Wednesday, June 24, 2009



Once the marriage date is determined, a formal wedding invitation is sent to the grandparents of the bride and groom. It is then distributed to the rest of the extended family and friends.

In the homes of the bride and the groom, religious ceremonies start from between three to five days before the marriage date. This is a very happy time, and is accompanied by the singing of auspicious songs by the women.

During this time, the bride and groom will also be anointed with pithi (or haldi) - a specially prepared paste. Parents in both homes perform special prayers during this time to Ganesh, the Hindu god of good fortune, and to the Navagraha or ‘nine celestial bodies’.

A Hindu marriage ceremony begins with the barat swagat. This is the formal reception of the groom’s party at either the bride’s home or the wedding venue. Close relatives from the bride’s side welcome the party first. The rest of the marriage ceremony is carried out in the mandap. This is a temporary structure comprising of four posts and a canopy, decorated with flowers and garlands.

The bride’s father then formally accepts the groom, and the antarpat is raised. An antarpat is a specially prepared plain or embroidered cloth that separates the bride and groom. Prayers are then offered to Ganesh, the Hindu god of good fortune, and to other gods and ancestors.

Next, the Agni, a sacred fire, is lit on the prepared altar. Fire is seen by Hindus as pure because it cleanses, and the light that comes from it is believed to symbolise wisdom, which ‘lights up’ the darkness of the mind.

Kanyadan (‘gift of a maiden’) is the giving away of the bride by her parents, and Panigrahan is the acceptance of her hand by the groom. In the Hindu belief system, the giving of a daughter to the groom’s family is considered to be the greatest possible dana (sacred gift).

Kanyadan is performed by both parents of the bride. They place both hands of their daughter in the hands of the groom. He formally accepts her hands in marriage. Then the bride and groom place a garland around each other’s neck and recite prayers. After this ceremony, responsibility for the bride is transferred from her parents to her husband and his family.

The Mangal phera is then performed. This involves the bride and the groom walking around the Agni four or seven times – depending on local custom. Current practice is to circle the Agni four times. This symbolises the four twenty-five-year stages of life called Ashramas in the Hindu belief system. The first three circles are led by the bride, and the last by the groom – signifying that he has assumed social and spiritual responsibility for his bride.

At the end of each circle, the bride’s brother gives puffed rice to the bride, to put into the Agni. This symbolises the transition from her old family to that of her new one – the groom’s.

The next part of the wedding ceremony is the saptapadi (‘rite of seven steps’). This is performed by the bride and groom, who take seven steps together.

As they proceed, the groom recites aloud: ‘First step for food, second for strength, third for prosperity, fourth for happiness, fifth for material abundance, sixth for longevity, and the seventh step is for eternal unity of both.’ The seventh step marks the completeness and the irreversible nature of the marriage.

Now that they are officially married, the bride changes her position from being on the groom’s right side to his left. The groom then puts sindoor (red powder) in the parting of his bride’s hair, and fastens a mangalsutra (marriage necklace) around her neck.

Before departing, she will change into the clothes given to her by her husband’s family. Once in the groom’s house, the bride is formally received, and various social and religious rituals are performed.


Ganesh Sthapan

Lord Ganesha is always the first deity to be propitiated at any significant event. His blessings are invoked before the preparations begin for the wedding so that no obstacles present themselves and all goes well

This 'puja' is attended by close family members and is performed in both homes simultaneously on an auspicious day. After the 'puja' a vegetarian meal sans onion and garlic is served along with a sweet called 'kansaar'


This is an intimate gathering of the bride's female relatives and close friends two days before the wedding. 'Mehendi' (henna) is ground into a paste and applied by professional 'mehendiwallis' (henna artists) in fine patterns on the palms and feet of the bride


There are a multitude of ceremonies that take place on both the bride and groom's side before the actual wedding day. One of these is the pithi ceremony. This entails rubbing a paste made out of chickpea flour, turmeric, rose water, and other variable ingredients, on the bride and groom's skin. This takes place at the bride and groom's houses separately. Supposedly, the paste when rubbed on is excellent for the skin and evens out skin tone. Family members and friends often times have fun getting the bride and groom completely covered in the paste

Griha Shanti

This is a very important religious ceremony. Both sets of parents are the primary figures in the invocation. On behalf of the parents, the officiating priests ask the deities to ensure stellar harmony and peace during the period of their son and daughter's wedding

The bride takes a coconut to her parents who are seated on 'patlas' (low stools) in front of the sacred fire and seats herself beside them. While the priest is performing the 'puja', which can take up to two hours - she hands this 'shriphal' (coconut) to her parents, who in turn hand it over to the priest for 'ahuti' (sacrifice). The coconut is consigned to flames, thus propagating peace and harmony between all the nine planets

Similar ceremonies are conducted in the groom's home


When the girl grows up and gets married, the 'mama' or maternal uncle comes with the 'mameru' consisting of clothes, jewellery and other gifts items including the traditional 'paanetar' (wedding sari - usually white with red border) and 'choodo' (ivory bangle - now replaced with acrylic or plastic)



On the evening of the wedding, the groom, dressed in all his finery prepares to leave for the wedding venue. The groom's sister carries a small bowl wrapped in cloth and containing coins on which the Hindu Swastika has been etched. She rattles this over her brother's head to ward off the evil.

Var Ponke

The bride's mother receives the groom and his 'baraat' (procession) at the entrance of the wedding venue. She performs the traditional 'aarti' for the groom, applies the 'kumkum' (vermilion) and rice 'tikka' on his forehead. He is given a coconut decorated with red thread.


The bride greets the groom by placing a garland on him During this ceremony, the groom is elevated above the bride so that it is much harder for her to reach him. The bride will then be elevated by her family/friends so that she can place the garland on the groom.

Kanya Agman

Next, the “mama” (maternal uncle) takes the bride to the “mandap” (marriage canopy). At the center of the mandap is the sacred fire symbolizing illumination of mind, knowledge, and happiness. The fire is also a clean, pure witness to the ceremony as it progresses.

Initially, the bride and the groom will be seated separated by an “antarpat” (curtain) as the priest opens the ceremony with his blessings. The antarpat is then raised.


The bride's parents apply 'tikka' on the couple and the bride's father performs the 'kanyadaan'.

This is done by tying the hands of the bride and groom together in a marital knot known as the 'hast melap'. The bride's right hand is placed in the groom's right hand and they both reach out over the unlit fire below. With this gesture the father of the bride symbolizes this promise; " I offer you this most precious gift of my daughter to take as your own, to cherish and to protect. "

The bride's mother connects the couple by tying the 'varmaala' (a length of sacred red thread) across them and looping it like a garland over their hands.

The groom's scarf or shawl is tied to the bride's saree. This knot and the joined hands of the couple symbolize the union of two souls joined together in holy matrimony. The acharya chants mantras to invoke the blessings of Goddess Laxmi and Goddess Parvati for the saubhagyavrata or wife. The family and relatives present also come together to bless the couple and shower grains of rice and rose petals on them. The married women from the bride’s side of the family whisper “aashirwaad” (blessings) into the right ear of the bride

Mangal Phera

Mangal Fera is a vow to carry out moral duties & responsibilities toward each other, family and society; and to balance a life of material possessions and worldly desires with the continual striving towards spiritual liberation


Seven steps - Each step has its own importance and its own meaning

Sindoor and Mangalsutra

The groom will place red powder (vermilion) on the bride’s forehead and into her hair, representing a long life for both of them. A custom made gold chain with black beads (“mangal sutra”) will be given to the bride by the groom.


The bride and groom seek blessings from the priest and all elders in the family


The bride bids a tearful farewell to her parents, family and friends. The 'pujari' performs a small 'puja' for the decorated car by applying 'tikka' to the hood. The bride's mother breaks a coconut in front of the car, invoking blessings for a safe journey for the couple.

Gar ni Laxmi

The bride's first step into her new home is considered auspicious. She is the "ghar ni laxmi" or the goddess Laxmi who will bring wealth and good fortune to her home. The mother-in-law places a vessel, filled to the brim with rice, at the entrance of the house. The bride must knock the vessel down gently with her right foot, spilling some of the rice over. The rice is a symbol of wealth and by following the ritual she conveys her full understanding of her duties responsibilities towards her new home.

Symbolism of Various Items Used in Hindu Weddings

* Fire - the element that dispels darkness

* Water - life nourishing element

* Rice - Dispeller of evil spirits (soil/land)

* Coconut - Fertility

· Sindoor – Auspiciousness


APRIL 2009

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