Hindu Wedding Traditions

Hindu weddings are like weddings everywhere they are occasions of great joy and happiness for all present and are considered to be very important by all Hindus.

Having said that Hindu weddings can be conducted in anyone of a number of ways according to the Hindu sect of the bride and bridegroom, Hindu wedding traditions are very old and to the westerner may seem a little strange, but they are always fascinating.

Almost without exception a Hindu wedding is conducted in the Sanskrit language, but because most people these days don’t understand Sanskrit the language of the bride and groom are used as well.

Because weddings and the traditions associated with them are so important Hindu weddings are often rather long affairs and can last for a number of days. They are also very colourful and contain many cherished and sacred artefacts and practices.

A traditional Hindu wedding actually starts before the main ceremony with a pre-wedding ceremony or indeed ceremonies. One such ceremony will be the engagement at which the Vagdana will be celebrated.

Depending upon the place where you get married and the particular part of the Hindu religion you worship there are up to 20 main rites that need to be performed in order for you to be proclaimed married these are:

1. Vagdana

2. Vinayakvidhana

3. Kankanabandhana

4. Grhasamskara

5. Toranavidhi

6. Vivahavidhi

7. Parasparamukhavalokana

8. Varamala

9. Varapratijna

10. Kanyadana

11. Devasastragurupuja

12. Homahuti

13. Granthibandhana

14. Panigrahana

15. Saptapadi

16. Punyahavachana

17. Santimantra

18. Asirvada

19. Svagrhagamana

20. Jinagrhe Dhanarpana

These rites are Svetambaras or “White Clad” sect rites if you follow Digambaras the naked ones and their rites then there are only 16.

Although with both sects of the Hindu religion there are a lot of rites or traditions to be followed by the bride and bridegroom both sects of the Hindu religion tend to agree that the following rites or traditions are the most important. Vagdana, Pradana,Varana, Panipidana and Saptamadi and they are explained blow

The word Vagdana is a Sanskrit word which literally means “Word Giving” and in the Hindu tradition when a bride and groom make vow to marry they make an oral agreement to be married. The Vagdana ceremony usually takes place about a month before the actual marriage ceremony.

The Vagdana is one of the most solemn parts of the wedding tradition. It is only after the Vagdana ceremony that the couple can be married.

In some sects of the Hindu religion about 15 days before the wedding a small piece of bread is tied to the bridegroom’s hand and to his parents. This all happens in the Barni Bandhwana ceremony and is a symbolic way of removing any obstacles to the marriage and the forthcoming ceremonies.

After the Vagdana comes the Pradana a tradition where the bridegroom’s father gives the bride ‘ornaments’ as they describe them in Hindu, these are presents for her married life.

Next is Varana the giving of the bride by her father, during the Varana the bride’s father makes an offer to the bridegroom’s father in front of everyone who is at the ceremony and the bridegroom’s father accepts the offer which is witnessed by all present who will also consent to the offer.

This tradition is followed by the Panipidana and during this tradition the bride and bridegroom hold hands, the bride’s father offers the right and of the bride to the bridegroom who has to take her hand in his right hand and then as he does that the bridegroom’s father asks that the bridegroom will promise to protect the bride and that promise is sworn to several Hindu gods including Dharma.

The final tradition is the most significant and most serious the Saptapadi it is a ritual that involves the bride and groom walking around a sacred flame or fire seven times.

This Saptapadi ritual is so important that if it is not performed the bride is not considered to be married until she has complete the seven circuits. It is also said that until the Saptapadi is enacted the marriage is not completed.

As the bride and bridegroom walk around the fire they ask that they may reach one of seven states in life.

These states are;

1. The state of Sajjatitva which is the state of good society

2. The state of Sadgrahasthatva which is the state of good household state

3. The state of Sadhutva which is the state of ascetic state

4. The state of Indratva which is the state of Indra State

5. The state of Cakravartitva which is the state of emperor state

6. The state of Jinavaratva, the state of Lord Jina which is the state of one who has conquered all enemies

7. The state of Nirvana which is the state of complete salvation

Once this has been done and before the marriage ceremony finishes it is a tradition that the husband has to make a promise that he won’t look for or engage in any “fun or frolic” with any other woman, that he won’t gamble, that he won’t frequent houses of immoral women, that he will allow his wife to visit places that he considers ‘proper’ such as temples or go on pilgrimages, that he will hold no secrets from her or reveal her secrets to anyone and that he will protect his new wife by being an honest husband and earning a living honourably.

In return the newly married bride is required by tradition to make seven promises these are that she respects her husband, serve his parents, never disobey her husband or sulk, she must not visit other men’s houses at night or mix with a crowd of men and that she must not visit the hoses of drunks or immoral people.

Often these promises are made after the six circuit of the scared fire in the Saptapadi.

One of the major differences to other cultures and of course western ones is that traditionally in some Hindu wedding ceremonies such as the Vedic sect of the Hindu religion there is no differentiation between men and women and that the reason that the couple are getting married is simple it is to have a fulfilling and happy life.