As one of the oldest and most diverse religions in the world, Hinduism is rich in culture and tradition. Hindu weddings, in particular, are known for their vibrant colors, elaborate rituals, and deep symbolism. Whether you are of Hindu faith or simply appreciate the beauty of cultural traditions, learning about these rituals can deepen your understanding of the significance of weddings in Hindu culture.
Below we've used materials from the real wedding of Lena (bride) and Dhanur (groom) to explain some of the most common Hindu wedding rituals, their meanings, and how they are performed. We'll also discuss how couples and their officiants can incorporate these rituals into their own wedding ceremonies to create a personalized and meaningful experience for all.
1. Kaashi Yatra
Just before the wedding, Dhanur decides to head to "Kaashi" (a spiritual city in India) to attain spiritual enlightenment. Lena's father must stop him and convince him to marry his daughter and attain "Grihasthashrama" which is the fundamental stage of Dharma or the path of righteousness.
2. Welcoming of Groom and groomsmen
Dhanur and the groomsmen are welcomed into the wedding hall by Lena's family.
It is regarded that on the wedding day, the groom is respected like Lord Vishnu, the Supreme God. The groomsmen accompany Dhanur as a mark of respect. Lena's mother performs Arthi and apples kumkum on Dhanur's forehead.
3. Ganesh pooja by Dhanur
The wedding ceremony begins with prayers to Lord Ganesha, the elephant headed God, to bless the marriage and for the ceremony and their married life to be free of any obstacles.
4. Kanya Aagman
Lena is escorted to the mandap by her parents and the bridesmaids. The bride is regarded as Goddess Lakshmi, the holy consort of Lord Vishnu. Lena is also accompanied by the bridesmaids as a mark of respect to her.
This's the purification ceremony. The priest invokes water from the holy rivers into a vessel (kalasham) and purifies the mandap and the bride and groom. Physical and psychological purification is a pre-requisite to any sacred ceremony.
6. Kankana Dharanam
"Kankana" is a sacred thread tied to Lena's and Dhanur's wrists. This thread, blessed with vedic mantras by the priest, offers protection and prevents any negative energy near Lena and Dhanur as they perform the rituals of sacred matrimony.
7. Malai Mathal (Garland Exchange)
Lena and Dhanur exchange flower garlands. According to the Hindu scriptures, a garland worn by one person should not be worn by another, By wearing the same garlands, Lena and Dhanur are unified as one. The flowers, their colors and fragrance represent that their life together will be full of color, beauty and fragrance.
"Kanya" means girl and "Daanam"means offering. Lena's father holds the couples hands together while Lena's mother pours holy water over their hands to unite Lena and Dhanur.
9. Lakshmi, Parvathi & Mangalya Pooja
Lena performs the pooja to both Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Parathi to seck their blestings before she enters into married life. She asks both the Goddesses to give her strength in fulfilling her duties as a wife. "Maangalyam"is the sacred bridal necklace, Prayers will be performed for Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Parvathi to bless the sacred necklace Lena will seek the blessings of the divine mother to protect her, her husband and her family.
10. Mangalya Dharanam (Adornment of the sacred necklace)
Dhanur promises to protect Lena by tying the sacred necklace around her neck. It symbolizes commitment, safety and security. Dhanur's mother ties 3 knots on the necklace, each knot symbolizing the 3 aspects of commitment: believing, saying and executing.
11. Agni Pooja
A holy fire is lit and Lord Agni (God of Fire), who is believed to dispel darkness and ignorance in the couple's married life, is invited to witness the marriage. The couple invokes Lord Figmi for his blessings by offering grains, flowers, and ghee (chlarified butter) to the holy fire.
12. Saptapadi (The Seven Steps)
The priest prays for Lena and Dhanur's love to last as long as fire has existed on earth. Lena and Dhanur circle the five seven times. They say the marriage vows to start their transition into married life.
"Saptapadi" represents the four covenants of life. Dharma (Religious and Moral duties), Aletha (Prosperity), Kama (love and family) and Moksha (spiritual liberation).
Lena and Dhanur make seven vows, circling the fire as they make each vow, to symbolize the beginning of a lifelong jourey together as partners and friends,
- To respect and honor each other
- To share in each other's joy and sorrow
- To trust in and be loyal to each other
- To appreciate knowledge, human values, sacrifice and service
- To reconfirm their vow of purity, love and familial duties
- To follow the principles of Dharma
- To nurture an eternal bond of friendship and love
13. Laaja Homam
Lena's brother gives puffed rice to her to offer to Lord Agni as a sacrifice amidst vedic mantras being chanted by the priest. By this, Lena seeks long lives for her husband and herself and their future children.
14. Mangala Aarathi
This is done for the newly married couple to remove any evil eye or negative energy surrounding them. Women from both families will circle a plate with red colored water in front of the bride and groom and then throw the water away.
The couple receives blessings from the priest and all the elders in their combined family for a long and happy life together. Then, all friend and family will come up to the mandap and bless the couple by showering yellow rice and rose petals on them.
Incorporating Hindu Wedding Rituals into Your Ceremony
If you are interested in incorporating Hindu wedding rituals into your wedding ceremony, it's important to work with someone who is familiar with the traditions and can guide you through the process. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Choose the rituals that are meaningful to you: Hindu weddings include many rituals, and you don't have to include them all. Choose the ones that resonate with you and your partner and will add meaning to your ceremony.
- Personalize the rituals: Hindu wedding rituals are steeped in tradition, but that doesn't mean you can't personalize them. Work with your officiant to find ways to incorporate your personalities and values into the rituals.
- Educate your guests: If you have guests who are unfamiliar with Hindu weddings, consider providing a program or explanation of the rituals. This will help them understand and appreciate the significance of the ceremony.
Q: Do Hindu weddings require a specific dress code?
A: Hindu weddings often have a traditional dress code for both the bride and groom, as well as their guests. The bride typically wears a red or gold saree or lehenga, while the groom wears a sherwani or dhoti. Guests are encouraged to wear traditional attire as well, such as sarees, salwar kameez, or kurta pajamas.
Q: Can non-Hindus participate in the rituals?
A: Yes, non-Hindus can participate in the rituals as long as they are respectful of the traditions and beliefs. It's always a good idea to speak with the officiant beforehand to ensure that you understand the significance of each ritual.
Q: Are Hindu wedding ceremonies always conducted in Sanskrit?
A: While Sanskrit is considered the traditional language for Hindu weddings, it is not always used. Many ceremonies are conducted in the local language or a language that is more easily understood by the couple and their guests.