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 language of the world, and translated into 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 Jaan 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 feeds him sweetly and offers him Arati (ceremonial worship) 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’s blessings are sought for the auspicious beginning for the couple.
Varpooja Worshipping Groom
The bride’s parents perform a pooja where they wash the groom’s feet, with 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 the 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 of 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.
Granthibandan and Varmala
The groom’s scarf or shawl is tied to the bride’s saree while chanting prayers to Lord Ganesh and Goddess Umaa, and to Lord Narayan and Laxmi Devi praying for a strong marriage like theirs. The knot symbolizes the union of two souls joined together in holy matrimony. The parents of both the bride and the groom then place a long sacred cotton thread called Varmala around both the bride and groom bonding them spiritually.
Kanyadan/ Hastamelap- Giving bride a hand
This ceremony is performed by the bride’s parents where they give away their daughter’s hand 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 center 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 circles the holy fire four times as the priest chants mantras. They stop each time to touch a stone with their right foot which symbolizes the strength of their devotion and commitment to each other. At the end of each fera (circles), the open palms of the bride are filled with grains by her brother signifying wealth and prosperity. The four feras represent the four basic goals of life: Dharma (moral sense to lead a good life), Artha (prosperity), Kama (energy and passion), and Moksha (Liberation through self-realization). As a fun tradition, at the end of the last fera, the couple will run to sit down first. It is said that the one who sits first will rule the house.
Saptapadi – Seven Steps
This vital part of the ceremony is where the couple takes seven steps to symbolize 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 sindoor (red vermillion powder) on the 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. The Mangal Sutra also represents the couple’s love and sacred union.
Kansar- Feeding sweets
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 for a blissful married life, prosperity, and happiness.
Aashirwad – Blessings
Brides and Groom’s parents all the guests stand up along with the priest to offer blessings to the bride and groom by reciting Vedic mantras. The newly wedded couple then seeks blessings from the priest, their parents, relatives, and friends for a happy married life together.
Koda-Kodi is a game where the bride and groom compete to find a real ring in a bowl filled with sea shells whoever finds the ring first, using one hand The winner rules the house!
As the couple departs, the bride’s family sees her off. The farewell to the bride by her family is emotional, filled with tears, sorrow, and joy, as she leaves her parent’s home to build a new life with her husband and his family.