88: HINDU WEDDINGS

Hindu wedding ceremonies can vary according to the area they are held in (eg a North Indian wedding will differ from a South Indian wedding.) This “Order of Service” is constructed from the internet and may not be accurate.

Background:
Marriages are often arranged
Marriages join 2 families, not just 2 individuals
Astrologers choose an auspicious date from the Hindu lunar calendar
The bride’s parents pay for the wedding
If not recognized in law, the couple will have to go to a civil registry office as well
It is conducted in Sanskrit as well as in the local language
The ceremony is conducted by a priest or pundit, a man belonging to to the Brahmin caste
The actual ceremony lasts 2-3 hours; the whole event lasts 2-3 days or longer
The ceremony takes place at the bride’s house or in her home town
Guests dress formally, black should be avoided; women do not need to cover their heads any more
The couple choose the music – usually romantic Bollywood tunes
The bride’s robe is white (symbolising purity). She can change into a red gown (symbolizing wealth and fertility)
It is customary for the bride to wear gold bracelets, anklets, and hair ornaments

The day before:
The bride-to-be has a  non-alcoholic party with her female family and friends during which her hands and feet are decorated with henna
A canopy of flowers is erected
A priest celebrates Ghari puja to welcome the couple to their new life together, to get rid of evil and to ask for prosperity

The groom’s arrival on the wedding day:
It is considered bad luck for the couple to see each other before the ceremony starts
The groom arrives at the bride’s house in a cavalcade of cars
The bride’s mother and father signify their approval of the match by putting a garland (Jayamaala) round his neck and putting a spot of sindoor on his forehead
The bride’s female relatives snatch the groom’s garland away and try and take his shoes as well for ransom!
The groom’s sisters rattle pots of coins and rice to scare away evil spirits as the groom proceeds to the decorated  mendap or canopy under which the ceremony will take place
On the way he steps on a pot and breaks it to symbolise his strength and virility
His feet are washed by the bride’s parents
The bride arrives accompanied by her maternal uncles to music of her choice
The bride’s feet are ritually washed with milk
Meanwhile the groom is seated under the canopy and offered honeyed yogurt (Madhu parka)

The ceremony:
(1) Hasta melap (joining of hands).
As the priest chants the bride’s right hand is placed into the groom’s right hand.

(2) Kanyadaan (daughter donation)
24 threads of cotton are wound around the shoulders of bride and groom, “binding them for life”. Alternatively a white cloth is attached to her sari and to his scarf.

(3) Lighting the fire.
The fire God, Agni, is invited to witness the union. The couple’s right hands are tied together. In their palms are rice (for wealth), oats (for health) and leaves (for prosperity). These are offered to the fire.

(4) Lawan Phere.
The couple walk around the fire 4 or more times. Each time round they stop to touch a stone in their path (symbolising an obstacle they will overcome). Four laps stand for the 4 human goals of Hinduism – faith, financial stability, procreation and liberation of the soul.

(5) Saptapadi,( seven steps)
Facing north the couple take seven symbolic steps together. Each step calls upon God to bless the couple for (1) strength (2) food (3) progeny (4) family (5) prosperity (6) happiness (7) life-long friendship.
The bride moves to the groom’s left side so his right side is free to take on the world.

(6) Saubhagya Chinya
The groom puts a spot of sindoor on the bride’s forehead and welcomes her as his partner.
He also places a necklace round her neck symbolizing love, integrity and devotion.

(7) Anna Prashana
The couple feed each other with sweetmeats as tokens of their fidelity and love.

(8) Ashirwaad (the end) The couple receive blessings from the priest, parents, close relatives and friends.
Dinner is served during which games are played e.g. untieing the cotton threads that bind the couple together; this tests how much patience they have with each other!
They also fish a coin out of a bowl of red milk – the one who finds it first will be the dominant partner in the marriage!

(9) Departure
After the farewells, and her brother covering her head with a shawl, the bride departs by car with her new husband to his house, stopping off at the temple on the way.

Sources:
(1) atschool.eduweb.co.uk/carolrb/Hinduism/wedding
(2) confetti.co.uk/article/view/5051-8180-1-Hindu_weddings
(3) bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/ritesrituals/weddings
(4) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_wedding

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