Every ritual that is conducted before, during and after the wedding ceremony has its own significance. The various communities in Hinduism perform similar rituals but may call it different names. One such ritual is the ‘Grah Shanti Puja’. ‘Grah’ means house, and ‘Shanti’ means peace. The Puja is conducted by a priest. Through this prayer the families seek peace during the wedding festivities as well as peace in the marital life of the soon to be weds.
It is believed that constellations, stars and planets have a great influence over the lives of people. The Grah Shanti Puja is primarily done to make sure that good luck and fortune are a part of the lives that shall soon be bonded in holy matrimony. It is done separately in the houses of the bride and the groom. The Grah Shanti Puja is a silent way of telling the world that the festivities have officially begun.
The Puja begins with the family members putting up a Toran at the entrance of the house. It can be made of flowers but it is essential to have mango leaves and rice stems as a part of it. In many communities, the Haldi or Pithi ceremony is considered a part of the purification process of a Graha Shanti Puja.
It is essential that all the gods and goddesses attend the wedding to bless the couple. But this invitation starts with inviting the Pratham Pujya, Lord Ganesh. He is also known as Vignaharta i.e. the destroyer of all evils. If the family has a Kuldevta or Kuldevi, then they too are invited. No Puja is complete without the blessings of our ancestors and forefathers.
Many priests also do the Kalash Puja as a part of the Grah Shanti. The Kalash is a small jar made of copper or steel and it holds water. It is covered by keeping a coconut and is wrapped with a red or yellow cloth. The Kalash is symbolic of our Universe and comprises of the revered Holy Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.
The core of the Grah Shanti Puja is the Navagraha Puja. This Puja is to pray for prosperity to come in from all the eight directions. Our ancestors have always passed on the legacy of the nine heavenly and celestial bodies known as the Navgraha. These celestial bodies or planets are a part of our astrological chart. Each of them is said to exert some influence on our life – positive and negative. The Graha Shanti Puja is done to appease them. The prayers are that the negative influences be eliminated. There is a Havan, Hom or Yagna and the family members along with the bride or groom offer ahuti in the Havan Agni to pray to these Navagrahas. There are specific mantras for each Navagraha. The priest makes everyone chant these mantras while offering the ahuti.
It is essential to do this Puja before every marriage but it is especially done to avoid any unpleasant planetary influences.