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The Hindu Marriage Rituals
The core of a Hindu Vedic wedding ceremony consist of the following steps.However, different sects of Hindus across India,follow different rituals as per their indivisual beliefs and traditions.
*1*Mehandi - A couple of days before the wedding the palm and feet of the bride are designed with 'Mehendi'(made up of leaves paste).Her full body is applied turmeric,sandalwood paste and oils, which cleanse the body,soften the skin, and make it scented.They are then bathed to the chanting of Vedic mantras.The friends and relatives,especially girls and women are gathered,who sing and dance on the traditional and film songs.The bride is teased by her friends to make her feel shy.
*3* Madhuparka Ceremony - Meeting of the Parents and exchaning the gifts.
*4* Wedding Ceremony - The priest begins the marriage rituals on a platform,covered with small pandol,that is specially decorated for the ceremony.The priest invokes blessings of God for the couple to be married.The bride and the groom both offer each other, yogurt and honey as a symbol of purity and sweetness and puts a garlands.Both are congratulated by the family and the guests.
*5* Kanya Dan - The bride's father hands over his daughter to the groom.It is performed by the father (or uncle of guardian) of the bride in the presence of a large crowd of invitees,who witness the wedding rituals.The father pours out a libation of sacred water,as a symbol of the giving away of the daughter to the groom.The groom recites Vedic hymns to Kama,the God of love and accepts her with love.In the exchange of the kanyadaan,the father of the bride takes a promise from the groom ,that he will help his wifein realizing the three ends - dharma, artha, and kama. The groom consents the promise by repeating three times that he will fulfill his duties.
*6* Vivah-Hoam - The sacred fire ceremony starts by puting into it sugar,sandalwood pieces, herbs,rice, ghee and twigs to seek the God's blessings. The bride and the bridegroom face each other and the priest ties their garments in a knot(the bride's saree to the groom's scarf), symbolising the sacred union.The bride and the bridegroom garland each other and put the rings around the fingers.Next the fire God worshipped and the bride and the groom hold their hands together and pray to God for His blessings as success in marriage life.
*7* Hasta Milap -The bride sits facing the east and the groom stands in front of her,facing the west. Then He holds her hand and for the happiness and logetivity of married life he chants Vedic hymns like-
"O the Goddess Sarasvati,the gracious one,rich in off spring,you are the one we pray first of all the Gods ,may you bless us for the prosperity of our marriage".
*8* Pani-Grahan - The groom accepts the bride as his lawfully married wife and takes the right hand of the bride in his left hand,Here the bride offers sacrifice of food (poured into her hands by her brother or someone acting in her brother's behalf) to the Gods for their blessings-
*9* Pratignya-Karan - The couple go round the fire,with the bride in the front and take solemn oath of loyalty,steadfast love and life-long fidelity to each other.The bridegroom holds the bride by the hand and both walk three times around the nuptial fire.By chanting the Vedic mantras,the couple offer oblation to the Gods for prosperity, good fortune, and conjugal fidelity.They touch each others heart and pray for union of their hearts and minds
While walking around the bridegroom repeats -
"First now they bring to you in bridal procession this Surya, guiding her steps in circular motion. Return her now, O Agni, to her husband as rightful wife, with hope of children to come."
Then the entire rite is repeated twice more, beginning with the rite of the fried grain.
At the fourth round she pours into the fire all the fried grain from the mouth of the winnowing basket saying: "To Bhaga svaha!"
*10* Shila Arohan - With the help of the mother,the bride steps onto a stone slab and gets an advise from mother to prepare for a new life.At the end of each round of nuptial fire, both the bride and the groom step on a stone and offer a prayer for their mutual love to be strong and massive like the stone.
*11* Laja-Hoam - Puffed rice offered as oblations into the sacred fire by the bride while keeping the palms of her hands over those of the groom.
*12* Parikrama or Mangal Fera - The couple goes round the sacred fire seven times.This ritual of the ceremony legalises the marriage according to the Hindu Marriage Act and the tradition.
*13* Saptapadi - This is the most important rite of the entire ceremony. Marriage knot is established by tying one end of the groom's scarf with the bride's saree.Then they take seven steps representing nourishment, strength, prosperity, happiness, progeny, long life and harmony and understanding, respectively.
As per the Vedic rituals, the groom chants as followa -
With God as our guide,let us take,
the first step to nourish each other,
the second step to grow together and become strong,
the third step to safeguard our wealth,
the fourth step to share our sorrows and happiness ,
the fifth step to look after our children,
the sixth step to live together forever,
the seventh step to maintain the lifelong friendship,
The Spatapadi ceremony concludes with a prayer that the union is forever and the bridegroom and bride become husband and wife.In Gujarati community,four steps are taken instead of seven,signifying Artha, Dharma, Kama and Moksha.
*14* Mangalsutra - The Mangala suthra is a thread with beads,containing the marks of the Vishnu or Shiva,with three gold discs.It is tied around the neck of the bride by the groom,establishing the right as a husband.
*15* Sindoor - The groom puts sindhoor (red powder) on the front of the the hair-parting of the bride,to declare her to be a married woman.
*16* Anna Praashan - The couple offers the food to the fire-God and feed a handful of food to each other as a sign of mutual love and affection.
*17* Aashirvad - Blessings by the elders.The groom's parents bless the couple and offer clothes to the bride,their daugher-in-law,as a symbol of their family member.
*18* Bidai - All those assembled shower flowers on the couple and bless them for happy and properous married life.The father of the bride hands over his daughter to the groom and requests him to take a good care of her and wishes them the best luck and happy life.
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