December 12, 2006 12:00am CST
Hindu marriages Hindu marriages signify customs, rituals and elaborate celebrations. Traditional Hindu wedding ceremonies mostly lasts for four to five days. And the function is divided into three parts pre wedding ceremony, main day ceremony and post wedding ceremony. Each day has its own significance and meaning. The pre wedding celebrations mainly includes engagement, sangeet, mehendi, haldi and tilak. Each of the custom has an importance. The main day function is the wedding day and the post day rituals include vidaai and reception. These are some of the important rituals and customs that sum up the Indian marriage ceremony. A wedding is an important religious ceremony in the Hindu religion and one of the most important of the sixteen Hindu sanskars or sacraments. It is not only establishing the bond between two people, but also the bond between two families. Hindu weddings usually take place at bride's place or at a common place decided by the bride and groom's family. The marriage ceremonies are supposed to take place at an open space under a decorated canopy usually called mandap. The main day of the wedding involves different traditional rituals. And each of the rituals has its own meaning and role. One of the most important ritual of Hindu wedding is the seven step or sapta padi taken together by the bride and the groom while the seven vows or promise led by a priest or Brahmin. They take the vows before god symbolized by fire and light. These seven promises taken together by the bride and groom build's the foundation of their relationship and marriage. It speaks of the loyalty, love, and commitment they will share in their married life. Today the wedding ceremony is celebrated in an elaborate and lavish manner. With commercialization of everything wedding too has become a commercial affair. But still today also the actual essence and reason behind marriage function remains intact. The bride and the groom are dressed in traditional Indian wear. Where the bride wears ethnic Indian sari and jewelry and the groom wears traditional sherwani and pagri or turban on his head. The wedding place or mandap is beautifully decorated where family members, relatives and friends gathers to enjoy dinning and lunch for four to five days of the wedding celebration. People from different strata of the society celebrate according to their status but the real significance behind the marriage remains same in every society. And that is coming together of two souls for eternity. This is what Hindu wedding is all about. About tradition, culture and enjoyment. Arya Samaj wedding In India, the wedding rituals and customs are mainly based on religion or community. The community only decides the kind of wedding ceremony that a couple would have. There are many people in India who don't believe in the grand and elaborate rituals of the Hindu wedding function. For them who are not so particular about their religion and community a special community wedding, is organized, which is not so rigid in its rituals and customs but at the same time based on the Vedic rites and customs than Arya Samaj wedding is the right choice for them. An Arya Samaj wedding can also be incorporated with any other Hindu community wedding. As everyone knows Swami Dayanand Saraswathi founded that Arya Samaj. The Arya Samaj weddings are performed as per Vedic rites. According to the principle the Arya Samaj conducts weddings only for Hindus. But for non-Hindus who want to have an Arya Samaj wedding the Samaj would allow them to get married according to the Arya Samaj traditions but before that they have to be converted through a process called 'Shuddhi' meaning purification. The Arya Samaj wedding ceremony is performed with the fire and other elements as the witnesses since they don't believe in idol worshipping. In an Arya Samaj wedding the mantras, which are chanted are translated into a language that the couple can understand this makes the wedding ceremony all the more special as the couple can relate themselves to the meaning and significance of the wedding mantras. This wedding is different from the traditional Hindu wedding in the sense that it does not involves elaborate rituals and the ceremony is not extended over a long period of time. Simplicity is the main essence of Arya Samaj wedding. The wedding ceremony lasts for an hour or so and the wedding expense is very low compared to the normal traditional Hindu wedding. The main rituals of the wedding are as follows: Madhuparka is a ritual in which the bride and the groom arrive at the venue of the wedding the groom partakes of 'Madhuparka', which is a mixture of honey, curds and cream. The bride gives the groom water three times, which he sprinkles on his feet, over his body and drinks it the third time. Similarly, the groom also follows the ritual. This ritual symbolizes the commencement of their journey into a happy married life. The ritual of kanyadaan is the one in which the parents of the bride offer their daughter's hand in marriage to the groom. Havanv is the ritual where the wedding is solemnized in front of the Agni or holy fire, which is considered life. The priest chants the mantras invoking blessing for happy married life. In the Pani Grahan Sanskar the groom takes the bride's hands in his and chants mantras promising to be beside her in times of need and look after all her needs. Than there are rituals like Shilarohan, Lajahom, Parikrama , and Saptapadi, which are followed. Lastly the ritual ends with the Aashirwaad ceremony where the newly wedded couple takes the blessing of all the elders in the family. Christian Wedding Ceremony Normally all Christian wedding are celebrated in a Church. The friends and family members of the bride and the bridegroom attain the wedding celebration. Just like any other wedding in other religion Christian wedding is also celebrated over a couple of days. As there are pre wedding, wedding and post wedding rituals. An Anglo Indian Christian bride traditionally wears a white gown in western style and the groom wears a suit. The wedding rituals are conducted along with the holy mass. Like in all Indian matrimonial rituals, this community too, has an interesting lecture with an emphasis on the sanctity of marriage given by the priest. Christian wedding rituals and customs are simple and easy to follow. Among the main pre wedding rituals there are functions like bridal shower, which is an informal hen party hosted by the bride's female friends. It is mainly a female get together to celebrate the occasion. It is a fun filled function where games are played, they sing and dance the whole night. The friends and relatives shower gifts upon the bride. The bride serves a pink cake with a thimble hidden inside. According to tradition, the girl who gets the slice of cake with the thimble in it will be the next to marry. Just like the bridal shower, which is an all girl's party a bachelor's party is also celebrated by the groom and his male friends. It is called a stag party hosted by the groom on the eve of his wedding or a couple of days earlier. Usually this is a wild party, and the groom is expected to enjoy his last night as a bachelor. It is customary to raise a toast before the drinking begins in earnest. It is mostly celebrated to have fun and enjoyment with his close fiends. Welcoming the bride is done on the day of the wedding; when the groom sends a car to pick up the bride and waits for her outside the church. When the bride arrives, the Best Man welcomes her with a kiss on either cheek and hands her a bouquet of flowers. The couple walks down the aisle slowly and gracefully with the wedding procession in tow till they reach where the priest stands for the wedding mass. The priest then welcomes them and offers his best wishes. The wedding mass begins with hymns and selected readings from the Bible. The priest then delivers the homily, with an emphasis on the sanctity of marriage. The next ritual is the blessing and the exchange of the wedding rings. The ceremony comes to an end with the final blessing of the priest. The guests, towards the end, shower their blessings on the newly wedded couple. The last formality is the couple then signs the register and walk down aisle, arm in arm. In the post wedding rituals like weddings in all Indian community Catholic weddings is followed by a reception for celebration the reception party is a grand affair where the newly-weds enter the venue and are welcomed by all with a shower of confetti. They cut the wedding cake and feed each a bite of the first slice. The Toastmaster proposes a toast in honor of the couple. The reception is mostly celebrated with dance and dinner party. In many function a live band performs and everybody dances to the tune of the band. This is how most Christian weddings are celebrated. Muslim Wedding in India Muslim wedding are celebrated on a grand scale in India. The wedding custom and rituals has come down from the Moghul rulers in the medieval India. Muslim families in India follow the traditional way of wedding. Indian Muslims mostly follow the same customs and rituals in Nikah, as followed by the Middle Eastern Muslims. Just like Hindu religion Muslim wedding is also divided into three parts the pre wedding celebration, main day celebration and post wedding celebration. And each celebration has its own significance and importance. Pre-wedding Ceremonies Mehndi ceremony The Mehndi ceremony is mainly held at the bride's place on the eve of the wedding ceremony or a few days before the wedding. It is mainly a ladies function where female friends, family members and relatives of the bride come together to apply turmeric paste to the bride to bring out the glow in her complexion. A mehndiwali or a relative applies mehndi on the hands and feet of the bride. While she applies mehndi to the bride the woman folk sings traditional song an
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