OK – BRACE YOURSELF.
This is going to be a long one.
As promised on my last wedding post, here, I am finally breaking down the ins and outs of Gujarati wedding ceremony.
Justin and I are so excited to get married at the end of the year and we are so lucky and thankful that we get to perform such a beautiful ceremony in front of our family, friends and the gods!
Indian culture is filled with so many traditions and I love knowing why we do the things we do. So buckle in as I break down OUR ceremony.
A Hindu wedding ceremony is comprised of a series of customs and rituals whereby two souls come together in spiritual, mental, emotional and physical bond. The rituals of the ceremony are based on the hymns contained in the Vedas, sacred Hindu scriptures, which are over 5,000 years old. The Vedic wedding ceremony is meant to unite two people so firmly that after marriage they become one spirit.
The ceremony is represented by the five elements of Hinduism (fire, earth, water, air and space), which play an integral role in the ceremony. The fire is a divine and impartial witness to the union and brings warmth throughout the couple’s life.
The ceremony takes plus under a canopy known as a mandap, which is comprised of 4 pillars that represent mine and Justin’s parents.
So, let’s get into it!
Baraat: Groom’s Procession
Justin, his family and friends parade in celebration to the wedding ceremony. Traditionally this would have been the arrival of the groom’s party to the bride’s home.
Milni: Welcoming the Groom
My family receives Justin and his family upon their arrival to the ceremony.My mom performs welcome rituals and places a tilak (red dot) on Justin’s forehead to give her blessings. Justin is then asked to step on an earthen pot symbolizing his willingness to marry me and the determination to come through any hurdles in his path.
Shri Ganesh Pooja: Invocation of the Lord
Prayers are offered to Lord Ganesh whose blessings will remove any obstacles from the ceremony and from the couples new life together, providing them prosperity and guidance.
Svar Raja Pooja: The Grooms Reception
Justin’s aunt and uncle will accompany him to the mandap, where my mom receives him with an offering of honey, curd and butter signifying the sweetness of the marriage sacrament and the sweetness of life. The priest seeks confirmation from him that he is ready, willing and wanting to make the commitment of marriage. In his anticipation for me to arrive, his groomsmen raise an antarpat (curtain) in front of him symbolizing traditional barriers and the physical world that is currently separating them.
Kanya Aagman: The Arrival of the Bride
I am escorted to the mandap by my maternal uncles. Mangalshtak (sacred hymn) is recited as I am seated in the mandap.
Jai Mala: Exchange of Garlands
The antarpat (curtain) is removed and we see each other for the first time and exchange garlands to signify their acceptance of each other as life partners.
Kanya Daan: Giving Away of the Bride
My parents give me, their daughter (kanya), who is their most precious gift (daan) on earth, to Justin and ask him to love and respect me as his life partner. Justin will accept by placing his hand over mine and my dad will put his hands on top of theirs and then my mom will pour water over all of our hands to signify that they are transferring their greatest wealth, me, to Justin.
Hasta Melap: Joining of the Hands
The priest places paan, rice, flower, grass, beetle nut and a Goddess Laxmi silver coin in my right hand. My hand is then placed in Justin’s right hand while chanting Vedic mantras.
A hand-woven cotton thread is placed around mine and Justin’s neck, uniting them with a continuous cord that symbolizes our love and unity.
Granthi Bandhan: Tying the knot
The Priest will tie Justin’s scarf and my sari together with a sacred knot. The mantras are recited informing us that we are now tied together in body, mind and spirit.
Agni Pooja: Lighting of the Sacred Fire
The sacred flame (Agni) is lit to symbolize purity and to act as a witness to the marriage.
Mangal Phera: Circling the Holy Fire
We put parched rice that is handed to us by my brother into the fire while the priest recites hymns. We circle the holy fire 4 times. The first 3 times led by Justin, then during the 4th circle by me. During each circle a rock is touched and crossed over with the right toe of the one that is following. Each completed circle signifies one of the four essential aspects of life according to the Vedic philosophy – Dharma (religion), Arth (wealth and prosperity), Kam (family love) and Moksha (salvation).
Sapta Padi: Seven Steps & Wedding Vows
We take seven steps which represent the beginning of our journey through life together as a couple. With each step we pledge and take the wedding vows as follows:
Step 1 – We will provide sustenance for each other
Step 2 – We will provide strength and energy to each other
Step 3 – We will support each other so each will be successful and prosperous
Step 4 – We will travel the journey of life with love, trust and harmony
Step 5 – We will keep our family happy, healthy and virtuous
Step 6 – We will share equally in each other’s joy and sorrows
Step 7 – We will share eternal love and friendship
Mangal Sutra and Sindoor Daan: Exchange of Rings
Justin places a necklace made of gold and black beads around my neck. Tradition dictates that the necklace helps ward off evil and signifies a married woman. Justin will then apply the red Sindoor (red dot) to my forehead. Both are traditional symbols of a Hindu married woman. At the time they will also exchange rings.
Akhand Saubhagyavati: Advice from Married Women
Married women from my family will whisper good wishes in my ear and bless her with an unbroken wedded life. “Akhand Saubhagyavati” means “Good luck, prosperity, and a long, happy life.”
Kansaar Bhajan: Offering of Sweets
We feed each other sweets signifying our first meal together as husband and wife and that they will share all things in life.
The Priest declares us husband and wife and blesses them. We then seeks blessings from family and friends as the ceremony conclude.
The Vidaai is a touching and emotional farewell to me by my family and friends as I begin my new life with Justin and his family. I throw handfuls of rice over my head, signifying that I am returning all that my parents have given me over the years, praying that the house of my childhood remains prosperous and happy.
We will step into a decorated vehicle and will commence their final farewell. My sisters and female friends will playfully stand in front of the car preventing us from leaving. The groomsmen and male relatives then remove the girls in order to help their “brother” take his bride away, while Justin offers the ladies compensation for taking me away.
Fishing the Ring:
Traditionally done at the home of the my in-laws, this game determines who will rule the roost in the home front. A ring is placed in a pot filled with rose petals and milk. We are asked to fish for the ring. The person who finds the ring first wins and becomes head of the house!
& finalllllyyyyyyyyyy IT’S DONE!
Take a deep breath and let alllll that info sink in.
There’s a lot, I know. But isn’t beautiful?
What do you think about the ceremony and traditions? Does any of it align with what your culture does?
A special thank you to Natasha Bhagwanani for the beautiful artwork.
To see more of Natasha’s portfolio please visit http://www.brightandbluedesigns.com/