The colorful world of Indian weddings, or ‘Vivaah’ are best known for their graceful grandeur, traditional rituals, and festival like celebrations. Vivaah’s have always seemed so festive, colorful and bright, making me wish that one day I will have an opportunity to experience one for myself. A lot of time, effort and financial resources are attached to Hindu weddings, because they are regarded as the most important personal ritual an adult Hindu undertakes in his/her life. Vivaah’s are not just a sacred union of man and wife, but the coming together of two families. “Today, the children of these (Indian) immigrants are in their 20s and 30s. Their average income is $88,000… The average American wedding costs $29,000 and has 140 guests, according to TheKnot.com. The average cost of an Indian wedding in the U.S. is $65,000 with 500 guests, says Ruchir Mewawala, a wedding planner who specializes in Indian ceremonies.” With the cost of an average Indian wedding ceremony coming in at more than half their annual salary, it shows just how important weddings are to the Hindu culture.
Indian weddings are traditionally multi-day affairs, and involve many intricate ceremonies, combined to make up one large festive occasion. The wedding is typically divided into three parts: pre-wedding, main, and post-wedding. The pre-wedding includes all the preparations and a party the night before where each side of the family can meet each other and dance and have fun. Hindu wedding rituals may vary widely, but you will find a few common key practices, such as: Kanyadaan, the process of the father giving away his daughter, Panigrahana where the bride and groom voluntarily holding hands near the fire to signify their union, and Saptapadi, the final step before the couple can consider themselves husband and wife, is a 7-step process, each step including a marriage vow to each other before a fire. The primary witness of a Hindu marriage is fire, in lieu of the fire-deity, Agni. The ceremony is traditionally conducted entirely, or at least partially in “the language of holy ceremonies”, also known as Sanskrit. In India, by law and tradition, no Hindu marriage is binding and complete unless Saptapadi is completed by the bride and the groom together. The post-wedding ceremonies may include Abhishek (sprinkling of water as blessings/meditations), Anna Prashashan (first feeding of child), Aashirvadah ( the recieval of blessings from the elders), and Grihapravesa (also known as housewarming or the welcoming of the bride to her new home).
In India, they have some fun wedding traditions. The day of the wedding is selected based on the bride and groom’s horoscopes. On her wedding day, the hands and feet of the bride get painted with intricate henna designs, called a Mehndi. During the pre-wedding, while his feet are being washed by his mother in law, the groom’s sister in law will attempt to steal the groom’s shoes, and if she succeeds, he must pay her to get them back. Once Saptapadi is complete, in a ceremony called Mangal Pheras, the bride and groom circle the sacred fire four times to represent Dharma(duty to eachother, family and God), Artha(prosperity), Karma(energy and passion), and Moksha(salvation), then they run to their seats, and whoever gets there first will rule the household. Another fun game for the newlyweds is called Aeki Beki where a tray of water is mixed with milk and vermillion, then it is filled with coins and a ring. Whoever finds the ring four out of seven times will rule the household.
In Hindu religion it is emphasized that the basis of happy and fulfilling married life is the sense of unity, intimacy and love between husband and wife. Marriage is considered a lifelong social and spiritual responsibility, as well as an opportunity for two people to grow as life partners into soul mates.
Share your thoughts: What’s your take on popular Hindu wedding traditions and customs? Do you have any of your own that you’d like to incorporate into your wedding?
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