The Ceremony

Duration: 45 – 60 Minutes
Full Ceremony, with all Vedic Rites included with Sanskrit Mantras and Explanations in English at each Stage of the Ceremony. 

The Hindu Marriage ceremony is performed according to the rituals prescribed in the Vedas. The ceremony is a collection of rituals performed by the Bride, the Groom, and their respective parents. Pandit conducts this ceremony by chanting Vedic mantras (hymns) in Sanskrit. The marriage ceremony is sacred and represents the strongest social bond between a man and a woman before their parents, relatives, friends, and society.  
It’s important to keep in mind that there is no “one way” of performing a Hindu wedding as the customs and rituals vary from region to region throughout the Indian sub-continent. However, there are certain core rituals that essential for a Hindu weddings.

Below are brief highlights of each ceremony rite: 

  Barāt (Bridegrooms Procession)

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Groom is escorted to the wedding place in a lively procession of music and dance accompanied by his family and friends. 

Dvāra Pūjā (Reception of the Groom)

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 The groom enters. The bride’s mother will welcome them either at the entrance of the venue or at the top of the aisle. She then leads them into the mandap where the bride’s father will either sprinkle water or actually wash the groom’s feet and he is fed honey and milk while sitting under the mandap. At this time, Bride’s relatives try to steal Groom’s shoes, adding mischief and humor to the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, the groom retrieves his shoes by offering to buy them back.

Gaṇeśa Pūjanam (Auspicious Invocation)

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 The priest begins the marriage ceremony with a prayer to Lord Ganesh, the Remover of Obstacles. 

Navagraha pūjā (Celestial Blessings)

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The graha shanti is a prayer to the nine planets of our solar system to bless the bride and groom with inner strength, courage and peace of mind.  

Kanyā Āgamanam (Bride’s Entrance)

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 The bride now makes her entrance accompanied by her bridal party. She approaches the pandal and meets the groom outside.  In some communities a curtain (antar-paṭha) is held between the couple symbolizing the physical world that separates the bride and groom is lowered to bring them together. 

Jaimala (Exchange of Garlands)

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As the Bride approaches the mandap, she faces the Groom as they each put a garland of flowers around the other. This indicates the desire and acceptance to be united in matrimony. A Maṅgalāṣṭakam (traditional song of eight verses) may also be sung at this time to invite all the planets, Gods, and Goddesses to witness the marriage and bless Bride and Groom.

Kanyā Dānam
Kanyā-dānam (Awarding Bride in Charity)

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This is the giving away of the bride. The bride’s parents will announce that they are entrusting the bridegroom with their daughter who represents Lakshmi (the goddess of fortune). The bride’s father will then place her hand in the hand of the bridegrooms for what is known as the hasta melap. The mother of the bride pours water on to the open palms of the bride and groom who hold a coconut and other sacred articles symbolizing the giving of the bride in charity by her parents.  This is accompanied by the chanting of Vedic hymns ending with the words svasti to invoke auspiciousness. 

Pani Grahan
Pratijña & Pāṇi-grahaṇam (Vows and Holding of the Bride’s Hand)

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The bride and groom recite a mantra pronouced by the priest pomising to never do harm to each other in all endevors in life.  Then the groom takes the bride’s right hand in a certain gesture and promises to protect and charish her throughout their life together.

Ganth Bandhan
Granthi Bandhanam​ (Binding the Knot of Affection)

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Either the sister of the groom or the priest will tie the groom’s stole to the bride’s saree or chunni (scarf). The knot represents that they are bound to each other in mind, body and soul for the rest of their lives.

Agni-sthāpanam hutayaḥ (Establishing the Sacred Fire or Havan)

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The priest will light a small fire in a copper vessel known as an agni kund. The fire is invoked to act as a pure and sacred witness to the vows that are to be taken by the couple.

Mangal Pherae
Mangal Pherae (Circling the Fire)

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The couple walks around the sacred fire four times. Each round represents four aspirations:

1. Dharma: Life of Piety and Goodness

2. Artha: Ample Wealth and Successful Livelihood

3. Kama: Fulfillment of Desires

4. Moksha: Attainment of Liberation

The Groom leads the first three rounds signifying his contribution in helping the union attain Dharma, Artha, and Kama. The Bride leads the fourth round in leading their spiritual journey together. Each time around, they stop to touch a stone in their path with their toe, representing the obstacles in life they will overcome together.  At the end of the four pherae, the Bride’s brother offers his blessings and fills her open hands with puffed rice wishing the couple wealth and prosperity.

  Laja Homa
Lājā Homa (Offering of Oblations into the Fire)

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During this stage of the ceremony, oblations are offered to the sacred fire. The brother of the bride puts fried rice into her hands, half of which slips into the bridegroom’s hands under hers, which then slips into the fire. This is done three times over whilst the bride prays to God for the long life, happiness and prosperity of her new husband.

śilarohana (Ascending the Stone)

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‘Shila’ means stone. ‘Arohan’ means ascending or stepping upon. The mother of the bride assists her to step onto a stone and counsels her to prepare herself for a new life. A married couple are likely to encounter ups and downs, joys and sorrows, sickness and health. In spite of difficulties facing them they are enjoined to remain steadfast and true to each other.

Saptapadi (Seven Steps)

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The ends of the bridegroom’s scarf and upper garment of the bride are still tied together. Then both stand facing the north ready to take seven steps. The bridegroom places his right hand on the right shoulder of the bride and they take the first step in the northeasterly direction. Uncooked grains of rice are placed in a line at equal distance at seven places. The bride and the groom take seven steps together as the priest recites mantras at each step signifying a different aspect of marriage that they hope to uphold together with the final goal of being true companions and remaining life-long partners through wedlock. The couple then take seven steps together, making the following seven vows: 1. Let us take the first step to provide for our household, keeping a pure diet and avoiding things that may harm us. 2. Let us take the second step to develop our physical, mental and spiritual strength. 3. Let us take our third step to increase our wealth by righteous and proper means. 4. Let us take our fourth step to acquire knowledge, happiness and harmony by mutual love, respect  and trust. 5. Let us take the fifth step so that we may be blessed with strong and virtuous children. 6. Let us take the sixth step for self-restraint and longevity. 7. Let us take the seventh step to be true companions and remain life-long partners by this union. Then the  wife takes her rightful place on the left side of her husband as the marriage is now religiously solemnized in its entirety. Now the couple are husband and wife. The husband garlands the wife and she in turn garlands her husband.

Māṅgalya Dhāraṇam (Mangal Sutra) & Sindūr Dānam (Offering a Necklace and Vermillion to the Bride)

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The mangal sutra is a necklace that the groom will gift his bride with. It is usually made of gold with small black beads which represent the sacred union between them. The husband placed the mangal sutra around her neck and applies sindoor (vermillion) to the parting of her hair. These are both physical symbols that make her recognizable to the world as a married woman.

Anna-prāśana (Honoring the Remnants of Sacrifice)

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In the last symbolic rite the couple make offerings of food into the sacred fire with chantings of Vedic Havan Mantras. Having done this, the couple feed a morsel of food to each other symbolizing mutual love and affection.

Āśīrvādam (Blessings from Family Members)

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This is the final stage where there is benediction by the elders. Firstly the priest blesses the newly wed couple, after which other elders do the same. The married couple take blessings from both sets of parents and any other family elders by touching their feet.

Vadai (Farewell)

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The bride’s parents bid tearful farewell to their daughter amidst wishing joy to the newlywed couple and blessings for a life filled with happiness and prosperity.