(Last Updated on : 24/12/2015)
Hindu wedding rituals are many in number and involve not only the bride and groom but family members and even the community. Hinduism
believes that there are four stages of life and married life of Grihastha
is the second stage. It is held to be the time of life when two individuals come together and learn the actual values of life through the institution of marriage. A Hindu marriage is the union of two individuals for life which further leads the couple to pursue Dharma
, Artha & Kama (duty, possessions and physical desires), and Moksha (ultimate spiritual release) together. The actual marriage ceremony in Hinduism consists of several steps. A number of religious rites are there performed before and during the nuptials. Every marriage ritual has varying degrees of significance. However, there are regional and community variations.
The various Hindu rituals performed during the wedding ceremony have emerged from the ceremonies and customs that were practiced since ancient times from the Vedic period
. Hindu wedding ceremonies are, thus, traditionally conducted in the Sanskrit language
though at times the local language of the people is also used. Ancient system of Hindu-Vedic-marriages is of scientific base. According to Vedic tradition, the rites being practised emphasise the basis of a happy and fulfilling married life which lay in the sense of unity, intimacy and love between husband and wife.
The Hindu wedding rituals have their core essentially in the Vedic Yajna
or fire-sacrifice. In a Hindu marriage the fire-deity (or the Sacred Fire) Agni holds a prominent position. He is the sacred God and is regarded to be the primary witness. During the Aryan period a custom was followed to invoke Lord Agni
and other significant deities. This custom, of praying to deities in the Indo-Aryan style had a deep origin in the ancient ceremony of cementing the bonds of friendship and alliance. Although at present, this tradition survives in the context of weddings. In contemporary Hindi marriage, tradition of seven encirclements around the fire by the bride and the groom together is considered to be significant.
Even though, the customs and traditions differ from region to region yet, there are thirteen basic Hindu wedding rituals. The essential pre-nuptial Hindu wedding rituals begin with the Misri or ring ceremony. The other vital customs include Mehendi ceremony
, Sangeet ceremony
, Sagri (acquaintance), Nav Graha Puja (Worship to the Nine Planets) and Ghari Puja. Vara Satkaarah, Hathialo (Joining of the Hands), Kanyadaan and Vivah-Homa are the ceremonies conducted during the marriage. Other important rituals that follow are Pani-Grahan, Pratigna-Karan, walking round the fire, Shila Arohan and Laja-Homah. Parikrama, Saptapadi, Abhishek, Anna Praashan and Aashirvadah follow.
One of the earliest rituals is the Misri or ring ceremony. It is a pre-wedding ceremony and involves oral agreement and 'lagna patra' or written declaration. It proceeds with the Mehendi ceremony and Sangeet. The custom of sangeet and mehendi has certain resemblance in the northern and western regions of the country. However, a marked difference is witnessed in the eastern and southern parts of India. Further, pre-marriage customs of Sagri (acquaintance) provides opportunity for the kith and kin of the bride and grooms to build a close bond. Each family member, who belong to the bride's relations adorn the groom's relatives with perfume, costumes and flowers.
The Nav-Graha Puja (Worship to the Nine Planets) is performed to ask for blessings from the Gods associated with the nine planets. Ghari Puja is the other essential pre -marital ritual where the priest performs prayers with rice
, coconut, wheat
grains, oil, betel nut, turmeric
and other spices.
The actual marriage ceremony begins with the ritual of the Vara Satkaarah in which the bridegroom and his friends and relatives are welcomed and received at the entrance of the hall where the wedding is to be conducted. The officiating priest chants mantras and the bride's mother blesses the groom. She also applies a tilak made of vermilion and turmeric powder on his forehead. This is followed by the Madhuparka Ceremony where the bridegroom is received at the altar and presents are given to him by the father of the bride.
In the Kanyadaan ceremony, the father of the bride hands over his daughter to the bridegroom. The Vivah Homa follows which is the sacred fire ceremony. It is held to make sure that all the various holy ceremonies which are to take place are begun on a pure and spiritual note. In the ritual of the Pani Grahan, the groom takes the right hand of the bride in his left hand and accepts her as his lawfully wedded wife.
Other important rituals that follow are Pratigna Karan where the couple walk round the fire with the bride leading, and make promises of loyalty and fidelity to one another; the Shila Arohan in which the bride's mother helps her to get on to a stone slab and goes on to advise her about married life; the Laja Homah in which the bride keeps the palm of her over that of the groom and offerings of puffed rice are made to the sacred fire. Parikrama or Pradakshina or Mangal Fera is when the couple goes around the sacred fire seven times and this is the stage that legalizes the marriage according to the Hindu Marriage Act
as well custom.
The most important among the various ceremonies is the Saptapadi. After the tying of the Mangalsutra
, the Saptapadi is symbolised by the marriage knot, tying one end of the groom's scarf with the bride's dress. This is further carried with the seven steps representing nourishment, strength, prosperity, happiness, progeny, long life, harmony and understanding respectively. The manners in which these seven steps are taken may vary from region to region. For instance, in South Indian marriages, these seven steps are taken towards the Southern direction with the groom holding the right toe of the bride and then going round the sacred fire. In certain other marriages, the groom holds the hand of the bride and leads her around the fire seven times. Every step is taken invoking the Gods to shower their blessings on the couple.
The later process in the Hindu wedding rituals include Abhishek or Sprinkling of water and meditating on the sun and the pole star, Anna Praashan where the couple make offerings of food into the fire and then feed each other as a sign of love and finally the Aashirvadah or benediction by the elders.
Thus a traditional Hindu marriage comprises all these various rituals and customs.