There are many variations in the Hindu wedding ceremony depending on your family and how your culture depicts the various pieces of the ceremony. Here is one version to help guide you in creating your wedding programs for your guests.
There are sixteen Sanskars (sacraments) in the Hindu religion, of which marriage is the most important. The Hindu marriage is a spiritual union between two people in the presence of Agni ( the God of Fire), the primary witness to the ceremony. Its rituals are based on the Vedas, the sacred Hindu Text, dating back to 1500-3000 BC. The ceremony takes place in the Mandap (wedding altar) which represents the Universe. Each of the four pillars of the Mandap signifies one of the four purposes of life: Artha (prosperity), Dharma (spiritual way of living), Karma (pleasure and duty), and Moksha (enlightenment). Beyond eternal union of the couple, there is a union of the two families.
Milne: Meeting of the the bride and the groom’s families
The Jaan (The groom’s guests) arrives at the wedding venue in a procession. The bride’s mother performs the Ponkha ceremony (welcoming the Groom). The pandit then asks The groom to step and crush the Sumput (two clay saucers tied together) symbolizing his promise to break any obstacles in the married life as one couple.
Ganesh Pooja: Opening Prayer
Every auspicious Hindu occasion begins with a prayer to Ganesha so that his divine grace, power and love may remove all obstacles as well as promote peace, truth, happiness and prosperity.
Var Poojan: Welcoming the Groom
The bride’s mother welcomes The groom as Visnu (God of Sustenance). Her parents honor the groom by washing his feet and offering Madhuparka (a blend of yogurt and honey).
Mangalastaka: Auspicious Eight Verses
The pandit chants eight auspicious verses to evoke the divine presences and bless all present to witness the ceremony and bless the arrival of The bride.
Kanya Agman: Arrival of the Bride
An Antarpat (veil) is placed in front of the groom. The bride is then escorted by her maternal uncles to the mandap. She enters the mandap as Laxmi (Goddess of Wealth).
Vadhu Poojan: Welcoming of the Bride
The bride’s parents honor her in the same way as the groom by washing her feet and feeding her sweets.
Jaimala: Exchange of garlands
The anterpat is removed and the bride and groom greet each other by placing a garland of flowers around each other’s neck to signify a mutual respect for each other. The removal of the anterpat is symbolic message given to the couple to remove their ideological differences and begin to act as one.
The bride’s parents demonstrate that they entrust her to the groom by placing her hand in his. As holy water is poured over the joined hands, the groom assures The bride’s parents that he will love, honor and protect her.
Hasta Melap: Joining of Hands
The bride and the groom hold each other’s right hand and promise love, devotion, and respect for each other throughout their lives.
Granthi Bandhan, Varmala: Tying of the nuptual knot
One end of the white cloth is tied to the bridal sari and the other end of the cloth is draped over the groom’s shoulder. The knot symbolizes unity between the couple and their families. A varmala (garland made of pure cotton) is placed around the necks of the bride and The groom with the help of the family members. The Varmala does not have any knots symbolizing no breaks in the union.
The couple walks around the fire four times representing the four basic covenants of the Hindu life that should govern all actions Dharma (spiritual way of living), Artha (prosperity), Kama (pleasure and duty), and Moksha (enlightenment). This part of the ceremony and the next that follows, namely the Saptpadi, are the most important ceremonies which legalize the marriage.
The couple takes seven steps together making seven promises.
– Let us take the first step to provide nourishment in our household and avoid things that may bring harm
– In the second step, the couple promises to grow and create a physical, spiritual and mentally healthy life together
– The third step is taken to be blessed with prosperity and riches on all levels
– The fourth step is to acquire harmony, divine blessing and eternal happiness.
– The fifth step to be blessed with healthy children.
– The sixth step is for a long harmonious life together
– While taking the last seventh step they promise to be sincere, faithful and true friends for life.
Mangalsutra & Sindhoor
The groom applies sindhoor (red vermillion) on the crown of his bride’s forehead and adorns her with a thaali and mangalsutra (necklaces) as emblems of his love and devotion.
Exchanging of Rings
Kansar – Mithai Bhojan: First Sweets
The bride and groom feed each other sweets symbolizing that from now on they will share everything in life.
Five women from the the bride’s family come forth to congratulate and bless the couple. Each woman wishes her a long and happy marriage by whispering “Akhand saubhagyavati bhava” in her right ear.
Sabandhi Pujan, Ashirvaad: Prayers and Blessings
The bride and groom seek the blessings of their parents, pandit, and elders in the family.
Photo Credit: BInita Patel Photography