Hindu Wedding Ceremony
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
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