Traditional Indian weddings – what are they?

The best attitude to the wedding in modern India reflects the dialogue from the TV series “The Eighth Sense”:

– Is it possible to somehow shorten the rituals and not do this and that?

– You can, but it will cost you three times as much.

– Listen, can you do without all this at all?

– strong>

– You can. But you don't have enough money.

In fact, a traditional Indian wedding consists of dozens of rituals, the secret meaning of which is available only to brahmins, the highest caste of sages who perform these rituals. 

Traditional Indian weddings — what they are ?

Traditional Indian weddings

Or for those who carefully read a special book (more than 400 pages in small, small print).

The book contains excerpts from the Rig Veda and Atharva Veda, ancient collections of rituals, which, in particular, describe the wedding Suryas are the daughters of the solar deity Savitar. 

Each of the rituals has its own details. For example, it is important with which hand the turmeric paste is applied, in what sequence, which of the hands is on top when crossing. There are many subtleties.

Depending on the province and caste to which the bride and groom belong, the ceremonies and the number of wedding ceremonies may differ. In the article, I described the most common rituals – a day is not enough to talk about all the traditions. 

In India, they believe that the union of two people is the union of their souls. Therefore, the choice of the bride and groom is approached with particular care.

Up until the middle of the 20th century, the future husband and wife had to be in the same caste. 

There is more freedom in the modern world.  For example, the bride and groom are allowed to meet before the wedding. A business or festive suit can be worn for a wedding.

Traditional Indian weddings — what are they like?

Traditional Indian weddings. Photo 1

A woman can move from caste to caste by marrying a chosen one of a higher “class”. But it is still forbidden to choose a man of a lower caste. Although representatives of the lower castes can take advantage of numerous benefits and payments – including when entering an institute or when applying for a job. Therefore, girls from the servant caste are in no hurry to marry brahmins (wise men, teachers – representatives of the highest caste).

Even if a man and a woman fell in love with each other, everything is not so simple.

For the bride and groom, a compatibility horoscope is compiled without fail, which takes into account the meeting of future spouses in past lives, their character, the forecast of their family life, the number of future joint children. The astrologer names several suitable dates, which are calculated according to the dates and times of the birth of the future spouses and may coincide with the celebration of the event in the world of the Gods.  Then hundreds of people come to the wedding even in a small town. 

Wedding business in India is quite a profitable industry. 

Russians “rest” for a couple of days compared to Indian traditions. Previously, ceremonies lasted 7-10 days. To please the rhythm of modern life, rituals are carried out in three days. 

The wedding is decorated with brilliance and high cost. Halls are rented, tents are decorated with flower petals, rich fabrics, coconut leaves. Musicians and drummers are being hired. 

Traditional Indian weddings — what are they like?

Traditional Indian weddings. Photo 2

White-skinned artists – dancers, singers, sometimes prostitutes – are considered special chic. 

It is believed that this is how the Indians regain their “lost dominance” – remembering the days of colonial subjugation to the British. 

In fact, there is an element of exoticism here. And in relation to the bride, parents are more likely to choose a foreigner than a woman of a lower caste. Among the Brahmins, Russians do not for a moment feel like “strangers”. When entering the family, the bride and her relatives are treated with the greatest respect and friendliness. At least, this was the case with both of my friends who married Indians.

Before the wedding, the mother-in-law talks with her daughter-in-law and asks her about her habits, lifestyle, interests, hobbies, and childhood events. He asks a lot of questions – even to the extent that the daughter-in-law knows how to roll out roti (round cakes).

An Indian wedding takes place in three stages:

1. Pre-wedding ceremonies

◊ the ceremony of applying tilak (“a dot” on the forehead of the bride means that the groom's relatives accepted her into their family). For this, red turmeric (saffron) is used. 

◊ Petition for the blessing of the Gods. Puja is performed in the house of the bride and groom (each separately) – a rite of worship to the Gods. 

Traditional Indian weddings — what are they like?

The rite of worship of the Gods

Puja consists of meditation, restriction of food and entertainment, recitation of scriptures, singing of hymns, offering food and bows to the Gods.

About two weeks before the wedding, young families begin to worship Ganesha, the God of wealth. It is believed to remove obstacles to success. Puja is performed daily.

◊ Decorating hands and feet with henna (mehendi) drawings. 

Traditional Indian weddings — what are they like?

Decoration of hands and feet with henna drawings

To “fix” the pattern, a paste of sugar and lemon juice is applied to it.

◊ Sangit (from Sanskrit “sangeet” – music) – songs and dances with which women escort the bride to a new life. The ceremony is accompanied by a double-sided wooden drum. Lyrics range from glorifying future spouses to obscene or embarrassing life stories. 

◊ The Haldi ritual is the application of yellow turmeric paste, vegetable oil, rose water and/or sandalwood powder. Yellow color brings good luck. 

What are traditional Indian weddings — what are they like?

Rite of Haldi

The ceremony protects the bride and groom from evil spirits, so after the ritual they are forbidden to leave their homes until the beginning of the wedding ceremonies. In some regions, young people are additionally given protective amulets or a sacred scarf.

On the same day, the dead ancestors are commemorated in the houses of the bride and groom, offering them pinda – balls of boiled rice milk, sesame, honey and ghee (clarified butter). 

2. Wedding ceremonies 

The bride's attire consists of a sari, lenga choli (skirt and blouse with short sleeves) or salwar kameez with chuni (trousers and a long tunic with a wide scarf). The groom is made of dhoti (draped loincloth), kurta, shervani (long frock coat with clasps), pagri (turban). 

What are traditional Indian weddings — what are they like?

The dress of the bride and groom

Clothes must be new. 

Most often, the bride wears a red sari. Red is the color of life, beauty, purity. In the future, the outfit changes. Any holiday colors are allowed except black and white. Black is considered a symbol of evil spirits and darkness, white – mourning and widowhood.

The hair of the bride is cajoling. Decorate with flowers, precious stones, braid. 

The groom arrives at the ceremony site on a white horse (in the modern version, in an open-top car). He is accompanied by a crowd of guests, children and onlookers. Musicians play national instruments or beat drums, and people dance and sing. 

After the mother of the bride blesses the future son-in-law (puts tilak on his forehead), the groom goes to the place of the wedding ceremony – a special a tent, in the center of which a sacrificial fire burns.

Next comes Jai Mala – the young people exchange garlands of flowers as a sign of accepting each other as husband and wife. 

Traditional Indian weddings — what are they like?

Jai Mala – young people exchange garlands of flowers

Wreaths usually consist of various types of jasmine and tulsi leaves (a type of basil).

The ceremonies are conducted by parents, grandparents and invited brahmins (priests) who know what to put where, when to light it and what words to pronounce. 

Everything is complicated by the fact that after each ceremony the guests want to be photographed with the bride and groom. At modern weddings, a special time is sometimes allocated for this – the bride and groom stand in the photo zone, and the guests congratulate them. It is customary to give money for a wedding.

After the exchange of wreaths, the time comes for rituals surrounded by the parents of the bride and groom.

Next, the hands of the newlyweds are tied with strips of cloth and the brahmin worships Ganesha. 

As a sign of the inviolability of marriage, the ends of the clothes of the bride and groom are also tied. Then the newlyweds go from three to seven sacred circles around the sacrificial fire (in different regions – in different ways). The bride leads the first three circles, the groom leads the next four. It is not recommended to untie a knot on clothes even after the wedding. 

3. Closing rituals

The groom puts sindoor for the first time – a red “mark” on the parting of a married woman. 

What are traditional Indian weddings — what are they like?

Applying a red mark

In the future, Indian women color the parting themselves. Sometimes – with the help of lipstick. 

The wearing of a mangalsutra, a wedding necklace, which the groom presents as a sign of love for the bride, is also considered a sign of marriage. It is believed that in this way he protects his wife from evil spirits. 

With regard to wearing the symbols of marriage – sindoor, special bracelets, a ring on the leg, there are no strict rules now. Moreover, in India there is now a widespread movement “against the oppression” of women. But both of my friends, who married Hindus, say that observing traditions helps to better understand the culture of India.

After the main rites, the newlyweds treat each other with sweets, receive blessings from the Brahmin, parents and close relatives.  Next, a rich treat awaits guests. 

The bride says goodbye to her parents and moves permanently to her husband's house. A woman throws rice over her shoulders – as a sign of a wish for prosperity to the parental home. 

The moment of parting with relatives is always hard to experience.

In traditions, the bride is carried in a share (palanquin), but in modern In the world, the bride follows on a line of cars. 

Aunts and sisters from the husband's side meet the newly arrived spouses at the groom's house. 

What are traditional Indian weddings — what are they like?

Aunts and sisters from the husband's side

They perform the last ceremony: they break a vessel with salt water – to ward off evil and adversity. The image of the bride is associated with the goddess of happiness and good luck, so the mother-in-law performs a ceremony of worshiping Lakshmi – the daughter-in-law knocks over a jug filled with rice and coins.

From this time on, the girl finally moves into a new family.

In the first six months, and in some states – a year – the mother-in-law serves the daughter-in-law, simultaneously teaching her the intricacies and tricks of cooking and housekeeping. A woman adopts traditions in order to stay close to her chosen one all her life and take care of him and his family. 

Traditional Indian weddings — what are they like?

Traditions of India

Wedding, Indian traditions

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