Indian weddings are synonymous with magnificence and grandeur. Weddings in India are a week-long affair depending upon the social, economic and regional factors and are celebrated with great pomp and ceremony.
An Indian wedding is high on fun, festivities, ceremonies and traditional rituals. Infact, no wedding is complete without following a series of Indian sacraments. Indian weddings are a blend of festivity and ceremonial rites.
Since, marriage is the most crucial part of life, Indians seek blessings and good wishes by performing these centuries-old wedding rites.
Indian wedding rituals can be divided into three parts namely, pre-wedding, the wedding and post-wedding rituals. So, without further ado, let’s find out what it is all about.
Pre-wedding rituals include wedding planning and preparation. Measures are taken to ensure smooth execution of wedding function. Also, a very special ceremony is performed on both the bride and groom’s side known as Haldi and Mehendi ceremony. These ceremonies have special significance for the bride.
The bride is expected to apply mehendi on her hands and feet. A professional mehendi artist is called upon and he/she applies henna with intricate designs on the bride’s hands. The mehendi symbolises the hope that the bride will enjoy beauty and grace in her marriage. Also, the bride’s future husbands name is written on her hands which is hidden and the groom is supposed to find it on their first night. Bride’s family and relatives sing and dance on mehendi ceremony to celebrate this auspicious occasion.
Another ceremony which is performed before the wedding is the Haldi ceremony. In this both bride and groom have haldi paste (turmeric) applied on their body by their respective near and dear-ones. This yellow paste is believed to enhance the beauty of the bride and groom by brightening their skin and giving them the much-required wedding glow.
After the pre-wedding ceremonies are done, here comes the D-day. An Indian wedding is not just about the union of two souls but it’s the coming together of two families. India being a country of collectivist culture, gives huge importance to the family in every walk of life. And weddings are on the top of the list. Following are the rituals performed on the day of the wedding.
The wedding rituals start with welcoming the groom and his family (also called Baraat) at the wedding venue. Baraat consists of groom’s family, friends, relatives and well-wishers and they enter the wedding venue singing and dancing out of joy. The celebration on the groom’s side symbolises their utter happiness on accepting the bride and her family. The bride’s family welcomes the groom and performs prayers and offer sweets and welcome drinks to guests.
The next ritual which is performed on the entrance of the venue is the Milni ceremony. In this ceremony, the families of either side greet and hug each other and the bride’s family offers presents to the groom’s close family members. The bride’s family then escorts groom to the stage or altar for the wedding.
In India, offering prayers to Lord Ganesha is considered fortunate before any new beginning. Therefore, a wedding ceremony is always started by worshipping Lord Ganesha. It is believed that Lord Ganesha blesses the new couple and makes the transition smooth and hitch-free.
Once the Ganesha Pooja is done, the bride is called upon the altar (mandap) to proceed with the wedding ceremony. As the bride enters the hall, all eyes are glued to the bejewelled and bedecked beautiful bride. She is accompanied by her maternal family and friends. As she reaches the altar, she is supposed to sit next to the groom for further rituals.
The bride and groom exchange floral garlands and put it across each other’s neck signifying their mutual acceptance, approval and union. Everyone present claps as they exchange the garlands and bless the couple for their upcoming married life.
The priest (pandit) starts reciting the age-old vedic mantras considering the presence of Gods as witness of this holy union of two souls. As per the tradition the God of Fire, Agnidev is considered the prime recipient of the offerings made by the priest in context of the wedding. Though the sacred mantras are in Sanskrit language, the priest makes sure the bride and groom understand it by narrating in native language.
The very crucial ritual which is performed during the ceremony is the giving away of bride by her parents also called as ‘Kanyadaan’. In this ritual, the bride’s father pours holy water of Ganga in his daughter’s hands and then places her hand in groom’s hand symbolising that his pride possession (daughter) is now his soul mate for the rest of the life. Kanyadaan is considered the noblest act done by parents in India.
After Kanyadaan, the groom’s sister tie groom’s scarf with bride’s saree and both stand up to circle the sacred fire and take oaths. The knot represents that they will be together forever and will stick to each other in thick and thin. Then the bride and groom walk around the fire seven times amidst the chanting of mantras and this ritual is called Mangal Fera or Saat Feras. Bride and groom take vows to have a harmonious alliance. They promise to respect each other, to create balance and harmony, to prosper and procreate and to remain loyal and faithful with each other till death do them apart. Taking these vows and promising to abide by it is the most beautiful ritual of Indian wedding.
After the feras, the bride sits on the left side of the groom, taking the closest place to his heart. The groom then places a holy thread made of black and gold beads around bride’s neck. This thread is called Manglasutra. It signifies husband’s promise of protecting her wife throughout his life. After that he applies red powder (sindoor tikka) at the crown of her forehead which implies longevity of their married life. Once these ceremonies are done, the couple is officially declared married and elders and well-wishers bestow their blessings on the newly married couple. Everyone offer sweets to the couple as the mark of a sweet beginning of their new life.
The bride hugs her family members and bids adieu to them as she prepares to leave her own home and go to the groom’s house. Family members of bride get emotional as they see their beloved daughter going away from them. This ritual is called ‘Vidaai’.
As the bride arrives at the groom’s house following rituals are performed:
The bride’s mother-in-law places a jar filled with rice at the entrance of her house. The bride is supposed to push the jar with her right foot and come inside which suggests that the bride brings with her prosperity and good luck for her new family.
After that the bride and groom are asked to play a fun game in which a tray with water, milk and rose petals are placed in front of them. The cousins of the groom put coins and a ring inside the tray and the bride and the groom are asked to find the ring. Both are given seven chances to find the ring. And whoever among bride and groom finds the ring four times out of seven is believed to rule the house.
And with this, an extravagant and ceremonial Indian wedding affair comes to an end and the couple starts their married life on a happy note!
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