I recently attended a friend’s Hindu wedding and couldn’t help but marvel at how big and colorful the wedding was. It kept me wondering why unlike so many other weddings, Hindu weddings stand out as grand. I had to research more on my own to find out.
So, why are Hindu weddings so big? Hindus consider weddings as sacred. Then there is the fact that Hindu weddings usually involve nearly all members of the brides’ and groom’s families. Add this to the fact that the weddings feature several cultural ceremonies and it makes sense why they are usually big.
Hindu weddings are usually colorful, intricately planned and culture rich. They also feature culture rich festivities full of tradition and celebration. Note though, that while the very essence of a Hindu wedding is spiritual, emotional and physical union of two people, it’s also all about coming together of two families.
How Big Are Indian Weddings?
A typical India wedding can last for as long as 3 days. That alone, is enough to give one a glimpse of how big Indian weddings are. It is easy to understand why this is the case. Before the main weddings, which is referred to as the Sangeet, several other cultural rituals must be performed.
Each pre-wedding ritual is colorful, with lots of music, dancing and food. Of all the ceremonies that precede the main wedding, the Sangeet stands out as the most colorful event. It is an elaborate performed at the bride’s home at least two days before the wedding.
There’s also the mehndi ceremony, which is as colorful as the Sangeet. It takes place just a day before the wedding. During the Mehndi, the palms, hands and feet of the bride are intricately applied with henna. The event is accompanied with music and food.
It is safe to conclude that both the Sangeet and the Mehndi usually set the tone for the main wedding. To put this into perspective, many Indian weddings that are preceded by successful Sangeet and Mehndi ceremonies are hardly ever boring. It is also important to note that both the Sangeet and the Mehndi take place on the same day before the nuptials.
The main wedding is more or less an extension of the partying that usually precede it. There’s usually lots of food, drinks and of course, dancing. Indians celebrate the day and hold it in high regard for many reasons.
Key among these reasons include the fact that for Hindus, marriage signified soul ties between the couple. Additionally, there’s also the fact that the marriage event brings two families together to celebrate a new found union.
The Groom’s Arrival
The groom’s arrival, which is sometimes referred to as the vara yatra or baraat, signifies the onset of the wedding ceremony. His arrival, alongside his groomsmen, is filled with pomp and color complete with music and dancing.
The groom never arrives at the wedding venue on his own. He must be accompanied by not just his friends but also his immediate family including his father and mother as well as his siblings. Before he arrives, his guests and that of the bride will be requested to sit on separate sides.
This happens so that the groom’s guests will accompany him on his processional entry with music and dance. The procession is more or less like a mini parade to honor the bride.
The groom’s procession will accompany the groom to the wedding venue where they will be greeted by the other set of parents, friends and of course, family. All these happens amidst music and dancing. Until the point, the groom stands out as the man of the moment.
The groom is in fact, welcomed with a special toss of rice known as the Akshat. He is then presented with a small plat carrying a lit lamp referred to as arati, as well as a garland. In some cases, a tilak, which is a red dot on the forehead is also applied on the groom’s forehead.
The Bride’s Entrance
The bride’s entrance is usually even more colorful than the groom’s entrance. She is led into the ceremony by either her uncles or brothers. The father also plays a key role. In fact, his role is the most important one in any Indian wedding. The father gives the bride away in a small ceremony referred to as the kanyadaan.
In Hindu marriage ceremonies, no groom can claim a bride until the bride is offered to him by the father. During the ceremony, the bride’s father gently places his daughters hand into the groom’s hand as a gesture of willfully giving her away into marriage.
The bride’s mother, just like the father also has a special role to play during the wedding. She pours water directly into her daughter’s hand which flows through her fingers onto the hand of the groom. Alternatively, she can pour water into the groom’s hand and allow it to flow into the hands of the newlyweds.
Wedding Under The Mandap
The mandap is a specially prepared and intricately decorated wedding altar. Although it is a temporary structure, its significance cannot in any way be ignored. It is designed to appear on an elevated platform to ensure all guests have a clear view of the bride and groom getting married. Its decoration features lush greenery, crystals and fabric.
Fire must be lit and allowed to kindle on its own at the center of the mandap. The fire signifies how sacred the wedding ceremony is. It is allowed to stay lit as a witness. Once the couples are joined in marriage, offerings must be made.
The bride’s brother starts the process by giving three fistfuls of puffed rice. This signifies that he wishes his sister a happy married life. The bride must also offer rice to the fire through a ceremony knows as homam.
Rings aren’t so common in Indian weddings. Floral garlands are used instead. The garland is known as the Jai Mala. It is a special garland made of strung flowers. The newlyweds must exchange the garlands. This doesn’t just signify love. It is also a sign that newlyweds welcome each other into their lives. Note that without the Jai Mala, no Indian wedding is considered complete. Couples may choose to exchange wedding rings after exchanging the Jai Mala.
Tying Garments Together
You may have noticed that in all Indian weddings, the bride’s veil and the groom’s sash are usually tied together after they’ve exchanged the Jai Mala. This is referred to as the Saptapadi. This signified friendship as well as love, which is the basis of not just Hindu but nearly all marriages.
Saptapadi is then followed by the newlyweds showering each other with rice. This symbolizes happiness, prosperity and fertility. The ritual also provides a moment of merriment and levity during what can otherwise be a tense and serious moment.
Sindoor, which is a special red powder must be applied to a part of the bride’s hair. This is usually the last ritual in a wedding ceremony. It symbolizes the bride’s new status in life as a married woman. Notably, the red powder can only be applied on the bride’s hair by her husband.
The Send Off
The Vidaai, as it is called, is an emotional affair for pretty much obvious reasons. This is especially the case for the bride’s mother and her family. They bid her goodbye and wish her all the best. As she walks away, she must take handfuls of rice and coins tossed her way over her head. This shows her appreciation for love given to her by her family and siblings.
Hindu weddings are usually big for many reasons. They feature several traditions which play significant cultural roles. To fully understand how big Hindu weddings usually are, attend one.