A country of Gurdwaras and Temples, a country of many festivals and events, a country of weddings and rituals is what India is known as beyond all its famous facets. The relations here are well celebrated with great pomp and show. Today we are going to talk about a relationship that not only unites two souls but also unites two families who are otherwise sometimes, poles apart from each other. Their customs, rituals, traditions, ways of celebrating a festival can also be different sometimes but what unites them is the bond of love, the bond of faith. Yes.! we are going to talk about Marriage.
Marriage or wedding is basically a celebration of love and commitment, a celebration of all new customs and traditions that anyone can experience at least once in their lifetime. India is a land of so many religions and faith that differs from each other in their rituals. And moving on the parallel lines, are the traditions and rituals of marriage that differs from place to place and from religion to religion. Today we are going to discuss certain rituals that are peculiar to a North-Indian wedding. Whether you’re invited as a guest, attending as a family member, there are a few of the Hindu wedding rituals and traditions you should expect to see right from Shagun to Bidaai. Let us just sum up what are they actually.
There is basically a custom in Hindu families of believing in Kundalis – the birth horoscope chart. Using the girl’s and boy’s dates of birth, astrologists calculate the position of planets and stars to reflect the celestial union of the couple and the future prospects of their relation. During this ceremony, the Gautra – (ancestral lineage or the ancestor’s original clan) of both the girl and the boy are announced by going back at least three generations. Gautra is not related to caste or religion. In Hindu law, marriages should not take place within the same clan. Keeping all these things in mind an auspicious time is fixed or froze for marriage, which according to the saints is the best suitable for both – the boy and the girl – to tie the knot with each other. This auspicious time is called the Muhurta.
As this becomes the happiest occasion for any family to involve in, the wedding functions start from days before the actual wedding takes place. Prior to the wedding, there’s a pre-party called the Sangeet ceremony where both the families come together to sing, dance and revel in the joy of the upcoming union. Family members even perform live in front of all the guests and friends and other invitees. The bride’s family sings a traditional folk song to the groom’s family to welcome them. That is how they not only tease each other in a light-hearted musical manner but also enjoy with each other.
During the Mehendi ceremony, which usually takes place in all the weddings, henna is used to apply some intricate designs on the bride’s hands and feet. Famous artists are called on this auspicious day which makes certain peculiar designs like the images of the girl and the boy or they create some magic moments of the wedding rituals with this art. The mehndi ceremony usually takes place one day before the marriage will be held, as the application can take hours. During this ceremony also people enjoy singing peculiar songs and dance to the tunes of dholki – drum beating.
A temporary structure is constructed for the purpose of the marriage ceremony. It may appear on an elevated platform and is decorated with anything from lights, flowers, and greenery to fabric and crystals.
Now comes the auspicious day where two souls will be united into one by following certain rituals. A proper place is chosen for this grand event in anyone’s life. Usually, the boy comes on a decorated horse with some Band, Baaja, Baraat to the girl’s house to woe her from her parents. As a part of the ceremony the bride and groom exchange floral garlands being on the podium or stage. This expresses the desire of the couple to marry each other.
A Hindu marriage is a sacrament and not a contract. To signify the viability of the ceremony, fire is kept as a witness and offerings are made. So in the middle of the wedding altar, a sacred fire is kindled. In this ceremony, the bride’s brother gives three handfuls of puffed rice to the bride as a wish for his sister’s happy marriage. Each time, the bride offers these rice to the sacred fire.
This moment when the father of the bride gives his daughter away to the man of her dreams is known as the kanyadaan. During the ceremony, the father of the bride places his daughter’s hands into the groom’s hands as a gesture of giving her away. The father of the bride pours holy water into the bride’s hand, which will flow through her fingers and into the hand of her groom. This signifies that as this water is flowing in the hands of the groom, similarly, the bride now belongs to the man of her dreams.
This is a very important ritual in North Indian Hindu weddings. During the saptapadi, the bride and groom have their garments tied together. In North Indian tradition, the bride and the groom make seven circles around a ceremonial fire, wherein each round signifies a specific blessing they request from God. The main significance of saptapadi is establishing a friendship, which is the basis of not only Hindu but any marriage. The couple seeks the blessings of God and fire to be together for the next seven births by taking the Saat Phere. The mantras of Seven vows are chanted by the Priests of the family and the bride and the groom repeats them during their turns.
They are sacred vows and if it is followed religiously by both the partners, they can lead a happy life with no grudges because it teaches them the principles to lead a happy and caring life taking care of each other’s responsibility as their own. The united soul can bring a great difference in the life of each other while treading on the path of life as great companions.
The 7 sacred vows are the Vedic scriptures and it has been segregated as holy vows to bring husband and wife on the same platform of understanding and love.
The First Vow: The Groom vows to the bride that he will be responsible for providing the nourishment, welfare, and happiness to the wife and the children.
The Bride vows to the groom that she will take care of the family and household and will share his responsibility as her own.
The Second Vow: The Groom vows to the bride that he will remain loyal and faithful to his wife and will stand by her throughout the thick and thins of life. He will be with her providing mental, physical and financial stability and security to her and family.
The Bride vows to the groom that she will willingly share the responsibility by helping him in every possible way and be ready to endure all with courage and strength.
The Third Vow: The Groom vows to the bride that he will work hard putting all his efforts to bring wealth and prosperity in the house and giving education to their children.
The Bride vows to the groom that she will act responsibly in maintaining the resources and devote her love exceptionally to her husband and all other men would be secondary in her life. She will be loyal throughout life, maintaining chastity.
The Fourth Vow: The Groom thanks to the bride that through this sacred affair of marriage, she has made his life beautiful and complete and he vows to respect both sets of families. He will respect her wishes and will include her in all his major decisions.
The Bride vows to groom that she will stand by his side in all rituals, family and religious commitments and will walk by his side giving her consent for his decisions. She will respect and regard his decisions and include his say in all her decisions. In case any danger intercepts his way, she will stand before him to save him and will be ready to sacrifice her life for him.
The Fifth Vow: The couple vows to be with each other sharing their happiness and sorrows with great understanding and care. They together pray to God to bless them with healthy children and they both will strive to nurture their children with enriching values and a generous lifestyle.
The Sixth Vow: The couple vows to love and respect each other and stand together in times of joy and grief. They together pray to seek the blessings of God to bestow them with a healthy and long life filled with joy, peace, and prosperity so that they can carry their duties and responsibilities towards each other.
The Seventh Vow: The couple vows together that through this ritual of Sacred Seven Vows, they have become husband and wife uniting their soul. They are united with a divine thread of togetherness and they will love each other and be there for each other till eternity. They as a couple will walk together as great companions, sharing each and everything of life, honoring and loving each other unconditionally. They promise to abide by all the holy seven vows with pure and honest intentions that they have promised during the ritual of marriage.
Sindoor, a red-orange powder, is applied to the part of a woman’s hair, symbolizes her new status as a married woman and is applied to her hair during the ceremony by the groom. As a blessing from her new family members, all the wedded females of the family apply this holy red-powder to the new bride’s hair.
The groom places a necklace of black and gold beads on the bride. Traditionally, Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity, is invoked in the Mangala sutra and the bride is said to receive blessings throughout her marriage.
Thus, this sacred thread binds not only two persons together but the families of the duo unite together to be a part of the family, in all the phases of life.