How to Perform a Hindu Wedding
Traditional Hindu wedding ceremonies last for days and feature many fascinating and intricate rituals. There is, however, a modern tendency towards shortening Hindu wedding festivities and this is done by each individual couple choosing which of the traditions they would like their wedding to feature. Which rituals are chosen depend mainly on existing family traditions.
Hindu wedding traditions are divided among the pre-wedding festivities, the wedding day festivities, and the post-wedding festivities that take place in the couple’s new home. And even though couples may pick and choose which traditions they want to carry out, their wedding will always take place under the wedding mandap, the decorated canopy that is held aloft by four pillars.
All pre-wedding ceremonies take place at the bride and groom’s parents’ homes and include the official announcement of the engagement as well as the ritual of Barni Bandhwana. Barni Bandhwana is held on an auspicious day about two weeks before the marriage and involves a pundit – a learned man – invoking the blessing of the Lord Ganesh, the Remover of Obstacles. A maternal uncle of either the bride or groom then performs the Mamara, which is an important ceremony that solidifies family ties. The Sangeet Sandhya is an evening of entertainment presented to the bride and groom by the bride’s family. There is also the Tilak Ceremony where the groom’s forehead is marked with a red turmeric mixture known as Kumkum.
The rituals held on the day of the Hindu wedding are even more elaborate than the pre-wedding rituals and include the Barat Nikasi, the Kanya Daan and the Saptapadi. The Barat Nikasi involves the groom’s traveling to the wedding venue on an elephant or horse wearing ornamental gear, and is a stately and colorful spectacle that involves all the groom’s family members and friends. The Kanya Daan is the formal giving away of the bride by her father, which is accompanied by the groom’s reciting Vedic hymns to the God of Love, Kama. The bride’s father then extracts a promise from the groom that he will help his daughter achieve dharma (following the way of righteousness and common sense), artha (meaning) and kama (sensual pleasure).
The Saptapadi is one of the most important of the Hindu marriage rituals and consists of the bridge and groom circling the Holy Fire, Agni, seven times while making seven promises to each other about their future wedded life. After this ceremony has been completed, they are considered formally married and this is why Saptapadi is considered the most important Vedic component of the marriage. The promises that they make to one another include to give happiness to each other, to provide each other with food, to give each other excellent health and energy and to make each other’s possessions grow in strength and number.
The ceremony of Vidaai comprises the emotional and ritualistic journey that the wife then takes to her new husband’s home. The post-wedding ceremonies then commence and these can include the Dwar-Rokai, where the groom’s sister or aunt performs a ritual involving water and salt aimed at protecting the groom from dark forces. Another post-wedding tradition is the Griha Pravesh by which the bridge’s mother-in-law welcomes her into her new home. There is also the Mooh Dikhai, where the groom’s entire family plays games to set the new bride at ease, and the Pheri, where the couple visits the bride’s family for dinner the day after the wedding.
Hindu wedding ceremonies can be awe-inspiringly beautiful and they reflect both the love between bride and groom as well as their families’ joy at the new nuptials.