Vivaah

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A South Indian Hindu Marriage Ceremony in progression

Vivāha (Sanskrit) or Vivaah (Hindi: विवाह) is a word for marriage in South Asia. The word is also used to describe a marriage as per Vedic traditions.[1] Under Vedic Hindu traditions marriage is viewed as one of the saṁskāras (sacraments), which is a lifelong commitment of one wife and one husband.[2] In India marriage has been looked upon as having been made in heaven and considered as a ‘’divine knot sanctified by fire‘’.[3] Hindu families are patrilocal.

The Hindu wedding ceremony may vary in minor details from region to region and different priests may adopt some variations.

Institution of marriage[edit]

According to Hinduism, marriage is a union between a male and a female with a commitment to pursue Dharma, Artha (possessions), Kama (physical and other desires) and Moksha (the liberation) together. It joins two families. It is at once a gateway to earthly life of pleasure, progress, prosperity and joy as it is also an altar of elevation to a level of spiritual experience. Society recognizes and controls it as it results in the procreation and nurture of the future generation and thereby influences the social and cultural growth of society. According to Manusmriti, or laws of Manu, there are eight different types of Hindu marriages. Not all eight have religious sanction. The last four were not religiously defined and were condemned. These are: Brahma Marriage, Daiva Marriage, Arsha Marriage, Prajapatya Marriage, Gandharva Marriage, Asura Marriage, Rakshasa Marriage, Paishacha Marriage.

Type of marriage[edit]

Eight different types of Vivaah have been documented in the ancient Indian scripture Manu Smrti III.20-34.[4] In all these types of marriage, an eligible groom is one who has completed his Brahmacharya Ashram (student hood) and an eligible bride is a never-married virgin who has recently attained puberty. The eight types of marriage are:[5][6][7]

  1. Brahma Vivaah:Brahma vivah is considered the best marriage. In this the boy and girl belonging to good families and the same varna get married. The boy should have completed his Brahmacharya Ashram (studenthood). There is no dowry involved and the girl enters the boy’s house with two sets of clothes and some ornaments. In this marriage, the boy’s family approaches the girl’s family. “Kanyadaan”, which is the handing of the bride by her father to the groom, is an important ritual of the Brahma Vivah..
  2. Prajapatya Vivaah: This type of marriage is the same as the Brahma vivaah in all respects, except that the bride's father gives her away as a gift, not to the groom, but to the groom's father. This type of marriage is resorted to when the groom and bride are both very young. Thus, the protection of the bride or daughter is handed over by her father to the groom's father during the Panigrahan (hand-receiving) ceremony. The wedding ceremony involving the young bride and groom may take place immediately afterwards, but the wedding may not be consummated for several years, until the bride and groom are old enough.
  3. Daiva Vivaah: In this type of wedding, there are no feasts or celebrations that are specific to the wedding, but the wedding of the daughter of a poor family is held as an act of charity by wealthy people. It was customary for kings, landlords and rich merchants to hold religious ceremonies and sacrifices where many gifts would be given and charities performed for the benefit of learned Brahmins and the poor. During these great events, a poor man would sometimes approach the wealthy host and seek the charity that his daughter's wedding be performed at this time. This type of marriage may take place if the girl's parents are unable to locate a suitable groom within a reasonable period (several years) after the girl has attained puberty. Often, the reason for this would be that the parents of the bride cannot afford the expense of their daughter's marriage. It was considered improper or unsafe to keep a girl unwed past her teens, and anyway the chances of an aging girl getting a good husband were not better than the same girl getting a good husband at a younger age. So the girl would be bedecked with flowers and whatever small ornaments the parents could provide and taken to the venue of the religious ceremony or sacrifice being performed by a rich magnate. She would be offered in marriage to any willing man and generally this would be one of the priests, young or old. The wedding ceremony would be performed in short order and the feasts which were anyway being hosted as part of the festivities would suffice for this extra wedding also. According to the Dharmashastra, Daiva marriage is considered avoidable but is still respectable since poverty is not culpable; lack of virtue is reprehensible but honest poverty is acceptable.
  4. Arsha Vivaah: In this type of marriage, the family of the groom pays kanya-shulkam or bride-price to the parents of the bride. According to certain texts, the prescribed bride-price is a cow with a calf and a pair of bulls. The sacred texts provide various lists of specific communities where this custom prevailed and imply that it is unfitting in general society. However, several instances are found in the puranas of marriage between a man from mainstream communities and a woman from one of the bride-price seeking communities (Pandu-Madri; Dasharatha-Kaikeyi, etc.). In nearly all cases, the man willingly pays the bride-price and brings his bride home.
  5. Asura Vivaah: In the Asura type of marriage the groom is not at all suitable for the bride. In no way is he a match for the girl but he willingly gives as much wealth as he can afford to the bride's parents and relatives. In Arsha type cows are given in exchange for the bride but there is no such limitation in the Asura type of marriage. Generally the groom is of lower social rank or caste than the bride.
  6. Gandharva Vivaah: When a man and a woman marry for love and without the consent of their families, that marriage is called Gandharva Vivaah or 'love marriage.'
  7. Rakshasa Vivaah: This is essentially marriage by abduction. In cases where the girl is willing to marry the boy but her family is against the alliance, the girl may be abducted and married. It is essential that the girl be willing, because otherwise, the puranas and shastras simply treat the incident of abduction as rape, with consequent vengeance and retribution. Instances of such marriages include Krishna-Rukmini and Arjuna-Subhadra, in all of which cases the girl was willing and the results were good.
  8. Paishacha Vivaah: In the case where the bride is intoxicated, possessed or not in a conscious state of mind when being married and thus is married unwillingly, is an example Paishacha vivaah, and which has been outlawed by Manu.

Sanskara (Vivaah as a sacrament)[edit]

Sacraments constitute an important part of Hindu religion. Sacraments in Hinduism are designed to build a solid foundation for righteous living. They are known as ‘Sanskaras’.Their purpose is to create and develop a religious and spiritual outlook in life. The Hindu religion has instituted sixteen different Sanskaras (sacraments) meant for different phases of life from conception to marriage to old age and death. The word sanskara in Sanskrit means ‘to cause indelible impressions on the mind and to develop every aspect of one’s personality.’ Therefore it is necessary to understand and appreciate their significance and to derive benefit from their performance. Of the sixteen sanskaras in Hinduism, the sacrament of marriage or Vivaah Sanskara is the most important. Marriage influences the personality of man and woman as life partners, enabling them to take their rightful place in society.

Steps [8][edit]

There are many rituals and ceremonies in a Hindu wedding. Many rituals overlap between Indian cultures and communities, though this is not always the case. Well known rituals are described below.[9]

Vaak Daanam[edit]

This step is a part of Kanya Varanam, where the groom-to-be (brahmachari) sends two elders on his behalf to the father of a girl whom he wishes to marry. The elders convey the message of the brahmachari and ask for the daughter's hand. The two mantras in the form of brahmachari's appeal to intercede on his behalf come from Rg 10.32.1 ("pra sugmantha...") and 10.85.23. The first mantra begs the elders to proceed and return quickly with success back from their mission on his behalf. The second mantram ("anruksharaa Rjava:...") asks for the gods' blessings for the elders' safe journey to the house of the father of the would-be-bride. The mantra prays to Aryama and Bhaga for a marriage full of harmony. The father accedes to the request of the elders and the resulting agreement for betrothal is known as vaak daanam.

Kanyaa Daanam[edit]

Here, the brahmachari meets his prospective father-in-law. As soon as the bridegroom’s party arrives, they are warmly welcomed by the bride's parents, relatives and friends. At the entrance of the hall, the threshold ceremony is performed. The officiating priest chants a few mantras of blessings and welcome. The threshold ceremony requires the bride’s mother to receive and bless the groom with rice, red turmeric powder (kumkum) etc., by applying tilak (red dot and uncooked rice) on the groom’s forehead. She sprinkles rice and red turmeric powder on the groom, and then blesses him with the palms of both hands - stretching them close to the groom’s head. Now the priest and the bride’s parents lead the bridegroom and his parents to the stage where they are given appropriate seats. All the other guests take their seats in the hall to witness the marriage ceremony.

To the accompaniment of ceremonial mantras by the officiating priest the bride’s parents welcome the groom by invoking the God’s blessings and then offering the bridegroom a nutritious drink called Madhuparka. This is called the Madhuparka Ceremony, the origin of which dates back thousands of years when Rishis and sages of India used it as a way of welcoming guests.

Vara Prekshanam[edit]

In this ritual, the bridegroom and the bride look at each other formally for the first time. The bridegroom worries about any doshas (defects) that the bride might have and prays to the gods Varuna, Brihaspati, Indra and Surya to remove every defect and to make her fit for harmonious and long marriage life blessed with progeny and happiness (mantra: Rg 10.85.44). The bride groom recites the mantra and wipes the eyebrows of the bride with a blade of darbha grass, to symbolize the removal of defects. The darbha grass is thrown behind the bride at the conclusion of this ceremony. The Bridegroom shall stand facing the east. The Bride shall stand facing the north. The bride (offering the seat or Asana), shall address the bridegroom as follows:

The bride: AUM, The noble one may accept and take the seat.
The bridegroom: AUM, I am taking my seat. (ॐ प्रातिग्रहनामी)

The bride shall take her seat to the right of the bridegroom. The bridegroom performs the Achamana and Angasparsha with water.

All Hindu religious ceremonies begin with two observances, namely Achaman or sipping a small quantity of water and angasparsha or touching one’s limbs with one’s right hand middle two fingers with a little water. Achaman is purificatory and conducive to peaceful attitude of mind. Angasparsha is intended to pray for physical strength and alertness. Achaman and Angasparsha are performed with the aid of Mantras.

Madhuparka ceremony[edit]

Holding with his left hand a cup of Madhuparka (composed of honey, curd and ghee or clarified butter), after removing the cover and looking at the Madhuparka,

The bridegroom says:

May the breeze be sweet as honey; may the streams flow full of honey and may the herbs and plants be laden with honey for us!

May the nights be honey-sweet for us; may the mornings be honey-sweet for us and may the heavens be honey-sweet for us!

May the plants be honey-sweet for us; may the sun be all honey for us and may the cows yield us honey-sweet milk!

"Honey-sweet", in this case, means pleasant, advantageous, and conducive to happiness. The bridegroom shall pour out the Madhuparka into three cups and then partake a little of it from each of the cups reciting the following Mantra:

The bridegroom: The honey is the sweetest and the best. May I have food as sweet and health-giving as this honey and may I be able to relish it!

Presentation of a ceremonial cow[edit]

The bride's father symbolically offers to the bridegroom a cow as a present. In olden times sons-in-law received real cows as gifts, since that was the most precious asset with which a newly wedded couple could start life. This part of the tradition has been preserved by a symbolical presentation. At the conclusion of the first part of the wedding ceremony, it is customary to present gifts to the bride. The bridegroom presents the bride with gifts of clothing and jewellery thereby acknowledging his lifelong duty to provide her with the necessities of life.

The father of the bride, offering to the bridegroom the present of a cow, a finger-ring or some other suitable article says:

The father of the bride: AUM, (Please) accept these presents.
The bridegroom: AUM, I accept (these presents).

Mangala Snaanam and the wearing of the wedding clothes by the bride[edit]

Five Veda mantras are recited to sanctify the bride in preparation for the subsequent stages of the marriage. This aspect of the marriage is known as mangala snanam. The sun god (Surya), water god (Varuna), and other gods are invoked to purify the bride in preparation for a harmonious married life. Next, the bride wears the marriage clothes to the accompaniment of additional Veda mantras. The bridegroom then ties a darbha rope around the waist of the bride and leads her to the place, where the sacred fire is located for conducting the rest of the marriage ceremony. The bride and the groom sit on a new mat in front of the fire. The groom recites three mantras which invoke Soma, Gandharva and Agni to confer strength, beauty, and youth on the bride.

Maangalya Dhaaranam[edit]

There is no Veda Mantram for tying the mangala sutram (auspicious thread) around the neck of the bride by the groom. The latter takes the mangala sutram in his hands and recites the following verse:

|| Maangalyam tantunaanena mama jeevana hetunaa:
kanThe badhnaami subhage twam jeeva saradaam satam ||
This is a sacred thread. This is essential for my long life. I tie this around your neck, O maiden having many auspicious attributes! May you live happily for a hundred years (with me).

Paani Grahanam[edit]

After maangalya dhaaranam, the groom lowers his right palm and encloses it over the right hand of the bride. He covers all the five fingers of the right hand of the bride with his right palm through this act of paani grahanam. He recites mantras in praise of Bhaga, Aryama, Savita, Indra, Agni, Suryan, Vayu and Saraswati, while holding the bride's hand. He prays for long life, progeny, prosperity and harmony with the bride during their married life. The closed fingers of the right hand of the bride is said to represent her heart. The paani grahanam ritual symbolizes the bride surrendering her heart in the hands of the groom during the occasion of the marriage.

Sapta Padi[edit]

Main article: Saptapadi

During this ritual, the groom walks with the bride to the right side of the sacred fire. All along, he holds his wife's right hand in his right hand in the way in which he held her hand during the paani grahanam ceremony. He stops, bends down and holds the right toe of his wife with his right hand and helps her take seven steps around the fire. At the beginning of each step, he recites a Veda mantra to invoke the blessings of Maha Vishnu. Through these seven mantras, he asks Maha Vishnu to follow in the footsteps of his wife and bless her with food, strength, piety, progeny, wealth, comfort and health. At the conclusion of the seven steps, he addresses his wife with a moving statement from the Veds summarized below: Dear Wife! By taking these seven steps, you have become my dearest friend. I pledge my unfailing loyalty to you. Let us stay together for the rest of our lives. Let us not separate from each other ever. Let us be of one mind in carrying out our responsibilities as householders (grihasthas). Let us love and cherish each other and enjoy nourishing food and good health. Let us discharge our prescribed Vedic duties to our elders, ancestors, rishis, creatures, and gods. Let our aspirations be united. I will be the Saaman and may you be the Rk (Saaman here refers to the music and Rk refers to the Vedic text that is being cast into music). Let me be the upper world and let you be the Bhumi or Mother Earth. I will be the Sukla or life force and may you be the bearer of that Sukla. Let me be the mind and let you be the speech. May you follow me to conceive children and gain worldly as well as spiritual wealth. May all auspiciousness come your way. This series of Veda mantras starting with "sakhaa saptapadhaa bhava ..." and ending with "pumse putraaya ..." are rich with meaning and imagery.

Pradhaana Homam or Jayadi Homamam[edit]

After sapta padi, the couple take their seat on the western side of the sacred fire and conduct pradhaana homam. During the conductance of this homam, the bride must place her right hand on her husband's body so that she gets the full benefit of the homam through symbolic participation. Sixteen mantras are recited to the accompaniment of pouring a spoon of clarified butter into the sacred fire at the end of recitation of each of the mantras. These mantras salute Soma, Gandharva, Agni, Indra, Vayu, the Aswini Devas, Savita, Brihaspati, Viswa Devas and Varuna for blessing the marriage and beseeches them to confer long wedded life, health, wealth, children and freedom from all kinds of worries. One prayer—the sixth mantra—has a sense of humor and provides deep insight into human psychology. The text of this mantra is: "daSaasyam putraan dehi, patim ekaadaSam kRti". Here, the groom asks Indra to bless the couple with ten children and requests that he be blessed to become the eleventh child of his bride in his old age.

Ashmarohanam (stepping on the grinding stone)[edit]

After pradhaana homam, the husband holds the right toe of his wife and lifts her leg and places it on a flat granite grinding stone known as "ammi" in Tamil. The ammi stands at the right side of the sacred fire. The husband recites a Veda mantra when he places the right foot of his wife on the ammi: May you stand on this firm stone. May you be rock-firm during your stay on this grinding stone. May you stand up to those who oppose you while you carry out your time-honored responsibilities as a wife sanctioned by the Vedas and tradition. May you develop tolerance to your enemies and put up a fair fight to defend your legitimate rights as the head of the household in a firm manner, equal to the steady strength of this grinding stone. Some traditions mention to wear two silver ring on the either toes of bride by the bridegroom at this time.

Laaja Homam[edit]

After ammi stepping, a ceremony of doing homam with parched rice(laja) is conducted. Here, the wife cups her hands and the brothers of the bride fill the cupped hands with parched rice. The husband adds a drop of ghee to the parched rice and recites five Veda mantras. At the end of each of the recitation, the parched rice is thrown into the sacred fire as havis (offering) to Agni. Through these mantras, the wife prays for long life for her husband and for a marriage filled with peace and harmony. At the end of the laaja homam, the husband unties the darbha belt around the waist of his wife with another mantra. The husband states through this mantra that he unites his wife and ties her now with the bonds of Varuna and invites her to be a full partner in his life to enjoy the blessings of wedded life.

Griha Pravesam[edit]

This ceremony relates to the journey of the wife to her husband's home. The husband carries the sacred fire (homa agni) in an earthenware vessel during this journey home. There are many Veda mantras associated with this journey. These mantras pray to the appropriate Vedic gods to remove all obstacles that one can experience in a journey. The bride is requested to become the mistress of the house and is reminded of her important role among the relatives of her husband. After reaching her new home, she puts her right foot first in the house and recites the following Veda mantra:
I enter this house with a happy heart. May I give birth to children, who observe the path of righteousness (dharma)! May this house that I enter today be prosperous forever and never be deficient in food. May this house be populated by people of virtue and pious thoughts.

Praavisya Homam[edit]

After griha pravesam, a fire ritual known as praavisya homam is performed by the couple to the accompaniment of thirteen Veda mantras from the Rg Veda. Jayaadi homam is also part of the praavisya homam. This homam offers the salutation of the newly married couple to Agni Deva and asks for strength and nourishment to discharge the duties of a grihasthas for the next one hundred years. After that, the bride shifts her position from the right side of her husband to his left side. At that time, once again, she recites a Veda mantra invoking the gods for blessings of children and wealth to perform the duties of a householder. At the end of the above homam, a child is placed on the lap of the bride and she offers a fruit to the child, while reciting a prescribed Veda mantra. Yet another mantram asks the assembled guests to bless the bride and then retire to their own individual homes peacefully. During the first evening of the stay in her new home, the couple see the stars known as Dhruva (pole star) and Arundhati. The husband points out the pole star and prays for the strength and stability of the household through a Veda mantra. Next, the husband points out the Arundhati star to his wife and describes to her the story of Arundhati and her legendary chastity.

The rich and meaningful ceremony of the Hindu marriage (Kalyana Mahotsavam of the temples) is thus carried out in concert with sacred Veda Mantras. The bride and bridegroom should enunciate clearly the Veda mantras and reflect on their meanings during the different stages of the marriage ceremony. This way, they can be sure of a long, happy and prosperous married life and play their appropriate role in society to the fullest extent. Srinivasa Kalyanam is performed in the temples to remind us of these hoary Vedic traditions behind a Hindu marriage.

lokA: samastA: sukhino bhavantu

sarva mangaLaani santu

Nishekam[edit]

It is the samskara which is done before the couple enter to their bedroom.Nishekam means first conjugal bliss by the couple. In South India they do Nishekam o a suitable date according to jyotisha. Whereas in North India and East India they do it on the fourth day from the marriage. Paraskara Grihya Sutram of Shukla Yajurveda mentions to conduct it on the fourth night in the prescribed room of the couple. Its otherwise called Chaturthi Karma.

Kanya Daan (giving away of the bride)[edit]

Main article: Kanyadan

Kanya means daughter or girl. Daan means giving away. This is an important part of the marriage ceremony in which the bride’s parents give her away to the Gods and then, with Gods as the witnesses to the groom by entrusting her to the bridegroom. The officiating priest chants appropriate verses in Sanskrit. The people in the audience (the public) are now notified that the parents have willingly expressed their wish and consent by requesting the groom to accept their daughter as his bride. As soon as the groom indicates his acceptance the bride’s parents place their daughter’s right hand into the bridegroom’s right hand. The parents now bestow their blessings on both the bride and the groom and pray to the Lord to shower His choicest blessings on them.

The father of the bride, placing her right hand on the right hand of the bridegroom, says:

The father of the bride: Be pleased to accept hand of my daughter (name of the bride) of the Gotra (here the surname of the family).

The bridegroom: AUM, I do accept.

The bridegroom makes an Offering of the garment and the scarf to the bride to wear. The bridegroom wears the garments and the scarf offered by the parents of the bride. Then facing each other The bride and the bridegroom speak as follows:

Ye learned people assembled at this sacred ceremony know it for certain that we two hereby accept each other as companions for life and agree to live together most cordially as husband and wife. May the hearts of us both be blended and beat in unison. May we love each other like the very breath of our lives. As the all-pervading God sustains the universe, so may we sustain each other. As a preceptor loves his disciple, so may we love each other steadfastly and faithfully. - RigVeda X.85.47

Addressing the bride, the bridegroom says:

Distant though we were, one from the other, we stand now united. May we be of one mind and spirit! Through the grace of God, may the eyes radiate benevolence. Be thou my shield. May thou have a cheerful heart and a smiling face. May thou be a true devotee of God and mother of heroes. May thou have at heart the welfare of all living beings! - Rig Veda X.85.44

The bride:

I pray that henceforth I may follow thy path. May my body be free from disease and defect and may I ever enjoy the bliss of your companionship!

The bride and groom may or may not recite all the text listed. Or they may speak in their local language or Hindi, repeating after the priest.

Vivaah Homa (sacred fire ceremony)[edit]

A yagya during a Hindu wedding

Vivaah-homa is also called the "sacred fire ceremony". All solemn rites and ceremonies commence with the performance of Homa (sacred fire ceremony) among the followers of Vedic religion. The idea is to begin all auspicious undertakings in an atmosphere of purity and spirituality. This atmosphere is created by the burning of fragrant herbs and ghee and by the recitation of suitable Mantras.

The Achaman and Angasparsha are performed for the second time. The bride also participates.

The three Achaman mantras involve sipping of a little water three times.

The seven Angasparsha mantras involve touching water with the right hand middle two fingers apply the water to various limbs first to the right side and then the left side as follows: Mouth, Nostrils, Eyes, Ears, Arms, Thighs, Sprinkling water all over the body. Vivah samskara is a marriage not only between two bodies but also between two souls

Pani Grahanam (acceptance of the hand)[edit]

The bridegroom rising from his seat and facing the bride, shall raise her right hand with his left hand and then clasping it says:

I clasp thy hand and enter into the holy state of matrimony so that we may be blessed with prosperity and noble progeny. Mayst thou live with me happily throughout life! Through the grace of the all-mighty Lord, who is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and in the presence of this august assemblage, thou art being given away in marriage so that we may together rightly perform our duties as householders.

With all my strength and resources, I have clasped thy hand; and thus united, we shall together follow the path of virtue. Thou art my lawfully wedded wife and I am thy lawfully wedded husband. God, the protector and sustainer of all, has given thee to me. From today, it devolves upon me to protect and maintain thee. Blessed with children, mayst thou live happily with me as thy husband for the full span of human life (a hundred years).

Following the divine law and the words of wisdom uttered by the sages, may we make a good couple and may God vouchsafe unto us a shining life of virtue and happiness.

As God nourishes and sustains all creatures through His great forces like the sun, the moon, the earth, the air etc., so may He bless my wife with healthy and virtuous progeny and may you all assembled here bless her!

  • I accept thee as my partner for life.
  • I will not keep away even mentally anything from thee.
  • I will share with thee all I enjoy.
  • We will persevere in the path of virtue, surmounting all obstacles.

Pratigna Karanam (solemn vows)[edit]

The bridegroom taking the palm of the bride into his hand helps her to rise and then they both shall walk round the altar, the bride leading. Then facing the east take the solemn vows:

The bridegroom: <bloc

Ashmarohanam or Shilarohanam (stepping on the stone)[edit]

This ceremony is referred to as Ashmarohanam or Shilarohanam (Ashma or Shila: stone ; Arohan: stepping upon). In it, the mother of the bride assists her to step onto a stone and counsels her to prepare herself for a new life. The stone signifies strength and trust. A married couple is likely to encounter ups and downs, joys and sorrows, prosperity and adversity, sickness and health. In spite of the difficulties facing them, they are enjoined to remain steadfast and true to each other.

The bride places her right foot on the slab (stone), assisted by her mother or her brother. The priest recites a Mantra from the Atharva Veda (AV II.13.4)

Laja Homah (fried-rice offerings)[edit]

Laja means parched rice or barley like popcorn. The bride shall place the palms of her hands over those of the bridegroom and make three offerings (ahutis) of parched rice soaked in ghee (clarified butter).

The bride:

  • I adore God, the unifier of hearts. Now that I am leaving my parents’ home for my husband’s, I pray that He may keep us perpetually united!
  • With these offerings I pray for Long life for my husband and for the prosperity of all our relations!
  • (Addressing her husband) In making these offerings for your prosperity I once again pray that God may bless this union of our hearts!

Parikrama, Pradakshina, or Mangal Phera (circumambulation of the sacred fire)[edit]

Main article: Pradakshina

This is an auspicious and important part of the marriage ceremony. It consists in walking around the sacred fire (clockwise) four times. This aspect of the ceremony and the one that follows, namely Saptapadi (seven steps)- constitute the most important part, in as much as it legalises the marriage according to Hindu custom and tradition. These two aspects of the marriage ceremony establish an indissoluble matrimonial bond between the couple.

In the first three rounds the bridegroom leads the bride as they circle together around the sacred fire. In the fourth (last) round, the bride leads the bridegroom around the sacred fire.

In each round around the sacred fire, an appropriate mantra is recited which expresses noble sentiments in relation to their future matrimonial life. Each round culminates in both the bride and the bridegroom placing offerings or ahutis of fried rice in the sacred fire. The Hindu religion emphasises enjoyment of life as well as the discharging of family, social and national responsibilities.

During the first three rounds, God’s blessings and help are sought; loyalty to each other is emphasised and; a promise to keep in mind the well-being and care of the future children is made.

In the fourth (last) round (led by the bride) the bride promises that she will lead her life according to the tenets of the Hindu religion, namely Satya and Dharma or Truth and devotion to duty, and that she will always ensure that the bridegroom can rely on her to carry out her family, religious and household duties.

The bridegroom then places his hand on the bride’s head and states that henceforth she will be his wife and he will shield her against any danger or harm.

At the end of the four rounds they shall exchange seats, the bride taking her seat to the left of the bridegroom.

Saptapadi (seven steps)[edit]

Main article: Saptapadi

Besides a religious meaning behind the seven steps, there is also a mathematical rationale on performing the 7 rounds circling the fire. A circle is 360 degrees, all the numbers from 1 to 9 divides 360 except the number 7. It becomes a non-terminating number, hence symbolizing the marriage as indivisible.

The ends of their garments (the bridegroom’s scarf and upper garment of the bride) are tied together by the priest (signifying marriage knot). Then both shall stand facing the north. The bridegroom shall place his right hand upon the right shoulder of the bride.

They shall take the first step in the north easterly direction.

In taking these seven steps, the right foot shall always lead and the left foot be brought forward in line with it. Uncooked grains of rice (about a small handful) are placed in a line at equal distance at seven places. The bride and the groom take seven steps together, stepping upon first mound of rice with the right foot as the priest recites a mantra. Then stepping upon the second mount of rice with the right foot as the priest recites a mantra. (All seven steps are done the same way).

  • May the first step lead to food that is both nourishing and pure.
  • May the second step lead to strength (at the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels).
  • May the third step lead to prosperity.
  • May the fourth step lead to all round happiness.
  • May the fifth step lead to progeny (noble and virtuous children).
  • May the sixth step lead to long life.
  • May the seventh step lead to bondage (through harmony).

The bridegroom says:

Having completed the seven steps, be thou my lifelong companion. Mayst thou be my associate and helper in successful performance of the duties that now devolve upon me as a householder. May we be blessed with many children who may live the full duration of human life!

After the completion of the seven steps ceremony, the couple (with knots tied to each other) take their seats. The wife now takes her rightful place on the left side of her husband as the marriage is now religiously solemnized in its entirety. Now the couple are husband and wife. The husband garlands the wife and she in turn garlands her husband.

Abhishek (sprinkling of water)[edit]

The priest (or a brother of the newly wedded wife) shall sprinkle water on the foreheads of the bride and the groom. The priest recites mantras from the Rig Veda (RV X.9.1/2/3) during the sprinkling of water.

Surya Darshanam Dhyaanam Va (meditating on the sun)[edit]

Looking at or mentally visualising the sun (Surya), to give them power to lead a creative, useful and meaningful life.

The bride and the bridegroom together pray:

O God, who art the illuminator of the sun, may we, through thy grace live for a hundred years, hear for a hundred years, and speak for a hundred years. And may we never be dependent upon anybody. May we likewise live even beyond a hundred years! -Rig Veda, VII. 66. 16)

Hriday sparsh (touching the heart)[edit]

Touching the heart of the bride, the bridegroom says:

May I have hearty co-operation from these in the performance of my duties. May thou be of one mind with me. May thou be consentient to my speech. May the Lord of creation unite thee to me!

The bride:

May I have hearty co-operation from these in the performance of my duties. May thou be of one mind with me. May thou be consentient to my speech. May the Lord of creation unite thee to me!

Dhruva Dhyaanam Darshanam Va (meditating on the Pole star and the Arundhati star)[edit]

The Pole Star is stationary and fixed in its position, likewise the couple is expected to be steadfast and firm in fulfilling their vows and responsibilities.

The bride:

Just as the star Arundhati is attached to the star Vasishtha, so may I be ever firmly attached to my husband! Placing his hand upon the bride’s forehead

The bridegroom:

As the heavens are permanently stable, as the earth is permanently stable, as these mountains are permanently stable, and as the entire universe is permanent stable, so may my wife be permanently settled in our family! -Rig Veda X.173.4

(Addressing the bride): Thou are the Pole star; I see in thee stability and firmness. Mayst thou ever be steadfast in thy affection for me. The great God has united thee with me. Mayst thou live with me, blessed with children, for a hundred years!

Anna Praashanam (partaking of food)[edit]

In the last symbolic rite the couple make offerings of food with chantings of Vedic Havan Mantras (oblations of food in the Sacred fire). Having done that, the couple feed a morsel of food to each other from the residue of the offerings. This being the symbolic expression of mutual love and affection.

Aashirvadah (blessing)[edit]

Placing his hand upon the forehead of the bride, the bridegroom says:

Ye men and women present here, behold this virtuous bride possessed of high attainments, and before ye disperse, give her your blessings! All the people present shall pronounce the following blessings upon the couple.

  1. O Lord, may this couple be prosperous!
  2. O Lord, may this couple live in perpetual happiness!
  3. O Lord, may this couple be ever infused with love for each other. May this couple be blessed with children and grandchildren and live in the best of homes for the full period of their lives!
  4. May you two live here together. May you never be parted. May you enjoy the full span of human life in the delightful company of your happy sons and grandsons!

Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]