Hindu Wedding Traditions

A Hindu bride's hands covered in henna tattoos

Many traditions performed for weddings can take place the day before, during, and after the actual day. A lot of religions view weddings as a symbol for the conjoining two families together as well as witnessing the union of a lovely couple’s marriage filled with nothing but love. Both these concepts are seen strongly in Hindu weddings, an event that takes place over several days and has many the traditions that involve both the groom and bride’s family.

There are a couple things typical of a Hindu wedding that people from all over the world may recognize. A typical Hindu wedding usually takes place in a mandap, which is a simple or elaborate stucture built for the wedding ceremony. As a representation of their unique culture and beliefs, the bride is painted in elaborate designs using henna ink that temporarily dyes her skin during a mehndi party. These henna tattoos have to cover the bride-to-be’s hands and feet before any kind of ceremony takes place. Color is also very important in Hindu weddings, with brightly colored clothes and decorations on display throughout a wedding event.

A Hindu man reads from the Vedas

The Vedas

Similar to other religions, Hinduism has the Vedas, which are the scriptures that Hindus follow. They are similar in concept to the Christian sacraments, but is divided into four parts. Many traditions and beliefs that pertain to weddings are closely tied to the Vedas.

The Vedas are the heart and soul of India’s Hindu culture and religion and divide a person’s life into four different stages, each of which the bride and groom must understand before saying “I do”. These stages are known as the Ashrams and follow a specific order: studentship, householder, retirement, and self-actualization. Since in almost every religion marriage is considered a sacrament, this act of love in Hinduism is usually performed after the first stage of the Ashrams. The transition from studentship, where most people spend a little less than half of their life completing, comes to an end and the urge to become a householder rises.

A bronze statue of the god Ganesha

Ganesh Poojan

There are thousands of gods that Hindus believe in, and the main one pertaining to the marriage ceremony is Ganesha. Ganesha is the god of wisdom and salvation, and is commonly recognized as the god with an elephant’s head. Many people believe that after worshipping and praying to this particular god, the wedding will continue without any trouble. With the presence of Ganesha at the wedding all obstacles are removed from the future of the ceremony. This specific ritual or prayer is known as the Ganesh Poojan. It can be performed anytime before the actual wedding.

A bride has her feet washed in milk and water during a Kanyadan ceremony

Kanyadan

Another traditional ceremony that takes place during the time of the wedding is Kanyadan. The bride is walked into the mandap by a brother or close uncle. At the entrance of the mandap, the groom patiently waits for his future bride with her parents by his side. The ritual begins with the parents offering their daughter’s hand in marriage by washing the feet and hands of the bride and groom with milk and water. In this specific ritual, the cleaning of their feet represents the purification of their bodies and souls for a new life together. The bride’s mother pours water over her husband’s hands which then falls onto the groom and bride’s hands purifying them from any sin.

A Hindu bride and groom hold necklaces of flowers at a wedding ceremony

The Wedding Ceremony

After completing a few rituals and ceremonies finally it is time for the wedding. First and foremost, the bride and groom will be seated in front of a fire called Agni, also known as a holy fire. While they are seated a Hindu priest reads scriptures from the Vedas book. in accordance with the Hindu religion, fire is represented as a sustainer of life. After the priest recites the scriptures, the couple then walks around the fire four times, each time representing each and every one of the Ashrams. Once the ceremony has ended and they have vowed to love each other forever, the couple takes seven vows closing the traditional ceremony. These vows are usually spoken in the Sanskrit language. No Hindu ceremony is finished without these seven vows. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the priest points the newlyweds to the pole star (Polarius, also known as the North Star). The pole star remains in the same place compared to the other stars which are always moving. This symbolizes their marriage continuing to grow strong as other around them continue to change.

All of these special ceremonies and beliefs make up parts of a traditional Hindu wedding. Different wedding traditions around the world are unique, but none of them compare to the rarity and purifying symbolism that follows a Hindu wedding. The union of a Hindu couple not only symbolizes love but also two families coming together to become one. Accepting one another and going through the ceremonies and traditions that the Hindu culture has is a huge and meaningful part of the wedding.

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