WEDDING - VIVAHAM
Significance of marriages
In Hindu dharma, marriage is viewed as a sacrament
and not a contract. Hindu marriage is a life-long commitment of one
wife and one husband, and is the strongest social bond that takes
place between a man and a woman.
Grahastha Ashram (the householder
stage), the second of the four stages of life begins when a man and
a woman marry and start a household. For a Hindu marriage is the
only way to continue the family and thereby repay his debt to
his/her ancestors. In Hindu view, marriage is not a concession to
human weakness, but a means for spiritual growth. Man and woman are
soul mates who, through the institution of marriage, can direct the
energy associated with their individual instincts and passion into
the progress of their souls.
Eight types of marriages:
Historians have documented eight different types of
marriages in ancient India. These eight types are described in
this section. The eight marriage types are :
The father or
guardian gave away his daughter, "decked with costly garments and
jewels" to a carefully chosen bridegroom well versed in the Vedas
and endowed in noble qualities
decked with ornaments", was given in gratitude to a priest for
performing some important worship rituals. This was extremely rare
received a gift of milk cow and a breeding bull from the
bridegroom. This was not considered dowry, but a token of respect
father gave his daugher to the bridegroom with the traditional
blessing "May both of you perform your duties together"
Bridegroom and bride married secretly without the
knowledge of their parents. This was considered inferior
because caused by lustful impulses
voluntarily gave as much wealth as he could afford to the bride's
relatives, not in accordance with the injunctions of the
scriptures because it was like buying the bride, which was
forcibly taken away from her family and then persuaded to
marry. This was considered inferior because caused by
married a woman whom he had seduced while she was asleep,
intoxicated or insane, this was prohibitedNot all of the types of
marriages of ancient India had religious sanction. So the
list above does not represent "Hindu Marriages".Clearly, the first
four types listed below were accepted to varying degree and the
later four were condemned.
Hindu Marriage ceremony
Hindu marriage ceremony consists of several steps. The following is
a description of this colorful and unique ceremony. This is a
generalized wedding ceremony, and there are regional and community
variations. Some of the steps may be omitted or added from the
following list based on local and family customs. In a mandapa -
canopy or marriage stage decorated with flowers and and with a fire
as witness the Hindu marriage ceremony begins. It is a long
and elaborate ceremony, with every step rooted in Vedic tradition,
signifying various aspects of live that is to follow after the
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 The bride and grooms party less the
bride assemble at a nearby temple where the groom is offered new
dress befitting the occasion and then he is taken in a procession in
an open car to the mandapam. This function is becoming extinct
The groom has to
perform certain religious rites relating to bramacharya asramam and
for entering grahasthaasramam.
This is symbolic
in that the groom from the brahmacharya aasramam moves into
grahasthaasramam. Many things restricted to brahamchaaris are
allowed in grahasthaasramam, like wearing footwear, use of an
umbrella, using cosmetics (like eye liners, fragrances etc.). So,
during Kaasi Yaathrai, the groom is allowed to use all the things
that are not allowed during brahmacharyam. This is also called
"Samaavarthanam". The groom is supposed to
proceed on a long tour. On the way he is stopped by the bride's
father, who requests the groom to abandon his tour and accept his
daughter as his wife.
Exchange of garlands
The groom accepts the proposal and he
is brought to the mandapam where the bride awaits in brilliant
clothes and ornaments, flowers. In addition to a big garland she
will be wearing three garlands. The groom will be in two garlands
besides the big one. The bride removes one of the three garlands and
puts it around the neck of the groom. The groom in his turn removes
one of his garlands and puts it round the bride's neck. This is done
three times. In performing this both the bride and the groom are
helped by their respective maternal uncles.
This function used to be full of fun and frolic in
the olden days. The girl and the boys used to be young. The uncles
lift them on their shoulders and it is the skill, how the garland is
put around the neck of each other. Now-a-days it is enacted in a
lack luster way. The awkwardness being felt by the couple especially
the bride owing to their age stands out. This may also fade away as
The chains that
support the swing, coming down from the ceiling, represent
symbolically that this human body we have got is due to our Karma in
previous births. Similarly, the swing's motion forward and backward
tells the couple that they have to be strong together in life at
times of both upward and downward movement in life.
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 yogurt 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) After the couple is led to the platform where preliminary
religious rites are performed, the groom is referred to by the
father of the bride as "maha vishnuswarupi" ie., resembling Lord
Maha Vishnu- After washing his feet the groom is invited to accept
the bride as "Kannika Dhanam" In this the bride sits on the lap of
her father. Her hands twined upward are placed on the upward turned
hands of the groom. A coconut, betel leaves, nuts are placed on the
hands of the bride. In the olden days gold coins used to be placed.
(This is because any Dhanam is to accompanied by some Sambavanai in
cash.) This aspect no longer exists. It is possible that this
"Sambavanai" turned into "dowry" which used to be
taken in advance is not offered in kannika dhanam now-a-days. Water
is poured on the bride' s hands by her mother. Then the father
releases his hand from that of his daughter thus placing the hand of
the bride over the hands of the groom who accepts the Dhanam 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 symbolizing 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 realizing the three ends :
dharma, artha, and kama. The groom makes the promise by
repeating three times that he will not fail the bride in realizing
dharma, artha and kama.
Bridegroom face each other, and the priest ties
their garments (the bride's saree to the groom's shirt) in a knot,
symbolizing the sacred union. The bride and the bridegroom garland
each other and exchange the rings.Next the nuptial fire, symbolizing
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
The bridegroom stands facing west and the bride
sits in front of him facing east. He seizes her hand and
recites Vedic hymns for happiness, long life, and a lifelong
relationshipWhen the bridegroom takes the bride's hand he says: O
Sarasvati, gracious one, rich in off spring,you whom we hymm first
of all the Gods,may you prosper this marriage. "I seize your hand."
Laja (Laja) Homa : The Oblation of Parched
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.
A particular sect of
people perform Agni Hothram and Oupaasanam daily. Since these people
do their daily ritual with the fire, homam (which is also done with
the help of fire) also became part of the wedding rituals. They
considered the fire (Agni) as one of the witnesses for the
marriage. Generally, fire as the witness symbolizes the heat
in our body. As long as that body fire (heat) is alive, we should
not separate from each other and the body heat is the witness for
our vow. This is the whole idea of the homam. Fire as a witness was
adopted by Tamilians at a very latter date.
Agni Parinayanam : The Circumambulation of
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
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."
Saptha-padi (Seven Steps)
this function the groom lifts the right foot of the bride and helps
her to stand over a stone placed on the north side of the homa
kundam to the recital of mantras. Then the couple comes round the
homa kundam fire. This is performed seven times. The marriage is
complete only after the performance of this Saptha Sathi.No one is
expected to intervene from the tying of the magalyam and saptha
sathi by shaking hands.
After pani grahanam the groom performs aupasanam
for the first time. This recital is one every individual is required
to perform daily in the morning and evening. To enable such
performance the "agni" from this homam is placed inside a mud pot in
which rice husks are already placed. The fire has to be rekindled
every time aupasanam is performed and after the aupasanam the fire
is again placed inside the pot. This is not being done since no one
(perhaps a few) performs aupasanam these days. A pot is, however,
carried when the groom leaves for his home.
This is the most important rite of the entire
ceremony. Here the bride and the bridegroom take seven steps
together around teh nuptial fire (Agni) and make the following seven
promises to each other :
As per the Vedic rituals, the bridegroom sings the
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 he makes her remain where
she is and 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 Saptha-padi 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.
Hrudaya sparsh : Touching the
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
Mangalya Sutra Dharana
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.
The bride is offered new clothes by the groom,
after his accepting her. While the bride is away changing the dress
prayer is offered to the "Tiru mangalyam" before giving. It is taken
around the hall to get the blessings of elders in the assembly.
Now-a-days every individual touches these as their blessing.
Actually the intention is the old couple has to bless the new ones
As soon as the bride comes with the new dress, she
sits on the lap of her father. The groom has to perform some
religious rites and then he ties the Mangalyam around the neck of
the bride. He puts one knot. His sister standing behind the bride
completes the three knots. Flowers are showered on the couple.
(supposedly, for these flowers normally lands o0n the heads and
shoulders of those (relatives) who stand round and covering the
There is a paradox in this. Although the mangalyam
as well as tying it are considered sacred no Vedic mantras are
recited for this. Only a sloham is recited.
There is a misconception these days that this tying
of the mangalyam completes the marriage. They start dispersing and
in doing so they go and shake the hands of the bride and groom. This
prevents very important religious functions of the marriage.
Immediately after tying of the mangalyam the couple sit beside the
homa gundam. "Panigraharam" is then performed with
the recital of mantras. this is an important function because the
groom grasps the hand of the bride officially after accepting her as
dhanam. In fact if one sees the invitations issued by the father of
the groom the boy one will see that the invitation like anupasanam,
lagya homam etc., are performed. Then Saptha pathi is performed.
LOOKING AT DHRUVA AND ARUNDHADHI
The groom is to take the bride now his wife
outside the pandal/mandapam after night fall and show her arundhathi
shining in the sky as a bright star. This is to show her the
faithful devotion and "barlthu susrushai" as an example.
In the middle of the milky way (Saptha
Rishi Mandalam), Arundhadhi is a subtle
star. At the bottom of the milky way, the brightest star called
Dhruva is located. In english, it is called the Pole Star. The Pole
Star remains stationary at the same place irrespective of the
earth's movement. The saptha rishis representing the milky way
are 1. Kasyapar, 2. Athri, 3. Bharadwaajar, 4. Viswaamitrar, 5.
Gauthamar, 6. Jamathagni and 7.Vasishtar. The wives of saptha rishis
are known as Krithika. The other six krithika consider Arundhadhi as
the "Pathivrathaa Sironmani."thus by seeing the Arundhadhi star, it
is believed that the bride will be as chaste as Arundhadhi. So, the
groom is supposed to show the Star to the bride.
conclusion of the marriage function, they take Mangala Aarthi for
the wedded couple. In this they mix lime and turmeric powder in
water and take it around the couple three times. This is supposed to
ward off any evil cast on the couple. This concludes the
brief description of marriage rituals according to Vedaas under
TAMIL NADU WEDDINGS ACCORDING TO MANU
1. Kaasi Yaathrai, 2. Kannikaadhanam (giving away
the bride), 3. Maangalya Dhaaranam, 4. Maalai Matrudhal (exchanging
garlands), 5. Sapthapadhi and 6. Poriyidal (offering of puffed rice
in the homam) are all the part of our marriage function, according
to Manu Dharma Shaasthraas) with certain changes in the vedic
manthraas. The function is normally
conducted in a big Pandhal (an open air tent). For erecting this
Pandhal, they install four bamboo poles at four corners of the
Pandhal. Four Vedaas are symbolized in these four bamboo poles.
The main priest who conducts the whole proceedings
of the marriage rituals and formalities symbolizes Brahma, the
creator. The various stages/steps in a wedding in Tamil Naadu is
given briefly in the following paragraphs.
Sri Vigneswara Pooja - On any
auspicious occasion, it is customary to pray Lord Ganesaa
(Vigneswara , Maha Ganapathi, Vinayaka are the other names by
which Lord Ganesaa is called) for a smooth and uninterrupted
proceedings of the function.
Punyaahavaachanam - Prayer
to Lord Varuna to purify the water and other materials we use
during the marriage celebration.
Arasaanikkaal Nadal - Five
elderly married ladies offer prayer to a branch of the Arasu (Holy
Fig tree) tree, and tie sacred raksha (protection from all evils)
to the bride and the groom. The groom and the bride are also given
new clothes to wear.
Kaasi Yaathrai - As described
earlier. Some people prefer to pray Lord Vinayaka instead of
Mana Pongal - Offering Pongal
(rice pudding) in five plantain (banana) leaves - In South India
it is customary to eat on a banana leaf. In modern days, these
leaves are substituted by the dinner plates.
Pooja to Sacred Waters - Five
beautifully designed earthen ware pots are filled with water. The
water in these pots are symbolic of the waters from the holy
rivers in India. Prayer is offered to these waters.
Upaveetha Dhaaranam (wearing the sacred
thread) - The groom and the father of the bride are
inducted into wearing the sacred thread. Any one who is
doing an auspicious thing must wear the sacred thread first,
irrespective of the caste. Then only they are entitled to partake
in the rituals. Some follow the tradition of wearing a raksha
(kaappu) after the upaveetha dhaaranam.
Kannikaadhaanam (Giving away the
bride) - The person giving the bride away introduces the
bride with a brief introduction of her genealogy (of three
generations). Similarly, the person accepting the bride introduces
the groom with his side of genealogy (of three generations). Then
the father or the person giving the bride away hands over the
bride (with three drops of water) to the groom. The water drops
are symbolic of the transfer of total responsibility of the bride
to the groom.
Paada Pooja - The groom does
prayer at the feet of his parents (pranaams) to get their
blessings for a happy and prosperous married life.
Kaappu Kattudhal (Raksha
Bhandan) - The groom ties a Kaappu (Raksha - a sacred
yellow thread) on the left hand of the bride. This is for the
protection of the bride from all evils.
Maangalya Pooja - The Maangalyam
is considered sequel to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth). The
Maangalyam is worshipped first with a small pooja and shown to the
audience individually to get their blessings.
Maangalya Dhaaranam - As
Homam - Described earlier
Sapthapadhi - described
Poriyidal - offering of puffed
rice in the homam.
Aasirvaatham - People who are
older than the groom sprinkle Akshadai (rice mixed with turmeric
powder) on the couple and give their blessings.
The priest unties the Kaappu from the groom's
hand and the groom unties from the bride's hand.
Mangala Aarthi - described
The groom's parents bless the couple and offer
cloth or flower to the bride (now their daugher-in-law), symbolizing
her joining of the groom's family.
All those assembled shower flowers on the couple
and bless them completing the marriage.