Marriage is a very important part of the traditional Hindu religion, and traditional Hindu wedding ceremonies are fantastic, elaborate affairs which can include hundreds of guests and go on for five days or more. This article will outline some of the basic elements of Hindu marriage custom in the wedding.
Hindu custom has always dictated that the Hindu wedding ceremony take place outside. The ceremony is to take place on the ground, although the proceedings take place underneath a covering known as a mandap. The mandap is a canopy supported by four pillars.
It is important that both the wedding party and guests at a Hindu wedding ceremony wear shoes that can be easily removed as no footwear is allowed underneath the mandap. Aside from this condition, the wedding apparel for the ceremony is fairly flexible. Traditionally, the bride would wear a red or red and white sari, while the groom would wear a kafni with some sort of leggings. A tradition which is supposed to contain some portents is the application of henna. An old saying by Hindes dictates that the level of respect a new bride’s in-laws are according her is related to the amount of time it takes the henna to wear off.
Another important part of the Hindu wedding ceremony which is still incorporated into all Hindu weddings is the sacred fire. The fire is lit underneath the mandap, in the centre of the area. This fire represents Agni, the Fire Deity. No Hindu wedding ceremony is considered complete until the couple has circled the sacred fire seven times together.
The groom’s party will assemble at a prearranged place before the ceremony, and the groom will have both a garland and a coconut. When the groom and best man arrive at the mandap they are met by the bride’s mother. The groom will give her the coconut and she will apply kumkum to his forehead. The kumkum represents the tilak ritual which is a portent of auspiciousness.
The bride is then escorted into the area covered by the mandap by her maternal uncle. She carries the groom’s garland in one of her hands, and is sometimes preceded by flower girls. The priest invokes the ritual of welcome and the couple is seated facing each other. The guests will then recite the invocation of the Lord Ganeesha, the invocation of Saraswati, and the Prayer for Harmony. The couples then place their garlands on each other’s heads.
The bride’s parents indicate their approval of the groom to the audience, and the couple acknowledge their commitment to one another. After some words from the priest, a rope (varamala) is placed around the couple’s necks and they are considered officially married.
Now, the couple will offer a sacrifice of rice together to the fire. After the offering, they will make the traditional rounds of the fire, sealing their union before the assembly and in the eyes of the gods.