Marriage is considered the most auspicious and noble amongst all Hindu occasions. According to the Hindu scripture Vedas, marriage is a sacred knot between two souls and an initiation into lifelong togetherness. Marriage is thus considered strongest of all social bonds.
India is a land of diversity. Hence, marriage rituals and customs vary as per the provincial and cultural backgrounds of each state. However, irrespective of any cultural or territorial barriers, Vedic rituals form the basis of all Hindu marriages.
The following paragraphs give a detailed idea of the wedding tradition in the Indian state of Gujarat.
Like other Hindu marriages, the Gujarati wedding ceremony also consists of sacred vows, prayers, and invocations recited in Sanskrit, the most ancient of all surviving languages.
The Vedic wedding rituals, performed in Gujarati marriages, are over five thousand years old. Most of the Gujarati wedding rituals are performed under a beautifully garlanded canopy or Mandap. The four pillars surrounding the four directions of canopy represent the four parents. Gujarati tradition gives utmost reverence to parents’ role in the well-being of their children. The four pillars salute the indispensable role of the parents in raising their children into responsible adults. Holy Fire (Agni) becomes the witness of all sacred vows taken by the couple during the ceremony.
The Chandlo Maatli ritual marks the alliance between the bride and groom’s families. The bride’s father along with his four other relatives visits the groom. The prospective father-in-law gifts all auspicious items to the groom and his family. He then applies vermilion on the groom’s forehead and gives away a token sum of money as shagun.
Following Chandlo Maatli ceremony, a family astrologer is referred to fix a suitable wedding date.
Ganesh Sthapan / Ganesh Matli
The Ganesh Sthapan, also called Ganesh Matli, marks the beginning of all marriage festivities. Before starting off with any nuptial ceremony, the blessings of Lord Ganesh are sought by both the families. Ganesh puja is conducted in both homes. Priest invokes the blessings of Ganesh and the event is attended by close friends and family members. The puja is mainly performed by the respective paternal aunts following which they are showered with lavish gifts.
This is a close gathering of the bride’s close friends and female relatives. It is generally fixed two days before the wedding. While decorations are made on the palms and feet of the bride with mehendi (henna), folk songs are sung and various victuals are also served.
Garba and Dandia-Raas
On the evening of the mehendi ceremony, Gujarati folk dance called Garba and Dandia-Raas are performed by friends and family of the bride. All participants are decked up in traditional attire to dance to the tune of the dhol (drum) and orchestra. The women form a circle and start performing the Garba and the men join in later in the energetic Dandia-Raas, a rhythmic dance performed with sticks or dandias. The ceremony is normally held after 8 p.m. until midnight.
Mandva Mahurat and Griha Shanti
This ceremony has a profound religious significance as the parents of the match seek the blessings of Mother Earth. They seek her permission to initiate the digging of the soil and erect the Mandva or Mandap. Following the construction of Mandap, the blessings of all the nine planets are also sought in the Griha Shanti ceremony. This ritual is compulsorily performed in the respective homes.
In this ritual, the groom arrives at the bride’s place and seeks the blessings of his future mother-in-law. The ceremony unfolds interesting episodes when the groom bows his head while the bride’s mother clutches his nose. Here, the groom is expected to show some humility towards the bride’s family, recognizing the immense sacrifice that his prospective wife is about to make for his family. The bride’s mother then blesses the groom and performs a ritual to fend off the evil eye. She also clutches the groom’s nose to remind him that he is the taker and her side is the giver.
The bride sits on a bajat (low stool) with her palms upturned. Bride’s kaaki (paternal uncle’s wife) gets the prerogative to mix the pithi (a paste of turmeric and sandalwood powder, mogra, rosewater, herbs, and attar). She then puts the pithi on an ornamented platter. The officiating priest blesses the pithi platter. The women and young girls in the household start applying the pithi on the bride’s face, neck, hands and legs.
Mameru or Mosaalu
The bride collects gifts from her maternal uncles. She is showered with jewelry, a traditional paanetar (silk saree with red and white border) and a set of choodo (ivory bangle). The Mameru event generally takes place a day before the wedding.
Lagna – The wedding ceremony
The saree is a traditional bridal wear for the Gujarati brides. It is worn in typical Gujarati style with the palav (pallo) draped in the front. Red is the color which is said to be most promising for all wedding occasions. Lehengas-cholis are also in vogue these days.
A traditional dhoti-kurta is generally worn by all Gujarati grooms during the wedding while a formal suit is always preferred for the reception. As per the tradition, the reception suit is presented to him by the groom’s parents-in-law.
Varghodo: The groom’s procession
On the wedding day, the fully decked-up groom, carrying a katar (dagger) begins to leave for the wedding venue. Alongside the groom, his sister accompanies him carrying a little bowl wrapped in a white cloth. The bowl contains few coins. It also has a Hindu Swastika etched with vermillion powder. She rattles the bowl over her brother’s head to ward off the evil eye. The ritual is also an indication to the groom that he must not forget his lovely sister even after getting his better-half! The groom mounts a richly decorated mare and leaves for the wedding spot. The Varghodo or the groom’s procession includes the groom’s close friends and relatives. Upon reaching the wedding venue, the procession is welcomed by the bride’s family with traditional aarti.
Finally, the time arrives for the bride to enter the wedding Mandva or Mandava where she is escorted by her maternal uncle or mama. The garlands are exchanged between the wedding couple.
The priest starts conducting the nuptial rituals keeping the Holy Fire (Agni) as a witness of the couple’s union. The first ritual in the Mandap is Kanyadaan. The parents of the bride abstain from eating since the morning just to perform this pious ritual. They give away their bride in pure body and mind to the groom. As part of the ritual, the bride’s parents pledge for the happiness of their daughter to him in front of the Holy Fire and other attendants. The groom is represented as Lord Vishnu and the bride as goddess Lakshmi. The bride’s parents thereby wash the groom’s feet believing they have found the rightful consort for their loving daughter.
ॐअनृक्षरा ऋजवः सन्तु पंथा य़ोभिः सखाय़ो यंति नो वरेयम्।
समर्यमा सं भगो नो निनीयात् सं जास्पत्यं सुयमस्तु देवाः॥
क इदं कस्मा समिद्रमाविश कामेन त्वा प्रतिगृह्णामि कामैतत्ते वृष्टिरसि द्यौस्त्वा ददातु पृथिवी प्रतिगृह्णातु॥
At the end of Kanyadana ceremony, these mantras are recited.
ॐहिं॒कृ॒ण्व॒ती व॑सु॒पत्नी॒ वसू॑नां व॒॒त्समि॒च्छन्ती॒ मन॑सा॒भ्यगा॒त्।
दु॒हाम॒श्विभ्यां॒ पयो॑ अ॒घ्न्येयं सा व॑र्धतां म॒हते सौभ॑गाय ॥
ॐवन॑स्पते श॒तव॑ल्शो॒ विरो॑ह स॒हस्र॑वल्शा॒ वि व॒यं रु॑हेम।
यं त्वाम॒यं स्वधि॑ति॒स्तेज॑मानः प्रणि॒नाय॑ मह॒ते सौभ॑गाय॥
ॐइंदु॑र्दे॒वाना॒मुप॑ स॒ख्यमा॒यनूत्स॒हस्र॑धारः पवते॒ मदा॑य।
नृभिः॒ स्तवा॑नो॒॒ अनु॒ धाम॒ पू॒र्वमग॒न्निद्रं॑ मह॒ते सौभ॑गाय॥
ॐअ॒स्य पिब॑ क्षु॒मतः॒ प्रस्थि॑त॒स्येंद्र॒ सोम॑स्य॒ वर॒मासु॒तस्य॑।
स्व॒स्ति॒दा मन॑सा मादयस्वार्वाची॒नो रे॒वते॒ सौभ॑गाय॥
ॐघृ॒तदुर्लु॑प्तं॒॒ मधु॑मत्सु॒वर्णं॑ धनंज॒यं ध॒रुणं॑ धारयि॒ष्णुः।
ऋ॒णक्स॒पत्नां॒ दध॑रांश्चकृ॒ण्वदारो॑ह॒ मां म॑ह॒ते सौभ॑गाय॥
ॐतद॑स्तु मित्रावरुणा॒ तद॑ग्ने॒ शं योर॒स्मभ्य॑मि॒दम॑स्तु श॒स्तम्।
अ॒शी॒महि॑ गा॒धमु॒त प्र॑ति॒ष्ठां नमो॑ दि॒वे बृ॑ह॒ते साद॑नाय॥
In this ritual, the groom’s scarf and the bride’s saree are knotted together. The two souls get connected forever through this holy matrimony. Blessings of goddess Parvati and goddess Lakshmi are invoked by the priest for the saubhagyavrata (wife). Following the Hasta Melap, rice grains and rose petals are showered upon the couple by those attaining the marriage.
The Pheras ceremony, meaning circumambulating the Holy Fire, begins now. The priest starts chanting the mantras while the couple goes around the fire. The groom seeks the loving support of his wife for a lifetime by reciting mantras along with the priest.
These are the most crucial moments of the marriage event when the couple walks around the Holy Fire for seven times. The groom is asked to chant the holy mantras with each step. He thus requests his wife to cook wholesome and healthy meals for their family, take good care of the house, be supporting partner to him, be frugal with money, etc. The bride, in turn, promises to abide by his conditions. As per the Vedic rituals, during the Saptapadi or seven steps the groom chants “With God as our guide, let us take”:-
इष एकपदी भव सा मामनुव्रता भव।पुत्रान्विदावहै बहूंस्ते सन्तु जरदष्टयः॥
ऊर्जे द्विपदी भव सा मामनुव्रता भव। पुत्रान्विदावहै बहूंस्ते सन्तु जरदष्टयः॥
रायस्योषाय त्रिपदी भव सा मामनुव्रता भव। पुत्रान्विदावहै बहूंस्ते सन्तु जरदष्टयः॥
मा यो भव्याय चतुष्पदी भव सा मामनुव्रता भव। पुत्रान्विदावहै बहूंस्ते सन्तु जरदष्टयः॥
प्रजाभ्यः पंचपदी भव सा मामनुव्रता भव। पुत्रान्विदावहै बहूंस्ते सन्तु जरदष्टयः॥
ऋतुभ्यः षट्पदी भव सा मामनुव्रता भव। पुत्रान्विदावहै बहूंस्ते सन्तु जरदष्टयः॥
सखा सप्तपदी भव सा मामनुव्रता भव। पुत्रान्विदावहै बहूंस्ते सन्तु जरदष्टयः॥
1. The first step to nurture each other.
2. The second step to grow together in strength and vigor.
3. The third step to preserve and protect our wealth.
4. The fourth step to share rejoices and grieves equally.
5. The fifth step to bring up our children with care.
6. The sixth step to remain together forever.
7. The seventh step to remain friends forever.
8. The perfect better-half to become a perfect whole!
The bride is bade an emotional farewell by her parents, siblings, friends and family. It is a tearful moment as she departs in a doli for her new home. Now a days, the doli is generally replaced by a well decorated car.
Ghar ni Laxmi
Ghar ni Laxmi is an auspicious ceremony as it marks the first step of the bride into her new home. She is considered as Ghar ni Laxmi or goddess Laxmi under whose auspices good wealth and fortune enters the home. The mother-in-law greets the bride with aarti and tika. Then she places a kalasha at the entrance of the house. The kalasha is filled to the brim with rice grains and the bride must knock it down gently using her right foot. In the process, she spills some of the rice over. The rice is symbolic of wealth and by following this ritual she conveys a full understanding of her obligations towards her new family.
This is a light-hearted ritual celebrated at the groom’s house. The newlywed couple plays the game of Aeki-beki. Several coins and a ring are placed in a plate of water filled with milk and vermilion. It is said that the person who gets the ring first, for four consecutive times, would dominate the house.
The wedding reception can be as simple or as luxuriant an affair as desired by both parties. The bride and the groom are formally introduced as a married couple to the groom’s family. This gives an opportunity for friends, relatives and well-wishers to bless the newlywed couple. They present gifts to the bride and enjoy a sumptuous meal with the newlyweds.