Vivah Sanskar marks the beginning of the most important stage of a Hindu’s life. Called the Grihistha Ashrama, it involves setting up of a new family. The bride and groom form a lifelong partnership at this ceremony and the responsibilities and duties of a householder are explained. The precise details and rituals performed in a wedding ceremony vary from region to region and often take several hours to complete.
The bride’s parents welcome the groom and his family. A red kum-kum (powder) mark is applied to their foreheads. The families are formally introduced, marking the start of relationship between them. The bride and the groom exchange garlands (jayamaala) and declare: “Let all the learned persons present here know, we are accepting each other willingly, voluntarily and pleasantly. Our hearts are concordant and united like waters.”
First the Bride and then the Groom is brought to the mandap (covered structure with pillars) and seated. He is offered a traditional welcome drink – a mixture of milk, ghee, yoghurt, honey and sugar.
Gau Daan (exchange of gifts), usually clothes and ornaments, takes place. The Groom’s mother gives a Mangalsutra (a necklace signifying the married status of a Hindu women) to the Bride.
The Bride’s father declares that their daughter has accepted the Groom and requests he accept her. He offers of the hand of the Bride.
A fire is lit and the Pandit (Priest) recites mantras in Sanskrit.
The Groom, holding his Bride’s hand, says “I hold your hand in the spirit of Dharma, we are both husband and wife”. The Groom accepts the hand of the Bride.
The symbolic climbing over a stone/rock by the Bride to show her willingness and strength to overcome difficulties in pursuit of her duties.
The couple walk around the sacred fire four times. The Bride leads three times and the fourth time the Groom leads. He is reminded of his responsibilities. The couple join their hands into which the Bride’s brothers pour barley. This is offered to the fire to symbolise that they will jointly work for the betterment of the society.
The Groom marks the parting in his Bride’s hair with a red powder. It is the mark of a married Hindu woman.
The legal part of the ceremony. The couple walk seven steps reciting a prayer at each step. These are the seven vows which are exchanged. The first for food, the second for strength, the third for prosperity, the fourth for wisdom, the fifth for progeny, the sixth for health and the seventh for friendship. After the ceremony, knots tie the couple together. The are now married. Garlands are exchanged.
The couple look at or visualise the Surya (the sun) in order to be blessed with a meaningful life. Similarly with Dhruva (Polar star) they resolve to remain unshaken and steadfast like.
The couple are blessed by the congregation for a long and prosperous married life.