In the previous blog we talked about the rites and rituals at the birth of the child. In this blog, we will talk about the Hindu marriage rituals. “Marriages are made in heaven” is one of the most common proverb said in India during marriages. Since ages marriage in Hinduism is considered as a very pure and pious union of the mind and soul of two individuals not only for a lifetime but might stretch up to seven lifetimes. Marriage also called the Vivaah Sanskar is a step from the first stage of a person’s life which he or she devotes to learning and education, to the second stage of life, devoted to having a household with their family. The married couple has to follow Dharma, doing all the right deeds; Artha, the way of acquiring money for their family for a living and Karma or Kama, how they end up fulfilling their natural longings. In Vedic scriptures, marriage is a ceremony with strong moral and ethical values with various steps and rituals involved in it. According to the Hindu culture, there are thirteen steps involved in this ceremony:-
Vara Satkaarah (Welcoming the Groom And his family) - It is the welcoming of the groom, his family and friends at the entrance of the wedding venue by the bride’s family with Aarati, Sweets, Garlands and tilak of vermilion and turmeric powder. This ceremony signifies the importance of shaping strong family bonds as the counterparts of each family meet and greet each other over Milni offerings.
Madhuparka Ceremony – The bride’s father bestows the groom with presents at the altar (mandap).
Kanya Dan (giving away of the bride) – ‘Kanya’ means daughter and ‘daan’ means giving away. This is an important ritual in a Hindu ceremony, the bride’s father happily approves of giving away his daughter to the groom in the presence of relatives and the loved ones. The priest chants the mantras (in the Rig veda) and the father puts his daughter’s hand over the groom’s hands to willingly approve her of being the groom’s better half also called ‘ardhangani’.
Vivah-Homa (sacred fire ceremony) - This sacred fire serves as a witness of the nature signifying that all auspicious events of the marriage will begin in front of the fire God, Agni.
Pani-Grahan (acceptance of the hand) – The bride keeps her right hand on top of the grooms left hand, accepting her as his legally wedded wife.
Pratigna-Karan - The couple walks around the fire with the bride leading the groom making solemn vows of life-long trust, love and faithfulness to each other.
Shila Arohan - The bride is asked to step on a stone by her mother, where the mother advices her daughter for the new beginning in her new life. The stone signifies strength and trust. A married couple is likely to face certain ups and downs, prosperity, joy, sorrow, etc. during the course of their life. Despite of all the difficulties they face they are entitled to remain dedicated and true to each other. The bride has to place her right foot on the stone, while the priest chants a Mantra from the Atharva Veda.
Laja-Homah – Laja means parched rice or popcorn. The bride and groom offer rice into the sacred fire with the brides hand laid on top of the groom three times making promises to God for the bond they are going to share.
Parikrama or Pradakshina or Mangal Fera (circumambulation of the sacred fire) - This is an auspicious and important part of the marriage ceremony. The couple has to take seven circles around the sacred fire. This signifies that the marriage will be legalized according to the Hindu Marriage Act as well as the Hindu customs because they have eye-witnesses for the rounds that the bride and groom take. In this the bride’s parents ties a knot from one end of the groom's stole with the bride's dress.
Saptapadi – The couple takes seven steps representing sustenance, strength, wealth, happiness, offspring, long life and harmony and understanding, respectively.
Abhishek - The couple offer water while meditating to the sun and the pole star.
Anna Praashan - In this the couple offer food into the sacred fire and then a small piece to each other expressing their love and affection.
Aashirvadah – This is the last ritual of the marriage, the newly wedded couple bow down and touch the feet of the elders of the family to take their blessings for their new life married life.
In Hinduism marriage is considered the best way of continuing their family and practicing Dharma. Not only humans but the Gods have also followed this divine ritual of marriage in the same manner and lead it the same way humans have. Therefore, marriage in Hinduism is not just considered a mutual contract between a man and a woman but a social, physical and mental bond that they have to share for their rest of their life.
In our next blog, we will take you through the rites and rituals duting and after death in Hinduism.