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The Hindu Marriage

The Hindu marriage - "Lagna Vivah" - is the bonding of two souls in the matrimonial ceremony, performed according to Hindu religion. However, the marriage, as explained in Hinduism, is an institution of not only two souls (man and woman) but essentially the bonding of two families, which after this ceremony form a special relationship.

Marriage, according to Hinduism, is the perfect union of man and woman spiritually, mentally and physically; essential for the procreation and continuation of mankind.

This article is a brief explanation of the normal ways and customs of the Hindu marriage including the events that take place; from the search for the marriage partner, through to the engagement, the registration and concluding with the actual wedding itself.

The Arrangement.

The word 'arranged' - when used in conjunction with Hindu marriage - has been totally twisted and this misconception has given birth to the well known phrase 'arranged marriage' which, in western society, has been further misunderstood as being 'forced marriage'.

The process of arranging a marriage of two individuals is not simply to find a boy for a girl - or visa versa - by the parents with the parents telling the boy or girl or - as many people erroneously believe - forcing them into marriage. In reality, the parents of the boy and girl usually introduce them to their relatives and friends, requesting their suggestions for a suitable partner whom they know or know of.

The conclusion should not be drawn that once a potential partner has been found under this method of searching for marriage partners that the marriage is fixed.

Parents help in finding the marriage partner but - ultimately - the individual has the choice. There is no pressure or force applied and the lack of pressure applied assists in easing any worries for the individuals concerned.

This does not mean that the boys and girls cannot meet and choose their partners. In fact more often than not it is they who may have met each other during their education or at social gatherings and then, at their request, the parents have arranged the marriage. This request would usually be fulfilled. However, if there was a reason for parents to disagree, it would normally be discussed and resolved to a mutually agreed solution.

Another way to look for partners is for the boy and girl with the intention to marry to meet and informally talk at social functions such as weddings, Navratri festivals and parties with such meetings often having been pre-arranged by the parents or relations. Only once the boy and girl show an interest in each other during this initial introductory meeting will a further meeting be arranged for them to talk and to exchange ideas of their interest, intentions and future plans.

This may be extended to more than one such meeting. In fact, it is quite common nowadays that, once they have shown interest in each other, they meet on their own to talk and become more familiar with each other. Once they are both satisfied with each other's personality, an arrangement for a possible engagement would be made by the parents. Either party, at this stage, are still free to decline the offer with absolutely no hard feelings.

The Engagement (Sagai).

This is performed in two stages. Firstly, the selected few relatives from the girl's side visit the boy's house and perform a simple ceremony; the idea being to accept the boy to be engaged to the girl. Secondly, the close relations from the boy's side will visit the girl's house to perform a similar ceremony. After this, the boy and girl are considered to have become engaged and accepted in society as future bride and groom. This may last for a couple of months or even a year or more depending upon the circumstances of the individual parties.

Even at this stage, the boy or the girl has the option of breaking the engagement.

The Registration.

In between the engagement and the wedding, a registration ceremony is usually performed. This is the true marriage in the eyes of the law of the United Kingdom and is held in a registration office where wedding rings are exchanged and the official marriage certificate is signed and witnessed.

A reception is normally held by the bride's parents and can be a gathering of relatives and friends from either side as large as two to three hundred people. Normally the bride and groom do not stay together after the registration, staying instead with their respective parents until the Lagna by Hindu Vidhi is performed.

The Wedding Ceremony (Lagna Prasang).

By Hindu custom, the wedding day is decided after consultation with the priest who will suggest the day and time of the actual Hasta Melap, having referred to the religious calender and matched the Janma Kundali of both the bride and the groom.

The preparation for this ultimate event starts months ahead. The most time-consuming task being extending invitations to relations and friends which, unfortunately, requires visiting cities from one corner of the country to the other; the parents, however, performing this somewhat onerous task with zeal and joy.

Mandap Muhurat.

The actual ceremony commences with the performance of the Mandap Muhurat; the ceremony symbolising the beginning of the wedding in the family which may be three or five days prior to the wedding day .

At the same time, the betrothed are smeared with a yellow paste made of turmeric powder, oil and perfume. This makes the skin smooth and fairer. The ceremony is performed twice a day and is called 'Pithi'. The relatives and friends gather at the house each evening a few days prior to the actual wedding day and sing lagne-geets which serves to lift up the occasion and place joys in the hearts of the family members.

Sweets are given at the end of each session as a goodwill gesture.

Grah Shanti or Satak.

This ceremony starts with Ganesh Sthapan; an invitation to Lord Ganesh to be present at this occasion. His presence is believed to ensure the smooth running of the ceremonies and to remove any obstacles, bringing happiness and prosperity. This is performed by a learned priest. This follows the ceremony of Grah Shanti which is performed in presence of the parents and the bethrothed along with relatives and friends. The priest will tie Meendhal to the right hand of the bethrothed, symbolising an emblem of purity. Manek Sthumbh - the pillar of gem - is also bestowed at the ceremony, expressing the sign of good luck and wealth.

At the end of the Satak ceremony, the betrothed's mother's brothers and sister-in-laws (the mamas and mamis) along with other relatives bring the Moshaal, the special wedding dresses - the Panetar for the bride and the wedding suit for the groom - together with clothing for the members of the family.

The above ceremonies are held at the respective residences of the bride and the groom. It is normal for the groom to perform the Grah Shanti ceremony on the eve of the wedding as on the wedding day itself the groom, along with his party, go to the bride's residence or place of the wedding, hired by the parents of the bride, for the actual wedding ceremony.

The Hastamelap.

The groom and the wedding procession will be greeted by the bride's relatives at the entrance to the wedding hall where both parties will exchange typical folk songs to lighten the occasion. The groom and his best man, the 'Armania', will be invited to the extensively decorated "Lagna Mandap". Here, in the centre, there is a small rectangular shaped fire-place, known as "Chori". The Hindu priest will perform various ceremonies, initially between groom and the bride's parents or bhai-bhabhi, or another close relation couple. The bride, who will be wearing her wedding dress and best make-up, will be escorted to the mandap by her Mama, taking up her seat opposite the groom, across the chori.

A clean sheet of cloth will be held between them. The priest will perform the ceremony of Hasta-Melap where the right hand of groom is placed in the bride's right hand whilst chanting the holy verses. At the end of this the priest will signal the removing of the cloth and the completion is announced by spontaneous beating of drums and with ladies from both families singing. The bride and groom then garland each other to complete the Hastamelap.

This follows the ceremony of Kanyadan performed by the priest with the bride's parents, symbolising offering of the Kanya (bride) to the Ver (groom). The ceremony of Mangal Fera, performed by both the bride and groom circling round the chori four times, solidifies their marriage and declares them as husband and wife. The congratulation ceremony follows, where the close relatives and friends would queue up to place Kanku-chanla and rice to the foreheads of the couple and give presents.

The Farewell (Vidaigiri).

This is where the bride bid farewell to her parents, relatives and friends. The ceremony is very emotional and almost all members of the bride's party will have their eyes filled in tears and their hearts with joy. The musicians will play the emotional Vidai song "Babulki duvanye leti ja...." to symbolise the severing her ties with her parental home, and to start a new life at her husband's home.

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