A Hindu wedding is Vivaha and the wedding ceremony is called as vivaah sanskar in the Northern part of India. Hindus attach a paramount importance to marriages. The ceremonies are generally very colourful, and celebrations may extend for multiple days. The bride’s and groom’s home – entrance, doors, wall, floor, roof – are mostly decorated with colors, balloons, flowers and light decorations. The rituals and process in a Hindu wedding vary widely. The primary witness of a Hindu marriage is the fire-deity (or the Sacred Fire). Bride and Groom voluntarily hold hands near the fire to signify union, and take seven steps with each step includes a promise to each other before fire. The ceremony is traditionally conducted entirely, or at least partially in Sanskrit, considered by Hindus as the language of holy ceremonies. The local language of the bride and groom is also used. The pre-wedding and post-wedding rituals and celebrations vary by region, preferences or the resources of the groom, bride and their families.
Below is an overview of all the functions which have been planned for our wedding ceremony in January 2017. Since some of the rituals and celebrations are different for both Bride and Groom, we have created separate descriptions to give you a clear idea about ceremonies taking place for both. Following them is a description of rituals involving both Bride and Groom, and probably the most important events which give a Hindu wedding its meaning.
Before starting any new venture – whether building a new house, buying a new car, starting a new business, or even a wedding ceremony, Hindus seek the blessings of the Lord Ganesha, the Hindu God of Luck and Wisdom, and the remover of Obstacles. The families pray to Lord Ganesha to bless this endeavor (the wedding) and to remove any obstacles from their path. They beg, that he may bestow success, happiness, strength and wealth and invite him to be the presiding deity at the wedding ceremony. In this ceremony of Ganpati/Vinayak Sthapna a Havan (a ritual of burning of offerings such as grains and butter oil) is conducted by the bride/groom’s family, which also involves the installation of the idol of the Lord Ganesha in their respective homes.
The ritual of Haldi is one of the first important ceremonies. The bride/groom are ‘prepared’ for the wedding by all their close relatives – generally, only the women of the families participate in this ceremony. A paste of Turmeric (Haldi) and Sandalwood is applied on the face, arms, and the feet of the bride/groom. This symbolizes the cleansing and preparation of one’s mind, body, and soul before embarking upon the path of marriage. The bride/groom are then taken for a bath, respectively. This is an occasion for friends and family members of the bride/groom to get together for singing and dancing. The custom goes that once the Haldi is applied, the bride and the groom cannot leave the house. Further, while the ceremony is in progress, auspicious pre-wedding songs are being sung by family members.
In this colorful ceremony, close female family members and friends of bride gather and celebrate together. A dedicated professional person is called to apply intricate bridal designs on the hands and feet of the bride with henna paste. Other females of the bride’s wedding party also apply henna tattoos. This ceremony is also celebrated by Groom’s family but on a relatively smaller scale.
The Mayra ritual is yet another important ceremony, common to both the bride and the groom’s families. This ceremony revolves around the maternal uncle (brother of one’s mother) of both the bride and the groom. The respective maternal uncles and their families are invited to the groom and bride’s house for a special meal. They are received by the bride/groom’s mother with a traditional welcome. The uncle then gives clothes, jewelry, sweets etc., to his niece/ nephew and the entire family and relatives. The ceremony signifies, that since at the time of a wedding there is a huge expenditure, it is the duty of the brother to help his sister at her child’s wedding.
This is a north Indian marriage ritual for the groom in which he declares he is ready for marriage. Following the custom, the groom has to be dressed in saffron robes like an ascetic and perform a Havan before wearing the thread. The saffron robe signifies that the groom now has two choices before him. That is either he renounces the world and becomes an ascetic, or he accepts the institution of marriage and its responsibilities. After the Havan is completed and the thread given, the groom has to make a mock attempt to run from the chains of marriage while the maternal uncle must catch him and convince his nephew into accepting the marriage. By wearing the Janev, the groom indicates that he is ready for marriage.
In Nikasi Ritual, Groom wears a turban or headgear (Pagdi or Safa) with a Sehra (veil) on top of it. Sehra is worn to ward off the “evil eye”. Before setting out, the Groom’s sister performs Vaag Gunthai where she ties a sacred thread to a mare that will carry the groom. While the sister is performing the ritual, her husband holds the reins of the horse. In Rajasthani marriages, the groom carries a sword.
Baraat is the groom’s wedding procession. This is a very colorful and very grand procession. The groom is majestic in Sherwani – long formal jacket – and long slim pants (traditional fitted pyjamas). He wears a bright red or saffron color turban called Safa and a necklace with seven rows of pearls strung on gold or two rows of emeralds . The groom sits on a white mare also richly decorated and armed with a sword – and he sets off to bring his bride home. He is accompanied by all his relatives also wearing red turbans and a band which plays traditional music. The younger members of the Baraat dance around and the groom arrives in this fashion at the wedding venue. The wedding Baraat is welcomed by the relatives of the bride.
In this ceremony the engagement ring is exchanged between the fiancés and gifts are exchanged between the bride and groom’s families.
This is a fun event where families of the bride and groom get to meet each other in an informal setting. Traditional Rajasthani songs and other folk dances are part of this event followed by a family dinner. All the womenfolk dressed in the dazzling dresses, gather and perform the Ghoomar (a special dance done in a group). The bride & groom at the Sangeet are given an important position to sit and watch all the proceedings.
The main ceremony of a wedding is itself a combination of many small ceremonies done one after the another, and generally takes 3-4 hours of time to finish. Following is a short description of each major ceremony done within the premises of a Hindu marriage:
Toran – The entrance of the girl’s house is decorated with a Toran, a sacred gateway. As a custom, the groom hits the Toran with a stick of Indica tree. This ceremony is called Toranachar and is symbolic of warding off the evil eye. After this, the girl’s mother does other welcoming rituals to the Groom.
Jaimala – When the bride and groom meet, they exchange garlands made of flowers. The bride and groom stand opposite each other, the bride garlands the groom signifying that he is her choice of husband and he reciprocates in like manner.
Tying Knot – The next step is tying the knot. In this, the cloth tied around the groom’s waist is tied to the Clothes of the bride. The ceremony is symbolic of the union of two individuals. From this day they become one entity. Either the sister of the groom or the priest does it. The bride sits to the left of the groom. This is followed by the paanigrahan ceremony. The groom takes the bride’s hand in his hand and holy water is poured into it. It is again a symbol of this most pious union. It signifies that they will now be together in good times and bad.
Kanyadaan – Father gives his daughter to her Husband. Kanyadan is the Hindu marriage ritual where the bride’s father symbolically hands over his daughter to her husband.
The priest lights the Havan (holy fire) and starts chanting marriage prayers. For the Pheras (or, rounds around the Holy fire) the bride and groom walk around the holy fire and each makes a promise to the other after every round (Phera). In a Marwadi wedding, only four Pheras are done in the mandap with the groom leading the first three and the bride leading the last Phera. Rest of the three Pheras are performed at the entrance. Later, in a ceremony called Vamang-Sthpana the groom requests the bride to sit on his left side because the heart is in left side of the body. This signifies that the groom is accepting the bride and is establishing her in his heart. This is followed by Sindurdaan ceremony wherein the groom fills the bride’s center hair parting with Sindoor or Vermillion. Sindoor is considered to be the most auspicious sign of a Hindu married woman.
After the main wedding ritual is done, some other small post-wedding ceremonies are done, before Bride and Groom leave the wedding venue and depart to Groom’s home.
It is a function held after the completion of a marriage ceremony. It is held as hospitality for those who have attended the wedding, hence the name reception: the couple receives society, in the form of family and friends, for the first time as a married couple. Rajasthani Wedding Receptions are usually held a day after the wedding.
This was a brief overview of major ceremonies done in a traditional Hindu wedding in the northern part of India. We hope that it gave you some insight into this beautiful and most important event for two lives, in this case, Ritika and Harsh! For any further details, don’t hesitate to contact us.