regions of North India, the couple returns (unaccompanied by the groom's family) to the bride's parents' home the day after the wedding, usually for an afternoon meal and evening tea. The groom is introduced to the bride's side of the extended family and her friends. In the period between the engagement and the wedding, it is usually considered bad-luck for the groom to visit the bride's house, so the pheri (literally, return or turning-around; distinct from phere) marks the beginning of the groom's social integration into the bride's side of the family.
Modern Hindu weddings
Modern Hindu weddings are often much shorter and do not involve all of the rituals of the traditional ceremony which sometimes went on for five days. Instead certain ceremonies are picked by the families of the bride and the groom depending on their family tradition, caste, jāti etc. Hence the ceremonies vary among the various ethnic groups that practice Hinduism. The wedding is normally conducted under a wedding mandap, a canopy traditionally with four pillars, and an important component of the ceremony is the sacred fire (Agni) that is witness to the ceremony. Sometimes, the bride comes to her husband's house in a doli which is a palanquin traditionally made of wood and decorated with jewels. Before the wedding party departs to the Hindu temple, the priest will sometimes place a coconut under the tire. In the old days a horse-drawn carriage was used to carry the bride and groom, and the breaking of the coconut demonstrated the road-worthiness of the horse-drawn carriage.
In popular culture
- Arranged marriages in India
- Indian wedding photography • Bengali Hindu wedding
- Wedding planner
- Hindi wedding songs
- Hindi dance songs
- ↑ Marriage is a Sacred Bond and Pledge http://www.akhandjyoti.org/?Akhand-Jyoti/2003/Mar-Apr/MarriageSacredBond/
- ↑ Official Website of All World Gayatri Pariwar http://www.awgp.org/
- ↑ Magazine of All World Gayatri Pariwar http://www.akhandjyoti.org/
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Shivendra Kumar Sinha (2008), Basics of Hinduism, Unicorn Books, ISBN 8178061554, http://books.google.com/books?id=pSOEETzRVqsC, "... The two rake the holy vow in the presence of Agni ... In the first four rounds, the bride leads and the groom follows, and in the final three, the groom leads and the bride follows. While walking around the fire, the bride places her right palm on the groom's right palm and the bride's brother pours some unhusked rice or barley into their hands and they offer it to the fire ..."
- ↑ Office of the Registrar General, Government of India (1962), Census of India, 1961, v. 20, pt. 6, no. 2, Manager of Publications, Government of India, http://books.google.com/books?id=0sbUAAAAMAAJ, "... The bride leads in all the first six pheras but follows the bridegroom on the seventh ..."
- ↑ Diane Warner (2006), Diane Warner's Complete Book of Wedding Vows: Hundreds of Ways to Say "I Do", Career Press, ISBN 1564148165, http://books.google.com/books?id=hdnNZ3U6iG8C, "... We have taken the Seven Steps. You have become mine ..."
- ↑ Sitaram Sehgal (1969), Hindu marriage and its immortal traditions, Navyug Publications, http://books.google.com/books?id=MwUYAAAAIAAJ, "... May the plants be honey-sweet for us; may the Sun be all honey for us and ..."
- ↑ Eleanor C. Munro (1996), Wedding readings: centuries of writing and rituals on love and marriage, Penguin Books, ISBN 0140088792, http://books.google.com/books?id=OiALO4j3LpkC, "... May the nights be honey-sweet for us; may the mornings be honey-sweet ..."
- ↑ Michael Macfarlane (1999), Wedding Vows: Finding the Perfect Words, Sterling Publishing Company, ISBN 0806906391, http://books.google.com/books?id=W987VY-4h3IC, "... we are word and meaning, united ..."
- ↑ Hindu horse-drawn carriage 
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