So you’ve read all about the pre-wed events that take place during a Hindu wedding, before the actual wedding ceremony itself takes place.
Whilst writing this article I suddenly realized how complicated Indian weddings appear to non-Indians, there is so much that happens before, during and after the wedding that its sometimes hard to keep up with it.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the whole process so much that, you forget to enjoy the special day. The best advice I can give you is to embrace it, enjoy it, learn about the rituals and get involved, they can be so much fun if you know what they entail, and as mentioned in the previous article – almost all events in Hinduism are filled with traditions, customs and rituals. Also, when in doubt, just nod and say yes to everything.
So, the day of the actual wedding this is what to expect.
In Hinduism, marriage is considered one of the most sacred of bonds. It unites not just the bride and groom but also their families.
The Baraat (also known as Jaan) – Grooms arrival
The wedding ceremony is hosted by the brides parents and as such most times takes place in the brides city. The groom and arrives with a lot of grandeur and music, sometimes the groom will arrive on a horse or an elephant, there will be lots of guests dancing infront of the groom and the dhol player will be beating the drums to announce their arrival.
On arrival at the wedding venue, the groom is greeted by the brides mother and a small ceremony is performed to welcome him and his family to the wedding. It can get really crowded at this point as everyone stands around the groom and the brides mother and her family. The brides mother will place a tikka (red vermillion dot) on his forehead and then hold up five instruments each with a message for the groom, these are each thrown individually in one of the four directions.
At this point the brides mother could also try and get hold of the grooms nose, you may have seen some groomsmen trying to protect the grooms nose! This is a mischievous and fun tradition. If she succeeds in grabbing his nose, he’ll have to do ANYTHING his mother in law says for the rest of his married life.
The groom is then escorted to the mandap by the brides mother, where prayers are offered to Lord Ganesha first and then a small ceremony takes place to honour the groom and sanctify the mandap under which the wedding ceremony will take place.
The bride’s parents then wash the groom’s feet , the couple once in the canopy, are also given the respect befitting the spirits of Lord Mahavishnu and Laxmi as the union of these two spirits is seen as the most perfect of Hindu marriages. Washing feet with milk and honey is a sign of respect.
WATCH OUT FOR THE SHOE STEALING – The groom has to remove his shoes before he gets into the mandap at which point the bride’s family tries to steal his shoes and then ransom the shoes back to him. The groom’s family tries to protect the shoes. A fun chaotic fight breaks out over the shoes. Best advice: take off your shoes as soon as you enter the building and hide them, OR just let the bride’s family win and have their fun!
Kanya Padhar – Brides arrival
As the Hindu wedding is A shawl also called an antarpat, is drawn in front of the groom to prevent him for seeing the bride before the ceremony starts, this is a symbol of their separate existence prior to marriage.
The bride arrives with her maternal uncles (mama’s) who walk her down the aisle and to the mandap. This is an emotional moment for the bride and her parents who see her in her wedding attire for the first time too.
Once the bride has sat down, the shawl is lowered slowly. I love this part of the wedding, the expressions of the bride and the groom seeing each other for the first time, are almost always priceless.
Jaimala – Garland exchange
This is an important ritual in a Hindu wedding, it symbolizes mutual approval of the bride and groom to enter into marriage. Another funny tradition takes place here, where the brides brothers may lift her up so that the groom struggles to put the garland on her.
Kanyadaan (Giving the bride away)
In Hinduism, for the bride’s parents it is considered to be one of the biggest blessings to give their daughter away. The bride’s parents will offer their daughters hand to the groom by placing a leaf with rice and flowers on the grooms hand, and then as the groom accepts the marriage, their hands are joined together. A married woman then uses the grooms scarf and the brides saree to tie to knot that will keep them together during the next step of the ritual.
Phera (Going round the fire)
This is the most important part of the Hindu wedding ceremony. It is where the bride and groom walk around a sacred fire to affirm their marriage. The brides brothers will pass on an offering of sesame seeds and barley to the bride and groom who them pour it into the fire along with some ghee as an offering to the fire God. There are FOUR pheras. Each phera signifies their union.
On the last time around the fire, the first person to sit down rules the family and wears the pants in the family. There’s lots of heckling that happens here!
Saptapadi (The seven steps/blessings)
These steps are the vows that the couple make to each other, and the marriage is deemed complete. Seven betel nuts will be placed by the couple’s feet, they then have to repeat the vows and touch the betel nuts with their toes.
1. To bless the couple with an abundance of resources and comforts, and for them to vow to be helpful to one another in every way.
2. To bless the couple to be strong and for them to vow to complement one another.
3. To bless the couple with prosperity and riches on all levels
4. To bless the couple with eternal happiness.
5. To bless the couple with a happy family life with their offsprings.
6. To bless the couple to live in perfect harmony and for them to vow to stay true to their personal values and their joint promises.
7. To bless the couple so that they may be the best of lifelong friends.
Sindoor and Mangalstura
These two rituals complete the Hindu wedding. The groom places sindoor (vermillion) on the brides forehead and adorns her with the mangalsutra which is a black and gold necklace. Mangalsutra in lay mans terms means an auspicious thread, in the culture and to the rest of the world a woman wearing a mangalsutra and with vermillion through her forehead is also a sign that she is married. The mangalsutra is said to have powers that protect a marriage.
This is one of the most emotional parts of the day. When the bride bids farewell to her family, most Indian brides will have lived with their parents and to leave their maternal home of many years and to leave her parents is no doubt going to be emotional. Definitely have some tissues ready, every time I see the father or the mother of the bride cry, I cry with them.
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, more to come next week, have a great weekend folks.
PS: Expect lots of delicious food, colourful clothes and happy chaos!
Indian Wedding Photography by Bhavna Barratt
Profile picture by Tux & Tales Photography