November 27, 2023

Hindu Wedding Rituals : A Step-by-Step Guide

A culturally rich wedding in Kerala would be absolutely stunning, with all the lush landscapes, soothing sounds of the backwaters, and, of course, the vibrance of Kerala culture. Set against the backdrop of this palm-fringed panorama and the azure waters of the location, Kerala weddings are a scene bursting with organic, bright hues.

The Religious Mystique of Kerala's Hindu Weddings

Traditional Hindu weddings are a wholesome celebration of sacred union and timeless customs. From the rhythmic beats of traditional music to the kaleidoscope of colour adorning the ceremonies, each moment unfolds like a chapter in an enthralling narrative. Folks in here share a profound sense of community, which is very much visible in our festivities.

Nestled in the embrace of coconut groves, we enthusiastically honour rituals that date back centuries as a testament to the cultural splendour of Kerala.

Hindu Pre-wedding Rituals in Kerala

The tradition of arranged marriages still thrives in Kerala, enduring cultural practices that have stood the test of time. Weddings are more than simply the coming together of two people; they are a festivity honouring common ground, ties to family, and the wisdom passed down through the years.

It is the weaving together of two families, creating a tale that speaks volumes of commitment, resilience and the enduring grace of tradition.

Pennukanal, the ceremonial arrival of the groom's family to meet the bride's, is where it all begins. To proceed with the actual ceremonies, everyone must get along here. Let us now dive into the Hindu wedding rituals step by step.

1. Muhurtham

The Hindu wedding rites begin with the families consulting an astrologer, the first official ritual. After that, he verifies if the bride's and groom's horoscopes are compatible; if they are, they immediately begin searching for an auspicious wedding date. So the Muhurtam is all about fixing the date.

2. Nischayam (The engagement ceremony)

A wedding in Kerala would not be complete without it. The bride’s and groom's families exchange horoscopes here. For the natives in Kerala, this ritual goes by more than one name.

It is also known as Jathakam Kaimaral due to the sharing of horoscopes that are compatible and approved.

To commemorate the auspiciousness of the moment, the Mothiram Maral takes place. Mothiram Maral is when they exchange rings as a token of their love and commitment. Both families exchange gifts as a part of their goodwill. 

The ring exchange during Nischayam is optional, though it is something that some families choose to incorporate into the wedding.                                                

3. Mehendi

Hindus around the globe, not only in India, endearingly observe the Bridal Mehendi ritual.

On the other hand, Kerala did not really get into it until much later on. Nonetheless, the practice has recently been picking up steam in this area as well.

Mehendi artists will adorn the bride's hands with elaborate henna designs. 

Tell the artists what designs or styles you want, and they will make it happen. The myriad of designs they have in store for you will astound you.

Not to mention the belief that the deeper the colour of the mehendi, the more she will be loved by her partner.

4. The Pre-nuptial Blessing Ceremony

During a small private gathering arranged at their respective homes, the loved ones bless the bride and groom. The bride and groom hold this ceremony a day before the wedding, often followed by a feastful evening.

5. Traditional Party

The bride's family hosts a party for the guests prior to the hindu wedding ceremony. Vegetarian delicacies are served to the guests at the traditional party.

The Hindu Wedding Day Rituals

Madhuparkam Ritual

The groom and his family are greeted with open arms as they arrive at the hindu wedding venue, the bride’s home. After that, the bride's father washes the groom's feet, and the groom reciprocates his love by handing his father-in-law the saree that the bride will wear on the big day.

Thalikettu

As a symbol of his undying devotion and love for his bride, the groom ties the Thali, or wedding string, to her during this sacred moment. His vow to her is an unbreakable bond of love. In traditional Hindu marriage ceremonies in Kerala, the thali plays a significant role.

Traditionally, the groom's father gives him the Thali. In a beautifully decorated pavilion within the venue, the groom places the knot around the bride's neck as guests offer their blessings and flowers.

As the Thalikettu draws to a close, the newlyweds now exchange garlands. As the groom receives the Manthrakodi (the bride's wedding dress) from his father, he presents it to his beautiful wife.

Pudamuri

There are many lovely traditions and customs that are part of an Indian hindu wedding; one such is Pudamuri. As is customary, the groom will traditionally place a gorgeous silk saree on a platter and offer it to his beautiful bride.

By keeping to this, the groom is pledging to provide for his bride throughout her life and to treat her with the utmost honesty, respect and care at all times. Soon after this, they exchange garlands, symbolic of having happily accepted each other as man and wife.

Panigrahanam

Traditionally, the bride's father places betel leaves on the groom's right hand before putting the bride's hand on top of them. Panigrahanam is the name given to this practice.

Kanyadanam

And now comes the most sentimental moment of the wedding ceremonies. Kanyadanam means “giving away the bride”. This is the part where the bride’s father places her hands in the hands of the groom. 

It’s a heartfelt moment for any father, as with Kanyadanam, he is seeking the groom to responsibly and lovingly take care of her, as her father for so many years has. The groom's silent promise to his wife to treat her with the utmost respect, love and compassion throughout their marriage is symbolised by this moment.

Sparsham

As the wedding day draws to a close, this is among the final rituals, where the bride and groom sit on the ground facing each other with their foreheads touching. The priests will sprinkle rice on the veli while reciting the wedding chants.

The groom then traditionally places the bride's foot on the grinding stone, known as ammi, to symbolise her departure from her present home and family as she moves into her new home.

Sadhya

Finally, one of the most revered Hindu wedding rituals and an inevitable tradition in Kerala is Sadhya, the traditional feast.

As soon as the wedding customs for the day are done, the Sadya team serves a full-course meal. The Sadya features as many as 25 dishes served on a plantain leaf and concludes on a sweet note with payasam.

The Post-wedding Rituals

The holy union has been sealed and the vows have been exchanged. Now it's time for the post- hindu wedding rituals, a celebration that unfolds with a grace that mirrors the sanctity of the ceremony.

Beyond the grandeur of the wedding day, these simple yet meaningful hindu rituals hold profound significance, marking the beginning of a shared life and the weaving together of ties between two families.

The newlyweds will etch these intimate times into their hearts as they enter a new life.

Kudivep and Grihapravesham (The Homecoming)

The happy couple then makes their way to the groom's home, where the groom's mother greets them with open arms after the wedding ceremonies. She walks to the doorstep of the home with a lit oil lamp, which she further hands over to the bride. This ceremony is known as Kudivep.

Here, the bride is being entrusted with the shared responsibility of the new household by her mother. Now the bride walks into her husband’s home. Grihapravesham (also known as Grihapravesh) is the official entry of the bride into her new home for the very first time.

Groom’s Attire

Hindu wedding attire from Kerala is famously understated yet exquisite. The white and gold wedding attire that the groom wore exuded an air of passion and admiration. He wears a dhoti or lungi—a white Mundu—with a golden zari border and a matching scarf—a Melmundu—with a white Kurta or shirt to complete his outfit.

Thanks to the fashion revolution, Mallu men are now also seen in everything from formal suits and sherwanis to kurta pyjamas for their wedding attire.

Bridal Attire

It is more common for Kerala brides to choose an understated and simplistic style on their wedding day, which they  flaunt with grace. The bride wears a traditional saree with lots of gold jewellery. Among her jewellery pieces is the traditional Kasumala, a lengthy necklace crafted by painstakingly joining the coins. 

The next piece of jewellery is the Palakka Mothiram, which is a gold necklace that is typically green and features designs such as mangoes. Another piece of jewellery worn by brides to keep the saree in place is the Oddiyanam, a belt. The bridal jewellery also includes Jhukis, the temple jewellery, and to complete the look, she wears Elakkathali, a gold choker.

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Fascinating Facts About Hindu Wedding Ceremonies

As we unravel the threads of tradition, we discover a unique blend of cultural heritage and religious fervour that makes Kerala Hindu weddings a spectacle to behold. Now let us explore some fun facts about Kerala Hindu weddings that are as old as time itself.

1. The Stars Indicate a Lucky Day

Although it may come across as superstitious, this is actually the way things are done here. When a couple is about to get married, their loved ones often consult an astrologer to find out how the stars and planets will align based on their birth dates. 

2. A Lime-Scented Greeting!

Indian culture often treats guests with the highest degree of reverence and affection, as if they were divine beings. As a token of our gratitude for their distinguished presence, we frequently offer lime to our wedding guests as a gesture of goodwill.

3. Enchanteur of Jasmine Flowers

We all love to adorn our backdrops with flowers for any occasion and the same goes for hindu weddings. Jasmine is one flower that is very easily available in South India and its affordability is an added perk too. South Indians have a penchant for going a bit overboard with their love for jasmine flowers.

The bride’s hair, setting, the guests’ hair and even an inevitable part of the hindu wedding decor are all adorned with jasmine flowers. It is a centuries-old tradition, and it is believed that jasmine has calming effects on the brain. 

4. Henna Finds Out How Deep Your Love Is.

The bride's hands are adorned with henna the day before the wedding. The more vibrant the mehendi colour, the more intense the husband's love for his wife, according to popular belief in India.

Furthermore, the bride must refrain from performing any household chores while her hand is adorned with the bridal henna, as this helps to prolong its vibrancy.

5. The Father Giving Away His Daughter

This is one of the  most emotional moments for any daughter or father. The father of the bride entrusts his daughter to the groom by placing her hands in his, hoping that he will tenderly care for her. Among all the Hindu wedding rituals, this one is considered the most emotionally taxing, aching and unique.

With this ritual, he’s giving his daughter away to the groom. Then, the father pours sacred water into the bride's hands, allowing it to flow through her fingers and eventually reach the groom's hands. Through this ceremony, the father joyfully grants his consent for the marriage and bestows his blessings on the happy couple.

6. The Fire Stands Witness to the Rites.

We, Indians, believe strongly in the elements and so is the case with Agni, the sacred fire. In Hindu marriages, fire holds sacred and symbolic significance, as it is believed to cleanse the soul. It is fitting that Agni, the cleanser, should bear witness to the couple's marriage, which signifies a fresh start and their shared lives.

7. The “Varamala” Exchange

This ceremony holds great meaning and is celebrated with great zeal and joy these days. The couple happily exchanges the varmala or floral garlands, expressing their desire to marry each other.  

8. Kumkumam Symbolises the Union 

Kumkumam is a red powder that has great religious and cultural importance in Hinduism. Legend has it that the groom seals the bride's and his own fates together when he places kumkumam on her forehead. Additionally, the bride's status as a married woman is symbolised by the same.

9. The Bride Bids Farewell

You must possess an iron will to weather this delicate emotional storm. Women certainly overcome this moment with a heavy heart. And the bride's family is not having it easy either. 

The bride uproots her life, her family, and her home to build a new life with her husband. She bids farewell to her parents and goes to her husband’s home, where she is entrusted with the responsibilities of the new and shared household.

Hindu Wedding Rites at a Glance

Long overdue, we now understand that Hindu wedding rituals in Kerala are a jigsaw of vibrant traditions. The ceremony unfolds with the sacred tying of the Thali, a symbol of undying love and commitment, accompanied by rhythmic chants and blessings from the priest. Each ritual—the colourful exchange of garlands, Pudava Kodukkal, and other ceremonies of auspicious significance—adds a splash of joy, symbolising the sacred union of two souls.

Then, the moving and beautiful Kanyadanam ceremony, which symbolises the sacred gift of the bride from her father to her husband, comes. As the ceremony concludes, the bride's father adorns her with the sacred necklace, and the newlyweds seek the blessings of the elders. The air is filled with echoes of tradition and promises of a harmonious beginning.

Each gesture carries a story and significance, and every custom serves as a brushstroke on the canvas of love that transcends time.

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