Rites of Passage
believe in the existence of a Supreme Being. This Being is
described in the Vedas (scripture) as "unmanifest, unthinkable,
and unchanging." The Supreme Being manifests in this world
in different forms and at different times as Rama, Krishna,
Vishnu, Shiva, etc. Hindus also believe that the soul is divine
and eternal. It is neither created nor destroyed, but is reborn
through many lifetimes in this world. When a soul has found
release from this cycle of rebirth is it said to have achieved
Hindus also accepts all religions as true and valid paths
to God. In the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna says, "Whenever
there is a decline in dharma (righteousness) and an increase
in adharma (unrighteousness), at that time I manifest
Myself." In this way, all religions are seen as the manifestation
of the Divine into this world.
The traditional Hindu wedding is a deeply meaningful and
symbolic combination of rituals and traditions. It is a ceremony
that is about 4000 years old. Each phase of the ceremony has
a symbolic, philosophical, and spiritual meaning. The ceremony
not only to joins the souls of the bride and groom, but also
creates a strong tie between two families. The ceremony is
traditionally performed in Sanskrit, which is the language
of ancient India and Hinduism. Today the ceremony will be performed
both in Sanskrit and English. The following sequence of rituals
represents the highlights of the ceremony.
The Sanskrit word for marriage is vivaha, which literally means "what
supports or carries." The Vivaha ceremony is therefore
a sacred ceremony meant to create a union that supports and
carries a man and woman throughout their married life in the
pursuit of righteousness (dharma).
In a separate
location Ganesha puja and
Gauri puja are performed in the presence of the bride. This puja is performed to remove obstacles and to bring good
fortune to the bride. The bride offers prayers to the goddess
Gauri seeking the blessings of prosperity and a long and happy
married life. This puja also includes Raksha Bandhanam for the protection of
The groom and his family are greeted by the
bride's family and guests. The priest begins the wedding ceremony
by invoking the presence of God and the divinities to witness
the marriage and bless the occasion.
The wedding ceremony begins with the worship of Lord Ganesha,
the remover of all obstacles and the provider of good luck.
His presence is invoked to insure the successful completion
of the wedding ceremony. Other pujas are also performed to
invoke the presence of other forms God to preside over the
Punyaha-vachanam and Yagnopavitra
Prayers are recited to sanctify the water used during the
ceremony. Holy water is sprinkled to purify the location. The
groom receives a sacred thread signifying the beginning of
family life. (optional)
A red thread is tied to the groom's right wrist to protect
him from any evil influences during the ceremony.
For a higher spiritual purpose the groom is given a final
opportunity to leave before the bride enters. He is asked if
he would like to abandon worldly life and lead the life of
an ascetic. The father of the bride requests the groom not
to leave, but to stay and marry his daughter.
The groom is received with respect by the bride's parents. The
parents of the bride may wash the feet of the groom.
The bride enters the wedding hall while a cloth is held
in front of the groom so that he cannot see her. During the
bride's entry auspicious music is played (usually nada-svaram).
After the bride
enters she sits in the wedding mandapam facing the groom. The
bride and groom each place a paste made of cumin seeds and
jaggery on each other's head with their right hands. After
some prayers the cloth is removed and the bride and groom see
each other for the first-time.
The bride and groom exchange garlands indicating their
acceptance of each other.
Exchange of Gifts
The bride and groom now exchange gifts. Usually new clothes
are offered to both the bride and groom. The bride may leave
and get dressed in a new sari at this time while snacks are
served to the guests. (optional)
Kanya Danam literally means the "giving of the bride".
The parents of the bride place hands of their daughter into
the hands of the groom. The bride's parents ask the groom to
except their daughter as his equal partner throughout life.
great messenger of the gods, Agnidevata (the fire god), is
invoked to witness the proceedings. The priest lights a sacred
fire in the presence of the bride and groom. Throughout the
ceremony, the priest adds ghee, clarified butter, to the fire
to keep it burning. Rice and other ingredients are also added
to the fire at various times.
bride and groom hold hands as a symbol of their union.
bride and groom exchange seats so that the bride is now sitting
left of the groom. One corner of groom's shawl is tied
to the end of the bride's sari. This signifies the union
of two souls.
groom places offerings of ghee into the sacred fire, asking
for the protection of the bride.
Kramana/ Laaja Homam
bride places her right foot onto a stone and with the assistance
of her brothers makes offerings of puffed rice into the sacred
fire, asking for the protection of her husband. The stone symbolizes
the earth. The act of placing the bride's foot upon the stone
means that she should become strong and fixed like the earth.
and Arundhati Darshana
bride and groom gaze up at the pole star (Druvaloka) and meditate on stability in
the marriage union. Each night as the stars rotate in the sky,
the pole star always remains fixed. In the same way as life
is constantly changing the union of the bride and groom should
remain fixed like the pole star, Druvaloka. Arundhati is the wife of the
great sage Vashistha. Arundhati and Vashistha are stars in
the big dipper (sapta rishi).
bride and groom walk around the holy fire four times, symbolizing
the walk of life. Human life is seen to have four great goals
called purusharthas: dharma, artha, kama and moksha.
The bride leads the groom through the first three rounds while
the groom leads the bride through the last round. The first
round represents the attainment of dharma, or righteous
conduct and the fulfillment of civic and religious responsibilities.
The second round is for the attainment of artha, the accumulation of wealth and prosperity. This leads to the third
round, which is for the attainment of kama, life's enjoyments. Finally, the bride and groom
exchange places and the groom leads the bride around the fire
on the fourth round enacting the attainment of moksha,
life's spiritual values.
groom gives the bride a mangala sutra, a necklace made of gold that includes two talis or emblems
representing each family. The mangala sutra identifies a lady as a married
woman. The mangala sutra is the equivalent of the wedding rings, which may also be exchanged
at this time.
bride and groom take seven steps together, symbolizing the
beginning of their journey through life as partners. These
seven steps reflect their guiding principles in life. As they
take each step, the bride and groom exchange the following
in the responsibility of the home
our hearts with strength and courage
and share our worldly goods
our hearts with love, peace, happiness, and spiritual
blessed with loving children
self-restraint and longevity
best friends and eternal partners
The bride and groom make an oath to each
other declaring that they love each other and will remain devoted
to each other through all times.
the completion of the seven steps and the declaration, the
bride and groom are officially considered husband and wife.
Purusha Sukta Homam
The priest chants an ancient hymn of praise to God while
the couple places offerings of rice and ghee into the fire. This act of worship
is the couple's first act of dharma as husband and wife.
The bride and
groom pour rice over each other's head symbolizing prosperity.
married couple feed each other sweets representing their first
The priest gives blessings to the couple. The newly married
couple then seeks the blessings of the priest, family and friends.
The family and friends bestow their blessings by showering
them with flower petals.