With over a billion people, innumerable dialects and a multitude of cultural inclinations, India is known for its diversity. Indian wedding traditions tend to be a reflection of this diversity and vary from region to region. However, at the heart of it, most weddings follow a set pattern of rituals to solemnise the marriage. A typical wedding ceremony is preceded by rituals like the sangeet, mehendi and roka (engagement) ceremony which happen a day or two prior to the wedding.
The wedding happens on an auspicious day at an auspicious time known as the ‘Muhurat’. If you thought that the wedding is a five-minute affair around the muhurat time, you cannot be further away from the truth! The festivities go on for about three to four hours on the wedding day! What are the traditions that are followed at the wedding? Let’s find out today!
The wedding day festivities kick off with the Baraat which is basically a procession in which the groom and his side of the family arrive at the venue in style.
As per Indian wedding traditions, the groom arrives on horseback, completely decked in floral adornments. Today, the horse is replaced by a convertible in which the groom’s family arrives, complete with a band playing foot tapping numbers for the entire wedding party.
Once the extended family reaches the venue, it is greeted at the entrance by the bride’s family. The bride’s mother welcomes the groom with an Aarti and a ‘tika’ which is nothing but the application of holy vermillion on his forehead. As the groom and his family proceed to the mantap, the bride is also escorted there signifying the start of the wedding celebrations. While the way the welcome is done differs from place to place – some apply the tika while other sprinkle rose water over the groom, the essence of this event remains the same – to welcome the groom’s family to the wedding venue.
As per some Indian wedding traditions, the bride and the groom are not allowed to see each other until they exchange the ‘var mala’ or garland. In order to avoid eye contact, they are separated by a large curtain or ‘purdah’ that is held up by the couple’s families. When the ascertained time arrives, the curtain is taken off and the couple exchange garlands. This is called the var mala or jai mala ceremony and is observed in almost every part of the country.
Soon after is the actual wedding which begins with the ‘kanyadaan’. Irrespective of the customs and traditions followed in various subsects of the country, this one ritual is a constant and important fixture. The word kanyadaan literally translates to giving away of the girl. Performed by the father of the bride, he gives the daughter’s hand to the groom, pours holy water over it and requests him to accept her as an equal partner.
If you thought that this was the end of the Indian wedding traditions on the wedding day, then let us tell you that the proceedings have just about started. Next in line is the ‘mangalsutra’ ceremony – that ties the couple together in holy matrimony. The groom ties the mangalsutra which is a sacred gold necklace with black beads and this pronounces the couple as man and wife.
All the proceedings take place around the holy fire or ‘havan’ amidst hymns chanted by the priests. As per Indian wedding traditions, the god of fire or ‘Agni’ is considered to be the holy witness of the marriage and for the same reason, the couple are made to take their vows around this holy fire. With their respective dupattas tied into a knot, the couple does seven circumambulations around the fire - signifying goals of married life comprising of moral and religious duties, prosperity, spiritual liberation and sensual gratification.
Soon after, the couple takes seven steps or the ‘saptapadi’ together – signifying their union as friends who will be at each other’s side in times of joy and sorrow. At the end of the seven steps, the groom then kneels down and puts the sacred ‘bichiya’ around the bride’s second toe. The ritual wherein the groom holds up the bride’s feet actually establishes them as equals as opposed to the popular notion that Indian wedding traditions are severely inclined towards the groom.
The wedding ceremony culminates with the groom applying holy vermillion or sindoor on the bride’s forehead.
While this marks the end of the actual wedding ceremony, in some parts of the country, games are arranged between the couple to ascertain whether they would vie for an upper hand or give in so as to make the other person the winner.
Indian wedding traditions are as varied as the people of the country. But the one uniting factor when it comes to Indian wedding traditions is the importance that people place on these them. Some blindly follow them while others understand their significance before performing them. While the manifestations of the rituals are different, all the traditions per se have been designed to strengthen the ties between the couple and their families before they begin their married life.
Did you do something different at your wedding or have a unique and interesting ritual? We’d love to know what it was!
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