Meaning of Marriage Rituals in India
Meaning of Marriage Rituals in India
India is home to people speaking diverse languages and following different faiths. So, it is not surprising that marriage rituals differ from state to state.

India is home to people speaking diverse languages and following different faiths. So, it is not surprising that marriage rituals differ from state to state. For instance, south Indian marriage rituals are quite different from north Indian marriage rituals. However, all Indian marriages are occasions for fun and gaiety, and they follow certain time-honored traditions.

Here are some of the common rituals in Indian marriages and their meanings:

Kundali Matching – This ceremony is to decide the viability of the marriage alliance. In this ritual, the astrologer analyzes the horoscopes of the boy and girl and matches them. This is as per the rules of Marriage Astrology. If 18 or more points match, the alliance could be viable. The astrologer also makes marriage predictions that indicate the potential success or failure of the marriage.


Engagement/Betrothal ceremony – During a marriage engagement, the boy and girl usually exchange rings. It is an official announcement about the marriage to close relatives and friends who take part in the ceremony.


Muhurtham - This is the auspicious date and time for the wedding. Astrologers fix the date after studying the date and time of birth of the bride and groom. They calculate the position of planets and stars to identify the right time for solemnizing the marriage. This can supposedly ensure a long and happy marriage. During this ceremony, the astrologer also announces the Gotra of both the bride and groom. A Gotra is the ancestral lineage or original clan. It has no relation to caste or religion. Among Hindus, marriages are not allowed within the same Gotra.


North Indian marriages are very colorful and elaborate. They include many rituals like Sangeet and Mehendi.


Sangeet - This is a pre-wedding party. The extended family comes together, and they sing, dance, and have a blast. The family members rehearse the dance performances in advance and some even hire professional choreographers. The girl’s family sings traditional folk songs to welcome the boy’s family. Sangeet means “sung together.” It takes place a few days before the Mehendi ceremony that kicks off all the wedding functions. Sangeet ceremonies are now part of south Indian marriages, too.


Mehendi - The Mehendi ceremony takes place in the evening the day before the wedding as it takes a long time to apply Mehendi on the hands and feet. Mehendi is a paste of henna leaves that gives a red color after it dries. Dance and music by family members and friends are part of the ritual. A henna expert applies intricate henna designs to the bride’s hands and feet. Women and girls in the family, too, have Mehendi done on their hands.


Haldi – In this ceremony, a paste of Haldi is applied to the bodies of the bride and the groom’. This takes place before the wedding day and after the Mehendi ceremony. The aim of the Haldi ceremony is to beautify the couple. It adds a glow to their bodies and can ward off the evil eye.


Ganesh Pooja - On the wedding day, the main ceremony begins with a Pooja for Lord Ganesha, as he is the God of beginnings and good fortune. He is also the remover of obstacles. The families invoke Ganesha’s blessings so that the couple will have a happy married life and there will be no obstacles to their marital bliss.


Homam - The wedding mandap is a temporary structure erected for the marriage ceremony. It is on an elevated platform and is usually decorated with flowers and greenery or fabric and crystals.


Priests make a fire in the center of the mandap. Marriage is a divine sacrament. The fire is the witness, and the offerings to the fire signify the viability of the ceremony. The bride’s brother offers 3 fistfuls of puffed rice to the bride. It is a wish for his sister’s happy marriage and the rice is offered to the fire. This fire ritual is Homam.


Exchanging Garlands - This is an important ceremony. The bride and groom exchange floral garlands. It expresses the desire of the couple to unite with each other.


Kanyadaan – In this ceremony, the bride’s father gives away his daughter to the in-laws. ‘Kanya’ means ‘maiden’, and ‘daan’ means ‘giving’. The bride’s father also places her hands in the hands of the groom.


Saptapadi/Saat pheras -This is another important ritual. The garments of the bride and groom are tied together in knots, and they go around the holy fire 7 times. Each round represents a special blessing that they ask of God. This ritual helps establish friendship between the couple, which is essential for a good marriage.


Sindoor/Vermilion/Kumkum – This is a red-orange powder that the bride applies in the parting of the woman’s hair. It signifies her new status as a married woman.


Thali/Mangal Sutra - The groom ties a traditional necklace called Mangal sutra or Thali around the bride’s neck. Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, is invoked in the necklace so that the bride has her blessings during her married life.


Vidaai – This ceremony marks the completion of the wedding. As the teary-eyed bride leaves her parents’ house, she throws back 5 fistfuls of rice over her head. The rice represents wealth and prosperity. The ritual symbolizes that the bride has repaid whatever her parents gave her before she got married. As she departs in a car, her brothers and cousins push the car. It means that they are helping her to start a new life with her husband. When the car starts, they throw money on the road. This is done to ward off evil spirits.


Dwar Rokai — This fun ceremony is seen in North Indian marriages. It is held when a newlywed couple arrives at the groom’s residence. His sister refuses to let them enter the house. She also asks her brother to give her some cash or precious gifts to gain entry into the house.


Griha Pravesh – This ceremony takes place after Dwar Rokai. A traditional welcome is given to the new bride. She has to push a kalash/pot filled with rice with her right toe before she enters the house. This ceremony means that the groom’s family has welcomed her into their house and also accepted her as part of the family.


Mooh Dikhai – This is a ceremony that introduces the bride to the groom’s family. The bride’s face is unveiled, and she is showered with gifts. The mother-in-law also offers gifts to the bride.


Pag Phera - In this ceremony, the bride’s brothers take her back to her parental home for three days. After three days, her husband visits her house and asks for her parents’ blessings to take her back home. The bride’s family offers gifts to the bride and her husband. This custom signifies that the girls who symbolize Goddess Lakshmi go back to their parents’ home in order to ensure their prosperity.


There is a reason why these marriage rituals exist. They remind us that marriage is not just a social contract but also a divinely ordained union between two souls. It also reminds the families that they need to be equally invested in the happiness of the couple if it is to be enduring and successful.