Traditional Indian Weddings are a world of color, sound, and beauty. For centuries, Hindus around the globe have adhered to strict marriage customs – and as cultures have brushed up against each other, the Hindu Wedding ceremony has garnered a legacy of excitement and radiance.Yet, despite their splendor, Indian wedding traditions are a holy rite, made up of serious rituals that must be observed with great respect. For the Hindus, marriage is one of the most meaningful and essential of institutions – not something entered into lightly – and as a result, years of planning and preparation go into each one.
Hindu weddings are known for their extravagance, but there are many other significant customs which play a role in the ceremonies.
This is undoubtedly one of the most vibrant and exciting components of any traditional Indian wedding ceremony. The Wedding Barat is the procession of the wedding party from the groom’s home to the wedding venue. Throughout the procession, the groom is seated on an ornately decorated steed (typically a horse, elephant, or carriage) and is the center of the attention. All of his friends and relatives accompany him, and dance around him.
Once the groom reaches the wedding venue, the soon-to-be mother in law of the groom will wash his feet, and offer him milk in honey in welcome. While the groom is having his feet washed, his sister-in-law will try to steal his shoes. If she is able, the groom will have to pay her to get his shoes back.
The Bridal Dress (Solah Shringar)
One of the most easily recognizable, and admired, aspects of an Indian wedding is the bride’s outfit. Adorned in lavish shades of red and gold – the bride wears sixteen different symbolic pieces – much more involved than the western four (something borrowed, blue, old, and new.) Everything from her hair to her ankle bracelets to the beautifully designed henna on her hands and feet are carefully thought out.
This is the wedding altar and is built on the day of the wedding.
Colors take on a special significance in Hindu ceremonies – for example you would never find a bride wearing white on her wedding day, because white is the color of mourning! You will find a lot of red and gold, however, because these colors signify good luck and prosperity.
Also for luck, relatives and wedding guests will throw flower petals in these colors around the bride and groom.
Kanyadaan is the presenting of the bride to the groom by the father. Extremely important in Hindu tradition, this custom symbolizes the act of transferring authority from the father to the new husband. As ceremony demands, the father of the bride must place the right hand of the bride atop the right hand of the groom. Next, the father blesses the new couple by pouring holy water over their joined hands, and recites Vedic hymns.
Instead of exchanging rings, like in many Western weddings, a black cord with two gold pendants is tied in three knots around the neck of the bride by the groom – which symbolizes that their souls will be united for at least 100 years. The bride will wear this for the remainder of her life – as it shows that she is married. “Mangala Sutra” or “Mangalsutra” means sacred thread. Often, a bride will also wear a toe ring once she is married, which also stands a symbol of her union.
The Sacred Fire
The fire god, Agni, is a special part of any wedding ceremony. In the ritual known as Mangal Pheras the bride and groom walk the perimeter of a holy fire four times before returning to their seats. During their walk, thy will say a prayer to Agni to bless their union.