An Indian marriage is commonly known as “Vivah” or the “Kalyanam,” it is the most important occasion of a person’s life.
Marriages in India are celebrated over a span of weeks. They are traditionally multi-day affairs, and involve many intricate ceremonies which will be discussed below.
First let’s divide a traditional Indian marriage into three parts. Pre-wedding, main wedding & post wedding.
In Indian and specifically, Hindu culture, marriage symbolizes not just the sacred union of the two husband wife, but the coming together of two families and extended families as well!
In old times, people used to search for suitors and families mutually used to agree on the union.
In this era however, the Indian customs have changed, families search for eligible contenders for their children through word of mouth or with the help of marriage brokers. Another easy and flexible way of finding matches is by using matrimonial sites. This has lately become quite a hit all over India.
After the initial meetings, if both families like each other they mutually take it to the next level and start matching the couple’s horoscope to see their compatibility.
If all is declared well by the marriage priest who is known as the “Pundit”, an alliance is formed between the clans. In urban areas of India, some folks also have grown liberal enough to allow the couple to meet and judge each other on the basis of likes and interests.
Months before the wedding, an engagement ceremony is observed and the marriage commitment is made official as the couple exchanges rings along with other small gifts.
In an Indian marriage, a mahurat (the suitable date and time) of the wedding is the key factor which is foretold by the pundit.This is based mainly on the astrology and horoscope of the couple.
The pre wedding rituals then start.
The time between the engagement and the wedding is full of fun and excitement for both the families of the bride and groom. They meet on various occasions and on each other’s birthdays and have a lot of fun teasing each other.
The Wedding Week:
A traditional Indian marriage lasts until a week; it kicks off with the rasam ritual of “Haldi” or “Pithi”
The bride and groom are applied haldi (turmeric) in their homes along with rose water; usually this ceremony includes a lot of fun and laughter of elders and youngsters who good-naturedly apply this on the couples face, hand and feet. Turmeric is said to be a brightening herb which helps the bride to glow before her wedding day.
Shortly after this, the day of the mehndi arrives; the bride’s hands and feet are adorned with mehndipatterns using henna.
These days, the custom of celebrating a separate function of mehndi is also flourishing; it’s also believed that the darker the color of the bride’s mehndi, the more her husband will love her.
The mehndi function is very grand where both sides sing and dance to their hearts extent. Elderly married women of the family take part in actively beating drums and singing old folk songs, teasing the couple along the way. Another tradition is that when the youngsters of both sides come up on the dance floor to dance on their selected medleys. It’s sort of a raging competition where both sides compete with the latest dance tracks.
Indian Marriage Attire:
On the wedding day, the bride and groom don their respective marriage costumes. Traditionally; the bride wears a saari or a lehenga, embroidered with gold or silver work. The bride wears all the glittery ornaments from head to toe. Her hair is usually in a bun and covered with a crown and veil. Sandalwood is creatively applied on her face in the design of the crown.
Modern brides don’t cover their face with the ghoonghat, whereas in rural areas this ritual is still carried out in which she hides her face with just like that of a Christian wedding veil.
The groom normally wears a dhoti, or a sherwani which is slightly designed with embroidery. The color is mostly white or fawn. In parts of India, the groom also wears a head turban made of flowers, to protect him from the evil eyes
Traditional Indian marriages contain series of rituals and rasams that unite the bride and the groom.
The wedding is usually held at the bride’s home or a marriage hall. The event starts with the arrival of the groom on his horse or elephant with his family and friends’ troop called the “baraat.”
The bride’s family and relatives then escort the groom to the “mandap,” a canopied decorated altar where the ceremony is performed. The mandapis said to represent the future home that the bride and groom will make together.
At the venue the bride’s mother welcomes the groom with a garland and offers tilak and pooja.
The marriage ceremony begins with the worship of Lord Ganesh, who is said to be the destroyer of all obstacles. The bride enters the hall escorted by her maternal uncle and aunt, in some regions she is also brought by her brothers or her cousins and female friends.
The bride and groom then see each other and the bride greets the groom with a special floral garland in her hands, this ritual is known as the Jai Mala,it’s considered that whoever puts the garland first in the neck of the other will have the upper hand in marriage.
Next is the Kanyadaan,and the Hasta Melap(Giving away of the bride) in which the bride’s father pours sacred water in the bride’s hand and giver her hand into the grooms hand. This signifies his officially giving away of his most precious gift to the groom.
The couples scarves and sari are then tied together in a knot symbolizing unity and happiness together. The pandit then lights the fire,“Agni” in the mandap and the commitments are made in front of it, this is called the “VivahHavan.”
The most famous ritual of an Indian marriage is then performed, which is known as “MangalPhere” this is the circling of the sacred fire seven times, each time with a separate vow. The bride leads in the first three rounds, while the groom leads in the last four. After the couple is seated, the groom offers the bride protection with the necklace called the “mangalsutra,” which is made of black and gold beads. The famous mark of married women, the “Sindoor” (Red Vermilion Powder) is also applied on the crown of the bride.
With this, an Indian marriage is considered complete and the couple takes “Ashirvaad” blessings from both the families’ elders and relatives for a long & happy union.