When a bride in Hindu tosses a handful of rice over her head, she is continuing a tradition that has been present in the culture for hundreds of years. It is common to see rice thrown at the end of a marriage ceremony, but did you know it is an extremely symbolic ritual in the Hindu culture?
In the Hindu culture, the bride throws rice as a symbol of gratitude to her family. As she prepares to step out on her own away from the care and protection of her parents, it is a way to assure them that she is okay. It also signifies that the bride will continue to pray good fortune over her family, even in her absence.
As you can see, the tradition of throwing rice is not just about how much rice you can coat the bride and groom with. It is a deeply rooted tradition in many cultures and is an extremely important part of the wedding ceremony. In this article, you will learn more about why Hindu brides throw rice.
A Long Tradition
The act of marriage in Hindu culture is one of the most sacred events that can occur. Because of this, there are many longstanding traditions that are followed closely. One of those traditions is throwing rice.
It is important to know that the rice throwing does not occur as the culminating event of the Hindu wedding, but rather it is part of one of the smaller ceremonies and rituals that take place during the entire wedding. Unlike traditional weddings we may be accustomed to in the United States, Hindu or Indian weddings have many different segments or ceremonies within the actual wedding event.
Why Throw the Rice
When a Hindu bride throws rice during her wedding ceremony, it is an extremely beautiful gesture that is being made to her family and all those who have witnessed the marriage. The throwing of the rice indicates the bride is leaving her parents to begin her new life with a husband.
While this may seem like a simple gesture, the meaning is quite significant and deeply felt by the Hindu culture. When the bride throws the rice, not only is she indicating that she is ready to begin the next part of her life, but she is also making a sacred promise to her parents.
Coins Accompany the Rice
The throwing of the rice does not include rice alone. In fact, it also includes several coins.
- The rice is typically thrown to signify not only the beginning of a new life but also as a token of appreciation to the parents.
- The coins are to thank the bride’s parents for providing for her throughout her life.
Together, the throwing of coins and rice is believed to keep the good fortune in her family for generations to come.
When is the Rice Thrown?
In an American wedding, you will typically notice the tradition of throwing rice as the bride and groom leave either the church or reception hall. It signifies the end of the celebration and the beginning of a new adventure.
Unlike American weddings, Hindu weddings are broken into many ceremonies. The ceremony in which rice is thrown is called Vidai.
The translation of this term is “goodbye.” Essentially that is what the bride is doing as she enters her marriage. Not only is she saying goodbye to her parents and her childhood home, but she is saying goodbye to her life before marriage.
This portion of the wedding ceremony is celebrated after the vows have been given, and the couple is officially married. Most wedding festivities take place in the home of the bride, so when this portion of the ceremony is performed, the bride typically steps outside her door and throws the rice and coins backward into the house.
Reading this may make you think that it is a rather somber occasion. However, it is a much-celebrated time in a young woman’s life. It is a time when parents feel proud of their daughter and the life she is preparing to begin with her new husband. (Source: Utsavpedia)
What Type of Rice is Used?
While rice is highly symbolic in the Hindu culture and is used to celebrate marriage, the rice used is not specifically for a wedding. The rice that is used during a wedding ceremony is the same rice that one would cook to eat.
The symbolism of the rice is more special than the type that is used. However, many brides will choose to include other items like pearls, turmeric and saffron to add to the meaningfulness.
How Much Rice Is Used?
Rice is used frequently throughout the wedding celebration. The unique aspect of this is the number of handfuls that are used each time.
During the rice burning, typically, the brother of the bride gives her three handfuls of rice. The same is true when it comes to throwing rice during the Vidai, when the bride will throw between three to five handfuls of rice behind her.
Why Three Handfuls?
Like many cultures, numbers have significance attached to them. Hindu culture is no different. During the sacred celebration of a wedding, the bride is often attached to the number three. Three is significant because it represents the trinity. When looking at the trinity, you will notice similarities between the Christian Holy Trinity.
The Significance of the Trinity
Trinity: The Hindu trinity is believed to be made up of three beings; Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Each of these beings is believed to have a specific role in the trinity.
|Brahma||Believed to be the ultimate creator|
|Vishnu||Believed to maintain the balance of good and evil in the world|
|Shiva||Believed to be responsible for destroying the imperfect parts of the world.|
(Source: The Indian Panorama)
Not only are Hindu weddings full of tradition, but they are also highly symbolic events that are extremely religious.
Hindu Symbolism of Rice
When it comes to choosing an object or objects to toss after a wedding, you may wonder why rice holds such a high amount of significance in the Hindu culture.
You likely know that rice is an extremely popular item in the Indian diet, which means it offers sustenance and provision of health. In Hindu culture, rice is symbolic of prosperity and fertility.
Knowing the strong meaning attached to rice makes it evident why it is popular to throw at a wedding ceremony. You want to wish the bride and groom nothing but prosperity in their new lives, and you would likely hope they were given the opportunity to become parents as well. (Source: Classroom Synonym)
How Else is Rice Used?
Not only is rice significant to the Vidai of the ceremony, but it is also used during the wedding as well as after the wedding festivities when the bride and groom prepare to enter their new home as a married couple for the first time. Let us examine the various ways rice is used.
- Place in fire during the ceremony
- Showered over each other
- Thrown after the ceremony
- Kicked over before entering the new home
Rice Placed in Fire During the Ceremony
During the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom will go through a ritual where they place rice into a fire. This is done as a type of offering. Like offerings you may be familiar with, this is much the same. The bride and groom are making an offering with the home of a long and prosperous life.
While this portion of the ceremony may seem quite simple, it is anything but simple. During this offering, there is a belief that it helps sanctify the marriage. The bride is often assisted by her brother, who oversees handing rice to her to place into the fire.
(Source: Shaadi Shop)
Fire is highly significant in Hindu culture. It is viewed as the creator and destroyer when it comes to life. When a Hindu couple is being married, there are many offerings and blessings thrown into the fire. Families believe this will help seal the sanctity of the couple’s marriage and ensure a life of happiness and prosperity. (Source: Planning a Hindu Wedding)
Rice Thrown After the Ceremony
As we examined earlier, rice is thrown after the ceremony to signify the beginning of a new life as well as the gratitude of the former and younger life. It also signifies the hope for prosperity and fertility as the new life begins.
Rice Showered Over Each Other
During the wedding ceremony, after the burning of the rice, the bride and groom take part in another ritual. In this ritual, the bride and groom take turns pouring rice over one another.
When the new couple showers each other with rice, it is said to inspire prosperity, fertility, and happiness.
When the bride and groom shower each other with rice, there are also other objects mixed in, such as pearls, turmeric and saffron. While this may seem like a unique combination, it is very symbolic and meaningful to the couple and their families that are looking on.
It is important to note that not all Hindu couples include pearls into the mix, as they are reserved for the more affluent population; however, the rice, turmeric and saffron are common. The overall theme of this ritual is everlasting love. Just like rice is difficult to break or destroy, love should be as well. (Source: The Gorgeous Bride)
Why do Hindu brides kick rice?
Yes, you are reading that correctly. The new Hindu bride will kick a container of rice over before entering her new home as a married woman. If you have ever spilled rice, you know what a challenge it can be to clean up, so you may be wondering why in the world anyone would voluntarily spill a container of rice at the entryway of their new home.
The tradition of kicking over rice before entering the home as a married couple for the first time is another longstanding Hindu tradition. It is important to clarify the term kick. The bride is not trying to see how hard she can kick the container of rice. In fact, it may be a very gentle nudge that occurs, which is enough to empty the contents of the rice container.
It is believed that this ritual allows prosperity and fertility to flow into the newlywed’s home if it is completed before they enter for the first time. For some women, it also signifies good luck. No matter what particular significance for an individual bride, it is another important part of the Hindu wedding culture and traditions. (Source: Zee News)
As you a see, not only is rice a popular member of Indian cuisine, it is also a very symbolic object during a Hindu wedding.
Do all Hindu Brides Throw Rice?
While it is difficult to generalize and say all Hindu brides throw rice, it is an inference that is quite likely true. The Hindu and Indian culture is deeply rooted in tradition, which is why weddings are such an extravagant event. This event includes the ceremonies involving rice burning and throwing. It is almost viewed as a rite of passage in the Hindu culture.
What Else do Hindu Brides Do at Their Wedding?
You may be curious to know what else Hindu brides do, aside from throwing rice and being involved in ceremonies where rice is a focal point. The Hindu wedding is one of the most ornate and beautiful events you will ever attend. The Hindu wedding ceremony is stretched over three extremely busy days. So, when you feel the stress of a day-long wedding, think about how a Hindu bride may be feeling after three days.
Why Does a Hindu Wedding Take Three Days?
The Hindu wedding stretches over three days because it is infused with many ceremonies and rituals. This is a time of great celebration for both families as they watch the joining of their children. One of the most well-known ceremonies to take place is called the Mehndi Ceremony.
During this ceremony, the bride and sometimes groom have their feet and hands covered in henna. This is the scrolling art that you often associate with Indian culture. This design is extremely intricate and is completed during a very joyful celebration among the family and friends. This process can take several hours to reach completion.
The henna is often applied by a family member, but often a family will hire an actual henna art expert to complete the work during the ceremony. After the henna is applied, it will likely last for several days beyond the wedding because of the special mixture that is used. (Source: Deshvidesh)
The Mehndi Ceremony is only one of the many ceremonies that take place during a Hindu wedding celebration, which explains the reason for such a long time of celebration.
Does Throwing Rice in America Mean the Same Thing?
After seeing how symbolic rice is to the Hindu wedding celebration, you may be wondering if the symbolism is the same for American culture. You may even be wondering if the idea was borrowed from the Hindu wedding traditions.
The throwing of rice in American ceremonies has a similar significance; however, the symbolism is a bit different. It is believed that the rice thrown after an American wedding is mean to symbolize rain falling. However, the overarching symbol is linked to prosperity, fertility, and good fortune, which Is like the Indian culture. (Source: Roberts Center)
How Did Rice Throwing at Weddings Originate?
The idea of throwing rice has been in Hindu wedding ceremonies for an extremely long time, but you may wonder how it originated in American ceremonies. Rice was not the original object to be used when it came to tossing items after a wedding. In fact, many brides and grooms were showered with corn, oats, or other grains. While the objects were different, the meaning and symbolism was the same.
Is it Safe to Throw Rice at a Wedding?
Rice is a natural food item, but there is much debate on the safety of throwing rice at weddings. While the rice itself is not dangerous as far as throwing, it is believed to be dangerous to birds and other animals that tend to pick up dropped food.
When rice is added to liquid, it tends to expand. Because of this, many people believe it can cause birds to explode or over-expand their stomachs. While there is little evidence to support this, it leaves enough to the imagination that most wedding parties opt to throw birdseed at the end of the wedding.
While the injury to animals is enough to keep rice away from weddings, there are other things that need to be taken into consideration when throwing rice at a wedding. Rice is very slippery and can cause wedding guests to fall if they are not careful.
(Source: Mental Floss)
The Hindu and Indian culture believe rice is a very symbolic object, which is why it is used so frequently in celebrations and rituals. A wedding is no exception to the rule. In fact, rice is anchored in the traditions of Hindu weddings and holds great importance with each use.