Indian weddings are considered to be an occasion of the celebration of commitment and love combined with the couple’s culture and religion. Probably, you may not be aware of the Hindu wedding ceremony. You need to know what does the traditions signify and what needs to be expected. Several traditions and rituals are followed by the Hindus, which needs to be understood.
Some Hindu wedding traditions and customs
- Stars determine the wedding date: Muhurta or an auspicious time is fixed before the wedding. Astrologists are provided with the groom and bride’s date of birth, using which they calculate star and planetary position, which according to Hindu belief reflects the couple’s celestial union. Also are announced the groom and bride’s gautra during the ceremony. It is considered to be the ancestral original clan or lineage (not associated with religion or caste). Marriages, according to Hindu law are not permitted with the same clan.
- Sangeet (Pre-Party) function is held few days before holding the wedding: Sangeet (meaning ‘sung together’) is a family get-together before the actual wedding, where they dance, sing and enjoy the occasion. Even performances are given by the family members. The traditional folk song is sung by the bride’s family to welcome the groom’s family. It is generally a few days before the mehndi ceremony, which in turn initiates the wedding process.
- Henna is painted on the bride’s feet and hands during Mehendi Ceremony: Intricate designs are created in the bride’s feet and hands using Mehendi during Mehendi Ceremony, also commonly noticed in Muslim weddings. It is held a day before the actual marriage since it is a time-consuming process.
- A wedding takes place at the Mandap: There is constructed a temporary structure, called the wedding mandap to conduct the marriage. Decorated with greenery, exotic flowers, crystals, and fabrics, it is an elevated platform.
- Holy Fire burns at the Mandap’s center: There is kindled a holy fire at the wedding altar or mandap’s center. The Hindu marriage is not a contract, but a sacrament. Fire is kindled to act as a witness to this ceremony and signify its viability. Offerings are made to the fire god. The bride is provided with puffed rice amounting to three fistfuls by the bride’s brother to wish his sister a happy and successful marriage. The bride repeatedly offers rice to fire, termed as homam.
- During Jai Mala, floral garlands are exchanged between the couple: Floral garlands are exchanged by both the bride and the groom to signify their desire to be together in marriage.
- Water is poured through the bride’s hand by her father signifying giving her away to the groom: This part of the ceremony is termed as kanyadaan. According to Hindu tradition, the woman cannot be claimed by any man until she gets offered as kanyadaan by her father. The bride’s father during this ceremony places the daughter’s hands into the groom’s hands, to signify giving her away. The bride’s father might also pour water into her hand that flows freely through her fingers, right into the groom’s hands.
- Garments of Groom & Bride are tied together and they circle the holy fire: In North Indian weddings, it is termed as Saptapadi. The couples in South India have to walk together seven steps to signify friendship. They go seven circles in North India around the ceremonial fire, with each round specifying blessings from the gods and goddesses.
- Red Powder (Sindoor) is applied to the bride’s forehead to signify completion of marriage: Red-orange powder known as sindoor is applied on the bride’s forehead by the groom to make her his married wife.
- The red dress is worn by the Bride: Hindu and Muslim brides are to wear red garments, which in Indian culture signifies fertility, prosperity and the rising sun.
- Prayers offered to invoke Lord Ganesha: According to Hindu custom, all pujas or rituals are to be initiated only after seeking the blessings of Lord Ganesha, who is known to remove all obstacles and offer good fortune.
- During Raksha Bandhan, cords get tied to Groom and Bride wrists: Marriage as per Hindu belief is regarded to be life’s arduous stage and hence, cords are tied to both bride and groom to ward off the evil eye and to ensure protection.
- Mangala Sutra is tied to the bride’s neck by the Groom: A gold and black bead necklace are tied by the groom on the bride’s neck. The goddess of fortune, wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi is invoked through the Mangala sutra, thus blessing the bride.
- Return gifts for guests: These days, Hindu weddings have started to practice giving the guests with wedding return gifts to express their gratitude for having taken the trouble to come to the marriage ceremony and bless the couple, thereby making the day special.
The above is how Hindu marriages take place according to the set customs and rituals.