Rituals in a Hindu Wedding
The Great Indian Wedding is a myriad of colors, that makes it vibrant and festive and remain forever, as colorful impressions in the memories of the bride and the groom as well as of those who are a part of it.
The beautiful wedding attire of the bride plays a mammoth role in beautifying the entire wedding. Each and everyone looks forward to the Bridal outfit. Be it the Red Zardosi border Banarsi sari or the gorgeous Lenhangas of the North, Cream and Red bordered Panetar in a Gujarati wedding or the dark Green Paithni saris in Maharastra or even the traditional rich bordered Mysore and Kanjeevaram from south, they all glam up the Indian wedding.
India is a country with varied heritage and customs, but every Hindu believes in the sixteen sanskaras (sacraments) that make the life of the individual noble and prosperous, with the most important sanskara being 'vivaha' (marriage). It's a ceremony whereby two souls are brought into union spiritually, mentally and physically in the scared bond of matrimony. As per the shastras, the groom is considered to be Mahavishnu Svarupaya Varahaya ie The great Vishnu himself and the bride is believed to be Godess Lakshmi.
The marriage ceremony always begins with 'Ganesh Puja' with the belief that Lord Ganesha dispels the darkness of ignorance and removes obstacles. This is followed by 'Navgrah Shanti Puja' performed separately by parents of the bride and the groom. Pre-wedding rituals require the bride to tie a holy thread on her wrist which is meant to ward off all evil spirits, symbolizing a kind of a protective armor for the bride. For the groom, the holy thread comprises of the various Gods .. 'Indra', 'Soma', 'Chandra' and 'Agni'. From there on, the groom prepares himself for a new chapter in his life as a householder or 'Grihasta'. The ceremony also involves the bride and groom being anointed with a fragrant paste made out of turmeric powder, curd, sandal-wood and scented water in their respective houses. 'Mandap Ropan' or 'Vedi' formation takes place at the bride's house where four pillars (made out of bamboo) are erected at four corners and are blessed. It is under this mandap that the agni parikrama takes place.
On the day of the wedding, the groom is welcomed by the bride's parents to their house with 'arti' after washing his right foot (or just the toe) with five substances considered holy (viz milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey). At an auspicious hour, the bride is ushered in by her mother or maternal uncle as per the tradition for 'Kanya Daan' which symbolizes 'parents giving away their daughter to the groom and his family along with the consent for the marriage ceremonies to begin'.
After the 'Kanya Daan' ritual, the parents of the bride proffer her hand to the groom and officially request him to accept her as his bride, also known as 'Pani Grah'. In return the groom usually offers clothes and jewelry to welcome her in his life.
'Agni' or the sacred fire, central to all Hindu religious ceremony, is invoked and offerings of wood, grains and ghee are poured in. Agni is considered to be the "mouth of the Gods" and the Gods obtain our offering through this medium. Agni Parikrama the central part of the Hindu marriage ceremony requires bride and groom circumbulate the sacred fire four ..seven times depending upon the various communities. Fire acts as a divine witness to this sacred contract of marriage between the couple.The groom fills the parting right above the forehead with 'sindur' (vermilion) and places a dot of the red powder on her forehead as a symbol of declaring her to be his wife. At this time, he also ties a sacred thread around her neck - Mangalsutra - to signify their marriage. Usually this thread is covered with gold and black glass beads, though in essence, it can be made of anything auspicious including cotton and silk depending upon the customs in various parts of India.
The priest blesses the couple and the guests shower the couple with their blessings along with flowers and rice.
The bride leaves her parents and friends to commence a new life with her husband. She is given a warm welcome into her new home and is believed to have brought along with her prosperity and good fortune into the house. She is blessed by all the elders in the family and is introduced to everybody.
Depending upon the customs and traditions, a number of small ceremonies continue happening within family and close friends in order to acquaint the bride to her new family and to make the entire affair a happy and lively experience for the newly wedded.
Photo Courtesy: Priyanka Sachar