Indian weddings, especially in Hindu culture, is a sacred ceremony that unites two people to start their lives together. In the Vedas (the oldest scriptures of Hinduism), a Hindu marriage is for life and is considered as a union between two families, not just the couple. In general, Hindu marriages involve rituals and pre-wedding parties, which extend over several days but differ from community to community.
Every Hindu pre-wedding ritual prepares the bride and groom, and their respective families, for their big wedding day. These traditional rituals and ceremonies last for at least four to five days until the marriage day.
Mangni or Sagai :
The mangni, as it is called in northern India, or nischitartham, in southern India, is the closest event to a western engagement party. It marks the beginning of the wedding preparations and is considered an integral part of Indian weddings. It is celebrated in the presence of a Hindu priest (pujari) as well as close family members. The ring ceremony symbolizes that both the bride and groom are a couple now and willing to embark on their life together.
Typically, the sagai takes place a few months before the Hindu wedding. For the sagai, some families ask a priest to decide the auspicious time for the wedding ceremony. Both families exchange gifts like sweets, clothes, and jewelry as a tradition.
Apart from this, the date of the wedding is decided while parents and other elderly people bless the couple.
Haldi (Turmeric Ceremony):
‘Haldi’ or turmeric holds a special place among many Indian wedding traditions. The Haldi ceremony is usually held a couple of days prior to the wedding at the couple’s respective residences. A Haldi or turmeric paste mixed with sandalwood, milk, and rose water is applied to the bride and groom’s face, neck, hands, and feet by family members.
In general, Haldi holds significance in daily life as well. It is believed that the yellow color of turmeric brightens the skin color of the couple. Its medicinal properties protect them from all kinds of ailments.
Haldi ceremony holds a great significance. Hindus also believe that turmeric’s application keeps the couple away from all ‘evil eyes.’ It alleviates their nervousness before the wedding.
Ganesh Puja (Worshipping Lord Ganesh):
Following the wedding ceremony order is the Puja ceremony. It is an Indian wedding tradition to worship Lord Ganesh before auspicious occasions. Ganesh Puja ceremony is mainly performed in Hindu families. It is held a day before the wedding to bless the proceedings.
This puja (prayer) is performed mainly for good luck. Lord Ganesh is believed to be the destroyer of obstacles and evils. The bride and her parents are a part of this Puja ceremony. The priest guides them to offer sweets and flowers to the deity. The ceremony prepares the couple for a new beginning. Traditional Indian weddings are incomplete without Ganesh Puja.
Mehndi (Henna Ceremony):
Mehendi is a fun Hindu marriage ritual of Indian weddings that are organized by the family of the Hindu bride at her house. It is attended by all family members and held a couple of days before the wedding. The hands and feet of the bride are decorated in elaborate design with a henna application.
There’s a Pre-Party Called the Sangeet a Few Days Before the Wedding:
Prior to the actual wedding, there’s a pre-party called the sangeet where family comes together to sing, dance, and revel in the joy of the upcoming union. Family members even give performances. The bride’s family sings a traditional folk song to the groom’s family to welcome them. The sangeet, which translates to “sung together,” takes place on the same day as the mehndi ceremony that kicks off the wedding itself.
The Groom’s Arrival Is a Celebration in Itself:
The arrival of the groom and his party to the ceremony site, called the vara yatra or baraat, is celebrated with great joy. While the bride’s guests arrive at the destination and are directed straight to the hall, the groom’s guests need to be prepared to join the baraat procession which will enter with the groom. This means that upon arrival, the groom’s guests will be redirected to join the ‘mini parade’ instead of going straight to the hall. The baraat is personally one of my favorite parts of Hindu weddings as it is such a fun experience with music and dance, and the groom’s side has such a great time.
They are greeted by the bride’s parents, family, and friends amidst live music and dancing. The party is welcomed with a special rice toss, known as akshat, and the groom is presented with a plate carrying a lit lamp (or arati), and a garland. Sometimes a tilak, or dot on the forehead, is also administered.
The Couple’s Sendoff Is an Emotional Vidaai Ceremony:
Not all brides’ farewells end with sparklers and smiles. As a Hindu bride officially leaves her home to start a new life with her husband, the goodbyes are heartwarming and tearful during the Vidaai ceremony. She walks away spreading happiness and prosperity by taking handfuls of rice and coins to be directly thrown over her head to show her appreciation for the time and love given to her in the home of her parents.” The Vidaai ceremony is the symbolic end of the wedding festivities and characterized by the bride’s parents giving a final farewell to their daughter.