Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hindu Weddings 101

For many of you who are about to participate in a Hindu wedding either as a bride or groom or have been invited to one; you need to know some of the basics of what's going on. It just makes it that much easier and more enjoyable when you can actually understand some of the underlying symbolism that's going on. I'm going to keep it short here but for those of you want to know the intricate details that are often involved in this lengthy wedding ceremony; be sure to pick up your latest edition of The Cultural Wedding Planner - 5th Edition order your copy at Oh and in case you missed it; yes I said lengthy. Even if you take the 'Coles note version' of the sacred vows; 90 minutes is rushing it according to the puchari (Hindu priest) and the fact that most of the ceremony is conducted in Hindi; well some times makes it hard to understand. Before I get to some of the important elements of the Hindu ceremony: here are a couple of tips to help guests get more out of a ceremony that they aren't really familiar with. First, have a ceremony programme (that actually explains what's going on - so your guests can understand and really appreciate the sacredness of a Hindu wedding. Need help let me know and I'll see what I can do 2) See if the priest can conduct the ceremony in both Hindi and English. It keeps things interesting and everyone understands what's going on 3) Yes, this is super important. Start the ceremony on time!!! Don't be casually late for your own wedding. Trust me, everyone will be looking at you on your wedding day - even if you arrive on time!

Okay then, here are Hindu Weddings 101.
The actual ceremony will be conducted under a mandap (a four posted canopy similar to a Jewish huppah). The four pillars represent the parents of the couples - symbolic of supporting the marriage. Kanya Daan is when the father of the bride formal 'gives away his daughter' by placing his daughters hand in the hand's of her husband to be. When the bride and groom come face to face at the mandap they exchange garlands with each other. This is formally known as the Jaya Mala ceremony. The priest will recite prayers and the Ganesh Puja will begin. Lord Ganesha (who takes the form of an elephant) is renowned as the 'Remover of Obstacles'. Prayers are recited to him to ensure that the marriage is free of hardships. Along with this prayers are recited to the Nine Planets knows and Nava Graha. Again the purpose of this is to ask the deities for peace and prosperity.

After all this (which by the way isn't really all of it) - the actual ceremony will begin. Phrases from the Vedas (The Hindu holy book) are recited. One of the keep parts of Hindu weddings is the presence of fire: known as god Agni. Fire symbolizes purity, power and light and acts as a witness to the sacrament that the couple is undertaking. Okay then, so as we move along the next part will be tying the knot (when the couple the outer parts of the couple's garments together - symbolically binding them together. Then the couple will circumambulate around the fire. Depending the what sect of Hinduism the couple follow: some will walk around the fire 4 times while others will walk around 7. With each circle, the priest is reciting to the couple the couple's responsibilities in their relationship. Followed by this is the ceremony of Seven Steps (or the Promise). The priest will ask bride to ask the groom 7 questions which the groom accepts. The groom will ask one question: the groom asks the bride one question and the bride will accept. Sorry guys: I can't literally translate the questions but they have to do with fidelity, union and devotion. I think you get it.

Okay so after this they perform the ring ceremony or mangal sutra (the groom puts a necklace made of black beads & gold around the bride's neck).

And now for one of the best parts (for the bride and groom anyway) . The blessings and gift giving. If I didn't mention this before: if you are invited to an Indian wedding of any kind be sure to add an extra loonie with your gift. It's added for extra luck. Elders, family and friends will offer their blessing to the couple and give them some money as a blessing. How sweet is that?

Oh and one last thing. This is my version of it. Of course there will be variations to whatever is posted so if you want to add to this: please feel free. We welcome comments and feedback.
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