I was recently invited to attend a Hindu wedding ceremony. Having never experienced a non-Christian wedding, I was excited about the event. On the surface, it was very different from other weddings I’ve attended, but the focus on unity and love is universal throughout many cultures, I think. I’d like to share my experience.
The ceremony started in the morning with the bride and groom splitting up. The bride’s family and friends gathered in one area, while we were ushered outside with the groom and his family and friends. A beautiful and ornate archway was constructed in front of a side door to the hotel. We all gathered around it as the groom took part in rituals preparing him for the ceremony. The rituals included a few members of the bride’s family as well as the Hindu priest.
After the rituals were complete, we all walked through the archway into the hotel. Personally, this part seemed particularly touching to me, as the groom’s family and friends were participating in the ceremony rather than just observing.
Next, we entered the ballroom where the main ceremony would take place. We sat in rows facing a large stage which was decorated beautifully, and we were given programs so we could follow along with the ceremony. Each one may differ, so this ceremony isn’t an example of all ceremonies, but it gives you an idea of what one may be like.
The Hindu Wedding Ceremony
The Hindu wedding ceremony is a long and elaborate ceremony, with every step rooted in Vedic tradition, signifying various aspects of life that is to follow after the wedding. The mandap – a canopy or marriage stage – is decorated with flowers and with a fire as witness, the Hindu wedding ceremony begins.
Var Aagman (The Groom’s Arrival)
The groom arrives for the wedding with his family and they are all greeted by the bride’s family. The bride’s mother then performs a welcoming ritual and leads the groom to the mandap.
Ganesh Pooja (Worshipping Lord Ganesh)
The wedding ceremony begins by offering a prayer to Lord Ganesh. Lord Ganesh is worshipped so he may remove all obstacles, blessing the bride and groom.
Kayna Aagman (The Bride’s Arrival)
The bride is escorted down the aisle to the mandap by her maternal uncles upon arrival. The bride’s father takes her hand and leads her into the madnap. The bride and groom are separated by the antarpat (curtain), which is lowered once the Mahraj (Priest) invokes a prayer for the couple.
Kanya Daan & Hastamilap (Giving Away the Bride)
In the Hindu religion, the Kanya Dann is considered the most significant offering a bride’s parents make. The Kanya Daan symbolizes the bride in the form of Goddess Laxmi and the groom as Lord Narayana. Here the bride’s family displays the act of giving.
Jaimala (Exchanging of garlands)
At this time, the bride and groom exchange fresh flower garlands, signifying the acceptance of one another and to pledge respect for one another as partners in life.
Mangalpheras (Circling of the Holy Fire)
During the Mangalpheras, the couple circles the holy fire four times with their wedding scarves tied together. The bride’s brothers are also called in to participate in the ceremony. The four circles symbolize the four basic human goals of Dharma, Artha, Karma and Moksha.
Dharma – Religion and Ethics
Artha – Wealth and Prosperity
Karma – Love, Fertility and Family
Moksha – Spiritual Liberation and Salvation
Saptapadi (Seven Vows)
The bride and groom seek blessing from God as they take seven sacred vows together:
1. We will respect each other.
2. We will care for each other.
3. We will be patient with each other.
4. We will be honest and faithful to each other.
5. We will be together in sorrow and in happiness.
6. We will travel this journey of life with love & harmony.
7. We will keep our family happy, healthy and strong.
Kansar Bhakshan (First Meal Together)
Kansar Bhakshan is the couple’s first meal together. The bride and groom offer Kansar to one another to symbolize their union. Kansar is a sweet made from crushed wheat, sugar and ghee.
Mangal Sutra, Sindoor (Sacred Necklace)
The Mangal Sutra is a sacred necklace made from black beads that the groom ties around the bride’s neck. This symbolizes their marriage. The groom then applies sindoor in the center-parting of the bride’s hair as a promise to fulfill her every wish.
Akhand Saubhagyavati (Blessings)
Married women from the bride’s family and the groom’s family come and bless the bride by whispering “Akhand Saubhagyavati” in her ear, which means “Good luck, prosperity and a long happy life.”
Ashrivaad (First Blessing as Husband and Wife)
The wedding has now concluded and the Maharaj, along with parents and elders of the bride and groom’s families, offer blessings for a long and happy married life. The bride and groom bend down to touch the feet of the Maharaj and their family elders as a form mof worship known in the Hindu ceremony.
Vidai (Farewell to the Bride)
The Vidai is one of the most emotional parts of the ceremony. Now that the bride and groom are married, she bids farewell to her family. She throws a fistful of rice behind her shoulder wishing her childhood home happiness and prosperity.
What I found most striking about the ceremony was that during all of the above steps, the atmosphere of the ceremony remained lighthearted and joyous. The Hindu priest joked and laughed during some of the steps, while family and friends laughed along and applauded. While there was a definite feeling of reverence and sacredness, everyone wore smiles, too. It was a very happy occasion, too.
I’m very glad I took the opportunity to attend this event and learn about the sacred ceremony of another culture. I found it to be very inviting to non-Hindus, and I was happy to take part in the ceremony.