The Indian culture celebrates marriage as a sacrament (Sanskara), a rite
enabling two individuals to start their journey in life together. In a Hindu
wedding, the multiplicity of creation becomes possible when spirit (Purush)
unites with matter (Prakritti). The Hindu wedding lays emphasis on three
essential values: happiness, harmony, and growth.
The institution of
marriage can be traced back to Vedic times. The ceremony should be held on a day
in the "bright half" of the northern course of the sun.
Months before the wedding an engagement ceremony known as Mangni is
held. This is to bless the couple, who are then given gifts of jewelry and
clothing by their new family.
Jaimala (Exchange of Garlands) The couple exchanges
garlands as a gesture of acceptance of one another and a pledge to respect one
another as partners.
Madhupak (Offering of Yogurt and
Honey) The bride's father offers the groom yogurt and honey as the expression
of welcome and respect.
Kanyadan (Giving Away of the
Bride) The father of the bride places her hand in the groom's hand requesting
him to accept her as an equal partner. The concept behind Kanyadan is that the
bride is a form of the goddess Lamxi and the groom is Lord Narayana. The parents
are facilitating their union.
Havan (Lighting of the
Sacred Fire) The couple invokes Agni, the god of Fire, to witness their
commitment to each other. Crushed sandalwood, herbs, sugar rice and oil are
offered to the ceremonial fire.
Rajaham (Sacrifice to
the Sacred Fire) The bride places both her hands into the groom's and her
brother then places rice into her hands. Together the bride and groom offer the
rice as a sacrifice into the fire.
Gath Bandhan (Tying
of the Nuptial Knot) The scarves placed around the bride and groom are tied
together symbolizing their eternal bond. This signifies their pledge before God
to love each other and remain faithful.
(Walk Around the Fire) The couple makes four Mangalpheras around the fire in
a clockwise direction representing four goals in life: Dharma, religious and
moral duties; Artha, prosperity; Kama, earthly pleasures; Moksha, spiritual
salvation and liberation. The bride leads the Pheras first, signifying her
determination to stand first beside her husband in all happiness and
Saptapardi (Seven Steps Together) The bride
and groom walk seven steps togehr to signify the beginning of their journey
through life together. Each step represents a marital vow:
step:To respect and honor each other Second step: To share
each other's joy and sorrow Third step: To trust and be loyal to
each other Fourth step: To cultivate appreciation for knowledge,
values, sacrifice and service Fifth step:To reconfirm their vow of
purity, love family duties and spiritual growth Sixth step: To
follow principles of Dharma (righteousness) Seventh step: To nurture an
eternal bond of friendship and love
(Blessing of the Couple) The parents of the bride and groom bless the wedded
couple by dipping a rose in water and sprinking it over the
Sindhoor (Red Powder) The groom applies a
small dot of vermilion, a powdered red lead, to the bride's forehead and
welcomes her as his partner for life. It is applied for the first time to a
woman during the marriage ceremony when the bridegroom himself adorns her with
Aashirvad (Parental Blessing) The parents of the
bride and groom give their blessings to the couple. The couple touches the feet
of their parents as a sign of respect.
Ceremony) The traditional art of adorning the hands and feet with a paste
made from the finely ground leaves of the Heena plant. The term refers to the
material, the design, and the ceremony. It is tradition for the names of the
bride and groom to be hidden in the design, and the wedding night is not to
commence until the groom has found both names. After the wedding, the bride is
not expected to perform any housework until her Menhdi has faded
Mangalasutra (Thread of Goodwill) A necklace
worn specifically by married women as a symbol of their marriage.
Attire The bridal dress is a sari and the bride dons all the ornaments. Her hair is
usually in a bun and covered with a crown and veil. Sandalwood is artistically
applied on her face in the design of the crown.
Covering the head during a wedding is a mark of respect to the deities
worshipped and the elders present. The ghunghat, which is equivalent to the veil
of the Christian bride, is worn by the bride.
It may vary in length, covering not only the head but the shoulders, back and
almost down to the waistline. The draping may be done is several ways. The
chunri, worn with a ghaghra choli, is tucked in at the waist on one end, pleated
beautifully around the body and draped delicately over one shoulder.
An odhnis is usually made of silk with a tie dye pattern. The center of the
veil is used as a head covering the ends taken carefully under the arms and
tucked inside the neck of the abho or chorio (the upper garment).
The groom will wear a Dhoti, which is an unstitched garment, and a shirt. On
arrival at the brides house he will change into another similar outfit. He will
cover himself with a sheet and wear the topor (paper mache headdress).
The groom may wear a white silk brocade suit, sword and turban as his wedding
The groom may sport a safa with its flowing tail-end. Others may wear a
nattily wound pagdi, or a topi. White flowers can be tied in suspended strings
over the forehead, called sehra.
In northern, central and western India, a golden kalgi studded with precious
stones is tied over the right side of the groom's safa. In the center of the
forehead sandalwood is applied and further decorated with gold, red and white
dots. This decoration may also be done over the eyebrows.