Who Performs an Indian Wedding?

Mantras Ritual during Hindu Marriage at Mandap in presence of Bride Groom. Camera focus is on mantra book in the hand of the priest

Traditional Indian weddings are filled with vibrant colors, delicious foods, and amazing traditions. You’ll find it to be like nothing you have ever experienced before. There’s a lot to learn about their traditions including who will perform the wedding ceremony.

For a traditional Indian wedding a Hindu priest, called Wedding Pandit, will perform the wedding. A Pandit plays a very important role in the wedding and is considered to be the third most important person after the bride and groom, of course. After all, the wedding and traditions cannot be performed without them.

This traditional wedding ceremony is a beautiful holy union filled with beautiful promises to build a life together filled with wealth, peace, joy, loyalty, dependency, strength, and love as the priest guides them through their vows before God, family, and each other.

Who Can Become a Wedding Pandit?

While the process of becoming ordained as a Priest will change depending on traditions, there is one thing that always remains the same. The most important aspect of being a wedding pandit is being able to perform all puja with knowledge and understanding. However, being able to recite the mantras alone does not make you qualified, which is why they are generally trained from childhood to become a Priest.

You’ll need the knowledge about the rituals, memorize the chants and mantras in order for you to be ordained as a wedding Pandit.

There are five important aspects of spirituality that you would need to know to be a Priest:

Samsara – this is the cycle of life, death, and rebirth

  1. Karma – the consequences of action
  2. Dharma – ethics
  3. Moksha – spiritual liberation
  4. Yogas – practices

Keeping Their Traditions Is Important

Tradition is a critical aspect of the Indian culture and it all begins with the start of a family on their wedding day.

The Priest, wedding Pandit plays a major role in this. He prays for their unity and for the children that they will one day have together. This is why it’s so important for the Priest to be familiar with the traditions, chants, and mantras. Because without it, the marriage would not be protected under God and they would not be given the strength and selflessness needed to be the best they could be for one another or their children.

This tradition reinforces their values and helps them to form the structure and foundation necessary to uphold these values as you can see in their vows; freedom, faith, integrity, good education, personal responsibility, work ethic, and the value of being selfless.

There’s beauty in the tradition, vibrant colors, elaborate jewelry, food, and dances. They all have significance in the culture.

Personal Lives of Pandits

Hindu priests can be either men or women, though, most often they are men. Additionally, there is a little confusion about whether or not they are allowed to marry, but the truth is that a pandit or pandita (a female priest) can be married and have a family. You can feel comfortable asking the person presiding over your wedding for their advice for a good marriage. They know a lot.

What Does The Priest Wear?

Colors hold an important significance in the Indian culture as do the clothes that you wear. You can determine who the priest is by the clothes that he wears. Traditionally he will wear something called a dhoti and kurta.

A dhoti is a garment worn around the waist that will cover most of the legs. A kurta is a loose collarless long tunic-like shirt. The color may not always be the same, but often he will be clothed in yellow, as yellow symbolizes Knowledge.

The Role of a Wedding Pandit in the Ceremony

Priests are trained from a young age to memorize hymns. It’s these hymns that qualify them as a priest, as they must have the knowledge and skills to perform them without any assistance.

A traditional Indian wedding generally lasts for three days; however, the priest will not be part of every pre-wedding ceremony. His responsibility during the pre-wedding ceremony is to set the date for the formal engagement ceremony. This is determined by the Kashmiri calendar which is based upon the stars.

Traditional Indian weddings generally last for three days. Here is each day is broken down,

  • The first night is an intimate family gathering. This is the day they will get to know one another, and it is called, Ganesh Pooja.
  • The following day, the women will get together for Mehndi which is henna preparations. This night they will enjoy the sangeet ceremony which is a party where the family and friends will perform traditional dances for the couple.
  • Finally, the mandap. The morning will consist of the 4 Pillars ceremony, which is a symbolization of the parents who have raised the couple. Then, the couple will take their vows and finally be married.

During the Mandap ceremony, the couple will be seated in royal chairs beside their parents. The Priest, or the Wedding Pandit, will recite the hymns and lead them in prayers asking for various forms of protection and strength. This aspect of the ceremony will generally last between one and a half to two hours.

The Pandit Leads the Bride and Groom in Seven Vows

These sacred vows are the foundation of their life together as husband and wife as it brings their souls together as one with understanding and love.

First Vow: Social Duties & Basic Necessities To Their Family

Here, each will claim their own responsibility for prosperity and they will pray for purity, nourishment, and basic necessities such as healthy food, clothing, and shelter.

The groom promises to provide food, shelter, and happiness to his family, and then, the bride will promise to take care of the family and household.

Second Vow: Physical and Spiritual Strength for Each Other

These vows will assure the other that they will remain by each other’s side during difficult times – sickness and health. They acknowledge that there will be times of turbulence, and then they pray for the strength and courage to face it together.

The groom will assure his bride that he’ll protect her, and she’ll promise to stand by him through thick and thin.

Third Vow: Wealth and Education for Their Children,

They promise to always strive to please each other and their children, as well as to stay faithful to one another.

The groom prays for wealth, prosperity, and noble and obedient children. They both promise to provide quality education to their children.

Fourth Vow: Auspiciousness and Holiness for Their Marriage

The groom will give thanks to his bride and express how she has completed his life. He also promises to respect her by including her in the decision making. She promises to back him in their rituals for their family and respect his decisions and stand with him always.

Both promise to take care of their elders.

Fifth Vow: Loyalty and Dependency on Each Other

They pray for loyalty and dependency on one another. They promise to share the same happiness and sorrow with understanding and care.

The groom asks God to bless her.

The bride promises to always love and cherish him. She vows to share in his happiness and sorrow.

Sixth Vow: Joy and Peace

They pray for the strength to live a life together with peace and joy and the ability to fight negative forces that will attempt to tear them apart.

Both promising one another to bring immense joy and peace to one another so they can live a life of harmony and carry out their promises to one another.

Seventh Vow: Now Husband & Wife

With great joy, the couple announces that they are husband and wife, best friends for life, and walk together for the first time as a married couple. Both promising to honor the ritual of the Seven Vows that they just stood before their family and priest. (Source)

Final Thoughts

If you’re going to be attending a friend’s Hindu wedding, hopefully, this well help you understand who the priest is and what an important role he or she plays. If you are planning a Hindu wedding but you’re a little rusty on how it works, don’t be afraid to call the temple and ask questions. They’ll be more than happy to talk to you about your special day.

Image credits: prashantzi © 123RF.COM

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