Hindu Marriage Traditions: A Varied, Vibrant & Venerable ‘Vivah’

A Hindu Marriage ceremony, also called a vivah in North India and kalyanam or madhuve in South India, is one of the most significant aspects of Hindu culture and lifestyle. Hindus attach a lot of importance to ‘vivah samskara’ and the all the big and small rites and rituals associated with a wedding. The ceremonies – which can last for a week or longer – are vibrant and colorful, and the festivities associated with the wedding are celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy by the families, and on occasion, the community.

Variations In A Hindu Marriage Throughout The Different Regions

The rites and rituals of a Hindu wedding vary greatly from one region to the other. Yet there are some of the common features such as kanyadaan, panigrahana and saptapadi that are maintained across all the sects of the Hindus. The role of the fire or yagna is also common to all Hindu weddings across India, be it a typical north Indian Punjabi wedding, a Marathi one, or an Iyer wedding in Tamil Nadu.

Rituals That Are Common Across Hindu Culture

Hindu-Marriage-Tradition

India’s cultural diversity gives it a uniqueness and variety that is rarely, if ever, found in any other part of the world – earning India the moniker of the “sub-continent.” Apart from enjoying a variety of languages, religions, cuisine and attire, our rituals and traditions as well as important ceremonies also show a lot of variation, which is quite simply beautiful to behold. Even a Hindu marriage ceremony has a lot of variation based on regions and linguistic majority.

However, there are some common and underlying rituals followed universally by Hindus. Let’s take a look at some of them.

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Pre-Wedding Rituals

A set of pre-wedding rituals are followed in the Hindu society for a hindu marriage to take place. Some of the most important ones that are common in all Hindu traditions are:

Roka

Roka-Hindu Marriage Traditions

Once both the families fix a match between boy and girl, they act on the advice of the pandit, and match the horoscopes of the couple. The necessary rules are followed, and this is to make sure that the couple do not belong to the same gotra, or have any dosh that can create obstacles in their married life. The roka ceremony is conducted to officially announce the fact that the couple will soon tie the knot in a hindu marriage with the blessings of their family and friends. Gifts are exchanged by both the parties as shagun to mark the auspicious occasion.

Engagement or Sagai

Now the would-be bride and groom exchange rings with each other in a grand ceremony in the presence of their family, relatives and friends. It is also a very important stage in the marriage rituals as the boy and the girl are now officially together and their courtship period begins from now till they are ready for the marriage.

Sangeet

Sangeet-Hindu Marriage Traditions

Two days before the marriage, the sangeet ceremony is held by the family of the bride where the elders of the family, especially the women sing songs and praises of the bride and the groom and a lot of merry making takes place. The women of the family also arrange for special dance sequences where the bride also participates to enliven the joyful moments.

Mehndi

In the Hindu culture, the application of mehndi (henna paste) is considered auspicious for many an occasion, especially the marriage ceremonies. The bride and the groom get mehndi applied on their hands and feet in a ceremony that marks the initiation of the marriage rituals. Mehndi is a celebration marked with songs and performances which are enjoyed by the family and friends that have gathered for the hindu marriage.

Traditional Hindu Marriage Haldi Ceremony

Haldi-Ceremony-Hindu Marriage Traditions

The morning of the wedding day, the bride as well as the groom at their respective houses is treated with the paste of haldi and chandan for the beautification of the skin as well as purification of the body from within. In this haldi ritual, the bride or the groom are seated on a raised platform and and one member each of the family starts applying the paste from the toes till the forehead before the bath.

Main Wedding Rituals

The day of the hindu marriage is also engaged in a lot of rituals and customs that are a must for the couple to enter into the sanctity of holy matrimony. Some of the prominent rituals you will find common across the Hindu regions are:

Jaimala Ceremony

Jaimala-Ceremony-Hindu Marriage Traditions

It is the first of the ceremonies that is conducted upon the welcoming of the baaraat with the groom and his family, with the bride also present. In this ritual, the bride and groom exchange flower garlands with each other thrice. Contemporary weddings also may, before the jaimala ceremony, show a video of the pre-wedding photo shoot that covers the journey of the bride and groom, how they met and the reasons that have brought them close together. This new concept has quite a romantic and fairytale touch to it.

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Kanyadaan

After the jaimala, the main wedding rituals begin. The groom is seated beside the holy fire of the yagna at the mandap. The purohit or priest chants Vedic mantras at the background as the bride is ushered to the mandap with her family and friends. The father of the bride gives her hand to the groom for marriage and the witness to the ceremony is the holy fire, the purohit and other members of the family as well as their friends who shower their blessings.

Kanyadaan is an ancient Indian custom which is followed in Hindu marriage rituals. The sentiment is that the father of the bride gives away his daughter’s hand in marriage to the groom, after which she has to start living with the groom’s family. Nowadays, the restrictions of not visiting your paternal house have diminished but the traditional ceremonies still include this ritual.

Mangalpheras

Mangalpheras-Hindu Marriage Traditions

Once the kanyadaan is done, next up comes the mangal pheras or the holy rounds around the fire of the yagna. The corner portion of the bride’s saree is tied to that of the groom’s angavastra and they stand up together and take the pheras around the fire while the purohit keeps on chanting the marriage mantras as prescribed in the Rigveda and completes the ceremony with offerings of ghee and other holy items.
The concept of taking rounds around the fire comes from the fact that in Hindu traditions, the fire god stands for purity and cleansing of the soul. It is necessary to take the blessings of the holy fire as per the norms of Hindu marriage as without the witness of the fire god and his blessings the marriage cannot be solemnized between the two people.

Sindur Daan

After completing the mangalpheras, the groom is asked to put sindoor or vermillion on the forehead of the bride which is the mark of a married woman. The sindoor is often applied on the forehead either using a ring or coin and while applying the sindoor, it is important that the groom does it perfectly without looking at the bride. Now that’s a challenge for sure. In the Manusmriti, it is prescribed that the married woman should wear sindoor to signify the vibrancy and prosperity of her married life which is full of color, as is her married life with her husband.

Mangalya Dharanam

Mangalya-Dharanam-Hindu Marriage Traditions

Mangalya Dharanam means wearing the auspicious. The mangalsutra is the holy thread that is tied to the neck of the bride by the groom at the time of the marriage which the bride is never supposed to take off. It is an important symbol according to Hindu traditions which identifies the bride as a married woman. The rite is prescribed in the Manusmriti according to which the bride wears the mangalsutra for the long and prosperous life of her husband.

Saptapadi

After the kanyadaan comes the ritual of saptapadi. It is the uttering of seven sacred vows which the couple takes turn to utter together after the purohit while taking rounds around the fire. The meaning of the word saptapadi is seven steps and it is one of the most important rites of the Hindu marriage ceremony. After the tying of the mangalsutra, the couple takes seven steps reciting the vows and promising to be faithful to each other, by taking the rounds around the fire. In common terms it is also referred to as saat phere, and this ritual sanctifies the couple’s marriage.

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Hindu Marriage Post Wedding Rituals

Just the main marriage rites and rituals are not enough to complete a traditional Hindu wedding. These post wedding rituals associated with the Hindu wedding ceremonies are equally important. Some of the prominent post wedding rites and rituals that you will surely notice in a Hindu marriage are:

Vidaai

Vidaai-Hindu Marriage Traditions

The next day of the wedding the bride is taken to her new home with the groom. Before leaving her paternal home, she also performs a ritual of throwing off puffed rice backwards, towards the parents as she leaves. Since girls are considered as incarnations of the Goddess Laxmi, the deity of wealth and prosperity, this ritual ensures that even as the wife now leaves for the house of her husband, her paternal family should remain happy and prosperous in her absence.

During vidaai, the bride takes farewell from her family, relatives and friends. It is a time of mixed feelings as the family is happy about the prospect of the girl now that she has married and yet they cannot help but cry out thinking of their separation from their loving daughter. It is a moment of bittersweet feelings which a girl can never forget her whole life.

Welcoming The Bride

When the bride reaches the family of the groom with him, both are welcomed with aarti, mangal tika and sweets. The bride is asked to kick a pot filled with rice towards the insides of the house with her right foot as she makes her entrance. Then she is asked to dip her feel in kumkum and then proceed inside the house. These two hindu marriage rituals again signify the symbolism of a girl to be associated with Goddess Laxmi and kicking of the rice pot towards the inside of the house as well as the foot prints of kumkum ensure that her new household is always filled with wealth, joy and prosperity.

Wedding Games

Wedding-Games-Hindu Marriage Traditions

Once the bride and the groom are rested and settled, various games are organized by the family of the groom to make things more comfortable for the new bride and to entertain the gathered relatives and friends. One game that is really popular and famous across the country is to find a coin/ring from a bowl of milk and kumkum water. The bride and groom complete with each other to find the coin/ring from that bowl and whosoever is able to take it out first is supposed to obey the other partner all his/her life. Though that rule is just for the sake of playing, it is fun to play this game and shed inhibitions.

Reception And Feast

For the evening, a reception party is organized by the family of the groom which serves as a formal introduction ceremony of the bride with the extended family and relatives of the groom. The close members and friends of the bride’s family are also invited for the occasion and niceties are exchanged along with gifts. The guests are treated with a grand dinner and return gifts as they congratulate and bless the newly wedded pair, give their best wishes for a prosperous life and be a part of their celebrations.

Suhaagraat

Suhaagraat

It is the first night of the bride and groom together as husband and wife after the hindu marriage which makes it a very significant affair according to the Hindu wedding traditions. The family members decorate the bedroom of the couple with beautiful satin bedding and linen, and adorn the bed as well as the room with flowers, dim lighting and perfumed candles to make a very cozy and beautiful atmosphere. From this point onwards, the couple actually begin their married life as husband and wife and share in conjugal bliss.

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