Hindu weddings are known for their culturally vibrant vibe. They're intricately planned and are full of life from the very first moment till the very last. And while the very essence of a Hindu wedding ceremony is the physical, spiritual, and emotional union of two people, it is also about the coming together of two families through prayer and celebration.
At its core, a Hindu wedding ceremony is essentially a Vedic yajna ritual with three key rituals that are almost universal: Kanyadan, Panigrahana, and Saptapadi—which are respectively, giving away of his daughter by the father, voluntarily holding hands near the fire to signify union, and taking seven 'steps before fire'. While many modern couples are opting to personalise their nuptials, the big day is a beautiful spot to honour heritage, even if that means just a few of these many ideas get included in the wedding plans. Take a look at these important Hindu wedding rituals and be sure to bookmark them to reference again down the road!
List of Hindu Wedding Rituals You Must Know If You're Getting Married
With many rituals and mini ceremonies leading to the main ceremony day, a Hindu wedding ceremony not only binds the couple together but also both families for eternity. Every ritual, every tradition that is a part of a Hindu wedding holds a lot of significance and has been designed very thoughtfully. And no matter where you are in the world, if you're having a Hindu wedding, you're bound to follow the following rituals all the same.
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In literal terms, Mahurat means time. Before any Hindu wedding, once both families are introduced to one another and the couple decides to get married, with the consultation of a pandit-Ji, the date and time for the wedding are set. The wedding ceremony's timing, or mahurat, is decided. After the pandit does some calculations based on the couple's kundalis and comes up with an auspicious time and date that would be perfect to start their new union. It is around this mahurat that couples finally get to plan their other ceremonies like haldi, mehndi, sangeet etc.
2. Roka or Tilak Ceremony
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Usually, once the mahurat is decided and agreed upon, the next step of the celebration is the Roka or the Tilak Ceremony. After a small pooja, the bride and groom are both given the blessings of their elders. The bride-to-be is covered in a red veil/chunni and the couple is also given gifts from both sides of the family. In some cases, the couple also exchanges rings, but many also opt for a separate ring ceremony.
3. Barni Bandhwana
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The Barni Bandhwana is a Hindu wedding ritual that is followed by most communities within Hindus and usually takes place 15 days before the wedding ceremony. In this ritual, the groom's family ties a red thread around his wrist, known as 'mauli'. This ritual aims to cast away any evil eyes and pray for his well-being. The elders of the family give their blessings to the groom. After this is done, the groom is not supposed to set foot outside of his home until the wedding, although with changing times this particular part of the ritual is bypassed.
4. Mehndi Ceremony
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Once the wedding celebration kicks off, the first ceremony is the Mehndi function. The Mehndi usually takes place a day before the wedding, during the day. This is where the bride's close friends and family members gather for a party. Henna, or mehndi, is applied to the bride's hands and feet, covering her hands till the elbows and the feet above the ankles or till the knees. Furthermore, almost all other females present also take part in the henna application and get mehndi applied to their hands. The mehndi designs consist of floral and geometric patterns with lines and various kinds of motifs adorning the bride's hands and feet. It is said that the darker the mehndi design looks later, the stronger a bride's bond will be with her husband.
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5. Sangeet Function
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The Sangeet night is the most happening function of the entire wedding. It is a function where both the bride and groom's families come under one roof to dance to their heart's content. In literal terms, Sangeet means 'sung together'. Earlier, both families would come together and dance and sing traditional songs on the dhol. However, sangeets have evolved a lot now and it's all about getting together to dance to the latest Bollywood numbers. Most of the time sangeets have choreographed dance performances from both sides, with some heartwarming and fun performances. It's the best way to release all that wedding planning stress, loosen up and have a lot of fun with your loved ones.
6. Haldi Ceremony
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The last function before the actual wedding, the haldi ceremony is a very important function. Before the couple is married, they go through the Haldi ceremony, which is where their families gather to spread the oil, water, and turmeric over the couple. The mixture goes everywhere, over their skin and clothes, and is believed to bless the couple. The added benefit of the ceremony is the exuberant glow the bride and groom have thanks to the haldi. It can be held on the morning of the wedding or even the day before.
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Moving on to the actual wedding celebration, the function begins with the mounting of the Baraat. The groom mounts a horse after a little pooja and then he, along with his family and friends, and of course, a band of dhols, move towards the wedding venue. The arrival of the groom to the altar is known as the Baraat. The Baraat is like a mini festival in itself with everyone dancing to the beat of the dhol (or music).
Milni means 'meeting'. It's a small ritual that takes place once the baraat arrives and the bride's family welcomes them. With hugs, garlands and tikas, the groom's side is welcomed into the bride's home or the venue with gifts and sweets also being exchanged as a sign of welcome and respect for one another.
9. Bride's Entry
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The bride's entry at any wedding is an emotional and beautiful moment. In Hindu wedding tradition, a bride is equivalent to the Goddess Laxmi. Her arrival at the groom's house is marked with a lot of respect and auspiciousness. Bridal entry is done differently in all communities. In some, the bride walks down the aisle with her father or brother, she walks under a phoolon-ki-chadar or a red chunni towards the mandap. In fact, in Bengali traditions, the bride is lifted on a palki by her brothers and taken to the altar. Every community has its way of bridal entry, but with time things have changed a lot and bride's can now walk to the altar in their fun and unique way!
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Once the bride and groom are at the altar, they finally exchange garlands. A varmala or jaimala is an Indian wedding garland symbolic of the popular marriage ceremony. The garlands, or jaimalas, are made with flowers and come in a variety of designs and flowers like roses, lotus, marigolds, baby's breath, etc. The varmala or the jaimala (wedding garland made of fresh flowers) is indispensable to a Hindu wedding ritual. Sometimes, the brothers and close relatives & friends of the bride and the groom make it even more memorable by adding some fun elements to this tradition. They carry both the bride and the groom on their shoulders and move back and forth to make the exchange of garlands a challenging task. Usually, it is the bride who puts the garland first on the groom, showcasing her acceptance of the marriage proposal. Thus, the wedding ceremony begins!
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One of the most emotional moments in a woman's life and that of her parents is the ritual of kanyadaan in a wedding ceremony. Kanyadaan is a Sanskrit word which means ‘giving away the daughter’. And as the meaning suggests it is the tradition or ritual in which parents give away their daughter to the groom. The symbolism is deep-rooted in the belief of those of the Hindu community. During a wedding ceremony, the bride is considered to be a form of the Goddess Laxmi, while the groom is a form of Lord Vishnu. The parents of the bride are initiating the union of two Gods through this ceremony. It is also meant to be the consent of the bride’s parents on accepting the groom as their son-in-law. Every community has their way of doing it, but the essence behind it remains the same for all. The emotion and feelings of that moment are similar for every parent giving away their daughter during the kanyadaan.
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'Havan', also known as 'Homa' is a sacrificial fire ritual that is performed in a square-shaped 'kunda' or a bilaterally symmetrical altar. During this ceremony, the ‘Vivaha Havan’ is performed to create an air of divinity and purity. Keeping the Agni as a witness, the bride and groom exchange their sacred vows to each other and the Gods and solemnise their matrimonial rituals. The bride and groom sit around the fire while facing East. The groom and the bride hold hands, make offerings into the sacrificial fire and chant the holy hymns all before they take the seven pheras. During ancient times, more elaborate sacrifices were made, but now we make ritualistic sacrifices/offerings such as curd, sugar, incense, herbs, milk, petals, grains, coconut, etc.
13. Pheras, Mangalsutra & Sindoor
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Pheras are the next step of the ceremony. Once the chanting and the holy hymns are recited, the bride and groom move on to the pheras. It is also known as the Saptapadi, or the seven steps. After tying the Mangalsutra around the bride's neck and applying sindoor on her forehead, the groom and bride take seven steps, which is called Saptapadi. After the seventh step, the couple legally becomes husband and wife. This is followed by the ritual of saat pheras. The saat phere is one of the most important features of the Hindu wedding ritual, involving seven rounds around a sacred fire lit for the purpose amidst the Vedic mantras. Vows made in the presence of the sacred fire are considered unbreakable, with Agnideva (God of Fire) held as both witnessing and blessing the couple's union, with each phera holding a specific meaning to the union of the couple.
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14. Joota Chupai
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The Joota Chupai Rasam is an Indian marriage custom that has been in existence for a long time. During the event, the family members of both the bride and groom are expected to play some unusual but fun roles. Joota Chupai is all about stealing the groom’s shoes as soon as he takes them off while entering the Mandap. The sisters, cousins, and bridesmaids of the bride are the culprits – they are expected to hide the shoes after stealing them. On the other hand, the family members and relatives of the groom are expected to ensure that the females do not succeed with their plans. The aim is to get some money from the groom before releasing his shoes since he will need them to leave the venue. At the end of the ceremony, the groom, after discovering that his shoes have been stolen, will have to beg the girls to release them to him. The females will then enter into negotiations with the groom, and when they both agree on a handsome amount, the Joota will be released to him!
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Once the bride and groom exchange their vows and take the saat pheras around the havan, they proceed to get their blessings from their elders. This is followed by the most bittersweet and emotional moment of the wedding ceremony. The Bidaai is the moment the bride bids farewell to her family and leaves with the groom and his family. A bidaai ceremony is a two-fold tradition. Where on one hand, the parents send their daughter to a new beginning, and the daughter in return, thanks them for taking care of her for all these years. The bride throws rice/wheat grains, mixed with flower petals and coins at her parents from the back (without looking back) while walking towards the exit gate. This particular custom symbolises her gratitude and her attempt to replay the 'dues' to her parents. The bride performs this rice-throwing ritual five times before leaving the house and the family members collect them in their hands as a token.
Rich, vibrant and culturally grounded, Hindu wedding ritual and traditions may differ in every community but the general rules and basic rituals are pretty much the same. Furthermore, couples nowadays are very mindful of their older traditions while also adopting or modifying certain rituals that are more suitable for the time and era. Honestly, the ultimate goal of any wedding is to celebrate the union of a couple like a complete festival!