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Known as Vivah Sanskar, the Hindu wedding is a lavish affair and extends usually over a period of four to five days. It is supposedly one of the extensive marriage ceremonies held in India. Ancient culture has set down rules in Hinduism, where the person is supposed to pass through the stage of education into family life. For this reason, marriage is a cultural compulsion for people. One of the oldest Hindu scriptures, Rig Veda, describes the marriage of daughter of Savita with Ashwini Kumar. Much of the Hindu wedding is done in a way of fun and enjoyment, where the rituals followed are from the Vedic days. During the rituals of the Hindu wedding, various gods are invoked, with fire god having a prominent role. Hindu marriages are mostly about the groom arriving at the house of the bride or the mandap arranged by them, where the bride’s family plays the perfect host. Most of the steps are successive ceremonies where the bride is married and goes off to her in-law’s house with the husband. A number of steps are followed in Hindu wedding, which are not only interesting, but have a social importance also, where friends, relatives, people from the neighbourhood and acquaintances are invited for reception parties.
Pre-Wedding Rituals in Hindu Wedding
Rituals prior to the actual wedding can vary from one region to another. This is basically done in the context of engagement, which can be different depending on the communities. In some societies, engagement is done a few days before the marriage, while others believe in going for engagement, many months prior to the actual date of marriage. During engagement, there is the common ritual of groom’s family going to the bride’s family for presenting a ring, where the groom may or may not accompany the family. Hence, the engagement ring is given to the bride-to-be and other gifts in gold and sarees are given to the bride. It is only when the rituals are finished and sanctified before the holy fire that the marriage becomes legally binding.
Actual Hindu wedding ceremony is full of rituals, most of which are conducted and finished in one day. Post wedding rituals can be done over a period of few days. Wedding day starts with the ceremonies of mehendi and turmeric paste on the bodies of both groom and bride. Then the marriage procession is undertaken by the groom, where his friends and relatives go through the procession by dancing to bands and music. They are received at the place of marriage by the girl’s family members and immediately treated to a grand reception. Thereafter, the various rituals of the Hindu wedding are started. It is supposed that the total wedding ceremony consists of thirteen steps, as laid down in the Vedic rituals.
Reception of the bridegroom and his relatives is done at the gates of the mandap. They are then taken to the dinner and reception hall, where food arrangements are done. The groom on the other hand is taken to the mandap, where the mother of the bride blesses the groom with rice and vermillion on the forehead.
It is also a kind of welcome to the groom where the father of the bride presents gifts to the groom.
This step of Kanya Daan is supposed to be one of the most distinctive features of Hindu wedding. In this ceremony, the father of the bride gives away her daughter to the groom with a formal request of keeping her safe and protect her. During the process, the chanting of relative mantras keeps on going by the priests.
In the sacred fire, the boy’s and girl’s parents sit on the mandap and promise a relationship between the boy and girl and give full importance to the sacred fire. With the homa complete, as a mark of the auspicious timing having begun, the actual wedding events start.
Pani Grahan is marked by the Groom keeping the bride’s right hand on his left hand, the process facilitated by the bride’s father. This is also a significance of the groom taking the bride as her legally married wife.
This is the step where the bride and groom walk around the sacred fire, taking vows to protect, respect and love each other.
During this step, the bride’s mother takes her daughter over to a stone slab and prepares her for different duties in the in-law’s house.
In this ritual, the bride is supposed to throw puffed rice by keeping her palms over those of the groom as sacred oblations to the fire god.
Agni Pradakshina or Pheras
Like in many other religious marriages in Hindu wedding also, there is the concept of going around the sacred fire for seven circles. As in Hindu Marriage Act, this encircling is said to be the legalisation of the process of marriage.
During Saptapadi, the scarf or shawl of the groom is tied with the sari of the bride and they take seven steps together. Each of these steps signifies seven different aspects of their future married life.
Both Bride and groom sprinkle water, signifying their seeking of blessings from celestial gods.
Towards the end of the rituals, they both offer morsels of food to the fire god and feed each other, showing mutual admiration and love.
With the seeking of blessings from the elderly members of the families present, the total Hindu wedding ceremony comes to an end.
Bidaai and reception are two important parts of the post-wedding rituals. In the Bidaai ceremony, there is a tradition of throwing rice over her head by the bride, facing away from her home, while she is being taken away by the groom. Even though it is a tearful occasion for the family, it is an important event. Reception is held in the house of the groom or in a chosen mandap or reception hall. Here, the bride is shown to the guests as the newlywed couple sit and welcome the guests and receive gifts. Sumptuous dinner arrangements are made, as per the capability of the groom’s family and thereafter, it is all about living in harmony.