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Hindu Marriage
HINDU MARRIAGES
Hindu wedding is thought to be the bringing of two people who are said to be compatible. Hindu wedding ceremonies are traditionally conducted at least partially in sanskrit, the language of most holy hindu ceremonies. The local language of the people involved is also used since most Hindus do not understand Sanskrit. They have many rituals that have evolved since traditional times and differ in many ways from the modern western wedding ceremony and also among the different regions, families, and castes. The Hindus attach a lot of importance to marriages, and the ceremonies are very colourful and extend for several days.
Despite modern Hinduism being largely based on the puja form of the worship of devas as enshrined in the puranas, a Hindu wedding ceremony at its core is essentially a vedic (a fire sacrifice), in which the Aryan deities are invoked in the Indo Aryan style. It has a deep origin in the ancient ceremony of cementing the bonds of friendship/alliance (even among people of the same sex or people of different species in mythological contexts), although today, it only survives in the context of weddings. The primary witness of a Hindu marriage is the fire-deity (or the Sacred Fire) Agni and by law and tradition, no Hindu marriage is deemed complete unless in the presence of the Sacred Fire, seven encirclements have been made around it by the bride and the groom together(In many South Indian Hindu marriages these are not required)
TYPES OF HINDU MARRIAGES
Mythology says that there are eight different types of Hindu marriages. Historical records support this perception, by saying that some of these types of marriages were prevalent in ancient India, among the people following Hinduism. Although not all the eight marriages had a religious sanction, it is said that they were observed among many communities of the people, following Hinduism, in the ancient time. People argue that many of them are still seen among the Hindus. In this article, we have discussed about the eight types of Hindu weddings in India.
Eight Types of Hindu Weddings
Brahma marriage
According to the Brahma marriage, a boy is eligible to get married, once he has completed his Brahmacharya (student hood). Parents, who search for a bride for their son, would consider the family background of the girl, whom he is going to marry. On the other hand, the bride's father would ensure that the boy has acquired knowledge of the Vedas. This is how a Brahma marriage was arranged. There was no system of dowry. Among the eight types of marriage, brahma marriage holds a supreme position.
Daiva Marriage
In this type of marriage, the girls family waits for a particular time, to get her married. If they do not find a suitable groom for their daughter, then they would marry her off to places, where sacrifices are conducted. In this case, the girl is generally married to a priest, who conducts sacrifices. According to the sastras, Daiva marriage is considered inferior to Brahma marriage, because it is considered degrading for the womanhood.
Arsha Marriage
Arsha marriage is the one, wherein the girl is married to the sages or rishis. References from dharmasastras tell us that in arsha marriage, the bride is given in exchange of two cows, received from the groom. The girl is generally married to an old sage. The cows, which were taken in exchange of the bride, shows that even the groom do not have any remarkable qualities. According to sastras, noble marriages had no monetary or business transactions. Therefore, these kind of marriages were not considered noble.
Prajapatya Marriage
Monetary transactions and Kanyadaan are not parts of Prajapatya marriage, unlike the Brahma marriage, where these two forms an important and basic part. Unlike the Brahma marriage, here, the brides father goes in search for a groom for his daughter. The Brahma type is considered better than prajapatya, because in the former, the grooms family goes out to seek a suitable bride for their son.
Gandharva Marriage
Gandharva marriage is similar to.love marriage In this case, the bride and the groom get married secretly, without the knowledge of their parents. It is not considered a right kind of marriage, as it is done without the consent of the parents. This marriage reminds us of the love affair of the mythological characters Sakuntala and Dushyanta.
Asura Marriage
In the Asura marriage, the groom is not at all suitable for the bride. Although the groom is not suitable for the bride, he willingly gives as much wealth as he can afford, to the brides parents and relatives. Therefore, the system of marriage is more or less like buying a product, which makes it undesirable in the present time.
Rakshasa Marriage
According to Rakshasa marriage, the groom fights battles with the brides family, overcomes them, carries her away and then persuades her to marry him. This is not considered as the righteous way to woo a girl for marriage, because forcible methods are used by the groom to tie the wedding knot.
Paishacha Marriage
Paishacha marriage is the eighth and last type of Hindu wedding. It is considered as the inferior type of marriage, because the girls wish is not considered, even if she is not willing to marry the person chosen for her. In fact, she is forced to marry. Moreover, the brides family is also not given anything in cash or kind. Literally, the girl is seized against her wish. Men would marry a woman, whom he had seduced while she was asleep, intoxicated or insane. This kind of marriage was later on prohibited.
HINDU MARRIAGE CEREMONY
In Hindu dharma, marriage is viewed as a sacrament and not a contract. Hindu marriage is a lifelong commitment of one wife and one husband, and is the strongest social bond that takes place between a man and a woman.
Grahastha Ashram (the householder stage), the second of the four stages of life begins when a man and a woman marry and start a household. For a Hindu marriage is the only way to continue the family and thereby repay his debt to his/her ancestors.
In Hindu view, marriage is not a concession to human weakness, but a means for spiritual growth. Man and woman are soul mates who, through the institution of marriage, can direct the energy associated with their individual instincts and passion into the progress of their souls.
The marriage ceremony has various stages
1. Selection of the Couple
1. In arranged marriages, the bride and bridegroom are generally selected and chosen by parents or the elders. Being experienced and elderly people, they can perhaps better evaluate the merits of the partners. Left on their own, the boy and the girl, being young, can be led to more transitory rather than long lasting and valuable considerations.
2. This system of selection by the parents has been criticized because it has been seen that in many cases, parents seek matches on the basis of superior social status and more wealth which would add to their prestige, rather than compatibility on biological or psychological grounds. It is, therefore highly desirable that the boy and the girl should be consulted and the reasons for the selection of jeevansathi discussed with them.
3. Today the young boys and girls have a deep desire of a perfect marriage. In their wouldbe jeevansathi, the youngsters want a beautiful face, unmitigated love, devotion and fidelity and also camaraderie and complete self expression. The reality of marriage is not foreseen and when it fails, they put the blame on the parents instead of upon the excessive and natve demands they make on the marriage.
4. The parents are morally bound to find mates for their children and the children are obliged to accept the parental choice. The marriage among Hindus is considered a union between two families rather than between two young people. However, two considerations are mostly followed-that the mates must be chosen outside the family and must be within the religion caste. However, western culture has heavily influenced the youngsters and traditional customs are being ignored in the modern age.
2. The Betrothal
1. When the selection of the boy for a bridegroom and of the girl for the bride have been investigated and the betrothal decided on, an auspicious day is fixed for its celebration. This should not normally take place in the month of Posh (December), Kartik (October) or Chetna (March), when Venus and Jupiter are on the wane, during the shhradas, annual or general, interrelated months or when the Venus and the Jupiter are in the same rasa. Sundays, Tuesdays and Saturdays are also avoided at times. The ideal time for betrothal is during the following Nakshatras (asterisms): Phalgun (January toFebruary), Bhadrapada (August to September) and June to August.
2. On the appointed day, the boys party goes to the girls house and the both parties are seated, while Brahmins recite the Mangla Charan (benedictory prayer) and Shri Ganesh is worshipped, kept in a brass dish. Rice is sprinkled on Ganesh and the boys party. Sometimes red coloured water is also sprinkled over them. The girls guardian (the father, paternal grandfather, brother, one of the same family and lastly the mother) then announces that the girl, is dan (gift) by word of mouth, and this is the essence of the betrothal contract. It is now irrevocable, and there is a very strong feeling against breaking it. When once the promise has passed the lips of the girls guardian, it can only be withdrawn under grave circumstances. The a janev (scared thread), fruits, flowers and some clothes are given to the boy by the girls guardian. The girls Brahmin applies tilak to the boy and his kinsmen. The boys parents and kinsmen make gifts to Brahmins and distribute sweets and money amongst them.
3. Among the Hindus betrothal is a contract and is, as a rule, an indispensable preliminary to the marriage of a girl. If a woman, once married, is remarried on account of divorce or widowhood, the ceremonies performed in the first betrothal are not performed so religiously.
4. A promise of marriage (betrothal) cannot be enforced by a suit for specific performance, but a refusal to complete a betrothal or a promise of marriage by an actual marriage would give the injured party a right to recover from the person making the promise, compensation for the loss, if any, sustained by the breach of promise. In case of such breach, a father or guardian, would be entitled to recover money properly spent in contemplation of such marriage. Should the girl die before the marriage, the bridegroom is entitled to recover back the presents given by him to her, subject to paying such expenses as have been incurred.
5. As a rule, among Hindus, priority of betrothal gives the girl a social, though not legal, claim to be married first, that is to be married before the fiance takes another wife. The reason is that in a Hindu household, the first married wife, occupies a more or less privileged position, as against Muslims, where all the four wives are, in the eye of the law at least, absolutely equal.
3. Pre Marriage Ceremonies
1. After betrothal, before a marriage takes place and is given legal effect, certain ceremonies are required to be observed. These ceremonies differ from community to community and from place to place. These ceremonies, sometimes, may look surprising, nevertheless, they are regarded indispensable, as well as highly religious and significant. These are purely social and are meant to increase intimacy between the two families. The boys father sends sweets etc. for the girl on festivals. These she returns with some money. Later the boys father sends her ornaments these too are returned with some cash and clothes, only three or four trinklets are retained.
2. Pair Pana (to put in ones feet) is a ceremony, observed after the betrothal. At this the girls people send trays of sweets (11-51) to the boys parents, followed on the same day by a formal visit paid by the women of the boys family including neighbours and friends, to the girls house. Refreshment is served, with milk to drink. The mother of the boy blesses the girl some money circumambulated over the head of the girl is given to the barber maid. When the boys party has left, the girls mother and other ladies visit the boys house. The mother of the girl blesses the boy, gives him a gold coin and a gift to the barber maid. This ceremony is rarely practised in the present times, because the selected couple may be belonging to a distant place.
3. Milni Ceremony: A few days before the wedding, on an auspicious day, the milni ceremony is performed. Girls people send trays of sweets to the boys house. Females do not go with these gifts, only males. They are received by the boys relatives, assembled for the purpose. The Milni (to meet) is then performed, the girls party standing on one side and the boys on the other. The girls people present money, ornaments to the boys people and Salami (token money) are offered. The counterparts of both sides meet, embrace and offer token money. Nowadays, this ceremony is performed just before the marriage party enters the wedding hall.
4. Ghodi Ceremony (Riding a Mare): Before the marriage party (barat) proceeds to the girls house, a mare is sent to the boys house. The bridegroom rides the mare and a small younger brother/ cousin (sarwala) sits behind the bridegroom. The women and relatives in the boys house, bless the boy and give him and the younger one money. After this ceremony at the boys house is over, the boy, accompanied by relatives and friends (baratis), proceed to the girls house singing and dancing to the tunes of the band, under the shade of glittering lights.
5. After the marriage party reaches the brides house, the boy dismounts the mare and is led to the inner chambers. The Milni is performed and then the rest of the marriage party sits in the auditorium, where some entertainment and light refreshment are served. A practice, that is being performed now is that the boy, before reaching the inner chambers, exchanges garland with the bride (varmala ceremony).
4. The Marriage Performance
1. The marriage party goes to the dining hall. The bridegroom in the inner chambers is surrounded by girls and other females of the brides house, who jest with him. The girl and her parents observe fast, on this day, till the time after Saptapadi (seven steps ceremony). The boy s side (the bridegroom and his parents) also, sometimes observe fast.
2. When the auspicious moment for the Lagan draws near, the boy goes to the Vedi (the place decorated with banana tree trunks under the open sky) and the marriage ceremony starts. The boy is seated on a wooden seat and by his side, the girl is also seated. On one side of the couple, the parents of the girl sit, opposite the father/ guardian of the boy sit. On the fourth side, the two priests of either side sit. After yajna with recitation of Vedic mantras, a piece of long cloth hanging on the shoulder of the boy, is tethered to a corner of the dupatta (head cover) of the girl. The couple is then made to stand up and they go around the fire seven times (Saptapadi), which includes three steps led by the bride and the other steps by the bridegroom. When the seventh round of the consecrated fire has been taken, the marriage becomes complete and binding under the law. Before the seventh step is taken, marriage is incomplete and may be revoked. Thus the performance of Saptapadi is an essential condition of Hindu marriage. During the ceremony and before the seven steps, the priest makes the couple take oaths of responsibilities and duties of a husband and wife. Each round (in all seven) consisted of seven steps, the bridegroom saying to the bride Take thou one step for the acquirement of force take thou two steps for strength take thou three steps for the increase of wealth take thou four steps for well being take thou fifth step for offspring take thou sixth step for the seasons take thou seventh step as a friend be faithfully devoted to me may we obtain many sons may they attain to a good old age. Then bringing both their heads into close juxtaposition, someone sprinkles water on them from a jar.
3. The wedding rite having been gone through, the Khat Pujan is next performed. The bride and the bridegroom are seated on a bed with all presents and gifts given to them.
4. The boy is asked by the brides kinswomen to recite a Chhanda (couplet), for which he is nominally paid (another zest of the brides friends).
5. The couple, led by the bridegroom, to whose long cloth has been tied the headdress corner of the bride, leads out of the house of the bride to the doli (carriage). She is seated inside, often with a little girl, to give her company. The bride, on leaving her house, while meeting her father, mother and other kinsmen starts crying, which is continued, even when she gets seated in the carriage. When the departing procession starts, brides kinsmen go for a certain distance, then they return. The Bridegrooms party with the bride go to their house.
6. When the couple approach the house, some women of the family receive them with due honour. The mother of the bridegroom receives the couple at the door of the house, pours mustard oil on both sides of the door and allows the couple to enter the house. Immediately after entry, the bride has to topple over small earthen pots full of rice, after which she enters the house and is received by the womenfolk. In some places, the mother waves a cup of water seven times round her son and daughter in law, which she then drinks. This means that she, with pleasure and for her sons love, takes on herself every misfortune that may in future time befall on either of them. The senior relatives of the boy in succession put a handful of sesamums into the hands of the girl, which she returns to them at once. This ceremony signifies that they wish the bride to bear children as numerous as the sesamum seeds, which fall on the ground. Then the women sing: May the bride bear as many sons as sesamum seeds have fallen to the ground.
7. The next ceremony is handing over a purse full of money to the bride, and she is at liberty to take as much as she likes. This signifies that the husband entrusts to the care of the wife all his worldly goods. She then promises that she will spend nothing without his knowledge.
8. One of the after marriage very popular ceremony, observed in all Hindu marriages is Kangana Khelna. In a large dish, milky water, some colour and Durba grass is put. The bride and the bridegroom are made to sit opposite each other, on the sides of the dish. Then both of them are asked to pick out the ring, which is spontaneously thrown in milky water. After a few rounds, the brides opens the knots of the sacred thread tied on the wrist of the bridegroom at the commencement of the wedding ceremonies. This is the last rite of a Hindu marriage.
9. After a stay of few days, the girl returns to her fathers house. The husband visits his fatherinlaws house and returns with his wife. This is called Muqlawa. The grehastha life then continues.
5. Beautification of the Couple
1. In every part of the world and in all religions, the bride is decorated beautified so as to make her attractive. Some races believe that the decoration should be such as should avoid evil eye. In come tribes, it is believed that the bride should look horrible so that the ghosts get frightened, but mostly she is decorated to look beautiful.
2. In India, among the Hindus, the bride is beautified with mehndi (turmeric paste) applied in artistic designs on her hands and alta (red colour) applied on her feet. Black lamp (kajal) is applied on her eyes, a red small disc (bindi) is fixed on her forehead, ear rings are put in her ears, an ornament (nath) is put on her nose. Anklets adore her feet. Before her decoration, she is rubbed with gram dal paste (besan) in oil and then she takes a bath. After a bath, she is decorated with ornaments. She puts on gorgeous fast coloured clothes, usually of red colour and sometimes green. In some, regions, ivory bangles (chooda) is also put on. Around the waist, a girdle of silver or gold is put around, called kandhoni. On the fingers of the feet, small designed silver ornaments, called bichhua are put on. The decoration is such as to cover all exposed parts of the body of the bride. Since old times, she came out with a long drawn head cloth over the face, but in the modern times, this had changed to just cover the head with the face exposed.
3. The decoration of the bridegroom is limited to applying mehndi on his hands and putting on a turban, usually of a light red or pink colour. On the previous day, he is also given a massage with Besan in oil. His near relatives, particularly the father, also put on pink coloured turban. In central India, particularly among the tribes, there is a system of tattooing over the body, as is common among African tribes, but among the tribes in northern India, Bihar or the south, this system does not exist. The bridegroom covers his face with a garland called sehra. His costume is ordinary and simple. His jewellery is a ring or two on the fingers and a gold necklace. Among the royal families, small jewel earnings are put on.
Hindu Marriage Customs and Beliefs
The worlds third largest religion is Hinduism according to Carolyn Mordecai, author of Weddings Dating and Love Customs of Cultures World Wide Including Royalty.
The Hindu ceremony consists of the priest or brahmin officiating.The bride and groom stand on a decorated wood plank and the priests holds a curtain between them. The bridal party stands behind the bride. The priest chants songs and guest shower rice and other grains over the couple.
The wedding begins when the curtain is removed and garllands of sandlewood chips are placed around the neck of the bride and groom.
The brides father gives her to the groom and then they perform an upliftment of Dharma... there are three Purusharthas: Dharma meaning right conduct, Artha for prosperity and Karma for the enjoyment of legitiment gratification.
The Marriage Symbols
The bride applies sandlewood paste to the grooms forehead, the groom then applies a red mark on the brides forehead to display for as long as they are married.Then puffed rice and purified butter from the hands of the bride and groom are thrown into the fire.This represents the radiant one. Then the darkness is removed by the priest chanting matras, which are blessings.
Vows
The vows are made before the fire that represent the diety. The groom vows to always include his wife and consult her. The groom takes his brides hand and leads her around the fire he steps closer to her they walk along where rice is heaped to one side. Holding hands they take the sapta padi... a seven step symbolic journey through life. Around the sacred fire pot they agree to
Earn a living for their family and respect their abundance
Live a healthy life style for each other
Be concerned for partners welfare
Live together as friends... enjoy happiness and friendship throughout their lives
To eat and drink with each other and be with each other on special occasions
Desire children for whom they will be responsible and love
Adapt to the other persons at any given time and place
The groom recites traditional mantras to the bride. Cotton is tied around the bride and groom while a blessing of a long happy life are given. The bride washes her hands and the bride and groom pray that their prosperity will be fulfilled.
The groom places a floral necklace around his brides neck this represents love. The bride then accompanies the groom to the Hindu activities. Another wedding necklace of silver or gold with semi circles and black beads from both familie symbolic of the union of the two families is also worn
The Hindu marriage ceremony consists of several steps.
The following is a description of this colorful and unique ceremony. This is a generalized wedding ceremony, and there are regional and community variations. Some of the steps may be omitted or added from the following list based on local and family customs. Pre Marriage Mahendi and Peethi
The Marriage Ceremony
Pre Marriage Mahendi and Peethi
A day before the wedding the palm and feet of the bride are decorated with Mahendi. A canopy or mandapa decorated with flowers is erected at the place of wedding. On the wedding morning, various ablutionary rituals are performed on both the bride and the groom in their own homes. Their bodies are anointed with turmeric, sandalwood paste and oils, which cleanse the body, soften the skin, and make it aromatic. They are then bathed to the chanting of Vedic mantras.
The Marriage Ceremony
In a mandapa canopy or marriage stage decorated with flowers and with a fire as witness the Hindu Marriage Ceremony begins. It is a long and elaborate ceremony, with every step rooted in vedic tradition, signifying various aspects of live that is to follow after the marriage. Gruhapravesha Entering the Home
The couple depart from the girls house after the vidai, for the grooms house.They carry behind the couple the sacred fire in a vessel. They should keep the re constantly alight.When they reach his house, he says Enter with your right foot. Do not remain outside.The bride enters the home placing the right foot considered auspicious, first.When the bride and the groom enter the grooms house, the mother of the groom welcomes the bride by doing an aarati.They sit in silence until the stars are visible.
BRAHMIN MARRIAGE AND RITUALS
The Hindu Wedding Ceremony has a number of rituals and customs most of which are often labelled as superstitious or time wasting. It is believed to be nothing but rituals more rituals. But have we asked ourselves what a Ritual is? A ritual begins as a creative rational action to express a sentiment or idea like the lighting of lamp to dispel darkness at twilight or folding of hands into a Namaste to greet an elder. As more and more people succeeding generation repeat the action it becomes a convention then a Ritual. A ritual is thus an action on which time has set its seal of approval.The Ritual of the Hindu Wedding too is each symbolic of beautiful and noble sentiments. Unfortunately today many parents and couples perform them without an awareness of the rich meaning behind them.A modest attempt has therefore been made to briefly describe the meaning and significance of the rituals of a Tamil Brahmin Wedding. Mostly this are applicable to any other Hindu section. For the elders, this information may be superfluous but it is hoped the younger generation, especially those yet to be married, may find this useful.So let us take you around As you enter you see Full grown plantain trees tied to both the gateposts Eternal tree of evergreen plenty for endless generations
Festoons overhead of mango leaves, and screw pine petals that never fade
Notes of the Nadaswaram, the South Indian Shehnai,
Kolam or Rangoli designs at the doorsteps an artistic welcome,
At threshold of the hall, sprinklings of rosewater, offerings of flower,
sandal batter, sugar candy,
THE EVENING PREVIOUS TO THE MARRIAGE DAY
USHERING IN OF THE BRIDEGROOM
On the evening prior to the wedding day, the bridegroom is to be brought in a procession from a temple in a flower decorated car. He is escorted by the brides parents, and welcome at the marriage mandap, which is the brides abode. Nadaswaram band leads the way along the streets, the flower decorated car jam-packed with children.This is a social function, called JANA VASAM in South India and BARAAT in North India.Through such a parade, public approval is sought of the groom, chosen by the family.After reaching the marriage hall, there is a formal ceremony of betrothal.
ON THE WEDDING DAY
THE PRELIMINARY INVOCATION
GANAPATI PUJA
As in an inauguration of any function so also in a marriage Ganapati, the God of Initiation is invoked, to keep away all impediments.
NANDI DEVATA PUJA
There are several presiding deities the Nandi Devatas. To propitiate them,a leaf laden branch of the pipal tree is installed, and an ablution with milk is performed by five Sumangalis (housewife, with husband living). This puja is followed by a presentation of a dhothi, and a saree to the marrying couple.
NAVAGRAHA PUJA
This is performed to propitiate the nine astral planets that rule over mans destiny.
VRATHAM
The marriage ceremonies begin with the Vratham performed separately by the bride and the groom. For the bride, it means the tying of the KAPPU the holy thread on her wrist which is meant to ward off all evil spirits. It symbolises a kind of the protective armour for the bride. For the groom, the various Gods Indra, Soma, Chandra, Agni. From there on, the groom prepares himself for a new chapter in his life as a householder or Grihasta. The days of his bachelorhood or brahmacharya are now over and the acceptance of this is all what the Vratham is about.
KASI YATRA
This a very important part of the ceremony. Immediately after his student life, the young bachelor has two alternatives before him Married life ( Grihasta ) or asceticism ( Sanyas ). Being by nature escapist, he prefers the ascetic life to the tribulations of married life. He therefore makes his way to kasi (VARANASI), complete with slippers, umbrella, bamboo fan etc. On his way, the brides father intervenes and advises him of the superiority of married life to ascetic life. He also promises to give him his daughter as companion to face the challenge of life. The umbrella is to remain with groom, to remind him in the future, of this advice.the real tradition.
(However there are different view points on this aspect. Given below is an observation by Sri. Narayan of Malaysia During the wedding ceremony the groom is welcomed as Mahavishnu Svarupaya varahaya ie maha vishnu himself ( or the Siva the equivalent in the Adi Saiva tradition ) and the ride as Lakshmi. Thence , it is imperative he knows no sin, thence he needs to perform a yatra to kashi , submerge in Ganges and comes and does the wedding purified.In the days of yore , when a man after education takes a yatra like this ( it takes up some months, sometimes a year on foot) , he gets to see the world , otherwise which he would not have been exposed to , thence from Brahmacharya , before moving to grahasta ashrama he come experienced and purified, disiplined ( goal oriented) and fit to take up the challenges of married life. And those days the groom would have been engaged ( nischya dartha) , and proceeds on this yatra and is welcomed back after the father in-law etc after coming back, with this words Maha Vishnu Svarupaya, and given the kanya dhana.Samnyasa and Grathasta ashrama are both pillars of the society , which is still relevant and have positive contributions to society.This has to be clearly understood.Narayan, Malaysia )
VAAKU NICHAYA MUHOORTHAM
At the marriage hall, the brides father and the bridegrooms father facing each other, solemnise the final betrothal ceremony, the vedic priest chanting the relevant hymns in which the names of the bride, the bridegroom, as well as the names of their three generations of ancestors, are cited in presence of friends, relatives, and invitees.The manthras say O God Varuna, Be she harmless to my brothers and sisters Oh Brihaspathi May she no evil to her husband O Lord Indra Bless her to be a good guardian of her children O Surya Bless her with all wealths
EXCHANGE OF GARLANDS
The bride and the groom are lifted to the shoulders of their respective uncles and in that position the two garland each other thrice for a complete union. A garland worn by a person should not be used by another, ordain our shastras. Here the exchange of garlands symbolises their unification as one soul in two bodies. It is inward acceptance by each of the very fragrance of the other.
OONCHAL/SWING, RIDE AND SINGING OF LAALI
Then, the marrying couple is seated on a swing ( OONCHAL) they rock forth and back, as the ladies around singLAALI, songs to praise to the couple. The chains of the swing signify theeternal Karmic link with Almighty above the toandfro motion represent the undulating sea waves of life yet, in mind and body they shall move in harmony unperturbed, steady and stable.
PAALIKAI SEEDS SOWING
This is fertility rite. Paalikais are earthen pots prepared a day earlier pots spread at thebase with hariali grass and Bael leaves (Vilvam) nine kinds of pre-soaked cereals are eremonially sown in these pots by Sumangalis. After the marriage, the sprouted seedlings are released in a river or pool. This ritual invokes the blessings of the eight direction quartered guardian angles, for a healthy life and progeny to the couple.
VARA PUJA
The feet of the bridegroom is washed in milk, and wiped off with silk.Water, and lighted lamps are circulated around the swing in order to guard the couple against demons and ghosts.Coloured globules of cooked rice are waved in circular motion, and thrown away to propitiate the evil spirits.
KANYA DHAANAM
The bride is made to sit on her fathers lap and is given away as gift by him, to the bridegroom.On the girls head, a ring made with Kusa, the sacred grass called DARBHA, is placed, and over it, is placed a yoke; the Gold Mangal Sutra ( or THAALI ) is placed right on the aperture of the yoke, and water is poured through the aperture. The Mantras chanted at this time, say Let this gold multiply your wealth Let this water purify your married life, and may your prosperity increase. Offer yourself to your husband The bride then is given an auspicious ablution, and an exclusive new KOORAI Saree is draped around her this is done by the sister of the bridegroom.To bride in her new saree, a belt made of reed grass is tied around the waist. The manthras chant She standeth here, pure before the holy fire, as one blessed with boons of a good mind, a healthy body, life long companionship of her husband ( Sumangali Bhagyam ) and children with long life. She standeth as one who is avowed to stand by her husband virtuously. Be she tied with this red-grass rope, to the sacrament of marriage Thanks giving vedic hymns follow to the celestial caretakers of her childhood the Deities of SOMA, GANDHARVA and AGNI. Having attained nobility, the girl is now free to be given over to the care of the human her man.The Vedic concepts underlying this ritual is figuratively this that in her infant stage, SOMA had given her coolness of the moon, and strength in the next stage, GANDHARVA had given her bodilybeauty and lastly AGNI gave her passions.The father of the bride, while offering his daughter chants I offer ye my daughter, a maiden virtuous, good natured, very wise, decked with ornaments to the best of my ability that she shall guard the Dharma, Wealth, and Love
THE BRIDEGROOMS ASSURANCE
Thus offering her daughter, her father gets a word of assurance three times that the bridegroom shall remain for ever her companion in joy and sorrow in this life, and after death too
KANKANA DHARANAM
The bride ties a string fastened to a piece of turmeric, around the wrist of the bridegroom to bind themselves by a religious vow. It is only after tying the Kankanam that the bridegroom gets the right to touch the bride. A little later, the bridegroom ties a Kankanam on the brides wrist.
MAANGALYA DHARANAM
Next, timed to exact auspicious hour, is the tying of the Mangala Sutra ( Thaali ). The bride seated over a sheaf of grain laden hay, looking eastward, and the bridegroom facing westward, ties the gold Mangala Sutra around the neck of the bride. As he does so, the Nadaswaram drums are beaten loud andfast, so as to muffle any inauspicious sounds at the critical hour. This is called Getti Melam asit sounds, the Sumangali ladies sing GOURI KALYANAME, VAIBHOGAMAY Three knots are tied the first one by the bridegroom, the other two knots by his sister to make the bride a parts of the boys family. The Vedic hymn recited by the bridegroom when he ties the knot, is Praying the Almighty that I be blessed with a long life, I tie this knot around your neck, oh soubhaygavati, may providence bestow on you a fulfilling life of a Sumangalis for a hundred years to come
PAANI GRAHANAM
This means holding hands. The groom holds the hand of the bride. The Manthras say The Devas have offered you to me in order that I may live the life of a householder ( GRIHASTA ) we shall not part from each other even after we grow old
SAPTHA PADHI
Holding the brides hand, the bridegroom walks seven steps with her. This is the most important part of the marriage ceremony, and only when they walk seven steps together (perform SAPTHA PADHI ) is the marriage complete legally. The belief is that when one walks 7 steps with another, one becomes the anothers friend. The manthras recited then, mean: Ye who have walked seven steps with me, become my companion, where by I acquire your friendship. We shall remain together inseparable. Let us make a vow together we shall share love, share the same food, and share the strength, the same tastesWe shall be of one mind, we shall observe the vow together. I shall be the SAMA, you the RIG I shall be the Upper World, you the earth I shall be the SUKHILAM, you the HOLDER together we shall live, beget children, and other riches, come thou, O sweet worded girl
PRADHAANA HOMAM
A crucial part of the wedding is the homage paid by the couple to AGNI, the fire God. They circle around the fire, and feed it with ghee, and twigs of nine types of trees, as sacrificial fuel. The fumes that arise, are supposed to possess medicinal, curative and cleansing effects on the bodies of the couple.AGNI, the mightiest power in the cosmos, the sacred purifier, the all-round benefactor, is deemed as a witness to the marriage (AGNI SAAKSHI )
TREADING ON THE GRINDSTONE
Holding the brides left foot toe, the bridegroom helps her tread on a grindstone kept on the right side of the fire. The Manthras says Mount up this stone. Let thy mind be roc firm, unperturbed, by the trials and tribulations of life
SHOWING HER THE ARUNDHATI STAR
Next he shows her the Star ARUNDHATI ( of the SAPTHA RISHI Constellation ), as also DHRUVA the polestar. Arundhati, the wife of VASISHTA Mahrishi, is exemplified as an ideal wife, the embodiment of chastity. DHRUVA is the one whoattained immortality through single minded devotion and perseverance virtues to be emulated through out married life.
LAAJA HOMAM
This shall comprise the brids own offering to the sacrificial fire. As she is forbidden to do it herself, her brother helps her. He gives her a handful of parched rice grains which she hands to bridegroom who on her behalf, feeds it into the fire. Through this food offering, the bride seeks a long life for her husband, and propagation of the family. Participation of the brides family members indicates the continuance of links between the two families, even after marriage. The couple circle around the fire, three times, and the feeding of the fire with parched rice, is repeated thrice.
SHOWERING OF AKSHADAI
Akshadai, means rice grains coated with turmeric and saffron, are showered on the couple, by elders and invitees as benediction.
GRIHA PRAVESAM
Taking with her, fire from the Laaja Homam, the bride takes leave of her home, and enters the new home of her in laws. The vedic hymns now sound likes the mothers words of advice to her daughter Be the queen of your husbands home. May your husband glorify your virtues conduct yourself in such a way that you win your motherinlaw s love, and be in the good books of your sisters in law
NALUNGU
The evening of the marriage day is the time to relax and play. The newly wed wife calls her husband for play, inviting him through a song. Much to the merriment of one and all gathered, there follows list of playful items the bride anointing the groom s feet with colour paste fanning him, showing him a mirror breaking papads over each others head wrenching the betel pack from each others hand rolling the coconut from one to another as in ball play and so on. During these items, the ladies sing songs poking fun at the bride, room and the in laws.These events brings out many qualities of the bride and the groom sporting spirit, kindness, strength, co operative nature etc.
THE NIGHT TIME HOMAMS
THE JAYAATHI HOMAM is performed to propitiate the Gandharvas and deities.
PRAVESA HOMAM is done to solemnise the brides entry in to the husbands home. The sacrificial fire is brought along by the bride.
SESHA HOMAM is Fire oblation with the residual ghee, a little of which is sprinkled on the brides head four times.
THAAMBOOLA CHARVANAM & BALA DHAANAM
The girls brother gives the ceremonial first betel to the couple to chew. Certain other gifts are made to bless the couple with children and long life.
MANGALA ARATHI
A solution of lime and turmeric powder, and in colour, is prepared on a plate, and circled around, and thrown away to ward off evil eye. This is done a number of times during the entire wedding ceremony, and at the end.
SHANTI MUHOORTHAM
The consummation of the marriage at night the nuptials
THE HINDU CASTE SYSTEM
The four primary castes are: Brahmin, the priests Kshatriya, warriors and nobility Vaisya, farmers, traders and artisans and Shudra, tenant farmers and servants. Some people were born outside of (and below) the caste system. They were called untouchables.
Theology behind the Castes
Reincarnation is one of the basic beliefs in Hinduism after each life, a soul is reborn into a new material form.A particular souls new form depends upon the virtuousness of its previous behavior. Thus, a truly virtuous person from the Shudra caste could be rewarded with rebirth as a Brahmin in his or her next life.Souls can move not only among different levels of human society, but also into other animals hence the vegetarianism of many Hindus.Within a life cycle, people had little social mobility. They had to strive for virtue during their present lives in order to attain a higher station the next time around.
Daily Significance of Caste
Practices associated with caste varied through time and across India, but they had some common features.The three key areas of life dominated by caste were marriage, meals and religious worship. Marriage across caste lines was strictly forbidden most people even married within their own sub caste or jati.At meal times, anyone could accept food from the hands of a Brahmin, but a Brahmin would be polluted if he or she took certain types of food from a lower caste person. At the other extreme, if an untouchable dared to draw water from a public well, he or she polluted the water and nobody else could use it.In terms of religion, as the priestly class, Brahmins were supposed to conduct religious rituals and services. This included preparation for festivals and holidays, as well as marriages and funerals.The Kshatrya and Vaisya castes had full rights to worship, but in some places Shudras (the servant caste) were not allowed to offer sacrifices to thegods.Untouchables were barred entirely from temples, and sometimes were not even allowed to set foot on temple grounds.If the shadow of an untouchable touched a Brahmin, he/she would be polluted, so untouchables had to lay face-down at a distance when a Brahmin passed.
Thousands of Castes
Although the early Vedic sources name four primary castes, in fact there were thousands of castes, sub castes and communities within Indian society. These jati were the basis of both social status and occupation.Castes or sub castes besides the four mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita include such groups as the Bhumihar or landowners, Kayastha or scribes, and the Rajput, who are a northern sector of the Kshatriya or warrior caste.Some castes arose from very specific occupations, such as the Garudi snake charmers or the Sonjhari, who collected gold from river beds.