The North Indian Wedding
believe in the existence of a Supreme Being. This Being is
described in the Vedas (scripture) as "unmanifest, unthinkable,
and unchanging." The Supreme Being manifests in this world
in different forms and at different times as Rama, Krishna,
Vishnu, Shiva, etc. Hindus also believe that the soul is divine
and eternal. It is neither created nor destroyed, but is reborn
through many lifetimes in this world. When a soul has found
release from this cycle of rebirth is it said to have achieved
Hindus also accepts all religions as true and valid paths
to God. In the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna says, "Whenever
there is a decline in dharma (righteousness) and an increase
in adharma (unrighteousness), at that time I manifest
Myself." In this way, all religions are seen as the manifestation
of the Divine into this world.
The traditional Hindu wedding is a deeply meaningful and
symbolic combination of rituals and traditions. It is a ceremony
that is about 4000 years old. Each phase of the ceremony has
a symbolic, philosophical, and spiritual meaning. The ceremony
not only to joins the souls of the bride and groom, but also
creates a strong tie between two families. The ceremony is
traditionally performed in Sanskrit, which is the language
of ancient India and Hinduism. Today the ceremony will be performed
both in Sanskrit and English. The following sequence of rituals
represents the highlights of the ceremony.
The Sanskrit word for marriage is vivaha, which literally means "what
supports or carries." The Vivaha ceremony is therefore
a sacred ceremony meant to create a union that supports and
carries a man and woman throughout their married life in the
pursuit of righteousness (dharma).
The wedding ceremony begins with Mangala Vadyam, or the
playing of the auspicious Shenai, a trumpet-like instrument.
The bride's family greets the groom. He receives the red tilaka (red powder) mark on his forehead
signifying the Lord's blessing upon him. He is led to the,
wedding canopy (mandapa) under which the ceremony
will take place.
For a higher spiritual purpose the groom is given a final
opportunity to leave before the bride enters. He is asked if
he would like to abandon worldly life and lead the life of
an ascetic. The father of the bride requests the groom not
to leave, but to stay and marry his daughter.
The bride, hidden behind a curtain, is escorted to the mandapam. The groom may be teased
about the bride he has not yet seen. The priest will
lower the curtain and the bride and groom will shower each
other with rice. The rice represents prosperity, but
is also said to establish dominance in the marriage. The
person who throws the rice first will be the most authoritative
in the marriage! The bride and groom exchange flower
garlands signifying their acceptance of each other.
The wedding ceremony begins with the worship of Shri Ganesha,
the remover of all obstacles and provider of good luck. All
traditional Hindu ceremonies begin with invocation of Ganesha. Other
pujas are also performed evoking the presence of other forms
God to preside over the wedding ceremony.
Kanya Danam literally means the "giving of the bride".
The parents of the bride place hands of their daughter into
the hands of the groom. The bride's parents ask the groom to
except their daughter as his equal partner throughout life.
The groom greatfully accepts.
The great messenger of the Gods, Agnideva the fire God,
is evoked to witness the proceedings. The priest lights
a sacred fire in the presence of the bride and groom. Throughout
the ceremony, the bride, groom and the priest add ghee, clarified butter, to the fire to keep it burning. Rice
and other ingredients are added to the fire at various times.
bride and groom hold hands as a symbol of their union.
The bride and groom exchange seats, as a married woman
is given a place of honor at her husband's left side. One
corner of groom's shawl is tied to the end of the brides sari. This
signifies the union of two souls.
groom places offerings of ghee into the sacred fire, asking
for the protection of the bride.
Kramana/ Laaja Homam
The bride places her right foot onto a stone and with the
assistance of her brothers makes offerings of puffed rice into
the sacred fire, asking for the protection of her husband.
The stone symbolizes the earth. The act of placing the bride's
foot upon the stone means that she should become strong and
fixed like the earth.
The bride and groom gaze up at the pole star (Druvaloka) and meditate on stability in
the marriage union. Each night as the stars rotate in the sky,
the pole star always remains fixed. In the same way as life
is constantly changing the union of the bride and groom should
remain fixed like the pole star, Druvaloka.
The bride and groom walk around the holy fire four times,
symbolizing the walk of life. Human life is seen to have four
great goals called purusharthas: dharma, artha, kama and moksha. The bride leads the groom through
the first three rounds while the groom leads the bride through
the last round. The first round represents the attainment of dharma, or righteous conduct and the
fulfillment of civic and religious responsibilities. The second
round is for the attainment of artha, the accumulation of wealth and prosperity. This leads to the third
round which is for the attainment of kama, life's enjoyments. Finally, the bride and groom
exchange places and the groom leads the bride around the fire
on the fourth round enacting the attainment of moksha, life's
The bride and groom take seven steps together, symbolizing
the beginning of their journey through life as partners. These
seven steps reflect their guiding principles in life. As
they take each step, the bride and groom exchange the following
in the responsibility of the home
our hearts with strength and courage
and share our worldly goods
our hearts with love, peace, happiness, and spiritual
blessed with loving children
self-restraint and longevity
best friends and eternal partners
The groom places a special red powder between the parting
of the bride's hair. This red line identifies the bride as
a married woman.
The groom gives the bride a mangala sutra, a necklace made of gold and onyx,
which also identifies her as a married woman. The mangala sutra is the equivalent of the wedding
ring, which may also be exchanged at this time.
The bride and groom make an oath to each other declaring
that they love each other and will remain devoted to each other
through all times.
The priest chants an ancient hymn of praise to God while
the couple places offerings of rice and ghee into the fire. This act of worship
is the couple's first act of dharma as husband and wife.
The newly married couple feed each other sweets representing
their first meal together.
This is the final offering to God before concluding the
The priest gives blessings to the couple. The newly
married couple then seeks the blessings of the priest and family
and friends. The family and friends bestow their blessings
by showering them with flower petals.