A marriage in Bharat or India is very long and it takes many many rituals... even since the date the couple gets engaged or decides to marry.
Normally weddings in India are arranged... but in our case it was not. We still decided to marry under a Sanatan Dharma (Hindu as known by most) ritual, since its tradition and science is so deep, that it makes us feel more connected to the source. We particularly enjoyed all the rituals and mantras that showered our life during these few days while the differents steps to the wedding were happening.
This is in summary how an Indian wedding takes place, though there are many more steps and rituals than this:
Marriages, according to Hindu beliefs are made in heaven, and once you are married, the bond is supposed to last for seven lifetimes. It is considered to be a turning point in an individual’s life as he enters the second important phase or ashram of his life – the ‘Garhasthyaashram’. A lot of importance is associated with marriages in Hinduism as it is considered to be one of the most important duties of a man’s life.
Hindu weddings are long processes, with various rituals that take days to be executed. Every single custom and practice in a wedding ceremony has deep philosophical and spiritual significance.
The key steps of Hindu wedding ritual are Kanyadaan and Paanigrahan, Vivaah Homa, Laja Homa and Agni Pradakshina, and finally Saptapadi according to Grihya sutras. Other rituals vary according to regional cultures but these are the key steps of a Hindu Marriage without which the marriage would not be considered complete. Traditionally, the bride’s parents host the wedding ceremony and the groom and his family are the guests arriving from outside to the Mandap (the altar specially built for the wedding). The whole wedding ceremony sort of depicts a story of first meeting of the bride and the groom at the wedding mandap, the bride’s parents giving her away to this worthy man, the couple committing to each other in front of the sacred fire followed by the couple taking the seven vows of commitment to the marriage and the friends and families blessing the newly wedded couple.
Sacred fire is lit at the center of the wedding mandap and this is considered to be the prime witness of the marriage rituals. The couple feed ghee to the fire as offering and prays to the Gods for Santati (children), Sampatti (wealth & prosperity) and Deergharogya (long and healthy lives). This is known as the Vivaha Homa. During the Laja Homa, the bride’s brother pours rice on her palms and the couple offers it to the sacred fire together. The ends of their garments are tied in a knot and they perform Agni Pradakshina where they make seven circles around the Sacred Fire uttering the promise to each other to be eternal partners and complement each other in life’s journey. At the end of the seventh circle the bride moves to the left side of the groom indicating that she is now part of his life. The final most important ritual in a Hindu Wedding is the Saptapadi or the Seven Sacred Vows. The bride takes seven symbolic steps while pushing a stone along the floor with her left foot while the groom assists her. They reiterate the aspirations of their married life as each step signifies a specific promise that the couple make to each other which are as follows –
First step: To respect and honor each other
Second step: To share each other’s joy and sorrow
Third step: To trust and be loyal to each other
Fourth step: To cultivate appreciation for knowledge, values, sacrifice and service
Fifth step: To appreciate purity of emotions, love, family duties and spiritual growth
Sixth step: To follow principles of Dharma
Seventh step: To nurture an eternal bond of friendship and love
On completion of this ritual the marriage is concluded and the couple seeks blessings from elders of the families.
The post wedding rituals primarily is welcoming of the bride at the groom’s house and reception. During the Vidaai ceremony the family of the bride gives her an emotional send-off and the bride throws back three handfuls of rice and coin over her shoulders to signify end of her debt to her parents for nurturing her and wishing prosperity upon them.
On the arrival at the groom's house, the new couple is welcomed by the groom's mother, with a traditional aarti. The bride enters her in-laws house by displacing a container filled with rice signifying that she is the bringer of abundance to her new family. She then dips her feet in a mixture of red vermillion and enters the house, leaving foot prints on the floor. This ritual is practiced as the bride is considered as a form of Goddess Laxmi. After this, a number of wedding games are played to make the bride comfortable.
A reception is either organized by the bride’s family after the wedding rituals have been completed to feed guest and get them to bless the couple. Or in some cultures it is arranged by the groom’s family after the bride has arrived from her paternal home.
In our case, the wedding was organized by us, at my house in Rajkot, India and we had around 200 people participating in the celebration. We closed the street outside the house and hired a big catering, with wonderful Indian food and sweets. Everything was wonderful and the memories of these moments will stay forever in our hearts.
There are so many steps in the traditional Hindu wedding, and so many mantras chanted mainly by the priest! ...but we will only confine to the main mantram namely mangala soothra dhaarana.
Mangala soothra dhaarana means: tying the cotton thread woven gold made maangalyam around the neck of the bride. While the groom is tying the maangalyam around the neck of the bride, the purohit recites the following mantram on behalf of the bride groom :
“Maangalyam thanthunaanaena mamajeevana haethunaa , kantthe badhnaami subhagae thwam jeeva saradaam satham”.
“As a token of rememberance to my life, I am tying this mangala soothra in your neck. May you live for hundred years”...that means, may you enjoy your married life for 100 years.
I love you sā-bhairavi… my hamsafar, dil-e-dhadkan, noor-e-dil, the light of my soul.