We Indians are famous for our big fat weddings. They are super fun, yes. Food and chatter all around, excitement in the air, different delicacies to gorge on, distant relatives walking around in the hall, aunties and uncles gossiping like there’s no tomorrow. It’s like Thanksgiving and Christmas together. The wedding week is a maddening roller coaster in everyone’s life. But beneath all the glitter and merriment, is a father, mother, brothers and sisters running on panic mode. From finalizing the menu to making arrangements for guests to stay, the family members go through a grilling ordeal when there’s a wedding in the family, more so when they are from the bride’s side.
The last four days of ritual ceremonies have lead to this day The Wedding Day, for my wife a very sentimental day her little girl as grown up and is getting married.
The Welcoming of the Groom
Accompanied by his family and his attendants, Groom arrives at the site of the ceremony and is greeted by the Bride’s parents. The mother of the Bride welcomes the Groom with a blessing, and welcomes him to the ceremony. After receiving the blessings of this elders, Groom is escorted by the mother of the Bride to the Mandap (alter) accompanied by his family.
Chanted by the priest in Sanskrit verse, the prayers that compose the Indian wedding ceremony are derived from Vedic Scriptures that are over 4,000 years old. The priest begins the ceremony with an invocation to the Lord Ganesha so that his divine grace, power, love, and spiritual strength may remove all obstacles for the Bride and Groom.
The Entrance of the Bride
Jayawala and Muhurtham
A silk shawl is held between the Bride and Groom until the moment that they may look at each other in the eyes for the first time before the marriage rites begin. As the shawl is brought down, the Bride and Groom exchange garlands of flowers to welcome each other.
The Bride’s father joins the hands of his daughter and the Groom, declaring to all gathered that he hands her to the care of the man of her heart. The Bride’s father seeks a pledge from the Groom of his enduring love, fidelity, and security in caring for the Bride. Once the Groom has agreed, the Bride and Groom both pledge to support each other in fulfilling the four goals of human life: Dharma, the duty to lead a moral life; Artha, the duty to lead a joyous and fruitful life; Karma, the duty to lead a pleasant and productive life; Moksha, the duty to attain enlightenment.
Lighting of the Havan, Lajaahutiand Parkrawn
A fire is lit to invoke Lord Agni and seek his blessings. The Bride and Groom walk seven times around the fire. The Groom leads four times and the Bride leads three times signifying that both are capable of leadership. At this time, the Bride’s cousin fills her hand with puffed rice, symbolizing wealth and prosperity. The Bride and Groom then place one foot each upon a rock to symbolize the adversities that may be encountered in life. The act is a pledge of mutual support.
Saptapadi is translated in Sanskrit to mean “Seven Steps.” These steps are representative of the marriage vows. The priests ties the Groom’s cloak to the sari of the Bride and guides them to take seven steps hand in hand around the sacred fire. The number seven refers to the earth, sun, moon, and four planets visible to the naked eye all locked together in harmonious interrelationships governed by a single law.
These are the vows:
1. Let us provide for our household, stay in good health and carry out our duties and responsibilities to each other, our families and our tradition. 2. Let us develop our mental and spiritual powers 3. Let us increase our wealth and comfort by righteous and proper means 4. Let us acquire knowledge, happiness and harmony by mutual love, respect and trust 5. Let us be blessed with contended family of strong, virtuous and heroic children 6. Let us be blessed with long lives 7. Let us remain true companions, committed only to each other
Sindoor Dan and Mangalsutradharan
The Groom now places a Sindoor, or red power, on the Bride’s forehead and welcomes her into his life. He then places a Mangalsutra (necklace) around her neck, symbolizing his enduring commitment to their marriage.
Suhagini and Ashirvad
The Bride’s mother wraps her in a silk shawl and four married women bless the couple and offer whispered advice to the Bride.
The Bride and Groom feed each other to reflect mutual respect and care of their well being.
Pushpayuja and Asshirvadam
The priest offers a blessing to the couple and the couple’s parents and closest relatives shower them with flowers and wishes for health, wealth, and peace through the course of their life.
The Bride and Groom leave the Mandap as a married couple and receive blessings and a shower of flower petals from all of their guests.
A new life cycle begins.
[Editor’s note: Clinton resident Tony Soyani offered to share with readers the unique experience of a Indian wedding. Soyani is an are business man, as well as head of the Clinton A&P commision and a candidate for county judge.]