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The Essentials of a Hindu Marriage1 2

1. An Introduction:
An ideal Hindu life revolves around four stages called rams, the first of which is a stage of
education as a bachelor (brahmacharya rams), the second is that of a householder (gruhasta ram),
the third is that of an elderly recluse (vnaprastha ram), and finally a renouncer of worldly belongings
(sanysa ram). The first stage of Brahmacharya concludes with the wedding. In ancient Indian
culture, vivaha, or marriage, is considered as a social arrangement for the initiation of a lifelong
companionship and lawful union between a man and a woman for the purpose of leading a life
of Dharma (fulfillment of duties towards their ancestors, descendants and the society in which they
live), Artha (creation and management of wealth), Kama (physical union for progeny), and finally to
achieve Moksha (liberation of soul for eternal happiness) with good deeds.
On the other hand, the wedding is an event filled with deeply meaningful and symbolic
combination of rituals, prayers and traditions at the conclusion of which the couple are expected to lead
a life of perfect monogamous companionship with mutual respect, dependence and love. Love begins
with the marriage according to Hindu tradition. The rituals of a Hindu wedding, often referred to as a
Vedic wedding, are derived from ancient scriptures called Vedas 3, written in Sanskrit.
During the wedding, several rituals are to be completed in an orderly fashion. The prayers and
rituals are to join the souls of bride and groom and to create a strong tie between the two families.

2. Pre-Wedding Rituals (months before the wedding)


The Engagement: The formal ceremony in front of witnesses, mostly close friends and
relatives of both parties, both parents agree to consult learned priests with knowledge of
astrology to set a date for the wedding.

3. Pre-Wedding Rituals (days before the wedding)


i. Pasupu Muhurtham: The women folk pound turmeric roots at a selected date and time. This
event starts the Pre Wedding Rituals.
ii. Erection of Pelli Pandiri: A canopy (Called Pelli Pandiri in Telugu) is erected at the house of
bride & bridegroom on a selected day (generally, 3 to 4 days before wedding). A branch from
an Indian berry tree is erected in this canopy to declare the commencement of pre-wedding
ceremonies.
iii. Pelli-koothuru (Declaration as a Bride): This ceremony involves anointing the bride with oil
and turmeric by women folk. Later the bride dons new clothes following a bath. All the elderly
women and their husbands that had a long happy married life are invited to bless the bride to
have a similar happy married life. This functions takes place at brides residence. Some apply
Mehindi (paste of Henna) to decorate bride in natural makeup.
iv. Pelli-koduku (Declaration as a Groom): This function is held in a separate venue at the
grooms place of residence or hotel, and is similar in all aspects to the making of a bride. Women
sing folk songs and bless the groom.

1
Reference : 1. Kalyana Samskriti By Sri Ekkirala Bharadhwaja
2
Reference : 2. A write up on http://srijaandganesh.com/the-wedding-explained/
3
Vedas are considered most sacred texts of Hindu religion. They are probably the most ancient text available in any
civilization.
4. The Day of the Wedding
a. Preliminary Events4
i. Mangala Snaanam (Holy Bathe): The bride and groom start the day with a Mangala
Snaanam or an auspicious bath early on the day of the wedding.
ii. Initiation of the Marriage Ceremony: The event starts by invocation to Lord Ganapati.
This is followed by Punyahavachanam, a ritual to purify the venue and all the material
used for the event and seek blessings from the priests and elders. The bride later joins
them and sits by the side.
iii. Gauri5 Pooja: The bride worships the Goddess Gauri by performing Gauri Pooja while the
groom is worshiping Lord Ganesh6 on the main Mandap. All the honorable guests arrive
and take their seats at wedding hall venue for the event.
iv. Sankalpam : Any event of religious significance in Vedic culture starts with this event.
This is process by which the person that performs a ritual has to announce the minutest
specifics of location, time, his identity and the reason for performing the event, all in
Sanskrit.
v. Yajnopavita Dharana :The Wearing of the additional strands of sacred thread made of
cotton or silver across his chest

The curtain separates them until bride and bridegroom are allowed to look into each others
eyes and touch each other at the time of Muhurtam.

b. Kanyadaan - Giving the Bride Away


i. Kanyadaan: The Kanayadaan is that part of the marriage ceremony in which the girls
family gives her away to the groom. The brides parents wash the grooms feet in a gesture
that symbolizes their belief that Lord Vishnu to whom they now offer their daughters
hand.
ii. The father of the bride further declares that With all the beings in this world, with the
elements and all the celestials as my witness, I am giving this girl to you for the good of
your ancestors and descendants and for liberation of my ancestors.
iii. Reciprocation by Groom: I accept Dharmecha, arthecha, kamecha nathi charithavyethi.
Data vadeth. Nathi Charatavya, Nathi Charami I shall not transgress
The groom makes the promise by repeating three times that he will not fail the bride in
realizing dharma, artha and kama, and promises never to transgress her rights.
iv. The bride sits facing the east in the Mandap while the groom is sitting in front facing her,
but separated by a curtain.

4
Since ancient Vedic times, the people of India are classified into tribes and some events are specific to certain elite
communities. Hence, the irrelevant events are not described here.
5
The Goddess Gauri is revered as a manifestation of Shakti (the most powerful mother of the universe) the power and
energy by which the world is created, preserved and destroyed. She symbolizes motherhood, fertility and the victory
of good over evil.
6
Lord Ganesh , the elephant headed God, is revered as the remover of obstacles of any event.
c. Main Events during Wedding
i. Muhurtham: The most important part of the wedding
After the priest recites the wedding verses from the Vedas7, the bride and groom apply a
small cake made from a paste of cumin seeds (jeera) and raw sugar (jaggery) on each
others heads, across the curtain. This time is the sacred time fixed by the astrologer to
commence the nuptial knot. The cake is kept exactly at anterior fontanel, an esoteric
aperture that is believed to transmit visual and spiritual energy between them to become
an inseparable couple.
The Curtain is then removed. The bride and the groom are instructed to look into each
others eyes and the place in between eyes.
ii. Sumuhurta Akshata : Those present at the wedding shower their blessings on the couple
by sprinkling flowers and turmeric-coloured rice (Akshata) on them.
iii. The bride and the groom now exit briefly to change into auspicious clothes
(madhuparkamulu).
iv. Arrival of the Bride and Groom in the New Attire for the Completion of the Wedding.
v. Mangala Sutra : The gold pendants (mangalyam) are tied together with turmeric-laden
multilayered threads to form the Mangala Sutramu. The Mangala Sutramu is tied around the
brides neck during the wedding and retained for life. It is the most auspicious symbol of
marriage and the pendants are kept close to heart. Each gold pendant is of a specific
weight and shape.
vi. Prayer to the Mangala Sutra: The bride and the groom then worship the Gold pendants
to invoke sanctity into the pendants.
vii. Mangalasutra Dharana (Tying of the Mangalsutra with three knots):
While sanskrit verses are being recited, the groom stands, and ties the two strings
separately around the brides neck with three knots. Each knot signifies a level of marital
commitment, manasa (in heart), vacha (in word) and karmana (in deed). By tying the
necklace, the groom is offering safety, security, and commitment to the bride.
During this event the groom recites:
O maiden, I tie this sacred thread, essential for my long life, around your neck. Having many
auspicious attributes, may you live happily with me for a hundred years8
viii. Having tied the mangala sutra, the couple now exchange garlands. Those present at
the wedding shower their blessings on the couple by sprinkling flowers and turmeric-
coloured rice (Akshata) on them.
ix. Talambaraalu
The bride and groom shower one another with talambaraalu, rice mixed with saffron &
turmeric, brought on to the stage earlier. This signifies the couples desire for happiness,
enjoyment and contentment. Initially they take turns to shower the grains on each other.
Later on, the priest will tie a knot called Brahmamudi between the upper garments
(Madhuparkam9) of the groom and the bride for the next set of events.

7
Vedas are considered most sacred texts of Hindu religion. They are probably the most ancient text available in any
civilization.
8
A literal translation of Sanskrit verses to be spoken by the Bridegrrom.
9
The sacred dress donned by Bride and Groom.
x. Arundhati and Dhruva Darshan
In the evening when the stars appear in the sky, the priest shows the couple the
constellation of Ursa Major and the Arundhati star (Alcor), a star that is in close proximity
to Vasista (Mizar). Arundhati, the ideal wife of Sage Vasistha (A great saint), is exemplified
as a most virtuous woman and an embodiment of chastity. The event is to inform the bride
of marital virtue of Arundhati and to seek her blessings. The two front stars of the
constellation point to the Dhruva Star (Polaris), the brightest star in the Ursa minor. Since
this star is stationary, the couple look at the star as a symbol of stability.
xi. Phalpradhanam :
Towards the end of the wedding, the priests perform Vedic chants to bring positive
influence for a long lasting marriage. Following the chants, the scholars and the elders are
honored with gifts by the couple and seek their blessings.
xii. Dampati Tamboolalu: Elderly married women with prolonged married life are honored
with gifts to seek their blessings.
xiii. A humorous play: While reciting the prayers, a gold ring is dropped into a large vessel
filled with water. The bride and the groom compete with each other to quickly pull the
ring from the vessel. This is done 3 times. It is a belief that the spouse that collects the
ring 2 out of 3 times will dominate the married life.
xiv. Appagintalu:
This is the final event on the stage. The bride will be ritualistically be declared as part of
the grooms family. The father and the mother of the bride joins the hands of the bride
individually to the groom, his parents and sister. He recites, I have nurtured this child till
this age and I am handing her over to your family for the prosperity and progeny of her
husband. Dear parents and sister of the groom, from now on consider her as your own
daughter and be a guide and philosopher. This is an extremely emotional event for the
brides family, since the daughter they raised so far is leaving the house and the
separation is final.

5. Post-Wedding Rituals
a. Griha Pravesh
The marriage ceremony over, the bride is taken to the grooms home for Griha Pravesh (entering
the house for the first time). The bride enters the home placing the right foot considered
auspicious, first. When the bride and the groom enter the grooms house, the sister or mother of
the groom welcomes the bride by doing an Aarati. The couple retire into their own rooms.
b. Satyanarayana Vratam: The couple perform their first worship in their own home. This done
on the first or second day after arrival of the bride to her new home.
c. Uniting the Mangalasutra: The two mangalsutras are united on a common thread and are
attached to a gold chain 16 days after the wedding. An elder member of the family or the husband
himself can unite the two mangalsutras on a common thread.
Important Glossary:
1. Aarati : A holy welcome by lighting camphor.
2. Artha : Wealth
3. rams : Four stages of Vedic Living
4. Dharma: Righteousness
5. Kama : Worldly Desire
6. Mandap : The stage for Wedding
7. Muhurtham : Selected auspicious time of event
8. Pasupu : Turmeric Considered sacred in any Hindu ceremonies
9. Pelli : The Wedding
10. Telugu : The regional language spoken in this part of India