A Journey through a Hindu Marriage Ceremony
The journey in the Bus
Marriage in Hindu traditions
Hindu Marriage Ceremony is more than a simple wedding function. It is not merely a simple formality of uniting the bride and groom, but a union of two families. In the process, it involves many religious and traditional ceremonies bringing both the families together for an everlasting relationship. It is an occasion of great festivities, celebrations, and enjoyment to all participants.
I am giving an account of a recent marriage attended by me here in Hyderabad. It is the marriage of my own younger brother's son, who completed his MBBS course recently, with a girl one year junior to him in the same field. They met each other through a matrimonial site 3, 4 months back and their parents also met each other to fix the marriage.
Engagement Ceremony takes place immediately after the groom and bride and their family members mutually agree for the relationship of marriage. An auspicious time is fixed for this engagement ceremony by the priests of both sides. The groom generally goes to the bride's house along with his parents and the engagement gets agreed upon by exchanging sweets and clothes along with some ornaments, flowers, betel leaves and fruits. The groom and bride are worn rings by each other as an acceptance of the marriage proposal. I was not present in this engagement ceremony which happened in January itself.
After the engagement ceremony, both parties of Bride and Groom prepare the marriage invitation cards after fixing the auspicious time for marriage through priests of both sides. The cards mention the date, time, and venue of marriage and request for the presence and blessings of the invitees. The eldest members of the family normally make this request with their names appearing as the solicitors. My elder brother and sister-in-law are the elders in this marriage function.
The first card is placed in front of the God seeking His blessings. Then cards are despatched to other relatives and friends, as early as possible, so that they get informed in advance and attend the marriage on time.
Groom Making Ceremony
16th May 2015
Groom making and Bride making are the first ceremonies that take place 3 or 4 days before the actual marriage at the respective houses of groom and bride. It is a ceremony proclaiming the groom or bride to be as such to the relatives and neighbours. It gets performed within some auspicious time fixed by the priests according to the convenience of both parties. The ceremony takes place at the same time in both houses. The groom or bride take oil bath and wear new clothes and then offer prayers to God along with parents. They are decorated in the presence of close relatives and members of the family with the accompaniment of nadaswaram ( a melodious musical instrument) being played by proficient musicians engaged in that trade. Turmeric paste is most important here. It is applied to the feet of groom and bride. Then a mix of turmeric paste with lime paste is done and designs made to the edges of feet and toes. Bride gets beautiful designs made in her palms also. A younger brother of the groom (either own or cousin) is also made as a side groom who will be treated as such till they reach the marriage venue on the marriage day. The bride party will also have a side bride in the same manner until that time. Both the bride and the groom are not allowed to leave their houses till actual marriage time arrives.
Refreshments and meals are arranged to all participants of this ceremony. Elderly and married women sing religious songs and children perform dances or play games and enjoy the whole day.
Making of Groom - a short glimpse
Groom after full makeup
More celebrations of groom making ceremony
17th & 18th May 2015
After the declaration of the would-be groom as a Groom on 16th May, he gets to be treated as a very auspicious person. He is offered Aarti ( showing of light to his face and eyes from the oil lighted wicks that were first offered to God) on all the days till proceeding for marriage. He gets make-up and decorated daily after morning bath as shown in the video bit above. The women sing songs and children dance and play with him and all atmosphere is full of festive celebrations. Refreshments, meals, drinks, fruits and sweets are offered to all relatives and friends of the groom who participated there.
The groom feels very happy, joyful and entertained in this atmosphere and all relatives and friends also enjoy these occasions.
Wedding party procession
19th May 2015
A day before the marriage, the groom along with his family members and relatives starts for the marriage venue. Some more rituals need to be performed in the evening at that place as marriage time has been fixed for early morning itself on next day.
The morning rituals got conducted as usual as on other 3 days that are mentioned above and after lunch, we started for the marriage venue in the A/C bus booked for this purpose. The groom travels in a car well decorated for this purpose along with some small children at the auspicious time fixed for start around 3 pm. and we went behind him in the bus. It was at the other end of the city nearer to bride's house. A journey of 20 km. On reaching the venue, the bride's family members welcomed the groom and others by lighting crackers and showering flowers and spraying scents accompanied by nadaswaram music.
Welcome to Groom at Marriage Venue
About the Marriage Venue
It was a great function hall with 1500 seating capacity. The stage was decorated aesthetically with natural settings. The front rows of seating with around 300 seats were of cushion made for close relatives and friends of bride and groom and other 1200 seats were plastic chairs. There were a/c rooms two each for groom's family and bride's family and a very large common hall upstairs was filled with beds on the floor for others to rest in the night. The entrance side and one end of the venue were full of green plants grown mostly in pots. The backside was the dining hall with large space to cater for 500 people at a time. Everything was very attractive and pleasant.
What about You?
Do you follow any of these rituals?
Welcome on the stage and introductions
Welcome to Groom and exchange of Garlands
The actual Welcome ceremony takes place on the marriage stage after refreshments are offered to the Groom and his members. The groom sits on an elevated seat in between his parents. Some Vedic hymns/mantras are chanted while the bride's parents pay respects to the groom offering tilak, aarti and gold coloured artificial garland to the groom and his parents. Colourful towels are also offered over their shoulders as a token of honour.Then marriage invitation card is read out by the priest to the bride's family members. Each family member and other close relatives of Groom's party are introduced to the bride's family and they also get garlanded and honoured with towels by the bride's parents. The same process takes place with the bride also. She also gets respects from groom's family and her family's invitation card is read out to groom's members. Then her family gets introduced to groom's relatives.
Now, both Groom and Bride are made to stand opposite to each other some seven feet apart. They are handed over flower garlands and asked to garland each other by approaching the other. Here both of them try to approach in a very slow motion as each of them want the other to act first. After some entertainment and teasing each other, the priest and elders ask them to act quickly. Friends and siblings of the groom and bride lift each other high so that the other could not reach the head of the bride or groom to garland her / him. At last, they bow their heads and allow to be garlanded.
Puja and Kashi Yatra
Puja (worship) and Kashi yatra
20th May 2015
Early in the morning, the groom takes oil bath and readies for puja at one side of the stage. The priest chants Vedic hymns and makes the groom, along with his parents, perform the puja. After puja is over, the groom suddenly proceeds on Kashi yatra as if he is afraid of taking the married life responsibilities. It is believed that there are two ways of attaining moksha (soul reaching heaven or God's abode). They are through marriage or through asceticism. The groom thinks it more easy to lead ascetic life than getting married. So, this Kashi yatra to lead an ascetic life has become a formality during marriages.
The groom pretends as if he is going to Kashi taking his umbrella and a stick to lead secluded life there. The groom's brother or father interfere and request him to cancel his trip and marry the girl and enjoy life and then attain moksha with her co-operation. They offer him sweet jaggery and cool him and take back to the marriage venue.
After returning from Kashi Yatra, the groom is taken to the marriage stage where he sits along with parents and the real marriage ceremony starts now. The bride and parents again perform puja among Vedic chants by the priest and with the background music of nadaswaram. Now, the auspicious time gets nearer and the priest orders for bringing the bride to the stage.
The bride's maternal uncle and brothers carry the bride in a well-decorated basket to the venue. While she arrives, a curtain is held in between the bride and the groom as they should not see each other until the auspicious ceremony takes place.
The priest chants Vedic mantras and at the correct time of Lagna (auspicious moments), the bride and groom are handed over a paste of cumin and jaggery and instructed to place it on each other's heads and the curtain gets removed. The nadaswaram is played loudly as this is the most important moment of the marriage. All people gathered there shower the turmeric mixed rice on the heads of groom and bride as their blessings to the couple.
After this ceremony is over, the next ritual of tying the Mangala sutra ( two round plates of gold entwined in a turmeric thread) in bride's neck is performed. Then Homa is performed, igniting the sacred fire and offering ghee and nine kinds of food grains into the fire and worship of other gods of eight directions is also done. After which the seven steps around the sacred fire take place in the midst of chanting of Vedic hymns and the melodious music of nadaswaram. Both the bride and groom take oaths during the rounds around the sacred fire to lead harmonious life and share each other's happy moments and sad moments together.
Thereafter, the bride and groom play searching a golden ring immersed in water to find out who is more dominant. Then the 'talambralu' ceremony takes place during which they both shower turmeric mixed rice over each other's head to see who is smarter among them. Sometimes, they may oblige each other and willingly yield to the other.
A TV serial marriage ceremony
About marriage ceremony video
This is a link given to an episode in TV serial on Gemini TV which depicts some of the rituals followed on the marriage day in our Hindu customs. It is a very brilliant source for knowing about detailed rituals of our Hindu marriage ceremonies. I am very thankful to the Producer, Director and story writer of this serial for so beautifully depicting the rituals in their Telugu serial titled "Sravana Sameeralu" episode 803 dated 28/06/2016.
Send-off ceremony by the bride's parents | Reception at Groom's House
Now, the marriage ceremonies are over and time for the send-off ceremony at 6 pm on 20th May 2015. The bride's saree end that hangs over the shoulder is filled with rice and tied. After reaching groom's house, she will have to cook half of the rice for groom's family and return the other half to her own parents later when they visit her. Many containers of sweets and food items and cookery are also offered by the bride's parents to be taken to groom's house to establish her family life there. They say good-bye to her with weeping eyes while she steps into the car with her new husband and in-laws. One member of her family accompanies her to the groom's house.
On reaching groom's house, the sister or cousin sisters of Groom offer aarti to the new couple and then the couple are asked to tell their partner's name before entering in. Then all people are offered drinks, sweets, and fruits and enjoy until dinner time.
Next morning, the couple perform brat or vratam (Satyanarayana puja and stories revealing the powers of this puja and the importance of prasad) offering coconuts at the end of each chapter. A sweet dish is prepared for offering to God as prasad on completion. Then it is distributed to all participants.