Traditional goan hindu wedding
Category : Articles
Location  : Goa

Ranjana Kakodkar

A traditional Goan Hindu wedding is colourful, full of fragrance... the air is filled with melodious notes from the shehnai. The shehnai is an aerophonic instrument, which is thought to bring good luck, and as a result, is widely used in marriages. Young enthusiastic and giggling young girls are at the entrance of the bright colour cloth pendal to welcome the guests with flowers, haldi kumkum and attar.

An hour before the Muhurta (the auspicious time), the groom arrives with the family and friends and is welcomed by the brides parents with arti and then escorted inside the mandap.

The actual marriage ceremony begins with a muhurta patra set up to measure the time before the auspicious moment of the marriage. Drop by drop, the water falling down counts the seconds while the bride, ready and dressed in a rich silk sari adorned with gold ornaments and flowers in the hair and a half moon painted on her forehead for luck, worships Parvati, the goddess of marital bliss in an anteroom till she is summoned to the dais.

As the Mahurat approaches, the bride's mama comes to take her to the mandap. Their approach to the mandap is rather elaborate, as they are not allowed to take a peek at each other. This is managed by raising an Antarpaat, the swastik-marked white cloth is held up between the bride and bridegroom. The mangalashtakas (eight blessings) are recited. When the recitation is over, the cloth is removed amidst a crescendo of shehnais and the bride and groom exchange garlands called varmalas. This is also the 'darshan' of a bride and groom for the first time as man and wife. At the time of removing the Antarpaat the people present shower the couple with Akshata (unbroken rice). It is essential that the grains be whole, as they are symbolic of the blessing from those present. The bride and the groom garland each other in formal mutual acceptance. This custom has become a very important part of the wedding ceremony now but is not mentioned in the Vedas. It probably originates from the Svayamvara practice prevalent in early centuries of the Christian era in India.

After this, the bride and groom sit in the mandapa next to each other before a sacrificial pit or havana kunda. The ritual of Kanyadana now takes place. The bride is given to the groom by her father. The bride's father first symbolically gives her to God, invoked by the priest with the mantras. The bride's guardian takes her hands and places them in the groom's, transferring his responsibility for her to the groom. The groom assures her father that he will not be false to her in Dharma, (ethical code) Artha (finance) or Kama (Sensuous/erotic love). After this, the groom ties a. Mangalasutra around the bride's neck.

The marriage ceremony then enters its most important phase, the saptapadi (seven steps), in which the couple take seven steps together, facing the north. With the fire (Agni) as the witness, they exchange the wedding vows. The God of Fire; in the Hindu thought, a greatest witness, hence the walking around the fire during Hindu ceremony Legally, the marriage is now final and binding. The bride is then sprinkled with holy water, believed to purify her from any previous sins and cleanse her, in preparation for her new life ahead.

The mantras recited during these rituals are beautiful and convey sound message. The mantra for

  1. (Kanyadana runs like "God Kama gave her to me. Love is the giver. Love the acceptor. Enter O! My bride, the ocean of love ....Oh! you are prosperity itself. May the Heaven bestow thee. May the Earth receive thee"
  2. Tying Mangalasutra or Tali "This is string of my life. May I live long. O Blessed one, may thou too live a hundred autumns".
  3. For Panigrahana "I take thy hand, yearning for happiness. I ask thee to live with me as thy husband, till both of us grow old. The Gods have bestowed thee on me so that I may fulfil my dharma as a householder with thee.
  4. "Parinaya (Walking round the fire): I know you and you know me. I am the sky and you are the earth. I am Sama (music) you are Rik (poetry). Let us love each other, with genial minds and hearts; may we live a hundred autumns.
  5. Sapta Padi is the most important rite in the Vivaha Samskar. As the priest chants the bride and groom take seven steps together around the fire, which is known as Saptapadi or the seven steps. The ritual of saptapadi symbolizes thejouneyof life, which they both should travel together hand in hand. The bride and the groom have to take seven steps together and the recitation for each step runs like this: "Let us pray together
        1) One step for bouncing vitality
        2) Two steps for stability in life.
        3) Three steps together for wealth and abundance.
        4) For happiness in life, four steps together.
        5) Let us move five steps ahead for offspring.
  6.  For long wedded life let us pledge six steps together.
  7. Oh my soul mate! We walk now seven steps together. Thus be together with me for ever and ever." With Saptapadi , the marriage is now final and binding. The bride is then sprinkled with holy water, believed to purify her from any previous sins and cleanse her, in preparation for her new life ahead.

One of the most important events after the marriage is Laxmi Narayan Puja. The bride and the bridegroom are considered to be Goddess Laxmi and Lord Narayan respectively and worshipped. After this ceremony the bride is formally handed over by her parents to the bridegroom.

In a Goan Hindu marriage there are many other rituals and one can celebrate for a week and more.

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