Indian Wedding Ceremony Traditions Explained
According to Indian beliefs, marriage is made in heaven. Once married, the bond between the two souls is supposed to last for seven lifetimes. A lot of importance is associated with Hindu marriages and is considered one of the most important duties of a man’s life. Hindu weddings involve a lengthy process that includes various rituals that may take days to be fully executed.
Traditionally, an Indian wedding is a multi-day affair that involves several elaborate ceremonies like hand and feet henna painting of the bride known as Mehndi, the guests of honor being presented with garlands and a lot of rose petals being thrown around for good luck. These weddings are technically divided into three main parts; pre-wedding, wedding and post-wedding. Indian weddings are rich in culture, tradition, color and the fragrant smell of incense. Due to the many subcultures among the Hindus, there are several different versions of what most people would consider an authentic Indian Wedding. With that in mind, here is a loose guide of an Indian wedding and the traditions involved.
The Indian pre-wedding involves a lot of partying and is usually done a day before the wedding. On this day, there is usually a big party where both sides of the family meet, introduce themselves, dance and make merry. In the Indian culture, maintaining close relations with immediate and extended family is of utmost importance. In the course of the pre-wedding ceremony, a Pandit (priest) – the same one that carefully chose the wedding day based on the couple’s horoscope – conducts a prayer for the couple, asking God to bless them with a happy marriage life. The groom is gifted with coconut, clothes, and offerings by the bride’s father to perform the Tilak Puja. During the Tilak Puja, the pundit puts a mark on the groom’s forehead, called Teeka to symbolize the rising sun.
Indian Wedding Traditions
Traditionally, it is the bride’s parents that host the wedding. Hindu weddings take place in a sacred canopy called the mandap. The mandap represents the home that the groom and bride will build together. The Indian groom wears a traditional Indian turban with a cloak of flowers to shield him from bad spirits on his special day.
The wedding officially starts with the arrival of the groom. The groom is usually accompanied by his family and friends in a festive procession known as the Baraat. The bride’s family meets the Baraat at the entrance to the mandap. She washes his feet and offers him milk and honey, a ritual called Madhu Parka. While there, his sisters-in-law try to take his shoes without him noticing. If any of them succeeds, the groom is expected to pay a certain amount before he can get them back.
The ceremony begins with worshipping Lord Ganesh – the destroyer of all obstacles, a tradition known as Ganesha Puja. In a ceremony called the Kanyadan, the bride’s parents hand their daughter over to her new husband. They place their daughter’s left hand in the groom’s right hand. All the while, the bride’s parents refrain from eating before the wedding ceremony is complete to remain chaste for the occasion. Once the wedding is over, the bride’s saree is knotted to the groom’s scarf to embody the coming together of their souls. A cord is then tied around the pair’s neck to shield them from evil. This cord is tied by seniors of the newlyweds.
For an Indian wedding, instead of wedding rings, a string with two gold ornaments known as the Mangala Sutra is tied by the groom around the bride’s neck. He ties it into three knots to represent the bonding of two hearts for 100 years. It also lets other people acknowledge her as a married woman.
Another fun tradition conducted during an Indian wedding is the Mangal Pheras. Here, the bride and the groom walk around the fire-deity four times to represent artha, kama, dharma, and moksha. Once they are done circling the fire, they both run to the seat. Whoever gets to the seat first rules the household.
Finally, the newlyweds perform the last and most important tradition of the day known as the Saptapadi (the seven sacred vows). During the Saptapadi ritual, the groom helps his new wife touch seven supaarees with her right foot toe, all the while, reciting seven vows. The marriage is then concluded.
Post wedding traditions
The newlyweds seek blessings from elders from both sides of the family. Seven married women must be from the bride’s side – pass by the newlyweds whispering words of blessing in the bride’s right ear. The bride throws rice –three handfuls- and a coin over her shoulder to signify the end of her obligation to her parents for fostering her and wishing them prosperity.
The bride is then carried out of the mandap by her male cousins or brothers. She leaves for the groom’s home. There she will be received by her mother-in-law will welcome her with a customary aarti. The mother in law places a pitcher filled with rice at the door. The bride spills the rice with her right foot to signify that she will bring wealth, abundance and prosperity to her new home and that she accepts her new role and responsibilities.
Another fun tradition for the newlywed couple is the Aeki Beki. During this ceremony, water mixed with sindoor (vermillion) and milk is filled with lots of coins and one ring. So whoever finds the ring four times out of seven rules the household. The wedding concludes with prayers, requesting God to bless the newlyweds with love and happiness. This is just a short guide to traditional Hindu weddings. We are wedding cinematographers based in Vancouver, Washington and would love to capture your wedding day using the power of film. Our shooting style is journalistic, subtle and centered on capturing each important moment of your Indian wedding as it happens.
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