26.5.11

Hindu Weddings

Article

The ‘Grihistha Ashrama’, or Hindu marriage, is an important sacrament that a devout Hindu seeks to complete in his or her lifetime. A traditional Hindu wedding is based on one of the 16 sacraments, or Sanskars, of Hinduism.

In Hinduism, marriage and the establishment of a family is seen as the second crucial stage of life. The wedding ceremony is held in a single day, but preparation ceremonies can take place many days beforehand.

The wedding ceremony is full of symbolic ritual that is designed to bind the relationship shared between the dulham (bride), and the dulha (groom):-

  • A Hindu bride will most likely wear a red and white sari, decorated with intricately woven gold thread) on her wedding day. The white on the sari is said to represent purity and the red, the bride’s fertility.
  • The bride will also be adorned with a variety of jewellery all around her body and in her hair. The groom will be dressed more simply in a suit of traditional Indian dress and may choose to wear a turban.
  • Wedding shoes will be able to be removed easily as footwear is considered forbidden near the ‘mandap’ (a canopy under which the wedding ceremony is performed).
  • A Hindu wedding consists of a series of important and heavily symbolic rituals led by the ‘purohit’ (priest).
  • After guests have been welcomed, the bride and groom will offer each other ‘jayamaala’ (garlands of flowers), and declare: ‘our hearts are concordant like united waters’
  • A fire is then lit in the mandap and the couple offer the fire a variety of rice, oats and leaves to signify riches, happiness and prosperity
  • The bride and groom walk around the fire four times, stopping to touch a stone on each revolution. The stone symbolises the problems they will face in life and must overcome together.
  • Finally, the ‘saptapadi’ ritual will take place, which is where the bride and groom each take seven steps together. Each step represents an important quality for marriage:- the first - food; the second - strength; the third -prosperity; the fourth - wisdom; the fifth - progeny; the sixth - health, and the seventh - friendship.
  • One of the final acts of the wedding ceremony is where the groom marks his bride on the forehead with ‘kumkum’ (vermillion), which offers not only luck but signifies their togetherness.
  • Lastly, the new couple are showered in rice and petals by their guests as a final act to bring good fortune.
  • A Hindu wedding ends in a lavish banquet for family and friends. At some celebrations, the bride and groom play games that offer clues as to how the marriage will progress. One such game sees the couple having to untie a series of knots together which is intended to teach them patience with each other.
  • Wedding gifts consist of money, given in round numbers (considered lucky), to help the couple start their new life together. In tradition, the mother of the bride will offer the bride a ‘mangala soota’ (necklace), which is considered an important symbol of marital status by a Hindu woman.
  • When the couple leave the reception, one ritual involves a coconut being place under the front wheel of the car. This is said to date back to the days of the horse-drawn carriage, to test the vehicle in readiness for the journey.


© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.