Indian Hindu Weddings are known for their opulence. What they are also known for are the various little rituals that add to the festivities. Each ritual has its own historic importance and charm. Indian society is extremely diverse, so capturing the minutest details shall be very cumbersome. But following are the most popular and prominent pre-wedding, wedding and post wedding rituals.
Haldi in Hindi means turmeric. Turmeric is known to have medicinal advantages including cleansing the skin. Thus, a haldi paste is applied to the bride and the groom (separately) a few days before the wedding. It is ceremonious because the bride and the groom are expected to glow on her wedding day. In many communities, the haldi is first applied to the groom and the remaining portion is sent to the bride’s house. This is symbolic of the start of their union. Also known as Pithi or Uptan ceremony, Haldi is one of the most enjoyable functions in Hindu weddings.
Mehendi or Henna is applied on the hands and legs of the bride. It is customary for a bride to apply Mehendi before getting married. The bride also hides the letters of her would be husband’s name on the hands, within the motifs. As a fun ritual, the groom is then made to hunt his name within the Mehendi design. Elders also state that the darker the colour of the Mehendi, the more love the bride would receive in her marital life. Mehendi ceremony is often paired up with a Sangeet ceremony. Sangeet is where friends and family dance and rejoice in the celebrations. The dances are a mix of impromptu and choreographed performances.
The bride is made to wear the traditional red and white set of bangles known as the chooda. The chooda has to be gifted by the bride’s mother’s brother. He also makes her wear the chooda and covers each hand with a white handkerchief so that no one sees it till the wedding. The chooda covers the entire area from the wrist to the elbow. Some brides also wear golden metal danglers, known as Kaliren. Kaliren are to be worn in a bunch and on each wrist. The unmarried sisters, cousins and friends make a beeline. The bride then makes sure her wrists hover above the head of these unmarried girls bangs the Kaliren against each other. Rituals say that even if one string falls over on the head of the unmarried girl, she will be the next one to marry.
Baraat is the groom’s wedding procession. In earlier times, the groom would be seated on a ghodi (female horse) or gaja (elephant). The elegant animal is made to wear colourful clothing and accessories. The animal handler holds a giant umbrella to protect the groom from the heat. The groom is accompanied by a child in the family. This has now been replaced with the groom and his family arriving in comfortable four wheelers that are decorated using flowers. Professional Bass band players play typical baraat music while the family and friends dance and enjoy. Earlier, the baraat would come up till the bride’s doorstep which has now been replaced with the wedding venue.
The Baraat is welcomed by the bride’s family. The bride’s family shower the baraat with flower petals. Marigold petals are considered the most auspicious. The bride’s mother or aunt does the aarti, applies vermilion on the forehead of the groom, washes his feet with water and welcome him inside. Relatives of each side hug and welcome each other by putting garlands on each other’s shoulders. The bride’s family then escorts the groom and his family to the mandap, i.e. the spot where the actual wedding ceremony shall take place. This mandap is a representative of the dwelling that the couple will make together
The bride is then escorted to the mandap by the ladies of her family. This is the first time when the bride and groom see each other in their royal avatars. Jai Mala is a ceremony where in the bride and the groom exchange garlands as a sign that they accept one another and welcome the other into their lives. Youngsters have fun during this ritual as the friends and cousins of the groom lift him higher so that the bride finds it difficult to put the garland around his neck. The groom’s side thinks it is beneath his dignity to bow down to his wife so early in their marriage.
Kanya is the bride and the bride’s parents give her away (daan) to the groom. This ceremony is conducted by the father pouring water on the bride’s hand and then placing her hand in the groom’s; thus signifying that he is giving away his most precious present to the man she has chosen to marry. The groom’s sister then does the gathbandhan i.e. tying the knot of eternal love and happiness. The knot is tying using the bride’s dupatta and the groom’s chunni.
Phera means taking a walk around something auspicious. In a wedding, the bride and the groom take circle walks around the holy fire. There are seven pheras representing the seven vows that the bride and the groom make to each other. In many cultures the groom leads the bride for the first few pheras and then the bride takes the lead signifying that if death or any difficulty comes forth, the bride would shield the groom. The bride’s brother holds a plate full of akshata i.e. rice. After completing every phera, the bride takes two handfuls of rice and gives an aahuti in the holy fire. The Saptapadi in Sanskrit stands for ‘Seven steps’. The couple then takes these seven holy steps and makes a vow to each other at each step.
After the Saptapadi the bride and the groom are made to sit down. The groom then makes the bride wear a mangalsutra which literally translates to ‘holy chain’. This mangalsutra is made of black and gold beads. This is followed by the groom applying vermillion on the crown of the forehead of the bride. The groom applies this vermillion using a silver coin or a gold ring. The bride is expected to sport both these things till the day she is with her husband. The ceremony concludes with the couple seeking the blessings of the elders by touching their feet.
Bidaai is the ceremony in which the bride’s family sends her away to the groom’s house along with the baraat. It is a bittersweet moment for the bride who is leaving one family to join another one. In earlier times, the bride would be taken away in a doli or a palanquin, but these days the bride and the groom are seated in the same automobile in which he had arrived. A coconut is placed below the wheels of the car which should crack when the wheel runs over it. It is considered as a sign of good fortune. The bride’s father and brothers give a ceremonial push to the car signifying the actual giving away.
All these rituals and much more make Hindu weddings vibrant. However, it is important that these rituals are performed by a veteran Pandit, who understands its importance and carry out the rituals with proper vidhi vidhan. To find pandit for wedding, click here.