Indian Wedding Traditions

Colorful Wedding Celebrations

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In keeping with the major religion of India, Indian wedding traditions are based on Hindi practices. However, despite its religious foundation Indian weddings are not solemn, rigid affairs; rather they are festive, colorful celebrations.

Prior to the wedding the women have a mendhi party whereby the women apply henna to their hands and feet. The designs are exquisitely detailed and very beautiful. As the mehndi represents the strength of the love in the marriage the bride wants it to fade as slowly as possible.

A traditional Indian wedding day begins before sunrise. The couple is escorted by eight or ten married women to a nearby pond. They invite the goddess Ganga (goddess of purification) to the wedding then bring a pitcher of water from the pond to clean and purify the bride and groom. The couple is then offered to Ganga and they eat their last meal of the day until dinner.

Instead of a wedding dress the bride wears a sari; a long wrap that goes around the waist and is draped over the shoulders. The sari is white (symbolizing purity) and red (symbolizing fertility) and detailed heavily with gold thread. Traditionally the groom's family will gift the bride with the sari. The groom dresses in a long white tunic also embroidered with gold thread. Proper guest attire consists of brightly colored finery; the brighter the better. Both the couple and guests wear as much gold jewelry as possible.

The groom is greeted at the wedding ceremony by the sounds of blowing conch shells, ringing bells and ululations. He is garlanded by the bride's mother and escorted to the mandap; a four-poster canopy. The bride is then escorted by her maternal uncle and female relatives. The wedding ceremony begins with prayers to Ganesha (the Hindu god of all existence) to remove obstacles and negative energy from the marriage. One Indian wedding tradition entails the couple exchanging flower garlands; the Western equivalent of exchanging wedding rings. Cords are tied around both the couple's wrists indicating their unity and for their protection during what is considered a challenging time in their lives.

Another common Indian wedding tradition is the lighting of a sacred fire. The fire is kept as a testament to the illumination of knowledge and the purity of marriage. The bride's brother gives her three handfuls of rice as a wish for a blessed union, which she throws into the fire as an offering to the deities. In a relatively modern Indian wedding tradition the groom places a necklace of black and gold beads around the bride's neck to invoke the good will and blessings of the goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth, fortune and pleasure) throughout their marriage.

To confirm their union, the couple takes seven steps together around the sacred fire. The steps represent nourishment, strength, prosperity, happiness, progeny, long life and friendship. The last ritual of a traditional Indian wedding involves the groom dabbing red vermillion powder on the bride's forehead as a blessing and pledge to love her always.

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