The 3 Knots Of Hindu Marriages And What They Mean

Hindu wedding knot

We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘tying the knot’.  Hindu marriages take this phrase to a next level mastery of meaning through symbolism.  The 3 knots tied in a Hindu ceremony have profound meaning and are significant to the marriage because the couple is not considered married until the knots are tied.

The 3 knots of Hindu marriages are the Manasa, the Vaacha and the Karmena. The Manasa means ‘Believing it’, the Vaache means ‘Saying it’ and the Karmena means ‘Executing it’. The knots symbolize committments between the groom and the bride and between the families of the couple.

This is an oversimplified answer, but there is far more underlying meaning.  These words don’t translate the deeply profound emotion and commitment that is initiated when the knots are tied.  When it comes to matters of the heart, like marriage, actions complement the words being exchanged in perfect harmony to paint a complete picture as explained below.

What The 3 Hindu Knots in Marriages Mean

Symbolism hidden in action and objects play a huge role in wedding ceremonies of any culture and religion.  Symbolism is used to emphasize the importance of the vows and sanctity that the couple is undertaking.  An overwhelming amount of meaning is exchanged between the couple and their families to unite them as one and to display this union to the world.

The First Knot In A Hindu Marriage – Manasa

The groom ties the first knot using a sacred thread known as the Mangalyam.  The Mangalyam is considered the most important, sacred ritual of all and a Hindu marriage cannot be completed without it.  The sacred thread is closely related to the bride’s life and well-being.  The groom wishes for the bride to live 100 years with him.

The first knot realizes the commitment of the bride and groom as a couple.  This commitment to each other is the first step in a Hindu marriage and emphasizes the devotion to base all future actions as a couple.  This form of symbolism is comparable to giving engagement rings in other religions. 

The first knot represents the acceptance of the couple to merge individual lives into a life united and serves as an announcement to the families and the world.  Manasa, in simple definition, is the act of the groom committing his devotion to his wife and wishing her a long life in which they can practice that devotion to each other.

The Second Knot In A Hindu Marriage – Vaacha

The groom ties the second knot with the Mangalyam.  The second knot symbolizes the commitment between the two families.  This knot deepens the bride’s and groom’s connection by binding the families together in solidarity.  The family recognizes the union and announces their support of it with this knot.

The second knot can be compared to the exchange of wedding rings.  The union symbolizes every person of significance in the bride’s and groom’s world are now a caste, linked for life with the couple in marriage.  It is a recognition by the families that the couple is now enveloped into one family. 

Vaacha, for simple definition, is the act of the groom aligning the families as one.  Saying it, announcing to the world and asking it to recognize the devotions of the families to each other.

The Third Knot In A Hindu Marriage – Karmena

A member of the groom’s family, usually the sister, ties the third knot.  The third knot symbolizes further commitment by the groom’s family to care for the bride’s well-being.  This knot is an act of reaffirmation to the bride that the groom’s family will contribute to her happiness in a long life with the groom. 

Respect for elders is a primary teaching in Hinduism.  This feeds into the 3 knot symbolism because the young will commit to taking care of the elderly.  Tying lives together reaffirms this belief and sense of responsibility to the couple and the families that are bound.  Karmena, in summed up definition, is the act of executing the conscious belief of what you have announced to the world.  After this final knot, the couple is considered married.

Meaning of Tying 3 Knots Around the Neck At A Hindu Marriage Ceremony

The 3 Hindu marriage knots are tied around the bride’s neck during the ceremony.  It is commonplace that these words are said when the groom ties the first two knots and his family member ties the last one:

I am tying this sacred thread around your neck, which is essential for my long life. May we have many auspicious attributes for a long and happy life for a hundred years.

The placement of the knots as a necklace around the neck are extremely relevant to the symbolism of Hindu belief structures.  After the marriage, a Hindu woman must wear 5 items to display that she is married until the day her husband dies.  The most important one of the 5 is the Mangalsutra around her neck. (Check out the latest mangalsutra designs here)

The Meaning of Using a Mangalyam in Hindu Knot Ceremony

The Hindu culture is full of sacred threads with different meanings.  The Mangalyam is usually comprised of a gold ornament with holy sigil or womanhood symbols.  The ornament would be held by chains, usually comprised of black beads held together by gold threads.  The threads symbolize the groom’s life that he is giving to his bride.

Different colored strings convey several different meanings in Hindu culture.  Those surrounding marriage are:

Red Thread (Kalava)This is tied to the left hand or neck for married women.  It is considered to promote long life and keep enemies at bay.  It is believed to keep God’s blessings with you and protect you from those that wish you ill will.
Yellow ThreadThe bride is meant to wear yellow thread in the 3 knot ceremony around her neck or armlet.  Yellow promotes long life for the husband and wife and to encourage a happy marriage.
String color meanings

The thread colors of the Mangalyam will be based off these threads and their meanings that are incorporated into the Hindu belief structure.  The bride will carry these beliefs with her by wearing a Mangalsutra until the day her husband dies.

Meaning of The Mangalsutra

Hindu is the oldest religion in the world and has deep-rooted customs and beliefs that have been kept alive through centuries.  Recognition and a healthy respect for marriage is at the core of those beliefs.  Women show the world they are married by adorning their neck with the Mangalsutra.

The word Mangal means “sacred” and Sutra means “thread”.  The Mangalsutra (sacred thread) is usually made of black and gold beads worn as a necklace.  Women tend to take excellent care of the Mangalsutra because if it breaks, it is thought to be a bad sign for the marriage.  Omens of this nature are not easily forgotten. 

During the marriage ceremony, the Mangalyam is given as a promise from the groom to the bride as a commitment to share their lives until the end of their days.  In a way, the Mangalsutra symbolizes that the wife accepts the husband’s promise and she continues to keep hers by wearing the sacred threads.  This also serves as a proclamation to the world of that union.

The colors of the Mangalsutra are significant because of the belief that it will protect against evil, enemies, and ensure an auspicious, beautiful long life for the couple with many good tidings.  Wearing it constitutes a daily recurrence of this devotion and a reminder of the commitments to family and each other.

The Mangalsutra has varying looks across cultures, but the core values are the same.  As time has moved forward, so has the look of the Mangalsutra.  Some Mangalsutras not only speak to the ancient rituals and beliefs, but also speak to today’s fashion.  Today’s television soap stars can be seen with exquisite jewelry of gold and diamonds that are, in fact, their Mangalsutras. 

Things A Hindu Woman May Wear on Her Wedding Day

A wedding is no small affair.  It is the culmination of beginning a new life and surrendering what was to what will be.  It also comes with a hefty price tag and stress.  Women, in general, dream of getting married to their prince charming long before the day comes to fruition. 

What a bride wears is part of the many daydreams a young girl has.  In some cultures, there is a great deal of symbolism for everything the bride wears on her wedding day and every day after.

BindiThe Bindi is the dot affixed between the eyebrows.  On her wedding day, the bride will extend the Bindi out with vine designs.  Red is the preferred color; however, it can be color-coordinated with the wedding dress.  The Bindi symbolizes luck and prosperity.
Sindoor or VermillionThe Sindoor is applied to where the hair parts on the bride’s head.  The groom will apply it to her forehead for the first time.  This separates being married from being single. 
Maang TikaThis jewelry wraps from the crown of the part in the hair and extends around the face to the nose ring.  This piece is usually made of gold or silver and studded with precious gems.  It resembles a crown on the head.
Kajal or AnjanaThis is a black soot applied to the upper and lower eyes to make the eyes appear pronounced and somewhat mystical.  It is comparable to eyeliner.
Nath or Nose RingThe nose ring is worn in the left nostril much like a wedding ring is worn on the left hand.  It is elaborate in design and stature.  A chain usually runs from the nose ring to the hair.
Karn Phool or Ear AdornmentsThese are not your ordinary earrings.  They are usually in gold and ornamental in nature to compliment the necklace that is worn.  Karn Phools are elegant designs and larger than life and play an essential role in the bride’s garment entourage.
Haar or NecklaceNecklaces are usually worn in layers and act as the centerpiece to the bride’s ensemble.  The Mangalsutra is apart from this arrangement and stands alone as a testimony to the wedding.  Haars are usually worn in a layered fashion.
Bichhua or Toe RingThis is usually a gift from the mother-in-law and is customary for married women to wear.
Bridal jewelry and accessories

There is no lack of body jewelry and hairpieces worn by the bride at a Hindu wedding.  It is a special once-in-a-lifetime experience and it is a matter of prestige and stature to look your best as well as a personal challenge to be the most beautiful bride in history.  There are many customs that accompany Hindu women on their wedding day, but what about the groom?

Things A Hindu Man May Wear On His Wedding Day

Compared to the overwhelming list of decoration afforded to the bride, the groom’s attire matches a man’s appetite in taste and simplicity.  Men normally do not primp themselves nearly as much as women for any affair; however, a Hindu groom does put on quite the show.

Safa or Wedding TurbanThe Safa comes in a variety of colors, adornments, and cloth depending on culture.  It is worn as a crown on the groom prince’s head and speaks volumes in style and flair.  There are various lengths and some even come pre-tied.
SarpechThe Sarpech is the crown jewel of the Safa.  It fits in the center and is usually a feather with a jewel.  Emperors would display great jewels in this fashion.
SehraThe Sehra acts as a blindfold to prevent the anxious groom from seeing the bride until the precise moment at the wedding when  the Sehra would be removed to view her.  Sehras are usually comprised of beads and flowers attached to the front of the turban.
SherwaniThe Sherwani is the centerpiece of the groom’s attire.  This is a tunic type garment that hangs to the groom’s knees and generally comes in gold, maroon or brown and is heavily embroidered. 
MojariThese are the shoes worn with curled-up toes.  They are made of leather and come embroidered or holding gems.
Groom accessories

From head to toe, the groom is decked out in splendor worthy of the bride, but in no way is it in a competitive nature, it is more complimentary.  Hindu weddings are some of the most beautiful weddings in the world not only for the symbolism but for the revered decoration of the groom and his bride. 

A Hindu wedding is the most sacred of rights and several traditions and rituals are observed and celebrated leading up to the day of the wedding.  Hindu weddings can last up to 3 days.  Modern Hindu weddings will practice abridged versions, but it is still a time-consuming, highly celebrated affair.  In a way, it’s like building up to the perfect storm.  Below is a small glimpse of what you may see during the actual ceremony at a Hindu wedding.

Hindu Wedding Ceremony

The families start with several small, intimate gatherings and the celebration starts spiraling outward to the celebration of the couple and the acceptance of both families being united.  By the time the ceremony begins, the families are well on their way to merging as a united front.


At the actual wedding ceremony, after the 3 knots have been tied, there is still much to do.  Fire is regarded as purity and life-sustaining.  The bride and groom will walk around the fire 4 times and say vows and prayers to one another.  Family members will make offerings and throw them to the fire.  This ritual is called Mangalfera.

The vows are usually spoken in Sanskrit.  The ceremony is not complete until these vows are spoken, and a marriage cannot take place without them being said.  Speaking these vows is an ancient tradition that has been carried down to this day.


At the end of the ceremony, the husband and wife are requested to look at the pole star.  This star remains still in a sky full of movement, holding firm and standing strong against the motion of the sky.  This represents that the marriage will remain steadfast in the chaos around them.  This ritual is called Dhruvadarshan.


The Sindoor is the red-orange powder that is placed across the forehead of the bride by the groom.  The Sindoor distinguishes her as a married woman.

The 3 Knots Resemble Conscious Belief

ManasaBelieving it
VaachaSaying it
KarmenaExecuting it
3 knots

There are more ceremonies that take place after the wedding focused primarily on welcoming the bride into the groom’s home.  The traditions, rituals and ceremonies within Hinduism are varied, valued, and practiced.  The cultures folded into Hinduism with subtle differences in observance of tradition make participating in a Hindu wedding a unique experience that is not forgotten.

Hindu weddings are rich in custom, décor, tradition, stature and symbolism.  The 3 knots at a Hindu wedding are just one of the many ceremonies that occur during this 3-day celebration of a union between couples and families.  The symbolism and deep connection that surrounds a Hindu wedding is overwhelming. 

The 3 knots resembling conscious belief, speaking it and executing it seem a simple instruction and act as the framework under the vivid colors and dressings of a Hindu wedding.  The dual relationship of words and actions intertwined with profound meaning make Hindu weddings a current day event to experience an ancient culture.

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