Vedic Hindu Wedding Ceremony
In Hindu tradition, marriage is viewed as the most important stage of the four stages of life. As well as being the union of two souls, it is also regarded as a bond between two families. At its core, the Hindu wedding ceremony unites two individual souls spiritually, mentally and physically. The bond of matrimony is sacred and the ceremony of marriage is conducted according to Vedic traditions. The Vedic ceremonies originated from the Vedas, the most sacred scriptures of Hinduism. Although the rituals have been simplified considerably in modern times, Hindu culture attaches a deep significance to them. Each step of the ceremony has a profound spiritual meaning and a life affirming purpose. The ceremony will be conducted in Sanskrit, the most ancient languages of the world and translated to English by the priest. The brief description of each part of the ceremony that follows will explain the meaning of the rituals.
Pokwanu – Arrival and welcoming of the groom
After the celebratory arrival of the baraat, the Bride’s family formally welcomes the groom and his family and friends. The bride’s mother applies tilak (red vermilion powder) on the groom’s forehead and he then smashes a clay pot with his foot breaking it into pieces, demonstrating that he has the power to overcome all the obstacles the couple may face in their married life. The groom is then escorted to the mandap (the bridal altar) where the marriage ceremony is held.
Ganesh Pooja – Worshipping Lord Ganesh
The wedding ceremony begins by offering a prayer to Lord Ganesh requesting for peace and harmony to prevail during the ceremony. Lord Ganesh’ blessings are sought for the auspicious beginning for the couple.
The bride’s parents perform a pooja where they wash the groom’s feet, offer flowers and madhuparka, a drink mixture of yogurt and honey. It is stated in the Vedic scriptures that at the time of marriage the groom is a representation of Lord Vishnu Himself. At the end of the pooja, a veil of cloth (Antarpat) is held in front of groom to prevent him from seeing the bride as she enters.
Kanya Aagman - Arrival of the bride
The bride is escorted by her maternal uncles to the Mandap. Once the bride is in the mandap, verses (Manglashtak) are chanted as the veil is lowered and the couple exchanges flower garlands (Jai-Malas). The bride offers the first garland declaring that she has chosen the groom on her own free will. The groom will then return the compliment by offering her a garland welcoming her to a new life together and promising to look after her.
The Brahmin priest announces where, when and between whom the marriage is taking place (reading of lagan patrika).
Granthibandan and Varmala
The groom’s scarf or shawl is tied to the bride’s saree while chanting prayers to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, and to Lord Narayan and Laxmi Devi praying for a strong marriage like theirs. The knot symbolises the union of two souls joined together in holy matrimony. The parents of the bride then place a long sacred cotton thread called Varmala around both the bride and groom bonding them spiritually.
Hastamelap/Kanyadan - Giving away the bride
This ceremony is performed by the bride’s parents where they give away their daughter in marriage by placing the bride’s right hand on the groom’s right hand while the priest chants the verses. The bride’s parents pray that their son-in-law will look after their daughter.
A small sacred fire is lit in the centre of the Mandap inviting Agni, the Fire God, to be the chief witness of the union. The couple offers prayers to Agni who is the symbol of light, power and purity while offering ghee (Purified butter), rice and flowers into the flame. These prayers have a special importance, for it is Agni who dispels the darkness and ignorance from our lives and leads us to eternal light and knowledge.
Mangal Fera – Steps around the Holy Fire
The couple circle the holy fire four times as the priest chants mantras. They stop each time for the bride to touch with her toe a stone that symbolises the strength of her devotion and commitment to her husband. At the end each fera (circles), the open palms of the bride are filled with grains by her brother
Saptapadi - Seven Steps
signifying wealth and prosperity. The four feras represent the four basic goals of a life: Dharma (moral sense to lead a good life), Artha (prosperity), Kama (energy and passion) and Moksha (Liberation through self-realization).
Saptapadi – Seven Steps
This vital part of the ceremony is where the couple takes seven steps to symbolise the beginning of their journey together for life. The couple takes a vow at the beginning of each step as they receive blessings from the priest and everyone present. Through these vows, the bride and groom seek each other’s support to make their married life a successful and happy one.
The groom places sindhoor (red vermillion powder) on thye bride’s forehead and at the parting of her hair as a symbol of a married woman.
Mangal Sutra Dharan
Similar to the concept of the English wedding ring, the groom places a golden necklace with black beads around the bride’s neck, signifying his love, integrity and respect for her.
Kansar is an exchange of sweets between the couple as a promise of fidelity and a symbolic gesture that they will provide for each other’s needs in their household life.
Akhand Saubhagyavati – Blessings from married women
The married women from the bride and groom family are invited to greet the couple and whisper in the bride’s right ear their blessings and good wishes of a blissful married life, prosperity and happiness.
Aashirwad – Blessings
The priest offers blessings to the bride and groom by reciting some Vedic mantras. The newly wedded couple then seeks blessings from the priest, their parents, relatives and friends for a happy married life together.