Christena and Shiva had quite a day - two weddings in one day! First was their Tamil Hindu ceremony at delightful setting of Windsor Racecourse - one of the few wedding venues in Berkshire that can accommodate the very large numbers of guests often a feature of Asian weddings.
And then ..... back to Windsor Racecourse for the wedding reception. Phew!
What Happens In A Hindu Wedding Ceremony
Ashton Lamont Professional Photo Video ©
There can be many variations in Hindu wedding ceremonies. This is a description of a typical Tamil
Hindu Wedding Ceremony
A Hindu wedding is a sacred bond that unites two individuals as one and is performed in accordance with
the Vedas, the Hindu scriptures, which are at least 4000 years old. The ceremony is a collection of rituals
that the bride and bridegroom perform together with their family and friends. The five elements: earth,
water, fire, wind and space are invoked as a manifestation of the Supreme Lord to witness their holy
union. The rituals, the Vedic incantations and the customary routines that constitute the ceremony are vital
and are designed to ensure happiness, prosperity and harmony. It is an occasion of joy, splendor and color
and an expression of the warmth and friendship between the two families.
In the marriage ceremony, the bride and groom represent the Goddess and the Lord Shiva. So they sit on a
stage called the ‘Manavarai’ (Mandap), which is elevated above the guests. The ceremonial area is a holy
ground. Marriage is a step in the spiritual evolution of the human soul and for this ceremony heavenly
hosts Shiva, Parvathi, Agni (the sacred fire) and the spirits of the ancestors are invoked as witnesses and
Guests are welcomed by applying the sandalwood paste and red saffron (KUNKUMAM) on their
forehead with sprinkling of rose water.
Welcoming the Bridegroom:
The Bridegroom arrives at the wedding hall accompanied by the best man with Nadhaswaram (south
Indian musical instrument) music. At the entrance, bridegroom's feet are sprinkled with water and the
sprinkler in return receives a gold ring as sign of gratitude. Bride's family welcomes bridegroom and
bride's father garlands bridegroom. Then, two ladies perform ‘Aarathi’, the rotation of a tray carrying
banana wick lamps and apply kunkumam. Bride's mother sprinkles rose water. This is done to ward off
the evil eye. Then bridegroom is escorted to the ‘Manavarai’.
The Brahmin priest gives holy ash and a ring made of special grass (Thetpai) to bridegroom and best man
and starts the rituals.
The priest starts by offering a prayer to Lord Ganesh invoking his blessings for the wedding to take place
without any problems, purify the environment and give spiritual protection to the couple and the
congregation. (All poojas begin with the prayer to Lord Ganesh because he dispels ignorance and remove
Sowing Nine Grains (Palihai):
Five, seven or nine women representing both families sow nine varieties of grain in an earth ware pot,
signifying a blessing of fertile life for the couple.
The priest gives fruit and flower on a betel leaf to the bridegroom's mother and she gives to the ladies.
While the groom’s uncle breaks the coconut, the priest ties a saffron thread around groom's wrist
signifying the removal of obstacles and the commitment of the groom.
Welcoming the Bride (first entry):
Bride enters the hall accompanied by her maid of honor (Tholi), bridesmaids and her family. She takes
her place at the Manavarai to the right of the groom and goes through the same rituals as the bridegroom.
This pooja is conducted to appease and invoke the blessings of the nine holy planets.
Shiva Parvathi Pooja:
The priest performs this pooja, which signifies the couple represents Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi
and it is like their grand wedding(Thirukalyanam)
Next, bride and groom light the holy fire (Homam), this is a sacrificial prayer to Agni (God of fire), in
order to witness their union and purify their bodies through thought and action.
The bride and groom’s parents greet each other by applying sandalwood paste and kunkumam on each
other’s forehead and sprinkling scented water and exchanging gifts.
The priest calls on three generations of male ancestors of the bridegroom and the bride, Again the
universal witness and all present, seen and unseen, to bear witness and bless the couple. The bride’s father
places the hand of bride in groom's hand. The bride’s mother indicates her consent by pouring water in the
hands of her husband, who holds a gold sovereign symbolizing his daughter. Groom accepts the sovereign
and then gives it to his parents. This symbolizes the acceptance of the bride by the groom and his family.
Blessing of the Bridal Saree (Koorai) and Thali in Bridal
The priest and the parents bless the tray containing the wedding Saree, Thali and other adornments.
Groom's relatives present the tray to the guests for their blessing. Once this is done groom will then hand
this to his bride. Then bride leaves the Manavarai to change into the Bridal Saree.
The priest consecrates the Thali by placing it on a Khumbam in which the Goddess Lakshmi is invokes
and performs a Pooja seeking her blessing. The Khumba is a brass pot of water with a coconut and mango
leaves placed on it, representing the physical form of the deity. The Goddess Lakshmi represents wealth
Return of the Bride:
Bride returns to the Manavarai with maid of honor and her family in her Koorai Saree carries a garland.
Bride garlands bridegroom and takes her seat next to him.
Thiru Mangalyadharanam (Thali Ceremony):
This is the highlight of the wedding. The Thali (mangalsutra) consisting of a gold ornament strung from
a yellow holy thread with the gold necklace. The priest consecrates the Thali and groom's father gives it
to groom. While his relation breaks the coconut, groom ties three knots of the holy thread with Thali
around bride’s neck and they become man and a wife. This symbolizes commitment, safety and security
offered to the bride by the groom as he asks her to share in a long and happy married life with him. A
crescendo of Natheswaram & Thavil (South Indian musical instruments) music and a shower of flowers
and yellow rice (aruharisi) from the congregation accompany this.
Groom will move to the right hand side of bride, as according to Hindu mythology Lord Shiva has his
consort Parvathi on his left. Groom places a streak of vermillion (Sindur) on the forehead of his bride and
on the parting of her hair, signifying her status as a married woman. The couple then exchanges garlands
The Seven Steps (Sapthapadi):
This is an important part of the ceremony, where the priest proclaims the marriage as sealed and
unbreakable. The bride and groom holding their hands and take seven steps around the sacred fire, which
denote the following marital vows.
Seven Steps / Vows in the Hindu Wedding Means:
1. The couple takes the first step and promises that they will takecare of each other and pray for abundant
blessings and prosperity in their life.
2. In the second step, the couple promises and prays to the Gods tobless them with physical and mental
powers and lead a healthymarried life.
3. During the third step, they promise to protect and increase their wealth by proper means.
4. With the fourth step, the bride and the groom pledge to share happiness and sadness together.
5. With the fifth step, the couple promises to be responsible and care for their children.
6. The sixth step is taken by the couple to be together always.
7. And while taking the last seventh step, they promise to be truthful and trustworthy to each other and
pledge to be united always in friendship and harmony.
Walking around the Sacred Fire:
During the first circuit groom places bride’s foot on a granite stone (asymbol of strength and integrity)
and puts a silver ring on the second toe of her right foot. During the second circuit, he repeats the same
procedure with her left foot and points the couple to the constellations of the Pole Star (Dhuruva) and its
own twin Aruntathi (known for her virtuous, chaste and devotion to her husband sage Vashister). During
the third circuit, the couple retrieves a ring from the bottom of a vessel filled with water. It is an enjoyable
game to promote sharing. At the end of this circuit, the couple offers grain, honey and fruit to the Gods by
placing them in the Sacred Fire.
Fasting couple will feed each other with a mixture of honey, yoghurt, ghee, milk and fruits whilst the
priest utters respective mantras. This symbolizes the mutual sustenance of the couple required of the
marriage to succeed. This is done behind curtain to symbolize the importance of privacy.
The priest blesses the couple first, showering them with yellow colorrice, which symbolizes prosperity
and happiness. The parents of the bride and groom then bless their children in the same way followed by
close family. Members of the congregation bless the couple and the ceremony concludes when Aarthi (the
rotation of a tray holding banana wick lamps) is performed for the couple.