A Traditional Hindu Wedding Ceremony

A Hindu wedding ceremony is an elaborate ritual, often extending for a few days and involving a lot of participation, not only from the bride and groom, but from family and friends as well. It is a sacred event but also a joyous and colourful gathering where friends and relatives get a chance to interact . Gifts are exchanged on both sides and there is a general spirit of goodwill at the union of two families.

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Before the wedding

Engagement

Before the wedding there is usually an engagement ceremony where rings are exchanged between the bride and groom. It is traditionally held a short while before the wedding although these days, couples may get engaged months or even years before the wedding. Sweets are shared and there is usually a feast for the families to celebrate this joyous occasion.

Mehndi

The mehndi ceremony is also a pre-wedding event for the bride’s family where the bride, her female friends and relatives have henna painted on their hands and feet. It is believed that the darker the colour of mehndi, the stronger is the bond of love. Therefore, bridal mehndi is an elaborate art that is applied gracefully and kept for a long time to allow it to darken. The family members often indulge in some traditional song and dance at this time to celebrate. Sometimes a separate Sangeet is organized where the two families may sing, dance and feast.

Wedding Day

The main wedding ceremony may take place at any time of the day that is deemed holy. The bride and groom usually observe a fast till the vows have been exchanged. The marriage ceremony in South Africa usually takes place in halls whereas traditionally in India, it was conducted at the bride’s home. The focus of the day is more often on the food, dress and decor for most of the guests.

Rituals

Though rituals of a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony differ across various regions of India as well as among the different linguistic groups among the South African Hindu community. There are nevertheless several common aspects between the various rituals. The wedding prayers are usually chanted in Sanskrit by the priest, with some use of the local language. Nowadays there are often translations made so that the bride and groom may know the nature of the vows they are taking.

Kanyadaan is a ritual where the bride’s father places his daughter’s hand in the groom’s hand. This is a formal acknowledgement of passing on the responsibility of his daughter to his son-in-law. As part of the wedding ceremony, the couple exchange garlands. The Saptapadi or saat pheras perhaps constitutes the most important aspect of a Hindu wedding. Here the fire is considered as a witness and the couple walk around it seven times, tied to each other with a wedding knot, to signify their undying love and fidelity to each other. Each circuit signifies something such as promising to give each other happiness, to provide for food or look after the health and safety of each other and so on.

As part of the main wedding ceremony the priest also makes use of certain items such as ghee (to keep the fire burning as a witness), fresh flowers and rice (offered to the fire). The groom places vermilion powder at the parting of his bride’s hair and gives her a sacred thread (thali) or necklace (mangalsutra) to wear around her neck, signifying their union.

After the Wedding

After the wedding prayers have been chanted, the priest blesses the bride and groom and thereafter they seek the blessings of others in the family. The feet of elders is touched as a mark of respect. Finally an elaborate meal awaits all guests at the wedding ceremony. After the wedding is over, it is time for the bride to depart from her home to start her new life with her husband. This farewell is often attended with tears of happiness and sorrow at leaving one’s home.

Last updated on 28 July 2012

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