Hindu wedding rituals
India is a land of multiple religions and multiple languages and almost all the religions of India consider wedding to be one of the most serious affairs of life. In India marriage is more a religious ritual than just a social or legal obligation. It is a way to unite two souls. In fact it can be said that Indian weddings are a perfect combination of tradition as well as celebration and revelry. Interestingly it might be noted that Indian wedding does not necessarily mean a Hindu wedding rather it is a melting pot for almost all religious weddings like Islam, Jewish, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. Apart from different religious weddings, Indian weddings also vary according to different regions. It is true that weddings are of varied types in the Indian subcontinent but one thing that is common to all the Indian Weddings is the essence of commitment.
List of Wedding In India
- Bengali Wedding
- Bihari Wedding
- Kashmiri Wedding
- Marwadi Wedding
- Malayali Wedding
- Bishnupriya Manipuri Wedding
- Muslim Wedding
- Kumaoni Wedding
- Punjabi Hindu Wedding
- Sikh Wedding
- Telugu Wedding
- Assamese Wedding
- Parsi Wedding
- Christian Wedding
- Marathi Wedding
- Tamil Brahman Wedding
- Vedic Wedding Ceremony (Karnataka/Telangana)
- Buddhist Wedding
- Gujarati Wedding
- Jainism wedding
- Arya Samaj Wedding
Tamil Brahman Wedding
Tam-Brahm marriages are traditionally fixed by the parents; the compatibility of the bride and groom is decided by comparison, of their horoscopes – which indicate the planetary positions at the time of their birth, and are said to predict their character accurately. Once the marriage is finalised, a small engagement ceremony is held, to solemnise the forthcoming marriage in the presence of witnesses.
Traditionally, this is a ceremony performed by the elders in the family, with the bride and groom, being spectators. They have no role to play here. The parents of the bride and groom decide the date of the marriage in the presence of the priest, with both the families watching. The priest then reads out a Lagna Pathrigai, specifying the date, time and venue of the marriage and this serves as a sort of commitment for both families. The bride’s family brings fruits and sweetmeats and the groom people, in turn, serve snacks and dinner and present a sari to the bride. This ceremony is performed by the Groom’s side.
Kalyanam: Commencement of marriage ceremonies
The bride’s family arrives at the marriage venue or ‘kalyana-mandapam’ one day prior to the wedding. The venue is decorated with ‘kolams and flowers.
In anticipation of the arrival of the groom and his family, the bride’s family keeps ‘chandanam’ ‘kumkumam’ (vermilion), rose water, sugar candy, garlands and a platter for the ‘aarthi’ (traditional welcoming ritual). A vessel containing ‘thiraattupal’ (sweetened khoya) is also kept ready for the groom’s mother.
On the groom’s arrival the ‘nadaswaram’ (traditional instrument) is played and the ‘aarthi’ is performed in his honour.
Viratham: Ceremony observed to obtain blessings from departed elders
This is a ceremony performed separately by bride and groom’s side. The rituals followed for the groom are far more elaborate than those for the bride.
‘Charadu’ – A Sacred yellow thread is tied on the wrists of the bride and groom and they are not permitted to leave the marriage venue. The ‘palika’ ceremony (sprinkling of nine varieties of grains) for the prosperity of the couple’s new life together is conducted simultaneously with the ‘viratham’.
To culminate the function, an ‘aarthi’ is performed.
Janavasam & Nischaiyartham: Inviting the groom to the ‘mandapam’
This is a very important aspect of the marriage where any differences between the families are sorted out. The ceremony traditionally takes place in a temple. The bride’s family brings turmeric, betel leaves, nuts and clothes for the groom. The bride’s brother then garlands the groom, and sugar candy is distributed to all present. The groom is then escorted to a decorated car and the family leaves in a procession for the ‘mandapam’.
Once the procession reaches the marriage venue, the bride is led outside by her close friends to get a glimpse of her future husband! ‘Aarthi’ is performed and a coconut broken to ward off evil. The groom is then led to the ‘medai’ (an elevated place in the ‘mandapam’ where all the ceremonies are performed). Members of both families sit opposite each other and a ‘lagna patrigai’ is written and read aloud by the ‘pujari’. ‘Thamboolams’ (platters of betel nuts, dry fruits, nuts, coconuts, turmeric and ‘kumkumam’) and gifts are exchanged.
The cone shaped ‘parupputhengai’ is an important part of all these ceremonies.
Wedding Arrangements: Preparations for the actual wedding ceremony on the day of the wedding
Early morning on the day of the wedding, the bride’s family sends toiletries, a mirror, a basket filled with sweetmeats and a ‘nadaswaram’ to the groom’s family. The priest usually ties the traditional ‘dhoti’ or ‘panchakatcham’ for the groom and apply ‘vibhuti’ or sacred ash in three horizontal lines on his forehead.
Kashi Yatra: The groom embarks on a mock pilgrimage
After much ado, the groom accepts and returns to the ‘mandapam’ to get married! Off late,
some families actually have autos waiting outside the mandapam giving the boy one last chance to actually run away!Dressed in the traditional ‘panchakatcham’, holding an umbrella, a fan, a walking stick, and a towel containing ‘dal’ (lentils) and rice tied to his shoulder, the groom embarks on a mock pilgrimage. As he steps out of the ‘mandapam’, the bride’s father pleads with him not to go to ‘Kashi’ (a sacred pilgrimage site in the city of Benaras) and marry his daughter instead.
Unjal Unjal:The couple exchange garlands
On entering the ‘mandapam’ the groom discards his walking stick and all the other paraphernalia and is garlanded by the bride. The groom in turn garlands the bride.
The couple is then made to sit on a decorated swing and the women folk smear their feet with a little milk, ‘kumkumam’ and ‘chandanam’. A pot of water and a lamp set inside a measure containing rice are carried by the bride’s mother and other elderly ladies around the swing and the couple is fed a mixture of bananas, milk and sugar. After the traditional ‘aarthi’ the bride and groom are escorted for the next ceremony -the ‘kanyadhanam’.
Kanyadhan: Giving away the bride
The chanting of ‘mantras’ (Vedic chants), the priest ignites the sacred fire. The groom is gifted a ‘muhurtha Vashti’ and an ‘anga-vastram’ The bride is seated on her father’s lap for the ‘kanyadhanam’.
Sapthapathi: Seven steps around the sacred fire
The bride’s sari ‘pallu’ and the groom’s ‘angavastram’ (shawl) are tied in a knot and the couple hold hands. The groom places his foot under the bride’s and helps her to take the seven steps around the fire. Then he places the bride’s foot on a grinding stone near the fire and slips silver rings or ‘metti’ on her toes.
The couple is then shown the ‘Dhruva Nakshatra’ or Pole Star, a symbol of permanence and the ‘Arundhati Nakshatra’ or symbol of purity and virtue.
Laja Homam: The bride makes an offering to the sacred fire
The bride’s brother slings a bagful of puffed rice or ‘laja’ over his shoulder and keeps giving fistfuls of it to his sister to offer as a sacrifice to the sacred fire. After this ritual the couple circulate and are blessed by all present.
The bride and groom together hold a coconut dipped in turmeric, while the bride’s mother pours water onto the coconut. This is the actual ritual of ‘kanyadhanam’.
Mangalyadharanam: The groom ties the sacred ‘taali’ on the bride
The ‘kanyadhanam’ is followed by the ‘mangalyadharanam’. The ‘taali’ or ‘mangalsutra’ is placed on the bride’s head along with a miniature piece of jewellery shaped like a yoke Mangalyadharanam and the groom performs a ‘puja’ with ‘kumkumam’ and flowers. He then ties the first knot of the ‘taali’ around the bride’s neck and his sister ties the other two.
Sasha Homam: Blessing for healthy offspring
This is a symbolic ritual to invoke blessings for healthy offspring. The groom ties a thread around the bride’s hip. This ceremony used to be performed just before the nuptials but these days it is a part of the marriage ceremony itself, so that the couple is ready for the wedding reception.
Gruhapravesam: The bride is welcomed into her marital home
If the grooms’ family lives in the same town the bride is taken to her new home and made to sit on a ‘manai’ (low wooden plank) and fed milk and bananas. Her in-laws also present her with a sari and she is asked to light the ‘kuthuvailakku’ (sacred lamp in the ‘puja’ room).
If the groom’s family does not live in the same town, this ceremony is performed in the ‘mandapam’ after completion of all the marriage rites.
Seer Bakshanam: Sweets sent with the bride to her marital home
The bride’s parents prepare several sweets and savouries for the bride to take back with her to her husband’s home. These are known as ‘seer bak shan am’ and are stored in decorated containers by the groom’ family and later distributed amongst friends and relatives.
Thus ends the Grand Tamil Brahmin Wedding, which lasts a little over two days.
Hindu Malayali Wedding
Malayalee wedding is a very short and crisp ceremony, which is held in the morning. The most preferred location to conduct a typical Malayalee wedding is the maternal house of the bride. However, with the passing time, people are opting for a more convenient venue for both the families of the bride and the groom, say, the auditorium of a nearby temple or the temple itself. Whether it is a very lavish wedding, with a long list of guests to witness, or a simple one, the rituals followed by the Malayalees are generally the same.
The Engagement Ceremony
Different communities in Kerala depending on their place of origin have their own engagement ceremonies. Usually, engagement happens in the girl’s house. Both families meet and an astrologer is called to choose auspicious dates from a Panchangam (A book that contains auspicious times and dates, this is like the yearbook for most communities, including Tamil Brahmins). In a Malayalee engagement ceremony, the boy and the girl need not be present, but off late the customs are changing. An interesting point to be noted here is that no Thambalam ( plates containing fruits and sweets) are exchanged. After this, a grand Sadya (traditional Malayalee Meal served on a Banana leaf) is served.
Seek the Blessings
Before entering the venue to tie the wedding knot, the bride and the groom seek blessings from their elder ones, at their respective homes. Thereafter, the bride and the groom get ready for the mandapam/venue. Friends of the bride help her in dressing her up, for the nuptial knot. Typically, the bride wears a two-piece sari (known as ‘set saree’) for the wedding. However, she can also opt for any other sari as well. She is accessorized with jewelry (typically gold) and her braided hair is embellished with flower (generally jasmine). On the other hand, the groom is dressed up in the traditional dhoti (mundu) and white or off-white silk shirt. Gold chains, gold bracelets, and rings add to the appeal of his attire.
Welcoming The Bridegroom
After seeking blessings from their elder ones, the bride, and the groom leave for the venue (where the wedding ceremony is held), from their respective homes. Traditionally, the family and friends from the bride’s side reach the venue first, in order to welcome the groom and his acquaintance. Traditional drum (thavil) and nadaswaram (non-brass acoustic instrument) are played to welcome the groom’s procession, which heads towards the venue. At the doorstep of the venue, the bride’s brother (father in some parts of Kerala) welcomes the groom by washing his feet with water. In return, the brother receives small gifts (gold chain, bracelet or money) from the groom. Thereafter, the groom is accompanied by two of his relatives, to the mandapam. The bride revolves three times around the mandapam and sits next to the bride, who is already present there.
The girls wear a traditional Kasavu Saree (Kerala saree) and the boy’s wear a Shirt and Mundu. The stage is decorated with lamps and flowers. There is no priest or fire or Homam, unless the function happens in a temple. there is a para – a vessel made of brass and copper filled with nellu (rice grains with husks).
The girl is brought into the hall accompanied by her aunts and sisters, each of them carrying lit lamps in their hands. The boy arrives the same way.
Once they are seated, the boy’s parents will bring a thali (mangalsutra), which is the simple gold chain with a leaf-like pendant. The boy ties it around the girl’s neck and his sisters help in the process. Then, garlands are exchanged. At this point, the girl’s father holds her hand and gives it to the boy. This symbolizes handing over the girl to the boy’s family.
The boy, then holds the girl’s hand, go around the stage three times, thus signaling the end of the wedding.
They then receive blessings from the oldest members of the family. A grand sadya is served.
Interesting Facts & Comparisons
- The famous Bollywood movie ‘Dil Se portrayed the traditional engagement ceremony of Kerala in the most beautiful manner
- The wedding traditions are divided into Hindu, Nair, Christian and Muslim and, each tradition has some roots that are in sync with the traditional Kerala.
- Kerala is known for the best mix of traditional and unconventional marriages.
- Monsoon weddings are very famous in this region since it is a favourable climate.
- Several people come from different cities, or countries to celebrate their weddings due to Kerala’s splendid natural beauty.