What ceremonies are performed at a Hindu wedding?
The marriage ceremony may vary in detail between different Hindu communities. However, despite regional variations and differences in languages, food and habits, the basic essentials of a Hindu wedding are common.
On the day of the wedding there is the ceremony of Mangal Snan for both the young man and lady. The word Mangal mean auspicious and snan denotes bath. It is customary to apply turmeric and sandalwood paste on their face and body. Turmeric has medicinal qualities and sandalwood is cooling. This is symbolic of preparing the two to look attractive to each other. Although a beauty parlour now does the needful, most Hindu communities follow the ceremony in detail.
Most girls like to adorn their hands and feet with mehndi, or henna paste. In many families, all ladies in the family apply henna. The ceremony is light and informal, with more singing than any serious rituals.
In some Hindu communities, the maternal uncle adorns the bride with a set of bangles on the day of the wedding. Earlier, these bangles were made of ivory, but plastic has now replaced ivory. The bangles are symbolic of the blessings from the maternal family. The bride may continue to wear these for several months after the wedding. The old bangles that the bride takes off are distributed to her unmarried friends. It is believed that by wearing these bangles they will get married soon.
At this ceremony, it is also customary for the maternal uncle and maternal grandfather to give gifts to the bride, the parents and other family members. In many communities it is called the Bhath ceremony. This was initially provided for so that women could derive some benefit from the wealth of their parents. In ancient times, girls were married young and were dependent upon support from the husband or his family. But the sons inherited wealth from parents. To balance the situation, support was ensured to girls through gifts from the maternal family.
With time, laws have been enacted to ensure equal rights to both sons and daughters. However, most religious ceremonies continue as per tradition.