A Hindu wedding is called vivaha (Sanskrit: विवाह) and the wedding ceremony is called vivaah sanskar. The Hindus attach a lot of importance to marriages. Hinduism contains the belief that every person who is able should be married. 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.
Marriage is one of the sacraments that is common to all Hindus. The rituals and process in a Hindu wedding vary widely. Nevertheless, there are a few key rituals common in Hindu weddings – Kanyadaan, Panigrahana, and 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 vow/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.
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 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 start of Grihastha (householder) stage of life for the new couple.
In India, by law and tradition, no Hindu marriage is binding and 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.[
A Hindu wedding is regionally called vivaha (Hindi: विवाह), (Bengali : বিবাহ), (Kannada: ಮದುವೆ (Maduve)), (Telugu: వివాహం).
Eight types of marriage
Ancient 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 girl is ceremoniously decorated, the father gifts away his daughter in betrothal, and a vedic marriage ceremony is conducted. This type of wedding is now most prevalent among Hindus in modern India.
- 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 prevalent.
- 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 get 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 vows from 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 any 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 ofCommon-law marriage. Kama Sutra, as well as Rishi Kanva – the foster-father of 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 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 inappropriate by Hindu Smriti-writers because greed, not what is best for the girl, can corrupt the selection process.(Continue to next page)