Hindu Weddings

Hindu Weddings

Traditionally, a Hindu wedding is organised and paid for by the bride’s parents. It is a religious ceremony and one of the most important of the sixteen Hindu sanskars or sacraments.

The wedding preparations along with the celebrations begin weeks before the actual wedding ceremony. However the actual ceremony can go on for about 1 – 2 hours plus. The Hindu service is performed by a male Brahmin priest in accordance with the holy verses from the Hindu holy book, known as Vedas.

The ceremony takes place in a venue chosen by the bride’s family. There are then blessings in the temple after the service. Bear in mind that the Hindu wedding ceremony is not recognised by British law therefore, it is necessary to marry in a civil register office.

The eve of the Hindu wedding day

The bride has the palms of her hands and her feet beautifully decorated with henna, as do family and friends. Also, on the day before the wedding, the priest conducts a ritual of prayers to welcome in the couples’ new life together. This is known as the Ghari Puja and takes place in both the bride and grooms’ homes.

The Hindu wedding day

The groom is welcomed by the bride’s mother and family as he gets out of his chauffeur driven car. The bride’s mother places a small round red dot on his forehead and gives him a garland of flowers, which signifies her approval of the wedding.

The bride’s mother then accompanies the groom to the mandap or canopy where the ceremony is to be conducted. Following behind are the groom’s sisters with a metal pot containing rice and coins covered by a white handkerchief. They say that this represents the warding off of evil spirits.

To signify the grooms virility and strength, he steps on a small terracotta bowl. While he waits for the bride to arrive, his feet are washed by her mother and father. The bride is then accompanied to the wedding venue by her uncles. Music of the bride’s choice is played as she enters.

The ceremony

The ceremony commences with the Hasta Melaap where the bride’s right hand is placed into the groom’s right hand. The priest then continues to chant the holy verses.

  

The bride and groom are joined together by a piece of white cloth – one end tied to the corner of the bride’s sari, the other to the groom’s scarf. The fire god is invited to witness the union, so a fire is lit in the centre of the mandap to illustrate this. The right hands of the couple are tied together with blessed thread. Their palms are filled with rice, oats and leaves to signify wealth, health, happiness and prosperity. The rice, oats and leaves are then offered to the fire.

The couple then proceed to perform a ritual in which they walk around the fire four times. This is known as the Lawan Phere. Each time round, they stop to touch a stone in their path that symbolises obstacles in life that they will overcome together. This symbolises the four human goals in Hinduism in the context of a wedding:

Faith

Financial stability

Procreation

Liberation of the soul

Although no readings are carried out during a Hindu ceremony, music, as chosen by the bride and groom, is a feature. The chosen music is usually a mixture of the latest Bollywood film songs, which contain beautiful and romantic lyrics.

The most important part of the marriage ceremony is the Saptapadi. The bride and groom face north and take seven steps together. Each step calls upon God to bless the couple in the following:

Strength
Food

Progeny

Family

Prosperity

Happiness

Life-long friendship

The bride stands to the groom’s left, which symbolically leaves his right side free to take on the world.

The groom places sindoor (holy red powder) on the bride’s forehead to welcome her into his life as his partner. This is known as Saubhagya Chinya. He also gives her a necklace of black beads, known as a mangalsutra, which symbolises his love, integrity and devotion towards her.

The bride and groom then feed each other sweets as a promise of fidelity and to love and cherish each other forever. This is known as Anna-Prashana.

To end the ceremony, blessings from the priest, parents and close relatives are given. This is called the Ashirwaad. Friends who wish to add their congratulations can also do so at the end.

After the Hindu wedding ceremony

Dinner takes place after the ceremony, which is normally very lavish. Once this has finished the bride and groom play a number of games. During the wedding ceremony the couple will have had threads with knots tied to their wrists. They must attempt to untie these knots, which represents the importance of having patience with one another. Another game that they play involves a large bowl filled with red-coloured milk. Contained within this bowl are a number of items, including a coin. The bride and groom attempt to find the coin and the finder is said to be the person who will be the dominant one in the marriage.

It is now time for the bride to say goodbye to her family and friends before she leaves to start her new life. The groom leads the bride to the car, and once in the car, the bride’s brother or a male relative covers her with a shawl and wishes her well. Before the couple arrive at the groom’s home, they stop off at a temple to offer their prayers and seek blessings.

Attire
Traditionally, the Hindu bride wears a white sari, to represent purity, with red and gold embroidery. This is normally given to the bride by her uncles. However, during the celebrations, she will put on a red sari, to represent fertility. The red sari is a gift from the groom’s family. The bride wears ornaments in her hair, her arms are covered with bracelets and she wears a gold band around her waist and gold anklets on her feet. The groom wears a lounge suit or traditional Indian dress, which consists of a nehru jacket and traditional trousers in white or ivory.
Guests can wear what they wish, although back is avoided. Men dress in suits or traditional dress. Female guests wear suits, dresses or saris. It is no longer necessary for the women to cover their heads, though elderly and orthodox Hindus still tend to do so.
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