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Hindu Wedding Ceremony

The Hindu wedding ceremony is based on Vedic traditions and rituals originating in the Rig-Veda, the earliest of the four ancient Sanskrit books of knowledge which form the basis of Hinduism.

Marriage in Hindu religion is aimed at fulfilling the three goals, namely dharma - duties towards family and society, Prajana - begetting of progeny and Shradh - to perform rituals. They enter the relationship of husband and wife by taking the vows of being together in their pursuits of dharma, artha, kama and moksha.

Although the variety of Hindu marriages is amazing, there are some underlying similarities, which unifies all of them. Inspite of the common rituals, each regional wedding has it's own flavor. The culture from which one comes plays a very important part in a Hindu wedding. 

Pre-Wedding Rituals

Misri
A formal engagement precedes the wedding ceremony. This ceremony, called a Misri (sugar) ceremony, confirms both families' intentions of marriage. To begin the ceremony, the blessings of Lord Ganesha are prayed for. Then seven married women make a Ganesh symbol (clockwise swastika) on a pot of misri (crystallised sugar), and ask Lord Ganesha to bless the couple. The seven women represent the seven forms of God (one form for each day of the week).

After these preparations the couple and their parents perform a puja. The puja welcomes the Gods and asks for their blessings. They pray to Lord Ganesha, Varun Devta, Laxmi & Narayan, the Gods on governing the 9 planets, and Om (i.e. Triumvirate Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).

The bride and groom to-be then exchange garlands as a mutual welcome into each other's lives. Gold rings are also exchanged in hope of a long and happy marriage. Because the fourth finger is thought to have a vein leading directly to the heart, the rings are placed on the fourth finger of the right hand of the groom and the fourth finger of the left hand of the bride. This action produces one complete heart for the couple.

After exchanging rings, the groom's family offers a basket of fruit, clothing and other items to the girl as a symbol of acceptance into their family. The groom's family then gives the bride's family a promise of marriage and feeds them Misri to finalize the engagement.

Before the wedding, planners organize the building of a mandap. A mandap (where the wedding ceremony is held), is normally a wooden canopy erected upon four pillars, brightly decorated for the occasion. Each of the four pillars of the mandap represents one of the four parents involved in the wedding. All four pillars are ritually blessed before the wedding.

Sangeet
Before the wedding, a sangeet party is held. The bride and groom may have individual sangeet or a large one together. Music and food are central to this party, as family and friends dance and eat late into the night.

Nav Graha Puja
Several days before the wedding, a Nav-Graha puja is held. Indian astrologers have long respected the influence that the heavenly bodies have on destiny, and the nine planets are thought to have the most effect. The Nav-Graha puja celebrates the Gods associated with the nine planets and asks them to bless the couple and their families.

Sagri
To familiarize the bride with future in-laws, a sagri is held at the home of the bride. The female relatives of the groom visit the bride, bringing flowers, toiletries and jewellery. These items and flowers are gifted to the bride as a sign of affection and acceptance.

Mehandi (Henna Painting of Hands & Feet)
This festive occasion is usually held in the late afternoon. This is primarily a ladies tea party; however the male relatives are allowed to be present. On this day, the future bride has her hands and feet intricately patterned with a paste, which is a recipe of henna oil, lemon juice and some water tinted with tea. The application of Mehandi or henna takes about four hours to complete. Ideally, the bride-to-be should not wash her hands until the paste has completely dried. Guests at the party also get their hands designed with Mehandi. Mehandi signifies the strength of love in a marriage. The darker the Mehandi, the stronger the love.

Ghari Puja
The night before the wedding, a Ghari puja is held. This is a religious ceremony performed on the eve of the wedding day in the respective homes of the couple. The priest performs prayers with rice, coconut, wheat grains, oil, betel nuts and turmeric. During this event, the mother and close female relatives dress up in their finery. They carry earthenware pots of water on their head and plant a small stalk in their garden in celebration of the marriage.

The bride and groom are dressed in old clothing. Their individual families then tear off their old clothes, symbolising the exit from their old, unmarried lives. Nowadays, the Ghari Puja is often combined with the cleansing ceremony (Pithi) during which the bride and bridegroom are pasted with turmeric powder in a beautification process.

 

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