The Bridegroom arrives for the wedding along with his family and friends in a procession. They are received by the bride’s family and friends.
Commencement of Ceremony:
The priest commences the marriage under a canopy that is specially decorated for the ceremony. The priest invokes blessings of God for the couple to be married.
The bride offers yoghurt and honey to the groom as a token of purity and sweetness. The bride greets the groom by placing a garland around his neck and the groom reciprocates.
Both are congratulated by guests. The priest invokes the memory and blessings of forefathers of the bride and the groom for this auspicious occasion.
Kanya Danam (Giving away of the daughter)
The bride accepts her change of status from an unmarried woman to a wife by spreading turmeric powder on her hands.
Kana Danam is performed by the father (or uncle of guardian) of the bride in presence of a large gathering that is invited to witness the wedding.
The father pours out a libation of sacred water symbolising the giving away of the daughter to the bride groom. The groom recites Vedic hymns to Kama, the God of love, for pure love and blessings.
As a condition for offering his daughter for marriage, the father of the bride requests a promise from the groom for assisting the bride in realising the three ends : dharma, artha, and kama. The groom makes the promise by repeating three times that he will not fail the bride in realising dharma, artha and kama.
The bride and the bridegroom face each other, and the priest ties their garments (the bride’s sari to the groom’s shirt) in a knot, symbolising the sacred union.
The bride and the bridegroom garland each other and exchange the rings.
Next the nuptial fire, symbolising the divine witness, and the sanctifier of the sacrament, is installed and worshipped.
Both the bride and the groom grasp their hands together and pray to God for His blessings.
Samagree, consisting of crushed sandalwood, herbs, sugar, rice, ghee (clarified butter), and twigs is offered into the sacred fire to seek God’s blessings for the couple.
Paanigrahana or Hasta Milap (Holding the hand)
The bridegroom stands facing west and the bride sits in front of him facing east. He takes her hand and recites Vedic hymns for happiness, long life, and a lifelong relationship.
When the bridegroom takes the bride’s hand he says : “O Sarasvati, gracious one, rich in off spring, you whom we hymn first of all the Gods, may you prosper this marriage.I take your hand.”
Laya (Laja) Homa : The Oblation of Parched Grain
Here the bride offers sacrifice of food (poured into her hands by her brother or someone acting in her brother’s behalf) to the Gods for their blessings. “This grain I spill. May it bring to me well-being and unite you to me. May Agni hear us.”
He then causes the bride to spill the grain into the fire, saying: “This woman scattering grain into the fire, prays: Blessings on my husband. May my relatives be prosperous. ‘Svaha!’ ”
Agni Parinaya : The Significance of the Fire
The bridegroom holds the bride by the hand and both walk three times around the nuptial fire.
Both offer oblations and recite appropriate Vedic hymns to Gods for prosperity, good fortune, and conjugal fidelity.
They touch each others heart and pray for union of their hearts and minds.
While walking around the bridegroom repeats: “First now they bring to you in bridal procession this Surya, guiding her steps in circular motion. Return her now, O Agni, to her husband as rightful wife, with hope of children to come.”
Then the entire rite is repeated twice more, beginning with the rite of the fried grain.
At the fourth round she pours into the re all the fried grain from the mouth of the winnowing basket saying: “To Bhaga svaha!”
Asmaarohana or Shilarohana (Mounting the stone)
At the end of each round of nuptial fire, both the bride and the groom step on a stone and offer a prayer for their mutual love to be firm and steadfast like the stone.
The bridegroom says the words while the bride stands up: “Come, beautiful one.”
And lets her put the tip of the right foot on the stone, saying: “Come, step on the stone; be strong like a stone. Resist the enemies; overcome those who attack you.”
Satapadi (Seven Steps)
This is the most important rite of the entire ceremony. Here the bride and the bridegroom take seven steps together around the nuptial fire (Agni) and make the following seven promises to each other as per the Vedic rituals:
Groom: “With God as our guide, let us take the first step to nourish each other; the second step to grow together in strength; the third step to preserve our wealth; the fourth step to share our joys and sorrows;the fifth step to care for our children; the sixth step to be together forever;the seventh step to remain lifelong friends – the perfect halves to make a perfect whole.”
After the seventh step the Bride says:
“With seven steps we become friends. Let me reach your friendship. Let me not be severed from your friendship. Let your friendship not be severed from me.” The Spatapadi ceremony ceremony concludes with a prayer that the union is indissoluble. At the end of this ceremony, the bridegroom and bride become husband and wife.
In some communities such as Gujarati, instead of seven, only four steps, signifying Artha, Dharma, Kama and Moksha are taken.
Hradayasparsh : Touching the Heart
The bridegroom then comes over bride’s right shoulder touches her heart saying: “I hold your heart in serving fellowship, your mind follows my mind. In my word you rejoice with all your heart. You are joined to me by the Lord of all creatures.”
Mangal Sutra Dharana
The Mangala suthra Dharana is the tying of the thread containing the marks of the Vishnu or Shiva in the neck of the bride by the groom.
Suhaag or Sindhoordana
The groom places sindhoor (red powder) on the bride’s hair symbolising her as a married woman.
The groom’s parents bless the couple and offer cloth or flower to the bride (now their daughter-in-law), symbolising her joining of the groom’s family.
All those assembled shower flowers on the couple and bless them completing the marriage.
These excerpts are adopted from The Hindu Universe (http://www.hindunet.org) with permission. The contents are copyright (©)