About the wedding:
A Hindu wedding is more than the union of two individuals. It signifies the union of two families. It is performed in accordance with the sacred scriptures, Vedas, which date back to ancient times. It is conducted in Sanskrit, the language of the Vedas. The ceremony itself is a collection of various rituals and popular Indian customs sanctified by the holy fire (Agni), a symbol of universal energy. It is performed by the bride and the groom, guided by the priest (purohitha), supported by the parents, family members and friends, and is witnessed and blessed by God. Given below is a generalized procedure of a Hindu wedding ritual. There can be different flavors of the same based on distinct geographical locations, customs and communities.Introducing the priest Parents of the bride introduce the priest. The priest takes charge of the ceremony.
Varagamana (arrival of the bridegroom):
The groom arrives at the wedding hall accompanied by his family and friends. They are greeted by the bride’s family with arathi, a ceremonial welcoming. The bride’s father offers the groom amrith (holy nectar, a mixture of honey and ghee) which the groom tastes and promises to practice the sweetness of amrith in all his dealings. This is followed by Simantha pooje where the bride’s parents wash the groom’s feet and the priest prepares the groom for the ceremony.
Kasi Yathre (pilgrimage to Varanasi):
This is an entertaining ceremony in which the groom threatens to become a hermit and takes a pilgrimage to the holy city of Varanasi dressed in very simple attire, wearing sandals and carrying an old black umbrella. He abandons the pilgrimage when he meets the bride’s brother who persuades him to marry his beautiful and accomplished sister. Ganesha Puje Prayers are offered by the bride’s and groom’s parents to Lord Ganesha to remove all the obstacles that might impede the success of the wedding and to grant the bride and groom a happy wedded life.
Punyaha Vachana (the purification):
The groom invokes water from all the rivers and oceans which is purified with veda manthra (sacred hymns) and is used during the entire wedding ceremony.
Kanyagamana (arrival of the bride):
The bride enters the mantapa (wedding platform) accompanied by karawali (the bride’s and groom’s sisters and friends). They carry a holy kalasha, a vessel filled with water adorned with coconut and mango leaves placed at its mouth, and deepagalu (oil lamps) to the accompaniment of wedding music. The bride is greeted by bride’s and the groom’s parents. She ascends the mantapa and stands facing the groom with a curtain held between them by the brothers of the bride and groom.
Mangalashtaka (the marriage hymn):
The priest, family, and friends invoke the blessings of God by reciting devotional hymns. The curtain separating the couple is then removed. The bride and groom will now exchange garlands signifying the beginning of the ceremony.
Kanyadhana (giving away of the daughter):
This is a very emotional moment for the bride’s parents. The bride’s parents seek the pledge of the groom’s enduring love, fidelity, and security in caring for the bride. The groom makes the pledge and accepts the bride as an equal partner in all walks of life. Three to five couples from the bride’s side participate in the Kanyadhana.
Rakshabandhana (protecting the bride and the groom):
A raksha (sacred yellow thread) is tied on the wrists of the bride and groom to protect against any harm during the ceremony. This also signifies sankalpa, the couple’s affirmation to proceed with the ceremony.
Mangalyadharana (tying the auspicious necklace):
This is the most important part of the wedding ceremony. At the set auspicious time (muhurtha), the groom ties the ‘proverbial knot’ of the Mangala Suthra (auspicious necklace, blessed by all guests) around the bride’s neck to the accompaniment of a distinct wedding music. This necklace symbolizes love, integrity, and good luck, and is the sign of being married. All the guests bless the couple by showering the colored rice (akshathe). The groom recites the manthra “My life takes on a new meaning from this moment on.” (“Mangalya tantu Nanena Mama Jeevana Hetu Na Kante Bhadnami Shubhage, Yavath Jeeva Sharadaha Shatham”).
Sindhoora (placing vermillion):
The groom places sindhoora (vermillion) in the parting of bride’s hair further affirming that she is now married to him and he will devote his life to her.
Akshatharopana (showering of sanctified rice):
Bride’s and groom’s mothers and three married ladies shower sanctified rice on the bride and groom as a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Thereafter, the bride and groom shower sanctified rice on each other’s head.
Vivaha Homa (evocation of the divine fire):
The priest makes a small fire in a kund (copper bowl). The fire is a symbol of purity and energy, and serves as a divine witness to their marriage. The couple prays to the divine fire, Agni, by offering ghee (clarified butter) and samidha (sacrificial wood).
Asmarohana (mounting the stone):
The bride places her right foot on the auspicious stone. The groom tells her “May you stand firm and steady in all storms of life.”
Agnipradhakshana (circling the divine fire):
The couple walks around the sacred fire three times with their stoles knotted together, symbolizing an everlasting bond between the couple. The groom chants “I am the sky, you are the earth. I am the music, you are the melody. I am the mind, you are the speech. Let us be together and live happily for many years.”
Lajahoma (offering rice flakes to the divine fire):
The bride’s brother fills the bride’s palms with rice flakes which the couple offers to Agni four times. This signifies four blessings (health, wealth, happiness, and prosperity) and four life goals (duty [dharma], family [kama], wealth [artha], and salvation [moksha]). Offering rice flakes has a two-fold significance. First, they do not split when they are cooked, symbolizing an everlasting bond between the couple. Second, like a rice plant that must be replanted in a new field to produce grain, couple moves out from their parents’ homes in order to fulfill their potential.
Sapthapadhi (walking seven steps together):
The couple takes seven steps on small piles of rice, stating:
For mutual trust, walk the first step with me
For physical and spiritual strength, walk the second step with me
For prosperity, walk the third step with me
For generosity and charity, walk the fourth step with me
For healthy and happy children, walk the fifth step with me
For pleasure and pain, walk the sixth step with me
For lifelong happiness and love, let us walk the seventh step together.
Search for the rings:
In the olden days of arranged marriages, the bride and the groom did not know each other well. This ceremony was
intended to make them feel intimate. The priest drops the rings in a narrow mouthed vessel of water. The bride and the groom search for the rings till they find the partner’s ring.
Arundhathi Dharshana (showing of the star, Arundhathi):
Arundhathi is a small star located underneath Saptha Rishi Mandala (group of 7 stars). These are supposed to be the seven sages and their families who are the originators of the Vedic lore of the Hindus. The newlyweds are escorted outdoors where they pay homage to the Saptha Rishi Mandala and Arundhathi, the smallest of the stars which is the eternal symbol of love and devotion. This also reminds the couple of their cosmic responsibilities in the coming years of life.
Mangalarathi (presenting sacred light to the couple):
The ceremony concludes with ārathi to the couple, wishing them good luck.
Ashirvadha (blessings from elders):
The couple touch the feet of the priest, parents, and elders in both families seeking their blessings.
Acharya Sambhavana (honoring the priest):
Parents of the bride and groom pay their respect to the priest, thanking him for leading the wedding. They pay donation (Dakshina) and gift to the priest as a mark of their gratitude and appreciation for the smooth conduct of the wedding ceremony.
Shanthi Manthra (a chant for peace by all):
“May peace be in the heavens,
Peace in the sky,
Peace on the earth,
May the waters flow peacefully,
May the herbs and shrubs grow in peace,
May all the divine beings bring peace to us,
May that peace come to this couple and to all.
Om Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi.”