A bride during a traditional
Hindu wedding ceremony in Punjab, India.
Sari and Groom in
Sherwani in a
Hindu Indian wedding.
Hindu wedding ceremony in progress.
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Hindu wedding is Vivaha (Sanskrit: विवाह) and the
wedding ceremony is called
Vivaah Sanskar in
North India and Kalyanam
(generally) in South India. Hindus attach a great deal of
importance to marriages. The ceremonies are very colourful, and
celebrations may extend for several days. The bride's and groom's home
— entrance, doors, wall, floor, roof — are sometimes decorated
with colors, balloons, and other decorations.
The rituals and process in a
Hindu wedding vary widely. Nevertheless,
there are a few key rituals common in
Hindu weddings — Kanyadaan,
Saptapadi — which are respectively, giving away of
daughter by the father, voluntarily holding hand near the fire to
signify union, and taking seven steps with each step includes a
promise to each other before fire. The
Hindu wedding ceremony at
its core is essentially a
Vedic yajna ritual. The primary witness of a
Hindu marriage is the fire-deity (or the Sacred Fire) Agni, in the
presence of family and friends. The ceremony is traditionally
conducted entirely, or at least partially in Sanskrit, considered by
Hindus as the language of holy ceremonies. The local language of the
bride and groom is also used. These rituals are prescribed in the
Gruhya sutra composed by various rishis such as
The pre-wedding and post-wedding rituals and celebrations vary by
region, preferences or the resources of the groom, bride and their
families. They can range from one day to multi-day events. Pre-wedding
ceremonies include engagement (involving vagdana or betrothal and
lagna-patra written declaration), and the arrival of the groom's
party at the bride's residence, often in the form of a formal
procession with dancing and music. The post-wedding ceremonies may
include Abhishek, Anna Prashashan, Aashirvadah, and Grihapravesa –
the welcoming of the bride to her new home. The wedding marks the
Grihastha (householder) stage of life for the new couple.
In India, by law and tradition, no
Hindu marriage is binding or
complete unless the ritual of seven steps and vows in presence of fire
(Saptapadi) is completed by the bride and the groom together. This
requirement is under debate.
1 Eight types of marriage
2 Main rituals
Saptapadi – Short Form
Saptapadi – Long Form
3 Additional rituals
3.1 Rituals in Nepal
4 Wedding and Married Life in Hinduism
4.3 Married life
5 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
Eight types of marriage
Hindu bride during her wedding.
Hindu marriage ceremony.
Hindu literature, such as Asvalayana Grhyasutra and
Atharvaveda, identify eight forms of marriages. These are:
Brahma marriage – considered the religiously most appropriate
marriage, where the father finds an educated man, proposes the
marriage of his daughter to him. The groom, bride and families
willingly concur with the proposal. The two families and relatives
meet, the daughter is ceremonially decorated, the father gives away
his daughter in betrothal, and a
Vedic marriage ceremony is conducted.
This type of wedding is now most prevalent among Hindus in modern
Daiva marriage – in this type of marriage the father gives away his
daughter along with ornaments to a priest as a sacrificial fee. This
form of marriage occurred in ancient times when yajna sacrifices were
Arsha marriage – in this type of marriage, the groom gives a cow and
a bull to the father of the bride and the father exchanges his
daughter in marriage. The groom took a vow to fulfill his obligations
to the bride and family life (Grihasthashram).
Prajapatya marriage – in this type of marriage, a couple agree to be
married by exchanging some
Sanskrit mantras (vows to each other). This
form of marriage was akin to a civil ceremony.
The above four types of marriages were considered prashasta marriages
(proper, religiously appropriate under Hinduism), since they contains
Vedic scriptures, where both bride and groom commit to each
other and share responsibilities to their families. The other four
were considered aprashasta (inappropriate), since they do not follow
Vedic rituals and vows. Among inappropriate weddings, two
acceptable forms of marriages were:
Gandharva marriage – in this type of marriage, the couple
simply live together out of love, by mutual consent, consensually
consummating their relationship. This marriage is entered into without
religious ceremonies, and was akin to the Western concept of
Kama Sutra, as well as Rishi Kanva – the
Shakuntala – in the Mahabharata, claimed this kind
of marriage to be an ideal one.
Asura marriage – in this type of marriage, the groom offered a dowry
to the father of the bride and to the bride; both accepted the dowry
out of free will, and he received the bride in exchange. This was akin
to marrying off a daughter for money. This marriage was considered
Hindu Smriti-writers because greed, not what is best
for the woman, can corrupt the selection process.
The last two marriages were not only inappropriate, but religiously
forbidden (the children, if any, from these forbidden types of
consummation were considered legitimate, nevertheless):
Rakshasa marriage – where the groom forcibly abducted the bride
against her will and her family's will. (The word
Paishacha marriage – where the man forces himself on a woman when
she is insentient – when she is drugged or drunken or unconscious.
James Lochtefeld comments that the last two forms of marriage were
forbidden but still recognized in ancient
Hindu societies, not to
allow these acts but rather to provide the woman and any resulting
children with legal protection in the society.
Main article: Vivaah
There is no single standard
Hindu marriage ceremony. Regional
variations and considerable flexibility in the rituals are prevalent.
The variations may be based on family traditions, local traditions,
resources of the marrying families, and other factors. Some of the key
rituals are performed in slightly different ways in different regions.
There are a few key rituals common in a
Hindu wedding ceremony. These
Kanyadaan – the giving away of daughter by the father
Panigrahana – a ritual in presence of fire, where the groom takes
the bride's hand as a sign of their union
Saptapadi – is the most important ritual. It is called the seven
step ritual, where each step corresponds to a vow groom makes to
bride, and a vow the bride makes to groom. The vows are pronounced in
Sanskrit in long form, or short quicker form, sometimes also in the
language of the groom and bride. In many weddings,
performed near a fire; and after each of the seven oaths to each
other, the groom and bride perform the ritual of
agnipradakshinam – walk around the fire, with the end of their
garments tied together. The groom usually leads the bride in the
walk. The fire is a form of yajna – a
Vedic ritual where fire is
the divine witness (to the marriage). After Saptapadi, the couple
are considered husband and wife.
Kanyadaan – a key ritual where the father gifts away the daughter to
the groom. In this picture, the father's hand is on the left, the
bride and groom are on the right.
The Kanyadaan ceremony is performed by the father. If the father
has died, a guardian of bride's choosing performs this ritual. The
father brings the daughter, then takes the bride's hand and places it
to the groom's. This marks the beginning of the ceremony of giving
away the bride. The groom accepts the bride's hand, while the
kama-sukta (hymn to love) is pronounced, in the presence of the
father, the bride and the groom. The Kamasukta verse is:
Who offered this maiden?, to whom is she offered?
Kama (the god of love) gave her to me, that I may love her
Love is the giver, love is the acceptor
Enter thou, the bride, the ocean of love
With love then, I receive thee
May she remain thine, thine own, O god of love
Verily, thou art, prosperity itself
May the heaven bestow thee, may the earth receive thee
After this ritual recital, the father asks the groom to not fail the
bride in his pursuit of dharma (moral and lawful life), artha (wealth)
and kama (love). The groom promises to the bride's father that he
shall never fail her in his pursuit of dharma, artha and kama. The
groom repeats the promise three times.
The groom's promises to bride's father marks the end of the kanyadaan
A yajna during a
The ritual of Panigrahana comes after Kanyadana. Sometimes, this
ritual is preceded by vivaha-homa rite, wherein a symbolic fire is lit
by the groom to mark the start of a new household.
Panigrahana is the 'holding the hand' ritual as a symbol of their
impending marital union, and the groom announcing his acceptance of
responsibility to four deities: Bhaga signifying wealth, Aryama
signifying heavens/milky way, Savita signifying radiance/new
beginning, and Purandhi signifying wisdom. The groom faces west, while
the bride sits in front of him with her face to the east, he holds her
hand while the following Rig vedic mantra is recited:
I take thy hand in mine, yearning for happiness
I ask thee, to live with me, as thy husband
Till both of us, with age, grow old
Know this, as I declare, that the Gods
Bhaga, Aryama, Savita and Purandhi, have bestowed thy person, upon me
that I may fulfill, my Dharmas of the householder, with thee
This I am, That art thou
The Sāman I, the Ŗc thou
The Heavens I, the Earth thou
In Gujarati Wedding this step is called Hast-Milap (literally,
“meeting of hands”). The whole ceremony was timed around an
auspicious time (Mauhurat) for this step and few decades ago, the
wedding invitation would even list the time when this event was going
to take place.
Saptapadi – Short Form
Main article: Saptapadi
Hindu couple in post-marriage ceremonies, after Saptapadi. The tied
clothing, represents lifelong bond formed during the seven promises
ritual with fire as witness.
Sanskrit “seven steps”/“seven feet”), is the
most important ritual of
Hindu weddings, and represents the
legal part of
Hindu marriage. Sometimes called
Saat Phere (“seven
rounds”), couple conduct seven circuits of the Holy Fire (Agni),
which is considered a witness to the vows they make to each other.
In some regions, a piece of clothing or sashes worn by the bride and
groom are tied together for this ceremony. Elsewhere, the groom holds
the bride's right hand in his own right hand. Each circuit of the
consecrated fire is led by either the bride or the groom, varying by
community and region. Usually, the bride leads the groom in the first
circuit. In North India, the first six circuits are led by the bride,
and the final one by the groom. In Central India and Suriname, the
bride leads the first three or four circuits. With each circuit,
the couple makes a specific vow to establish some aspect of a happy
relationship and household for each other.
In some South Indian weddings, after each saying a mantra at each of
the seven steps, the couple say these words together:
"Now let us make a vow together. We shall share love, share the same
food, share our strengths, share the same tastes. We shall be of one
mind, we shall observe the vows together. I shall be the Samaveda, you
the Rigveda, I shall be the Upper World, you the Earth; I shall be the
Sukhilam, you the Holder – together we shall live and beget
children, and other riches; come thou, O beautiful
Hindu wedding, ceremonial offerings
In North Indian weddings, the bride and the groom say the following
words after completing the seven steps:
We have taken the Seven Steps. You have become mine forever. Yes, we
have become partners. I have become yours. Hereafter, I cannot live
without you. Do not live without me. Let us share the joys. We are
word and meaning, united. You are thought and I am sound. May the
night be honey-sweet for us. May the morning be honey-sweet for us.
May the earth be honey-sweet for us. May the heavens be honey-sweet
for us. May the plants be honey-sweet for us. May the sun be all honey
for us. May the cows yield us honey-sweet milk. As the heavens are
stable, as the earth is stable, as the mountains are stable, as the
whole universe is stable, so may our union be permanently
Saptapadi – Long Form
The long form of the key
Hindu wedding ritual, Saptapadi, starts with
preface announced by the priest, and thereafter followed by a series
of vows the groom and bride make to each other. They are as
The world of men and women, united in the bond of marriage by
Saptapadi, to further promote the joy of life, together listen with
Groom's vow: Oh!, you who feeds life-sustaining food, nourish my
visitors, friends, parents and offsprings with food and drinks. Oh!
beautiful lady, I, as a form of Vishnu, take this first step with you
Bride's vow: Yes, whatever food you earn with hard work, I will
safeguard it, prepare it to nourish you. I promise to respect your
wishes, and nourish your friends and family as well.
Groom's vow: Oh!, thoughtful and beautiful lady, with a well managed
home, with purity of behavior and thought, you will enable us to be
strong, energetic and happy. Oh! beautiful lady, I, as Vishnu, take
this second step with you for the strength of body, character and
Bride's vow: Yes, I will manage the home according to my ability and
reason. Together, I promise, to keep a home that is healthy, strength
and energy giving.
Groom's vow: Oh!, skillful and beautiful lady, I promise to devote
myself to earning a livelihood by fair means, to discuss, and let you
manage and preserve our wealth. Oh! dear lady, I, as
cover this third step with you to thus prosper in our wealth.
Bride's vow: Yes, I join you in managing our income and expenses. I
promise to seek your consent, as I manage our wealth, fairly earned,
so it grows and sustains our family.
Groom's vow: Oh!, dear lady, I promise to trust your decisions about
the household and your choices; I promise to dedicate myself to help
our community prosper, the matters outside the house. This shall bring
us respect. Oh! my lady, I, as Vishnu, take this fourth step with you
to participate in our world.
Bride's vow: Yes, I promise to strive to make the best home for us,
anticipate and provide necessary things for your worldly life, and for
the happiness of our family.
Groom's vow: Oh!, lady of skill and pure thoughts, I promise to
consult with you and engage you in the keep of our cows, our
agriculture and our source of income; I promise to contribute to our
country. It shall win us future. Oh! my skilled lady, I, as Vishnu
form, take this fifth step with you to together grow our farms and
Bride's vow: Yes, I promise to participate and protect the cattle, our
agriculture and business. They are a source of yoghurt, milk, ghee,
and income, all useful for our family, necessary for our happiness.
Groom's vow: Oh!, lovely lady, I seek you and only you, to love, to
have children, to raise a family, to experience all the seasons of
life. Oh! my lovely lady, I, as Vishnu, take this sixth step with you
to experience every season of life.
Bride's vow: Feeling one with you, with your consent, I will be the
means of your enjoyment of all the senses. Through life's seasons, I
will cherish you in my heart. I will worship you and seek to complete
Groom's vow: Oh friends!, allow us to cover the seventh step together,
this promise, our Saptapad-friendship. Please be my constant wife.
Bride's vow: Yes, today, I gained you, I secured the highest kind of
friendship with you. I will remember the vows we just took and adore
you forever sincerely with all my heart.
With the completion of the seventh step, the two become husband and
Hindu wedding with the bride and groom in traditional dress.
Some Indian weddings abroad symbolically maintain some of the customs
in India. Above is a symbolic arrival of the groom on a horse
(baraat), in Nottingham, England. In front is the band.
Hindu weddings start with the Milne (meeting) and Swagatam
(welcome) ceremony. This ritual is where the
procession party) arrives at the bride's home or the location where
the bride is and marriage will be celebrated. The
includes dancing and joyous members of groom's family, relatives and
friends. On their arrival, there is a ritual where key persons from
the groom's side and bride's side are introduced to each other. The
introduction is typically followed by Jai mala (garland exchange
between bride and groom) and a reception that serves food and
Many other rituals and ceremonies are sometimes found in Hindu
weddings, such as madhuparka, vivaha-homa, agni-parinayana,
asmarohana, laja homa, abhishek, anna-prashashan, and
aashir-vadah. All these ceremonies are carried out at the
wedding location, typically at or near the bride's home. These
additional rituals include the participation of the brothers, sisters,
maternal/paternal relatives, guardians, or friends of the bride.
In some parts of India, such as Gujarat and northern India, a laja
homa ritual called mangal pherā is performed where the couple make
four circles around holy fire. It follows hasta milap (meeting of
hands of the couple), but precedes Saptpadi. The first three circles
is led by the groom, and it represents three of four goals of life
considered important in
Hindu life – Dharma, Artha, Kama. The fourth
circle is led by bride and it represents the fourth goal of life –
Moksha. After Saptapadi, as hymns are being recited, the groom
performs māņg sindoor ritual where a saffron or red color powder is
marked into the parting of the wife's hair. Instead of circling
the fire and other steps, the rituals and ceremonies may be performed
symbolically, such as stepping on small heaps of rice or throwing
grains into the fire.
Some rituals involve rice or other grains, seeds and pastes. In
these ceremonies, rice is thrown at the bride, groom or they kick a
container containing the grain. Rituals include darshan, where the
newly married couple are met, blessed and greeted by family and
friends of the bride and groom.
After the wedding is complete, the bride leaves for groom's home,
Hindu family members of the groom welcome the newly wedded
couple in a ritual known as Grihapravesa (home coming/entry). This
ceremony typically requires participation of the mother, father,
brothers, and sisters, or other guardians of the groom.
Ancient literature suggests the
Hindu couple spent time with each
other, but delayed the consummation for at least three nights
following the wedding. Some scholars have proposed the observance of
this rite in the past – known as chaturthikarma – “the rite
performed on the fourth day of marriage”. Chaturthikarma is followed
by most of South Indian communities. as a possible basis for the
validity of a marriage. Other scholars suggest
regionally customary wedding rituals, not consummation, defines legal
validity of a
Hindu marriage. The
Marriage Act of 1955,
Article 7, is consistent with the latter. Chaturthikarma is
not a common practice in
Hindu families, the couple proceed to honeymoon after
Rituals in Nepal
The bride is ceremoniously decorated, in
Hindu weddings, by her
friends and family in regional dress, jewelry, and body art called
Mehndi. The body art is produced from a mixture of henna and turmeric.
Above a Nepali bride.
Hindu culture of Nepal, marriage rituals are done by the
Chhetri in a sixteen step process that centers on the household. The
household is important during the marriage ritual because it is the
center of the concept of mandala; the Chhetri's homes are considered
to be domestic mandalas and so have roles as householders. The act of
marriage brings men and women into the householder role.
the most important rite of passage for the Chhetris and is one of the
most serious. Women move from their houses to the home of the groom
after marriage. The ceremony is done in a precise and careful manner
as to not bring bad luck to the families of the bride and groom;
certain traditions, for example no one seeing the face of the bride
until the end, are followed in order to ensure future prosperity.
Prior to the marriage ceremony, there is no kinship between families
of the bride and groom and the bride must be a virgin. The marriage
ceremony consists of a series of rites that are performed over a
two-day period between the houses of the bride and the groom. Within
each home the enclosed area in the courtyard (jagya) and the kitchen
are used the most; the jagya and the kitchen are considered the most
important parts of the domestic mandala structure because it is where
rice (an important part of the Chhetri's culture) is prepared and
consumed. At the end of the ceremony is the establishment of the role
of the wife and husband in the husband's home.
The first step in the marriage ceremony is called Purbanga. In the
kitchen of their homes, the bride and the groom worship the seven
Mother Goddesses as so to pay respect to their ancestors and ask for
peace. In the second, third, and fourth step, the groom is then
blessed by his mother and is taken outside to his jagya where his
father and procession (janti) carry him and bring gifts for the bride
to her house in a ceremony called dulähä anmäune. In the fifth step
as the groom waits before the house of the bride, gifts of clothes and
food are placed around the jagya; the father of the bride then places
red paste on the groom's forehead indicating that he is no longer an
outsider to his family. The sixth step is the performance of the
Barani or welcoming for the groom and his janti as they enter the
jagya. The father purifies the body of the groom using panchämrit
(nectar from five pure liquids). A small feast is then held for the
groom as the next steps in the marriage continue.
After the small feast, the marriage process for the bride begins. The
seventh step takes place in the kitchen of the bride where the process
of kanya dan starts; the bride's parents give their daughter in
marriage to her groom thereby allowing the bride to be a part of the
groom's lineage and making the father's lineage secondary. After they
wash their feet they dress in red and, in the eighth step, sit beside
in each other in the jagya. They perform post-marriage rites as they
make sacrificial offerings to the fire in the center of the jagya.
During these rites the bride and groom perform tasks such as placing
red powder in the hair of the bride and the bride eats leftover food
of the groom and at the end the now husband gives his wife a personal
name for which she is to be called by.
After the post-marriage ceremony, the married couple being to leave
the bride's home. In the ninth step, the husband and wife return to
the kitchen of the wife and worship their ancestors and the seven
Mother Goddesses. In the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth step, the couple
leave the wife's house as she is given a garland from her parents; the
wife and husband enter the jagya and are then escorted out riding on
palanquins as they return to their permanent home of the husband. The
thirteenth step beings once they enter the jagya of the groom and his
virgin sisters welcome the wife in a ceremony called arti syäl. They
unveil the bride and adorn her with flower garlands and sprinkle
puffed rice on her (a sign of prosperity). The fourteenth step is
completed once the bride promises gifts to the sisters; she then moves
on the fifteenth step where she steps on piles of rice in a path
toward the kitchen. The final step is a series of rites, the first of
which is the bride worshiping the ancestors and deities of the
husband; she then demonstrates her skills in handling rice to the
husband's mother and sisters and then they entwine her hair. Finally,
the mother unveils the bride again in front of the husband and in a
ceremony called khutta dhog, the bride places the foot of the mother
on her forehead thereby ending the marriage ceremony.
Wedding and Married Life in Hinduism
While there are many rituals in Hinduism, such as those at birth and
deaths of loved ones, the
Hindu wedding is the most important and
extensive personal ritual an adult
Hindu undertakes in his or her
Hindu families spend significant effort and financial
resources to prepare and celebrate weddings.
In 2008, Indian weddings market was estimated to be $31 billion a
year. Various sources estimate India celebrates about 10 million
weddings per year, and over 80% of these are
The average expenditures exceed US$3,000 per wedding. Another $30
billion per year is spent on jewelry in India, with jewelry for
weddings being the predominant market. In a nation with per capita
annual income of $1,500, weddings are a major financial burden for
In India, where most Hindus live, the laws relating to marriage differ
by religion. According to the
Marriage Act of 1955, passed by
the Parliament of India, for all legal purposes, all Hindus of any
caste, creed or sect, Sikh, Buddhists and Jains are deemed Hindus and
can intermarry. By the
Marriage Act, 1954, a
Hindu can marry a
person who is not Hindu, employing any ceremony, provided specified
legal conditions are fulfilled. By Section 7 of
Act, and tradition, no
Hindu marriage is binding and complete before
the seventh step of the
Saptapadi ritual, in presence of fire, by the
bride and the groom together. In some cases, such as South Indian
Hindu marriages, this is not required.
Vedic sage emphasized that the basis of happy and fulfilling married
life is the sense of unity, intimacy and love between husband and wife
both physically, mentally and spiritually. Hence wife is considered to
be the Ardhangani of husband as per
Marriage is not
for self-indulgence, but is considered a lifelong social and spiritual
responsibility. Married life is considered an opportunity for two
people to grow as life partners into soul-mates.
Vivaah, marriage per
Marriage in Hinduism
Marriages in India
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Guide to Marriage
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