Hindu Wedding

Anthropology: Rituals and Traditions of a Hindu Wedding in India

Weddings in themselves are an occasion to get together, rejoice and celebrate. And a Hindu wedding is not too far! Traditional Hindu weddings are full of color, vibrant, and culture-rich rituals and traditions. Many celebrations go in the Hindu wedding and display physical, spiritual, and emotionally charge collaboration of two people who come together in holy matrimony. It is a gathering of two families celebrating the union of the two lovely people in marriage.

 

Hindu Wedding
Hindu Wedding

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Elements of a Traditional Hindu wedding

It is a common practice to wear traditional clothes to a Hindu wedding. It includes heavy saris and lehengas for the women’s shiny kurta and pants for the men. The outfits should be glamorous and rich work to give color and vibrancy to the wedding. The bride and the groom have the best traditional outfits with heavy embroidered and pattern works that detail the beauty. They need to have something to cover their heads during the wedding ceremony. The bride has an odhani and the groom an embellished turban. Bold and vibrant colored attires signify traditional Hindu weddings, and one should avoid white or black colors.  The bride mostly wears red at weddings.

Duration of a Hindu Wedding

A traditional Hindu wedding has a line-up of events and spans across 2-3 days with events for each day. It starts with a Mehendi and the sangeet ceremony (the celebration of the wedding to occur). There is the Ganesh Puja (every Hindu wedding or religious/traditional event is preceded by a Ganesh Puja). Then is the wedding day for close friends and family and is followed by the reception ceremony.

Traditions of Hindu Wedding

Roka Ceremony

It is the first event that marks the first step to the wedding. It is the official announcement of the wedding to be of the couple. The event witnessed the bride and groom’s family come together, bless the couple, and accept the couple and the wedding to-be. The families exchange gifts and sweets and decide preparations for the wedding.

 

Sangeet Ceremony
Sangeet Ceremony

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Sangeet Ceremony- A Musical Celebration

The first day is the sangeet ceremony. It is a gathering where the guests and the hosts perform dances and music events and celebrate the wedding together. The people revel in the joyous mood of the wedding and the gathering. The word ‘sangeet’ specifically means to ‘sing together. Each side of the family sings their traditional songs and welcomes one another and the guests. They also cherish moments with the bride and the groom before they get into a marital union.

 

Hindu Wedding
Mehendi

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Mehendi Ceremony

The mehndi ceremony is where the bride’s hands and feet are decorated with henna. It is a get-together attended mainly by the close friends and family members of the bride. The Mehendi ceremony occurs a day before the wedding, and the Mehendi artist smears henna paste on the bride’s hands and feet in intricate designs and floral patterns. It is a beautiful artwork of the Mehendi artists, and the color shapes up rich on the bride’s hands and feet the day after. There are many beliefs associated with the Mehendi of the bride. The first belief is that the rich and darker the color of henna in the bride’s hand, the more her mother-in-law will love and adore her. The second belief is that the darker and rich the color of the henna in the bride’s hand, the more intense her husband will love her.

Haldi Ceremony

The Haldi ceremony occurs on the morning of the D-day. In this ritual, family members smear Haldi (or turmeric) on the bride and the groom in their respective homes. Haldi is a pious element and symbolizes beauty and purity for the couple.

Bridal Couture

A traditional Hindu bride wears red at the wedding. White (associated with funerals in Hindu tradition) and black (considered unlucky and ominous) are a no-no in a Hindu wedding. It is a traditional red saree or a lehenga that is the wedding day outfit. The outfit has rich patterns and deep colors with intricate gold embroidery that signifies deep commitment and fertility. However, the brides of today have diverted to other pastel and subtle hues with varied prints and embroidery.

 

Baraat
Baraat

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Groom’s Arrival

The groom’s arrival is a celebration in itself! The groom with friends and family arrive at the ceremony site with full-on rejoicing. The bridal party receives the groom’s party, and rituals to welcome the groom occur. In some regions, the bride’s sister washes the feet of the groom and receives gifts from the groom as a token of love. Around this time, the bride’s party conspires to steal the groom’s footwear and later seeks money in exchange for the footwear. It is a fun sight to see!  The bride’s side especially welcomes the groom’s party with rice toss, famous as ‘akshat,’ and the bride’s mother or an elderly welcomes the groom with an aarti (a decorated plate carrying a well-lit lamp and sweets and garland. The elderly gives tilak to the groom too.

Kanyadaan- Bride Give-away

The bride is led to the ceremony altar by her brothers or uncles. In some regions, a brother or an uncle carries the bride in their arms to the mandap. Kanyadaan is one of the traditional rituals in a Hindu wedding. It is the moment when the father gives away the bride to the groom. As per Hindu traditions, no groom can claim the bride until the kanyadaan ritual takes place. In kanyadaan, the bride’s father places the bride’s hands in the groom’s hands and gestures her as a giving away to the groom.

Mandap- Decorated Altar

Every traditional Hindu wedding occurs under a mandap or a wedding altar. It is a beautiful temporary structure explicitly built for the marriage ceremony and can be an elevated platform adorned with rich decorations of flowers, fabric, and embellished crystals. The couple weds under the mandap with their parents beside them.

 

Hindu Wedding
Hindu Wedding

Image Source: WeddingWire

Fire – A Pious Entity

The wedding takes place with a kindled fire in the center of the wedding mandap. Fire is a sacred element in a traditional Hindu marriage. A Hindu wedding is a sacred ritual, and fire is a witness that signifies the viability of the wedding. The couple makes offerings to the fire. In a specific ritual of the wedding popular as ‘Homam,’ the bride’s brother offers puffed rice to the bride as goodwill wishes to his sister’s blissful married life. The bride takes the puffs of rice from her brother and offers them to the fire. , the bride gives the handed rice to the fire.

Ganesh Puja

Ganesh is the God of prosperity, success, good luck, fortune, and remover of obstacles. Every Hindu tradition and ritual begins with a Ganesh Puja. It is to pray to Ganesh for his blessings on the auspicious beginning and so that Lord Ganesh paves the goodwill path for the newly married couple.

 

Varmala
Varmala

Image Source: Lin & Jirsa Photography

Jai Mala- Exchange of Garlands

The Jai Mala is the decorated floral garland and is a vital element of a Hindu wedding. It has flowers strung together, and the groom and the bride exchange under the mandap. The wedding rituals end with the bride and the groom wearing the garland. The Jai Mala signifies the groom and the bride welcoming one another to their respective families, and a traditional Hindu wedding is incomplete without a Jai mala.

Mangal Sutra- Pious Necklace

In traditional Hindu weddings, the bride gets a necklace strung with black and gold beads by the groom. The necklace or the Mangal Sutra is a crucial element of the wedding, and a wedding is incomplete without it. In traditional belief, Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity, wealth, and fortune, invokes Mangal Sutra’s pious necklace. The bride is believed to receive the blessings of the Goddess throughout the marriage.

 

Saptapadi
Saptapadi

Image Source: Cultural India

Couple’s Garments Strung Together

The ‘Saptapadi’ is a ritual primarily seen in traditional Hindu weddings. In this ritual, the garments of the bride and the groom tie up together. It is primarily the odhani (or veil) of the bride and the sash of the groom. The couple then walks seven steps through, signifying their wedding. It is mostly seven circles around the fire under the mandap. Each circle signifies specific blessings that the couple requests to God. The ‘saptapadi’ ritual signifies the establishment of a lifelong friendship and bonding in a Hindu marriage.

Shower of Rice

It is another ritual most commonly seen in South Indian weddings. It is known as ‘talambralu,’ or the shower of happiness, the bride and the groom, showers a mixture of holy rice, turmeric, and saffron on one another. The ritual signifies prosperity and bliss for the married life of the couple. It is also a fun and merriment ritual in an otherwise severe wedding ceremony. In some regions, the family members of the bride and groom join in this ritual and showers rice and the holy mixture on the newlyweds by cheering them for marital bliss.

Sindoor- the Revered Red Powder

Sindoor or vermillion is a red-orange-hued powder applied to the part of the bride’s hair. It signifies her new identity as a married woman after the wedding is complete. The groom traditionally applies the sindoor on the wedding day. In some regions, the sindoor ritual includes shading the entire part of the bride’s hairline with vermillion and, in some cases, only a part of a dot on the forehead, depending on the bride’s preference and the traditions.

Ashirwad Ceremony

Once the priest declares the bride and groom as married, the newly married couple take blessings or ‘ashirwad’ from their parents, grandparents, and family members. The guests shower flower petals or rice on the newly married couple as an ashirwad (blessings).

 

Vidaai Ceremony
Vidaai Ceremony

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Vidaai Ceremony- An Emotional Parting

Vidaai is an emotional parting of the bride to the groom’s house. It is a farewell of the bride by her family. The Vidaai ceremony is intense, emotional, and tearful as the bride officially leaves her father’s home to begin a new married life with her husband. The ceremony witnesses the bride throwing handfuls of rice over her head to the house as a gesture of appreciation for the love, care, and time spent and shared in her parent’s home. The Vidaai ceremony can be said as a symbolic end to the wedding celebrations and is a farewell to the bride by her parents and family members.

Hindu weddings are lively and exhilarating! From vibrant color to rich couture, exotic delicacies, and sacred traditions, Hindu weddings are a moment to enjoy and cherish. It is a gathering of two families to celebrate the union of two people in love and celebrate their union. Traditional Hindu wedding is undoubtedly an event in itself!!

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