Traditional Indian Hindu Marriage Ceremony, Rites & Attire

Details of the Indian Hindu Marriage Ceremony

Hinduism is a religion of India, which believes in the power of God Brahman, so the ceremony is addressed to him. The world is characterized by having different people, different cultures, and that means that there are different ways of dressing brides on the day of their marriage bond and the form of the ceremony. Although little by little is being implemented at a general level to wear on the day of the wedding white suit as they do in the West, other countries have other types of customs, but all agree that on the day of marriage, the bride will be radiant and beautiful and The purpose of getting married is to have offspring and take care of your partner.

What is an Indian Hindu Wedding?

A wedding in India incorporates a multitude of rites and traditions whose elements vary according to the religion of the couple, the culture or the caste of the families. The Hindu culture is the one that prevails in India, the elements that are part of the ceremonies of this culture have been established in the ancient Hindu scriptures, called “Vedas”, more than 4000 years ago. These celebrations vary according to the state in which it is celebrated, having Rajasthani weddings or Kerala weddings. Although these are different, and at the same time they are very different from weddings celebrated under another culture (such as the Muslim one), they all have certain common parameters that we are going to talk about.

Symbolism & The Binding of Families

Hindu weddings are events full of symbolism, colour and sacred rituals that symbolize the union between two families. These ceremonies differ greatly from the concept of a western wedding and vary greatly depending on the region, caste, and family that celebrates them. In Hindu, culture weddings symbolize a union between families rather than a mere link between a man and a woman. Ceremonial rituals begin at the same time that the parents of the bride choose a husband for their daughter. Then, the couple and their families visit together the priest, known as Brahman, who must approve the wedding, and choose the date and time of the wedding based on the position of the stars.

A Focus on The Family

The importance of family unity is again symbolized in a curious ritual called Barat, which occurs the day before the wedding, and in which the groom together with his family and friends makes a procession on horseback to the house of his future wife demonstrating the respect and union that will exist between both families. It is very common in India for marriages to be arranged. This does not mean that the couple has not met before or not. However, in India, the mentality is that love arises after getting married.

Are Arranged Marriages Bad?

The question of Love marriage? Or arrange marriage?  Is the order of the day! For the Western mentality, it is very difficult to understand how two people can get married without knowing anything, very little or not enough. With the passage of time, I have seen very happy couples together and with more love and respect having married in concert. This type of arranged marriage was extended throughout the world in times before the eighteenth century. Did you think that arranged marriages were exclusive to India? Well, you know not, although India retains the tradition for its deeply rooted culture and traditions. Whether it is a marriage for love or an agreement, the fact is that the success of marriage does not depend on it, but on the people who make up the couple.

Rituals in Hindu Marriages

Hindu marriages are laden with rituals that represent them in their beliefs and traditions. These date back to 2000 BC and today they are based on the same pillars as at that time. The wedding rite is a union that represents the “samskara” (sacred trust). Two of the fundamental pillars of Hinduism are always present: reincarnation and universalism. This ceremony is full of symbols and practices that are intended to teach the couple lessons for their future life together.

Basic Rituals of Marriage Ceremony

The three basic rituals of this ceremony are: the “home” ritual of offering to the fire; the “panigrahena”, which indicates the strength of the union of the couple; the ritual “satapadi”, which consists in the accomplishment of seven returns that the couple must give around the sacred fire. The ceremony is conducted by a Hindu priest, where the parents of the bride and groom are present. The “kanyadaan”, which means to deliver the daughter, is carried out only by the father of the bride.

Sacred Fire

The first step of all in the ceremony is the sacred fire that is on before the bride and groom arrive at the altar. The fire of the ceremony is considered as the sacred evidence of marriage. It is at this time when the couple begins to circle around him (they are between 4 and 7 laps depending on the caste and religion). Each return is a promise that will be fulfilled during the marriage. To end the ceremony, there are two next steps. The groom gives the bride an auspicious pendant called the “mangalsutra” and then puts the “sindoor” on her head, which is a traditional red powder.

Sacred Union

The culminating part of the celebration is when, depending on the culture of the couple, they take their hand or tie a knot between the “dupattas” of the bride and groom. This symbolizes the sacred union they are making with marriage. At the end of the ceremony and all its rites, all the relatives and guests gather, sharing food, music and dances representative of their culture.

Marriages are Generally Arranged

The first thing that is worth saying about Indian weddings is that they are not only the union of the couple but of the families of both, so the participation of the relatives of the couple is always very active at weddings. So much so that families are the ones who arrange marriages and not the couple: couples formed from love are strongly discouraged, since love does not respect conditions as important for Indian marriages as caste, religion, studies or the work of the other member of the couple.

What Clothing is Worn by an Indian Bride & Groom?

We will now take a quick look at what the Bride & Groom will normally wear on their wedding day.

Bride’s attire

On the day of their wedding, an Indian bride normally uses the bright red colour, since the western white is used in Indian funerals. Black is also avoided because it symbolizes death and mourning. Wedding guests and members of a wedding should use bright colours, avoiding red, as it is the special colour of the bride.

Lehenga

Most traditional Indian brides prefer to wear a red lehenga, usually borated with silver or gold and adorned with sequins, stones, and crystals! The lehenga is a skirt up to the ankles and is usually combined with a choli top that shows the waist and has tight sleeves. The bride traditionally also uses a dupatta or chunni that is a long stole that wraps around the neck and shoulders. This garment is usually made of satin, crepe or Georgeta. Brides may use a longer choli if they are uncomfortable showing their waist.

Groom’s attire

The groom’s outfit depends on personal preferences, where the family lives in India and how traditional the wedding is. The Achkanos and the Sherwanis are two long traditional jackets used at weddings. The first ones, which are more popular in the north of India, reach the knees or less are usually combined with churidar, which are very tight pants that are piled at the base of each leg. The Sherwanis are popular in Uttar Pradesh and Hyderabad and are a heavier version of the Achkans. They can be combined with churidars or pajamas kurta. Some grooms use only Kura pajamas or loose and light shirts that combine together with many embroidered trousers. He brought jodhpuri is another option, which combines Indian and Western styles.

The Traditions of an Indian Wedding

Preparation for the bride’s wedding takes place through the traditional mehndi or henna ceremony, in which the bride paints her feet and hands with this material, while the women of both families sing traditional melodies. The day before the wedding, the Mandapa is installed, a large tent decorated with flowers in which the union ceremony will take place. On the day of the wedding, a fire is made inside the Mandapa for the couple to burn their promises. This rite of Vedic origin symbolizes the fulfilment of the promises prior to marriage.

Marriage Between Families

Marriage in India, in whatever form, is a marriage between two families and not just a couple. The wife although it sounds hard, stops being the daughter of her parents, to become the daughter of her husband’s parents! Most newly married couples live in the same house with their husband’s parents.

Determining The Date for The Ceremony

The Brahman or Pandit uses astrology in which to find the ideal date for the ceremony of the rings or “engagement ceremony”, which many believe will ensure favourable conditions that will assist in making the marriage a success. In certain ceremonies that happen on the wedding day, you also have to wait for the perfect moment in time to start the “pujas” or religious rituals.

This is determined not only the date of birth of the couple but also the position of the planets and the Hindu calendar. From this data, the priest calculates the most favourable day for the marriage. From this, there are times of the year when there are the most weddings, which is between May and July, and between November and February.

Preparations For The Wedding

Once the date of the wedding and the places where the ceremonies are to take place are decided, the list of guests that can be uninterrupted … between hundreds and thousands of invitations to guests begin to be made. The wedding invitations are usually very beautiful, fragrant and elaborate. In all of them, God Ganesh usually appears, which is what augurs the couple on their new journey. Ganesh is present at all Hindu weddings and the couple also makes offerings to Ganesh.

In case the arrangement goes ahead, the two families exchange gifts and rings. On the day of the wedding, which is chosen by an astrologer or brahman, who will choose a day that according to the position of the stars will augur a good future for the couple. It is curious that in tourist areas many weddings are celebrated at the end of the high season, and all of them have chosen the date because the astrologer has indicated it. Is the astrologer based on the position of the stars, or have you considered only one day with little work and appropriate for the guests?

The Indian Marriage Ceremony Rites in Brief

  • The Baaraat is the moment when the groom arrives, usually on horseback. His male relatives follow him and the tour is accompanied by music.
  • When the bridegroom arrives, the Brahmin priest offers yoghurt to the bride and honey to the bridegroom, then both put a garland of flowers on their necks.
  • At the beginning of the ceremony, the father gives the bride to the bride, and then the bridegroom repeats his wedding vows three times.
  • The Vivaaha is the moment in which the priest ties the tail of the bride’s sari to the groom’s shirt in the union. The bride and groom exchange flowers and rings, then hold hands to make ritual offerings to the sacred fire and invoke his blessing.
  • The Agni Parinaya is one of the crucial moments of Hindu nuptial rites. The couple surrounds the fire three times holding hands, then pray a prayer putting the right hand in the heart of the other person. Then both put one foot on a rock that symbolizes the resistance of their love.
  • The central rite of the Hindu ceremony comes with the Saptapadi, in which both take seven steps around the fire on a path marked with piles of rice. Once they finish this seven-step road they are already husband and wife.
  • The groom finally puts a red stripe on the forehead of the woman to confirm the link.

These are the fundamental rites of a Hindu wedding.  One of the main attractions of Hindu weddings are the gowns of the bride and groom and guests at the ceremony. The groom usually wears a suit full of colourful embroideries, and the bride usually wears a red dress with gold ornaments, known as the sari, although during the wedding it is normal to change into different outfits several times throughout. In addition, women close to the bride paint their hands and feet with henna creating beautiful symbols and mosaics that include the groom’s initials.

Use of Precious Stones

The dress and the adornments are complemented with dozens of jewels that give a touch of grandeur and luxury to the celebration. In addition to their colourful costumes, Hindu weddings are unique thanks to the rituals that make up the ceremony. These rituals have been passed down from generation to generation for more than 40 centuries and are carried out by Brahmin in the Sanskrit language. All of them represent the sacred trust between the couple and seek to teach the couple to manage their future life together, fulfilling a series of objectives such as the Dharma -to comply with religious duties-, the Praja -having offspring- and the Krama -get pleasure.

During the ceremony, the assistants sit around an altar with fire and three rituals take place. The first is the Homa offering of fire, the second the Panigrahena of union between the couple and the third the Saptapadi in which the bride and groom go around the fire 7 times, sing mantras and read sacred texts. To conclude the ceremony, the groom ties a necklace of flowers on the neck of his new wife as a sign of acceptance and sprinkles red hair on his hair, indicating that she is already a married woman. If getting married in the West is already a crusade, doing it in India is an incredible journey of rites, rituals, traditions, and superstitions, difficult to overcome by any other bridal protocol in the world.

An Indian wedding not only celebrates the union between a man and a woman. The nuptial bond is extended to the two families of the contracting parties who must negotiate the most important contract of their lives. But for this to happen, an astrologer must first check the natal letters of the future spouses, as well as the most favorable date for the union to occur. In case of not being compatible, almost certainly, the wedding will not be celebrated. If, on the contrary, the astrological test is surpassed, the bridal machinery will start up. Once the date is decided, it is time to discuss one of the crucial points of the “business”: the matrimonial dowry.

Although this tradition was abolished in 1961, it is still present in India, disguised in the form of gifts and other expenses related to marriage, which often represent an extreme sacrifice for poor families.

  • Pre-wedding rituals: Among the rituals of good omen and beauty dedicated to the couple is the Teil Baan or Heidi that takes place during the morning of the wedding. The married women of the family apply a formula, based on different spices, on the feet, knees, elbows, shoulders, and forehead of the bride.
  • The engagement party: In it, the bride and groom exchange rings and the bride’s family gives the fiancés and the groom’s family jewels, sweets, and money.
  • Sangit or the music festival: It is a pre-wedding celebration featuring the female section, relatives, and friends of the bride’s family, in which music plays a major role: it is sung and danced all night. Some songs contain bold verses in which jokes are made about the future political family, the wedding night or what happens after the marriage.
  • The “night of henna”: It is an essential ritual, which is celebrated throughout the sangit, in which women adorn their hands, forearms, and feet with tattoos made from henna paste. During the process, the bride is instructed in the details of the marriage.

Commitment

Once both families accept the marriage, the engagement party takes place, which is usually celebrated in the bride’s house, by the family of the bride. This celebration consists of the exchange of rings by the bride and groom, and the bride’s family gives jewels and money to the fiancés and the groom’s family.

 

 Pre-wedding ceremony

Before any wedding in India there are certain ceremonial acts that must be given for the marriage to be properly formed, among these ceremonies the following:

Mehndi: the hands and arms of the bride and their female relatives and friends are painted with a paste prepared with turmeric powder and sandalwood or henna. It is a kind of bachelorette party in which the women of both families participate.

Mehfil: consists of a ceremony in which relatives and guests dance the ghoomar, a traditional group dance.

The meeting of the couple: After a visit to the temple, the groom arrives, on horseback or by carriage, to the place where the ceremony will be held. He is accompanied by his retinue that advances slowly, stopping every few meters to dance to the rhythm of the drums.

Once inside, the groom waits for his fiancee sitting on a throne. Shortly after, she arrives accompanied by her closest relatives and friends.  Throughout the wedding, the bride should appear shy and should not be too cheerful or too sad to hurt the sensitivity of either family.  The bride and groom preside over the party sitting on their throne while the guests enjoy the banquet and the music. According to the strictest tradition, they should not talk.

Palla Dastoor: the relatives of the groom bring jewels, clothes, and gifts to the house of the bride that she must wear during the wedding.

The wedding day

Baraat: it is celebrated the arrival of the groom to the place where the wedding is celebrated, traditionally the house of the bride. By tradition, he arrives wearing an achkan (a kind of long shirt) with a yellow turban and some typical shoes called jootis, mounted on a horse with family and close friends (all male) in a great parade of singing and dancing.

Milani: at this moment the family of the bride receives the bride and groom, and their family, with garlands and sweets typical of India. Here members of both families present themselves, fostering peace and acceptance among families.

The ritual of Ganesh Pooja: before the ceremony itself the Ganesh Pooja ritual is performed, a ceremony in which one seeks to please the Ganapati by seeking good luck since Ganapati can destroy all obstacles.

The wedding itself

The entry of the bride and groom: The bridegroom enters the Mandap first (a large tent decorated with flowers, garlands, carpets and all kinds of ornaments, in which the wedding will take place) and they bring him a chair and a celebration drink, made Milk base, Indian butter, yogurt, sugar, and honey. Then there is the Kanya Aagaman, the moment when the bride makes her entrance, accompanied by her father.

At this point, the bride and groom are separated by a white curtain and cannot be seen.

Jai Mala: When finally the bride arrives at the Mandap, the curtain is let fall and the ceremony is given in which both exchange garlands of flowers (jayamaala), which represent the acceptance of one towards the other. This ritual is given while the bride and groom say a few words in which they inform those present of their acceptance and mutual union.

The seven circles: The bride rotates around the fire seven times before allowing her eyes to meet the boyfriends. Someone covers the eyes of the groom and the bride keeps  the look down. For the ceremony of the wedding, a species of an altar with a fire is mounted, and the presents sit around. The priest recites sacred verses and makes offerings to the fire, while the couple revolves around the fire.

Although modern Hinduism is based primarily on the religious ritual, puja, of the devas enshrined in the Puranic texts, a Hindu marriage ceremony is essentially done with a fire sacrifice (Vedic vajna), where the Aryan deities are they invoke in an Indian-Aryan style. This has its origin in an ancient ceremony to consolidate the bonds of friendship and was carried out even between people of the same sex, and even between different species in mythological contexts. Today this tradition only survives in the context of weddings.

The main witness of a Hindu marriage is the deity of the Agni fire, and by law and tradition, no Hindu marriage is complete if there is no presence of sacred fire, if the couple together have not gone around that fire seven times (in many marriages) of southern India this last is not necessary). Normally there are seven turns of fire. In certain ceremonies the bride turns around while the groom has his eyes covered so as not to see her, and in other ceremonies, the groom walks around the fire in front of the bride, and then the bride goes around in front of the groom, and always the bride will have her face covered.

The circles around the fire (called Saptapadi) symbolize the promise of walking together and facing life together. Before finishing the ceremony, the groom applies a red powder on the bride’s hair to mark that she is now a married woman. When the ceremony ends everyone approaches the couple, congratulates them and offers them money. Money may be collected at a later organized time. The day before the wedding ceremony, the groom together with family and friends makes a kind of procession, often mounted on a horse. And as it is to be supposed, the groom is adorned with his best finery and adornments. This procession goes to the bride’s house. The bride will have dressed and made up in a special way, although she will remain hidden, out of sight of the groom until the wedding ceremony the next day.

Meanwhile, the groom, along with his entourage, appears before the family of the bride, and they are greeted and given each one of them by the relatives of the bride. This symbolizes that the link is between two families, not just between two people.

Kanyadaan: It is the moment in which the father of the bride gives it to the groom. This occurs after his promise to assist his new wife in the three most important phases of the carnal life: Dharma (religious duty), Artha (riches) and Kāma (pleasure). The ritual is that the bride’s father pours holy water on his daughter’s hand, then unites it with that of her new husband.

 

 

Vivaha-home: the sacred fire is lit and the priest (Purohit) recites the Sanskrit mantra while offerings are made to the fire.

Panigharani: the groom takes the bride’s hand (probably the first physical contact of both), accepting it and promising, both to her and her family, eternal care and protection.

Shilarohan: the bride gets on a stone that represents her desire to overcome obstacles during the marriage. Then they turn the fire four times, with the bride in front during the first three. Then they put their hands together, offer barley to the sacred fire and finally, the husband marks the hair of his new wife with Kum-Kum powder that indicates that this woman is now a married woman.

Saptapadi: the couple takes seven steps around the fire, each accompanied by a prayer and a promise (for food, for strength, for prosperity, for wisdom, for offspring, for health and for friendship).

Mangalsutra Dharanam: the groom puts a necklace on his partner, which gives him the status of wife. From that moment on, she must wear this necklace the entire time the marriage lasts.

Post wedding celebrations

Give Aashirvad: once married, the couple receives the blessings of both families. To the woman, the women of both families whisper in her ear. Finally, the couple kneels in front of the priest and their relatives, and then walk among the guests while the latter throw rice and flowers to wish them happiness and prosperity.

Bidai: at this time the bride’s family says goodbye to her, as she leaves for her boyfriend’s house. In many cases, this is the last time the bride sees her family if her boyfriend lives far away, so it is common that, beyond being dismissed with happiness, there are mixed feelings and some tears.

The trip in Doli: the doli is a very ornate platform in which the bride travels from her parents’ house to that of her new husband.

Graha Pravesh: before entering the groom’s house, the bride kicks a pot (Kalash) filled with rice with her right foot. Then he is ready to enter the house of the groom. With this ritual, it is believed that food, wisdom, and abundance are obtained.

The reception: without formal traditions for this stage of the celebration, the reception is a party with music, food, and dance in which it is celebrated that the union has been a success. It is the first appearance in public of the couple as a marriage.

 

Satyanarayana Puja: finally, two or three days after the wedding, the couple thanked Narayan (Vishnu), making a vow of fidelity, seeking to achieve eternal peace and waiting for Vishnu to cover all his earthly needs.

A new family: After the wedding, there is a painful separation between the bride and her family. According to tradition, the bride becomes part of his political family. Gone is his first home in his parents’ house.

The final party: Days after the ceremony and in a much more relaxed atmosphere for the newlyweds, the celebration of marriage is celebrated. The couple can now openly show their joy and participate in the dance. With this celebration, the end of the exhausting marathon of celebrations is put to an end. The newlyweds will soon embark on their honeymoon, in search of a well-deserved rest. And others will fall in love with Indian traditions and start planning their honeymoon in India.

As we all know, an Indian wedding provides a rich tapestry of color and vibrant images. Striking colors such as red, burgundy, orange and gold are typical of Indian weddings, and even if the bride’s sari will be bright and vibrant: quite the opposite of the white dress of western weddings! Dressing and looking spectacular on this special day is a priority for any bride, and forms of jewelry are considered a vital part of this since ancient times. An Indian bride is considered incomplete without her ornaments and jewelry, as these are an essential part of her attire. On the day of the wedding, each bride expects to look her best.

To obtain this result, the bride pays special attention to her wedding attire, jewelry, accessories, makeup, and hairstyle. There are a number of items in jewelry that cover almost the entire vital part of the body. These items are specially prepared to complement the wedding dress.

Maangtika

This beautiful hair accessory is held with a hook in the middle of the hair, with the hanging part falling to the center of the forehead. It is believed that the point where this ornament falls is the Ajna chakra, which in Sanskrit means “to know or to perceive”. The chakra is represented by two petals that signify the sacred union of man and woman on a spiritual, physical and emotional level.

Nose ring

This accessory is chosen to take into account the color and design of the earrings. The traditional nasal piece is known as “Nath”, and consists of a ring with a long chain attached to the hair. In case the nose is not perforated, there are hoops that are temporary and are worn only on the day of the wedding.

Bangles

These are the symbol of nuptial rituals. As a result, the bride wears them gold or glass. The glass ones are mostly the color of the dress. However, gold bangles are what the mother-in-law usually gives away. The designs vary from simple to intricate, usually have inlays of precious and semi-precious stones such as diamonds, gems, and pearls. Brides are recommended to wear heavy bangles, so they give weight to the hand. A bright hand with colorful bangles looks beautiful and looks exceptional in photographs.

Necklace

The necklace is the most striking accessory in the jewelry worn by the bride. Matches the earrings and the nose piece! In addition, attention is paid to complement the color of the attire and neckline. I think a choker is perfect for that occasion, in combination with a long necklace.

Slopes

The earrings match the necklace. Brides can choose between varieties such as long and heavy rings or very small rings, antiques or moles, depending on the color and design of your wedding attire. Beautiful set consisting of earrings, necklace, and Maangtika headdress!

Rings

The rings are also essential. Usually, the bride uses a Hath Phoolhar on her hands. This consists of five rings for all the fingers, connected by a central piece, also connected to a bracelet. The wedding ring is worn on the third finger on the left hand.

The band for the waist

The band or belt is worn on the waist, around the saree or lehenga. This is a piece of heavy jewelry, very traditional in appearance and design. It also serves as a support for the wedding dress and helps keep it in place. A band for the artistic waist can truly add greatness to your outfit.

Anklets and rings for the toes

These are usually made of silver since gold is not used on the feet. They are available in intricate designs, decorated with works of meenakari, kundan and beads. The anklet announces the arrival of the new bride to the husband’s house with its particular sound