Manh Dao Cultural Anthropology 11/20/11

THE RELIGIOUS RITUALS OF A HINDU WEDDING
Everywhere around the world, marriage is one of the most important rituals; it is the ritual to connect two people, and in Hinduism, it is believed that only through a relationship from previous births can two strangers be fated to marry. Particular regions always differ from another in terms of actual practices, but for the most parts, they follow the outlines and rules of Hinduism. In this paper, I will talk about the specific marriage traditions of the Arya Samaj community in north India. The marriage can be roughly divided into three parts - engagement, marriage, and consummation – which may be spread over the course of a year (Monger, p.153). All three parts need fixed rituals that involve many people from the two families, and then the marriage is concluded by the show of the bond between the bride and the groom, acknowledged by the people as well as the gods and goddesses of Hinduism. And the comparison in this piece will be made with modern Vietnamese Kinh wedding – my native culture. I. Finding the spouse

It should be noted that the marriage is arranged by the parents and the elders. They take the responsibility of finding the “suitable” one for their sons/daughters; marriage is believed to be the continuation of bonds from previous lives. Suitability concerns family heritage, age, health, height, education, personality, etc. Usually the parents look at certain families, who they already know and wish to have future kinship. But in the modern society, parents do take their son/daughter’s feelings and expectations into account. When they find someone suitable, they seek help from a go-between relative or friend to explore the other family’s feel. If both sides agree, the two fathers will meet, and the father of the girl proposes. Now an astrologer comes into the scene; the horoscopes of the spouses-to-be need

Also. some blessing songs are sung by groups of females. scented oil. Furthermore. for the Arya Samaj. III. the wedding music is also important for the Vietnamese. Preparation for the Wedding Ceremony The Arya Samaj community has a much more complicated series of actions to be carried out. During the ceremony in India. The Indian again ask an astrologer for a good day. usually passed down through the family. The boy’s and . especially with the astrology. traditional cakes… carried by an odd number of unmarried male relatives or friends of the future groom. a priest. the boy’s family’s gifts to the girl’s family require cosmetics for the future bride. Engagement The engagement ceremony is almost as significant as the marriage ceremony itself. mehandi (dried green leaves). especially the carriers and the receivers of the gifts. fostering the match of the two families. The girl’s parents must send a formal. Date for wedding is discussed. clothes. and the girl’s elder brother bring gifts (gold ornaments. and the boy does the same thing to him. clothes…) to the boy’s house and meet the adult males of the boy’s clan. and received by unmarried female counterparts of the bride. It is very similar in Vietnam. religious. without taking anything back. the agreement of the parents is still crucial. hand-written invitation to the parents of the boy. if the two families accept the marriage. rice. kajal (lamp-black). The relatives and ancestors of both families are described. However. p272). Hindu mantras are chanted continuously by the priests. an elder person of the girl’s clan. around the girl’s neck. except that to find a suitable spouse is now mainly the job of the young people.to be suitable to marry. sweets for the youngsters … (Browning. The girl’s brother does tilak (red markings on the forehead) to the boy. It is the opposite in Vietnamese engagement wedding: the boy’s family and friends visit the girl’s house and bring the gifts. II. The gifts usually consist of cooked food. except that there is no religious chanting and songs are performed by both males and females. the boy’s mother puts an old gold necklace. not the parents. The girl’s father.

the gifts. There is also Sehra Bandhi ritual. reminder of the family traditions. And in such a male-dominated society. various religious ceremonies are held at both houses. and goes to the temple to worship. Also. and some gold rings. and some other gifts. the maternal uncle acts as the bhandara – treasurer. but a mile from the bride’s house. there are no ritualistic prewedding preparations for the Vietnamese.girl’s parents also must go and invite the grandfathers of the boy and the girl by themselves. singing songs in chorus while walking. silver anklets … (just in the girl’s family). or sometimes an elephant. where they are welcomed by the females with songs and tilak. and blessing to her future. traditional wedding clothes for the groom/bride (they are expected to wear these for the wedding). they start walking. as proof of the virginity of the girl. The water is used for a sacred bath for both the future bride and groom. and then at the main house. and the food made. However. wears wedding clothes. IV. His family is first hosted at a friend’s house. One of the most important events is Mangalagana – music playing. Five days before the date of the marriage. Well Pujana is the event when the mothers and the female members of the families fetch a pot of water from a nearby water source. while a band of musicians . rides on a well-decorated horse. Wedding Day Usually the groom’s family travel by modern transportations. and tilak will be done. This is the event in the groom’s house when he takes a vows to live up to the expectations. a new person plays a key role – the maternal uncle. dancing. It is to remind the family members of the importance of water and its sanctity. who handles the money. some gifts are fixed to be brought. The eldest male member represents the maternal grandparent to give out gifts called Bhata. The groom uses the same horse. He also receives blessings and cosmetics to ward off evil spirits. a day prior to the marriage. which consists of the formal. and sweet distributing at the end by the ladies.

a well-decorated car is used. and the parents and grandparents of the bride don’t eat until the next day. And then many religious rituals must be followed. The mother or the eldest sister of the bride does arati (circular waving of a lighted lamp) of the groom at the entrance of the home while the women sing songs. Then perfumed rose water is sprinkled on the relatives from both families. but the groom must start eating before everyone else. The rice is the symbol of the bride totally unaffected by the outside influences. the place where the ceremonies take places. It may take two to three hours. and where each person sits is already determined and can’t be violated. which is called Sehara. washes her husband’s feet. wishing for the immunity of the bride. The bride then steps forward. . gifts. the relatives of the bride stand at the gate for reception and the groom’s brother-in-law recites a blessing poem. p277). First the bride offers to wash the groom’s feet and hands. The responsibility of the bride’s side is over. the health of the newly-wed couple’s relationship. It is called Kanya Dana. they are led into the Vivaha Mandapa. They apply mild paste of turmetic powder to the bride’s palms and forefingers. For Vietnamese wedding march. and puts a garland of flowers around his neck (Browning. as well as the fertility and prosperity the bride will bring. and vice versa. Garlands made out of fresh flowers are arranged by the bride’s side to give to the groom’s side. The groom’s parents give their new daughter-in-law a new name. When the groom’s group arrives at the bride’s house. After that come the most important part – the bride’s parents fill the hands of their daughter with dhana (unhusked rice) and give these hands to the groom. and a cow to their daughter’s new family. Food is served. but music is not played. and no dancing is performed.play and the children and the adults dance along. The ceremony is started by the priests from both sides. Afterward. The groom’s parents must receive it without any judgment or feelings. Finally the bride’s parents give jewelry. the greatest donation in life a couple can give.

but the bride’s parents. milk. a young male child is put on the bride’s lap. They also try to find a ring in a big bowl of water in a joyful mood. When the groom’s side goes to the bride’s house. The groom’s mother does arati on the couple. as he becomes the preacher of the society (Monger. honey… is fed by the couple to each other. and worship Ganapati and Ista Devata for the acceptance of the new family member. The father of the bride and the groom. and gives blessings. Another round of gifts from the bride’s parents is given. The bride leads the first three laps. and they see their daughter off (Browning. The bride needs to do Saptapadi next – taking seven steps on a piece of stone. The rituals of the Vietnamese Kinh have been much simplified. They bribe the sisters of the groom to go though. is the witness of marriage. it should also be noted that Vietnamese mostly are non-religious.The Mangala Phera comes next – It is the act of going around the fire at least four times. Agni. they ask for permission to marry the daughter. each lap representing a phase of life. and the groom puts the ring on the finger of the bride. and the real events begin. and food is served while music is sung and small games are played. They also give offerings to the fire purify their souls. p289). The groom takes kangana off his new wife. where the main events happen at the groom’s house. the sacrificial fire. bear the children. p161). which is called Pancamrta. while the groom sings some ancient verses. relatives. At the groom’s house. rituals are also carried out. And then the bride is taken to the groom’s house on the car. spraying puffed tice on them. keep harmony. sprinkles them with holy water. and so on… The groom leads the last lap. Vidai (farewell) is the last ceremony at the bride’s house: they sit together on a bed and other married couples walk around. which is moved with each step. as it is believed that the wife is more mature and should take care of the household responsibilities. It is highly contrasting with Vietnamese wedding. covering 25 years. and let her touch the feet the elders as a show of respect. which is called Puja. they hope the couple soon gets a son. The last part is Goda Bharai. And the priest greets the couple. A cup of prefect mixture of yogurt. the two most important persons in the wedding will come forth and have a word of announcement and . and friends also come along.

the two families share quite equally and they treat both of the couple as part of the family. or as it was before. the act of giving a daughter to another family though is great karma. We see the big difference between a religious wedding and a secular one. with valuable jewelries included. but it costs a lot of money – the daughter is no longer part of the clan. it is because of the fast-living trend of life. as Vietnamese don’t believe in gods. since the Vietnamese society is not as male-dominated as the Indian one. which is a trait from Western style of wedding. The two afterward drink a toast of whisky or wine and cut the wedding cake. Along with it. and Communist rule. Music is performed all along to make the mood the wedding. Religiously. each has a meaning: blessing for the couple. to the point that traditional qualities are not fixed. . and now it is a blend of different cultures. In modern Vietnamese weddings. Additionally. Nonetheless. And then the couple gives each other a ring and then kisses. French invasion. or notifying the gods and goddesses. but the recognition of the society. It reflects the traditions of intensive use of gold and silver in life.blessing to the newly-wed couple. and go to each table so that everyone can cheer and congratulate them. as a way of transferring all the responsibilities to the husband’s side. it is easy to see how Hindu bride’s family is expected to give many dowries. the Indian society doesn’t recognize the inheritance rights of a married daughter. This may take two or three hours. wishing for the unity between the two families. The Vietnamese wedding has been greatly modernized after all the years of Confucianism influence. most gifts are given in cash. and can be easily modified according to the conditions. Conclusion The Hindu marriage is filled with extremely explicit rituals.

eds. George. . Don. 2004. Sex. California: ABC-CLIO. New York: Columbia University Press. and Family in World Religions. Monger.Works Cited: Browning. Marriage Customs of the World: From Henna to Honeymoons. Santa Barbara. Marriage. 2006. et al.

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