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Hindu Wedding Ceremony

Wedding Rituals

The wedding day usually commences with a fast for both the bride and groom. The bridal outfit consists of a red and white sari heavily embroidered with gold thread. The white signifies purity and the red signifies fertility. It is customary for the bridegroom's family to gift the bride a wedding sari, so she may actually end up wearing two saris! The first, a simpler silk sari given to her by her maternal uncle (mama), and covering her head, a heavier embroidered sari given to her by her husband's family. The groom also wears white (ivory or beige). His outfit can be a traditional Sherwani (long tunic embroidered with gold thread) worn with Kurta pyjamas, or a simpler dhoti and tunic.

Traditionally, the Hindu groom leaves home mounted on a white mare in a procession, with his relatives and friends around him. The bride, her relatives and friends await his arrival. Upon his entry, the groom and his entourage are greeted with flower petals and perfumed water.

North Indian grooms may wear a sehera, a veil of flowers tied to a turban. This beautiful adornment symbolises a screen or protection from the evil eye of the jealous or ill wishes of onlookers. The tying on of the sehera confers the status of Vishnu himself on the groom. This is done because the precious gift of a daughter, Kanyadana, can only be made to a God. Surrounded by an entourage of family, close friends and musicians, the groom makes his way to the marriage hall. This music and fireworks processional, called the baraat, celebrates the groom.

When the groom and his party arrive at the marriage hall, the bride's relatives are waiting to welcome them. In the Swagatam ceremony, the mother of the bride welcomes the groom by placing a Teeka (red dot) on his forehead. She then performs several small ceremonies reminding him of his commitment to the marriage and that he has willingly chosen to wed her daughter. The bride's mother closes the ceremony by putting a samput (container) filled with curd, honey, ghee and cottonseeds on the ground, which the groom must step on before entering the Mandap.

The majority of the wedding ceremony will take place in a Mandap (the four-pole canopy at centre stage). The sacred fire in the Mandap symbolizes not only the illumination of the mind, knowledge and happiness but is also a clean and pure witness to the ceremony as it progresses.

The ceremony itself is a collection of rituals performed by the bride, bridegroom and their respective parents and close relatives. The priest chants "mantras" from the Vedas that were originally written in Sanskrit. He will also use the following in his ceremonies:
- Fresh flowers - to signify beauty;
- Coconut - to signify fertility;
- Rice, jaggery and other grains - to signify the food necessary for sustenance of human life;
- Ghee (purified butter) - to feed the sacred fire;
- Kumkum (vermilion) - red powder used for marking the forehead to signify good luck and to say that your soul (husband) is with you.

Inside the mandap, the bride's father washes the groom's right foot. This ritual bestows the properties of Vishnu on the groom: on this day he is treated as the supreme God and the bride is treated as Lakshmi, the supreme goddess.

A Sankalp ceremony follows the groom's welcome. In this small ritual, mantras are chanted for the parents of the bride by the pundit (the holy man who will perform the wedding) and they take oaths, praying that they are giving their daughter away with God's blessing.

The Sankalp is followed by the traditional entrance of the bride (the Kanya-Agaman). Here, the bride is either led or carried by one of her maternal uncles to the mandap. Before the couple sees each other, a partition is held in front of the groom and the Pandit gives information on the bride. When the groom acknowledges this information, he accepts her and the partition is removed. The couple then garland each other and the ceremony continues.

The bride and groom sits next to each other, the bride on the groom’s right, in front of a sacrificial pit. The bride's parents are seated to her right while the priest is seated opposite them and to the left of the groom. A fire, or Agni, is in the centre. The bride and groom are purified before the wedding.

The bride's parents wash the couple's feet with milk and water. They also put a Varmala (a garland), of raw cotton and coloured threads symbolising different characteristics of life on both the bride and the groom to bind the couple together.

Hasta-Melap (Joining of Hands)
Mantras are chanted while the bride's right hand is put into the groom's right hand. Because the parents of the bride are giving away their daughter to the husband's family (Kanya Daan), they perform the Hasta-Melap ceremony.


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