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Marriage (Hindu Marriage Ceremony)

Forbidden Marriages

Polygamy (From Manusmriti & The Mahabharata)

Re-marriage (texts from Manusmriti)

Eight types of marriage rites

Pre-Marriage Ceremonies and Preparations
Tilak Chumawal or Chumavan  Lagan Kholna  
Matkor The Chowka Harish Gadhana Aam Mahua   
Katha Puja Kalash Stapana Matri Puja 
Nav-Graha Puja (Graha Shanti Puja- Yajna)
Kul Devta Puja Nariyal (Coconut) Puja
Other Ritual Materials Homa Hardi Hardi Dinner
Distribution of Soaked Grams Post Hardi Dinner / Gamat
Mehendi Pitr Neote Lawa Bhoonjana  
Hardi on the Wedding Day Kunwar Pat Uttarna
Pokhra - The Nuptial Bath Najjar Uttarna Janeo
Imli Ghontai Nahachu 
Getting Ready at the Bride's Residence
The Chaddar Bridal Dress The Solah Shringars
_____________________________________________


Marriage                    
Hindu Marriage ceremony.
Explanations based on the writings of
Dr.S.R.Sehgal, M.A.Ph.D.                              

Pre-marriage ceremonies
(performed at their respective place of residence).

Having previously recited the Vedic Mantras in adoration of the Lord, invoking His blessings (Swasti Vachana) and prayed for peace on earth and goodwill to all beings (Shanti Prakarana) and having performed the usual Homa (Sacred fire ceremony), the bride and the bridegroom shall, at the appointed time, enter the altar (Vedi), specially erected for the performance of their marriage ceremony.

The Marriage Ceremony

[Note: The marriage ceremony may
be divided into three parts.]

Summary:

         Part One  

  1. Reception of the bridegroom and his parents
    by the bride’s parents at the entrance gate of the hall.

  2. The reception of the bridegroom on the stage
    and giving of presents by bride’s father.

  3. Bride’s parents give their daughter away to
    the bridegroom.


  4. Part Two:

    Marriage ceremony proper

  5. Sacred Fire Ceremony

  6. Solemn vows and joining hands

  7. Stone-stepping ceremony

  8. Fried-rice (popcorn) offered as oblations
    into the sacred Fire.

  9. Marriage knot symbolised by tying one end of
    the groom’s scarf with the bride’s dress.

  10. Walking around the Sacred Fire taking holy vows.

  11. The ceremony of Seven steps


  12. Part Three

  13. Sprinkling of water, meditating on the sun
    and on the Pole star

  14. Cooked food offered as oblations into
    the sacred Fire.

  15. Benediction (blessings).


Part One

I. Reception of the bridegroom (Vara Satkaarah)

[Note: As soon as the bridegroom’s party arrives, they are warmly welcomed by the bride's parents, relatives and friends. At the entrance of the hall the threshold ceremony is performed. The officiating priest chants a few mantras of blessings and welcome. The threshold ceremony requires the bride’s mother to receive and bless the groom with rice, red tumeric powde (kumkum) etc., by applying tilak (red dot and uncooked rice) on the groom’s forehead. She sprinkles rice and red tumeric powder on the groom, and then blesses him with the palms of both hands- stretching them close to the groom’s head. Now the priest and the bride’s parents lead the bridegroom and his parents to the stage where they are given appropriate seats.All the other guests take their seats in the hall to witness the marriage ceremony.

To the accompaniment of ceremonial mantras by the officiating priest the bride’s parents welcome the groom by invoking God’s blessings and then offering the bridegroom a nutritious drink called Madhuparka. This is called the Madhuparka Ceremony, the origin of which dates back thousands of years when Rishis and sages of India used it as a way of welcoming guests.]

The bridegroom shall stand facing the east. The Bride shall stand facing the north. The bride (offering the seat or Asana, shall address the bridegroom as follows:

The bride:
AUM, The noble one may accept and take the seat.

The bridegroom:
AUM, I am taking my seat. [Om, Pratigrahnami].

The bride shall take her seat to the right of the bridegroom.

The bridegroom performs the Achamana and Angasparsha with water.
[Note: All Hindu religious ceremonies begin with two observances, namely Achaman or sipping a small quantity of water and angasparsha or touching one’s limbs with one’s right hand middle two fingers with a little water. Achaman is purificatory and conducive to peaceful attitude of mind. Angasparsha is intended to pray for physical strength and alertness. Achaman and Angasparsha are performed with the aid of Mantras].

Madhuparka Ceremony

Holding with his left hand a cup of Madhuparka (composed of honey, curd and ghee or clarified butter), after removing the cover and looking at the Madhuparka,

The bridegroom says:

  1. May the breeze be sweet as honey; may the streams flow full of honey and may the herbs and plants be laden with honey for us!

  2. May the nights be honey-sweet for us; may the
    mornings be honey-sweet for us and may the heavens be honey-sweet for us!

  3. May the plants be honey-sweet for us; may the sun be all honey for us and may the cows yield us honey-sweet milk!

[Note: ‘honey-sweet’ = pleasant, advantageous, conducive to happiness.]

The bridegroom shall pour out the Madhuparka into three cups and then partake a little of it from each of the cups reciting the following Mantra:

The bridegroom:
The honey is the sweetest and the best. May I have food as sweet and health-giving as this honey and may I be able to relish it!

Gift of a cow

[Note: The bride’s father symbolically offers to the bridegroom a cow as a present. In olden times sons-in-law received real cows as gifts, since that was the most precious asset with which a newly wedded couple could start life. This part of the tradition has been preserved by a symbolical presentation. At the conclusion of the first part of the wedding ceremony, it is customary to present gifts to the bride. The bridegroom presents the bride with gifts of clothing and jewellery thereby acknowledging his life-long duty to provide her with the necessities of life.]

The father of the bride, offering to the bridegroom the present of a cow, a finger-ring or some other suitable article says:

The father of the bride:
AUM, (Please) accept these presents.

The bridegroom:
AUM, I accept (these presents).

II. The giving away of the bride (Kanya-Danam)

[Note: ‘Kanya’ means daughter or girl. ‘Daan’ means giving away. This is an important part of the marriage ceremony in which the bride’s parents give her away to the groom by entrusting her to the bridegroom. The officiating priest chants appropriate verses in Sanskrit. The people in the audience (the public) is now notified that the parents have willingly expressed their wish and consent by requesting the groom to accept their daughter as his bride. As soon as the groom indicates his acceptance the bride’s parents place their daughter’s right hand into the bridegroom’s right hand. The parents now bestow their blessings on both the bride and the groom and pray to the Lord to shower His choicest blessings on them.]

The father of the bride, placing her right hand on the right hand of the bridegroom, says:

The father of the bride:
Be pleased to accept hand of my daughter (name of the bride) of the Gotra (here the surname of the family shall be given).

The bridegroom:
AUM, I do accept.

The bridegroom makes an Offering of the garment and the scarf to the bride to wear.

The bridegroom wears the garments and the scarf offered by the parents of the bride.

Then facing each other The bride and the bridegroom speak as follows:

Ye learned people assembled at this sacred ceremony know it for certain that we two hereby accept each other as companions for life and agree to live together most cordially as husband and wife. May the hearts of us both be blended and beat in unison. May we love each other like the very breath of our lives. As the all-pervading God sustains the universe, so may we sustain each other. As a preceptor
loves his disciple, so may we love each other steadfastly
and faithfully.

- RigVeda X.85.47

Addressing the bride, the bridegroom says:
1.Distant though we were, one from the other, we
stand now united. May we be of one mind and spirit!

2. Through the grace of God, may the eyes radiate benevolence. Be thou my shield. May thou have a
cheerful heart and a smiling face. May thou be a true
devotee of God and mother of heroes. May thou have
at heart the welfare of all living beings!

Rig Veda X.85.44

The bride:
I pray that henceforth I may follow thy path. May my
body be free from disease and defect and may I ever
enjoy the bliss of your companionship!

Part Two
(The marriage ceremony proper)

III. The Nuptial Homa (Vivah-homa
or the sacred fire ceremony).

[Note: All solemn rites and ceremonies commence with the performance of Homa (sacred fire ceremony) among the followers of Vedic religion. The idea is to begin all auspicious undertakings in an atmosphere of purity and spirituality. This atmosphere is created by the burning of fragrant herbs and ghee and by the recitation of suitable Mantras. Also see Page ‘Mantras-Sacred Fire’].

The Achaman and Angasparsha are performed for the second time. The bride also participates.

The three Achaman mantras involve sipping of a little water three times.

The seven Angasparsha mantras involve touching water with the right hand middle two fingers apply the water to various limbs first to the right side and then the left side as follows:

Mouth 2.Nostrils 3.Eyes 4.Ears 5.Arms 6.Thighs 7. Sprinkling water all over the body.

IV. Acceptance of Hand (Pani-Grahanam).

The bridegroom rising from his seat and facing the bride, shall raise her right hand with his left hand and then clasping it says:

The bridegroom:
I clasp thy hand and enter into the holy state of matrimony so that we may be blessed with prosperity and noble progeny. Mayst thou live with me happily throughout life! Through the grace of the all-mighty Lord, who is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and in the presence of this august assemblage, thou art being given away in marriage so that we may together rightly perform our duties as householders.

  1. With all my strength and resources, I have clasped thy hand; and thus united, we shall together follow the path of virtue. Thou art my lawfully wedded wife and I am thy lawfully wedded husband.

  2. God, the protector and sustainer of all, has given thee to me. From today, it devolves upon me to protect and maintain thee. Blessed with children, mayst thou live happpily with me as thy husband for the full span of human life (a hundred years).

  3. Following the divine law and the words of wisdom uttered by the sages, may we make a good couple and may God vouchsafe unto us a shining life of virtue and happiness.

  4. As God nourishes and sustains all creatures through His great forces like the sun, the moon, the earth, the air etc., so may He bless my wife with healthy and virtuous progeny and may you all assembled here bless her!

  5. I accept thee as my partner for life. I will not keep away even mentally anything from thee. I will share with thee all I enjoy. We will persevere in the path of virtue, surmounting all obstacles.

V. Solemn vows (Pratigna-Karanam)

The bridegroom taking the palm of the bride into his hand
helps her to rise and then they both shall walk round the altar,
the bride leading. Then facing the east take the solemn vows:

The bridegroom:
O virtuous one! I have accepted thee thoughtfully and so hast thou accepted me. Out of the fullness of love have I accepted thee and so hast thou accepted me. I am the Sama and thou art the Rik. I am the Dyau (heaven) and thou art the earth. We marry each other joyously. May we be blessed with bright, heroic and long-lived children!

The bride and the bridegroom:
Let us be devoted to each other. Let us share each other’s joys and sorrows, wish each other well and look upon each other with love and live for at least a hundred years. May we live happily for at least a hundred years. May we live,
listening to sweet words for at least a hundred years.

VI. Ascending the slab(or stepping on the stone) [Shila arohanam or Shilarohanam]

[Note: ‘Shila’ means stone. ‘Arohan’ means ascending or
stepping upon. This is the stone-stepping ceremony. The mother of the bride assists her to step onto a stone and counsels her to prepare herself for a new life. A married couple is likely to encounter ups and downs, joys and sorrows, prosperity and adversity, sickness and health. In spite of difficulties facing them they are enjoined to remain steadfast and true to each other (just as a stone can weather any storm- rock- steady).

The bride shall place her right foot on the slab (stone), assisted by her mother or her brother. The priest recites a Mantra from the Atharva Veda (AV II.13. 4)

VII. The fried-rice offerings (Laja-Homah)

[Note: ‘Laja’ means puffed rice or barley like popcorn.]

The bride shall place the palms of her hands over those of the bridegroom and make three offerings (ahutis) of fried rice
soaked in ghee (clarified butter).

The bride:

  1. I adore God, the unifier of hearts. Now that I am leaving my parents’ home for my husband’s, I pray that He may keep us perpetually united!

  2. With these offerings I pray for Long life for my
    husband and for the prosperity of all our relations!

  3. (Addressing her husband) In making these offerings for your prosperity I once again pray that God may bless this union of our hearts!

VIII. Circumambulation around the sacred fire

(Parikrama or Pradakshina or Mangal fera)

[Note: This is an auspicious and important part of the marriage ceremony. It consists in walking around the sacred fire (clockwise) four times.  This aspect of the ceremony and the one that follows, namely Saptapadi (seven steps)- constitute the most important art, in as much as it legalises the marriage according to Hindu custom and tradition. These two aspects of the marriage ceremony establish an indissoluble matrimonial bond between the couple.

In the first three rounds the bridegroom leads the bride as they circle together around the sacred fire. In the fourth (last) round, the bride leads the bridegroom around the sacred fire.

In each round around the sacred fire, an appropriate mantra is recited which expresses noble sentiments in relation to their future matrimonial life. Each round culminates in both the bride and the bridegroom placing offerings or ahutis of fried rice in the sacred fire. The Hindu religion emphasises enjoyment of life as well as the discharging of family, social and national responsibilities.

During the first three rounds, God’s blessings and help are sought; loyalty to each other is emphasised and; a promise to keep in mind the well-being and care of the future children is made.

In the fourth (last) round (led by the bride) the bride promises that she will lead her life according to the tenets of the Hindu religion, namely Satya and Dharma or Truth and devotion to duty, and that she will always ensure that the bridegroom can rely on her to carry out her family, religious and household duties.

The bridegroom then places his hand on the bride’s head and states that henceforth she will be his wife and he will shield her against any danger or harm.

At the end of the four rounds they shall exchange seats, the bride taking her seat to the left of the bridegroom.]

IX. Seven Steps (Saptapadi)

The ends of their garments (the bridegroom’s scarf and upper garment of the bride) are tied together by the priest (signifying marriage knot).Then both shall stand facing the north. The bridegroom shall place his right hand upon the right shoulder of the bride.

They shall take the first step in the north easterly direction.

In taking these seven steps, the right foot shall always lead and the left foot be brought forward in line with it. Uncooked grains of rice (about a small handful) are placed in a line at equal distance at seven places. The bride and the groom take seven steps together, stepping upon first mound of rice with the right foot as the priest recites a mantra. Then stepping upon the second mount of rice with the right foot as the priest recites a mantra. (All seven steps are done the same way).

May the first step lead to food
that is both nourishing and pure.

May the second step lead to strength (at the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels).

May the third step lead to prosperity.

May the fourth step lead to all round happiness.

May the fifth step lead to progeny (noble and virtuous children).

May the sixth step lead to long life.

May the seventh step lead to friendship
(through harmony, understanding).

The bridegroom says:
Having completed the seven steps, be thou my life long companion. Mayst thou be my associate and helper in successful performance of the duties that now devolve upon me as a householder. May we be blessed with many children who may live the full duration of human life!

After the completion of the seven steps ceremony, the couple (with knots tied to each other) take their seats. The wife now takes her rightful place on the left side of her husband as the marriage is now religiously solemnized in its entirety. Now the couple are husband and wife. The husband garlands the wife and she in turn garlands her husband.

Part Three

X. Sprinkling of water (Abhishek).

The priest (or a brother of the newly wedded wife) shall sprinkle water on the foreheads of the bride and the groom. The priest recites mantras from the Rig Veda (RV X.9.1/2/3) during the sprinkling of water.

XI. Meditating on the sun.
(Soorya Darshanam dhyaanam va).

(Looking at or mentally visualising the sun, to give them power to lead a creative, useful and meaningful life).

The bride and the bridegroom together pray:
O God, who art the illuminator of the sun, may we, through thy grace live for a hundred years, hear for a hundred years, and speak for a hundred years. And may we never be dependent upon anybody. May we likewise live even beyond a hundred years!  
   
-Rig Veda, VII. 66. 16)

XII.Meditating upon the Pole Star and the Arundhati Star (Dhruva dhyaanam darshanam va)

[Note: The Pole Star is stationary and fixed in its position, likewise the couple is expected to be steadfast and firm in fulfilling their vows and responsibilities.]

The bride:
Just as the star Arundhati is attached to the star Vasishtha, so may I be ever firmly attached to my husband!

Placing his hand upon the bride’s forehead

The bridegroom:
As the heavens are permanently stable, as the earth is permanently stable, as these mountains are permanently stable, and as the entire universe is permanent stable, so may my wife be permanently settled in our family! -Rig Veda X.173.4

(Addressing the bride)Thou are the Pole star; I see in thee stability and firmness. Mayst thou ever be steadfast in thy affection for me. The great God has united thee with me. Mayst thou live with me, blessed with children, for a hundred years!

XIII.Partaking of food (Anna praashanam)

In the last symbolic rite the couple make offerings of food with chantings of Vedic Havan Mantras (oblations of food in the Sacred fire). Having done that, the couple feed a morsel of food to each other from the residue of the offerings. This being the symbolic expression of mutual love and affection.

XIV.Benediction (Aashirvadah)

Placing his hand upon the forehead of the bride,

The bridegroom:
Ye men and women present here, behold this virtuous bride possessed of high attainments, and before ye disperse, give her your blessings!

All the people present shall pronounce the following blessings upon the couple.
1. O Lord, may this couple be prosperous!

2. O Lord, may this couple live in perpetual happiness!

3 O Lord, may this couple be ever infused with love for each other. May this couple be blessed with children and grand-children and live in the best of homes for the full period of their lives!

4. May you two live here together. May you never be parted. May you enjoy the full span of human life in the delightful company of your happy sons and grandsons!

Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.

[Note: The Hindu wedding ceremony may vary in minor details from region to region and different priests may adopt some variations.]

[Sacraments constitute an important part of Hindu religion. Sacraments in Hinduism are designed to build a solid foundation for righteous living. They are known as ‘Sanskaras’.Their purpose is to create and develop a religious and spiritual outlook in life.
The Hindu religion has instituted sixteen different Sanskaras (sacraments) meant for different phases of life from conception to marriage to old age and death. The word sanskara in Sanskrit means ‘to cause indelible impressions on the mind and to develop every aspect of one’s personality.’ Therefore it is necessary to understand and appreciate their significance and to derive benefit from their performance. Of the sixteen sanskaras in Hinduism, the sacrament of marriage or Vivah Sanskara is the most important. Marriage influences the personality of man and woman as life partners, enabling them to take their rightful place in society.]
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Index Alphabetical [Index to Pages]

Forbidden Marriages
                    

From Manusmrti (Laws of Manu) Chapter III

5. A damsel who is neither a Sapinda on the mother’s side, nor belongs to the same family on the father’s side, is recommended to twice-born men for wedlock and conjugal union.

[Note: ‘Sapinda’ relationship ceases with the seventh person ( in the ascending and descending lines). Manusmrti.V.60. ‘Twice-born’ also known as ‘dwija’ are Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas.]

6. In connecting himself with a wife, let him carefully avoid the ten following families, be they ever so great, or rich in kine (cows), horses, grain, or other property.

  1. (Viz.) one which neglects the sacred rites, one in which no male children are born, one in which the Veda is not studied, one (the members of) which have thick hair on the body, those which are subject to hemorrhoids, phthisis, weakness of digestion, epilepsy, or white and black leprosy.

  2. Let him not marry a maiden (with) reddish hair, nor one who has a redundant member, nor one who is sickly, nor one either with no hair (on the body) nor too much hair, nor one who is garrulous or has red eyes.

  3. Nor one named after a constellation, a tree, or a river, nor one bearing the name of a low caste, or of a mountain, nor one named after a bird, a snake, or a slave, nor one whose name inspires terror.

  4. Let him wed a female free from bodily defects, who has an agreeable name, the graceful gait of a Hamsa (swan) or of an elephant, a moderate quantity of hair on the body and on the head, small teeth, and soft limbs.

  5. But a prudent man should not marry a maiden who has no brother, nor one whose father is not known, through fear lest (in the former case she be made) an appointed daughter (and in the latter) lest he should commit sin.

  6. For the first marriage of twice-born men (wives) of equal caste are recommended; but for those who through desire proceed to marry again, the following females, chosen according to the direct order of the castes, are most approved.

  7. It is declared that a Sudra woman alone can be the wife of a Sudra, she and one of his own caste (the wives) of a vaisya, those two and one of his own caste (the wives) of a kshatriya, those three and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Brahmana.

Polygamy                       

[Note: The text above (7. "It is declared that a Sudra woman alone can be the wife of a Sudra,..........") refers to the practice of polygamy as practised in Hindu society. The above text can be paraphrased as ‘A Sudra male is allowed to have only one wife who should be chosen exclusively from his own caste. A Vaisya is allowed to have two wives; one chosen from his own Vaisya caste and the other from Sudra caste. A Kshatriya is allowed to have three wives; one chosen from his own Kshatriya caste, one from the Vaisya caste and one from the Sudra caste. A Brahmana can have four wives; one from his own Brahmana caste, one from Kshatriya caste, one from Vaisya caste and one from Sudra caste. Compare the following text from the Mahabharata.]

From The Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva
Section XLIV

Addressing King Yudhishthira

Bhishma said: A Brahmana can take three wives. A
Kshatriya can take two wives. As regards the Vaisya, he should take a wife from only his own order. The children born of these wives should be regarded as equal. Of the three wives of a Brahmana, she taken from his own order should be regarded as the foremost. Similarly, of the two wives permitted to the Kshatriya, she taken from his own order should be regarded as superior. Some say that persons belonging to the three higher orders may take,
only for purposes of enjoyment, wives from the lowest or the Sudra order. Others, however, forbid the practice. The righteous condemn the practice of begetting issue upon Sudra women. A Brahmana, by begetting children upon a Sudra woman, incurs the liability of performing an expiation.

That girl who has no brother nor father should not be wed, O chief of Bharata’s race, for she may be intended as Putrika of her sire.

[Note: Explanations by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli: ‘Putrika’: When a father happens to have an only daughter, he frequently bestows her in marriage upon some eligible youth on the understanding that the son born of her shall be the son, for purposes of both Sraddha rites and inheritance, not of the husband begetting him but of the girl’s father. Such a contract would be valid whether expressed or not at the time of marriage. The mere wish of the girl’s father, unexpressed at the time of marriage, would convert the son into a son not of the father who begets him but of the father of the girl herself. A daughter reserved for such a purpose is said to be a Putrikadharmini or ‘invested with the character of a son.’ To wed such a girl was not honourable. It was in effect an abandonment of the fruits of marriage. Even if dead at the time of marriage, still if the girl’s father had, while living, cherished such a wish, that would convert the girl into a Putrikadharmini. The repugnance to wedding girls without fathers and brothers exists to this day.]

[Note: The Mahabharata acknowledges the authority of Manu which becomes evident from the text reproduced below.]

From The Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva,
Section XLIV

Bhishma said: After the appearance of puberty, the girl (if not married) should wait for three years. During the fourth year, she should look for a husband herself (without waiting any longer for her kinsmen to select one for her). The offspring of such a girl do not lose their respectability, nor does union with such a girl become disgraceful. If, instead of selecting a husband for herself, she acts otherwise, she incurs the reproach of Prajapati himself. One should wed that girl who is not a Sapinda of one’s mother or of the same Gotra with one’s father. Even this is the usage (consistent with the sacred law) which Manu
has declared

[Note: In modern day India, as also in other countries where constitution of the country guarantees freedom of religious practices, it is a moot point that Hindus may have been prosecuted for practising polygamy in contravention of their constitutional rights. In India, for example, a person of Islamic faith can have four wives, but Hindus may be prosecuted for marrying more than one wife.]

Index Alphabetical [Index to Pages]

Re-marriage

Let no prudent man, after giving his daughter to one (man), give her again to another; for he who gives (his daughter) whom he had before given, incurs (the guilt of) speaking falsely regarding a human being.
-Manusmriti, 9-71 (The Laws of Manu)

Though a man may have accepted a damsel in due form, he may abandon (her if she be) blemished, diseased, or deflowered, and (if she have been) given with fraud.
-Manusmriti, 9-72

If anybody gives away a maiden possessing blemishes without declaring them, (the bridegroom) may annul that (agreement or arrangement)) with the evil-minded giver.
-Manusmriti, 9-73

A man who has business (abroad) may depart after securing a maintenance for his wife; for a wife, even though virtuous, may be corrupted if she be distressed by want of subsistence.
-Manusmriti, 9-74

If the husband went on a journey after providing (for her), the wife shall subject herself to restraints in her daily life; but if he departed without providing (for her), she may subsist by blameless manual work.
-Manusmriti, 9-75

If the husband went abroad for some sacred duty, (she) must wait for him for eight years, if (he went) to (acquire) learning or fame (she must wait for him) six (years); and if he went for pleasure, three years.
-Manusmriti, 9-76

For one year let a husband bear with a wife who hates him; but after (the lapse of) a year let him deprive her of her property and cease to cohabit with her.
-Manusmriti, 9-77

She who shows disrespect to her husband who is addicted to (some evil) passion, who is a drunkard or diseased, (she) shall be deserted for three months (and be) deprived of her ornaments and furniture.
-Manusmriti, 4-78

But she who shows aversion towards a mad or outcast (husband), a eunuch, one destitute of manly strength, or one afflicted with such diseases as punish crimes*, shall neither be cast off nor be deprived of her property.
* (Some words may be missing as the meaning here is not clear.)
-Manusmriti, 9-79

She who drinks spirituous liquor, is of bad conduct, rebellious, diseased, mischievous, or wasteful, may at any time be superseded (by another wife).
-Manusmriti, 9-80

A barren wife may be superseded in the eighth year; she whose children (all) die (may be superseded) in the tenth (year); she who bears only daughters (may be superseded)in the eleventh (year), but she who is quarrelsome, (may be superseded) without delay.
-Manusmriti, 9-81

But a sick wife, who is kind (to her husband) and virtuous in her conduct, may be superseded (only) with her own consent and must never be disgraced.
-Manusmriti, 9-82

A wife who, being superseded, in anger departs from (her husband’s) house, must either be instantly confined or cast off in the presence of the family.
-Manusmriti, 9-83

But she who, though having been forbidden, drinks spirituous liquor even at festivals, or goes to public spectacles or assemblies, shall be fined six Krishnalas.
-Manusmriti, 9-84

If twice-born men (Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaisya) wed women of their own (caste) and of other (lower castes), the seniority, honour, and habitation of those (wives) must be (settled) according to the order of castes (Varna).
-Manusmriti, 9-85

Among all (twice-born men) the wife of equal caste alone, not a wife of a different caste by any means, shall personally attend her husband and assist him in his daily sacred rites.
-Manusmriti, 9-86

But he who foolishly causes that (duty) to be performed by another, while his wife of equal caste is alive, is declared by the ancients (to be) as (despicable) as a Chandala (sprung from the) Brahmana (caste).
-Manusmriti, 9-87

To a distinguished handsome suitor of equal caste should (a father) give his daughter in accordance with the prescribed rule, though she have not attained (the proper age).
-Manusmriti, 9-88

But the maiden, though marriageable, should rather stop in (the father’s) house until death, than that he should ever give her to a man destitute of good qualities.
-Manusmriti, 9-89

‘Let mutual fidelity continue until death,’ this may be considered as the summary of the highest law for husband and wife.
-Manusmriti, 9-101

Let man and woman, unite in marriage, constantly exert themselves, that (they may not be) disunited (and) may not violate their mutual fidelity.
-Manusmriti, 9-102

Thus has been declared to you the law for a husband and his wife, which is intimately connected with conjugal happiness, and the manner of raising offspring in times of calamity.
-Manusmriti, 9-103

If among all the wives of one husband one (wife) has a son, Manu declares them all to be mothers of male children through that son.
-Manusmriti, 9-183

On failure of each better (son), each next inferior one is worthy of the inheritance; but if there be many of equal rank, they shall all share the estate.
-Manusmriti, 9-184

Index Alphabetical [Index to Pages]

Eight types of marriage rites

From Manusmrti (Laws of Manu) Chapter III

20. Now listen to the brief description of the following eight marriage-rites used by the four castes (varna) which partly secure benefits and partly produce evil both in this life and after death.

21. They are the rite of Brahmana (Brahma), that of the gods (Daiva), that of the Rishis (Arsha), that of Prajapati (Prajapatya), that of the Asuras (Asura), that of the Gandharvas (Gandharva), that of the Rakshasas (Rakshasa), and that of the Pisakas (Paisaka).

22. Which is lawful for each caste (varna) and which are the virtues or faults of each (rite), all this I will declare to you, as well as their good and evil results with respect to the offspring.

23. One may know that the first six according to the order (followed above) are lawful for a Brahmana, the four last for a Kshatriya, and the same four, excepting the Rakshasa rite, for a Vaisya and a Sudra.

24. The sages state that the first four are approved (in the case) of a Brahmana, one, the Rakshasa rite in the case of a Kshatriya, and the Asura (marriage in that) of a Vaisya and of a Sudra.

25. But in these institutes of the sacred law, three of the five (last) are declared to be lawful and two unlawful; the Paisaka and the Asura rites must never be used.

26. For Kshatriyas those before mentioned two rites, the Gandharva and the Rakshasa, whether separate or mixed, are permitted by the sacred tradition.

27. The gift of a daughter, after decking her (with costly garments) and honouring (her by presents of jewels), to a man learned in the Veda and of good conduct, whom (the father) himself invites, is called the Brahma rite.

28. The gift of a daughter who has been decked with ornaments, to a priest who duly officiates at a sacrifice, during the course of its performance, they call the Daiva rite.

29. When the father gives away his daughter according to the rule, after receiving from the bridegroom, for (the fulfillment of) the sacred law, a cow and a bull or two pairs, that is named the Arsha rite.

30. The gift of a daughter by her father after he has
addressed the couple with the text, ‘May both of you
perform together your duties,’ and has shown honour to the bridegroom, is called in the Smrti the Prajapatya rite.

31. When the bridegroom receives a maiden, after having given as much wealth as he can afford, to the kinsmen and to the bride herself, according to his own will, that is called the Asura rite.

32. The voluntary union of a maiden and her lover one
must know to be the Gandharva rite, which springs from desire and has sexual intercourse for its purpose.

33. The forcible abduction of a maiden from her home,
while she cries out and weeps, after (her kinsmen) have been slain or wounded and (their houses) broken open, is called the Rakshasa rite.

34. When a man by stealth seduces a girl who is sleeping, intoxicated, or disordered in intellect, that is the eighth, the most base and sinful rite of the Pisakas.

35. The gift of daughters among Brahmanas is most
approved (if it is preceded) by a libation of water; but in the case of the other castes (it may be performed) by the expression of mutual consent.

Index Alphabetical [Index to Pages]

From The Mahabharata
Anusasana Parva, Section XLIV
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

King Yudhishthira said: I think the marriage of one’s daughter should be regarded as the foremost of all duties. Tell me, however, O king, upon what sort of a person should one bestow one’s daughter?

Bhishma said: Having enquired into the conduct and disposition of the person, his learning and acquirements, his birth, and his acts, good people should then bestow their daughters upon accomplished bridegrooms. All righteous Brahmanas, O Yudhishthira, act in this way (in the matter of the bestowal of their daughters). This is known as the Brahama marriage.

Selecting an eligible bridegroom, the father of the girl should cause him to marry his daughter, having, by presents of diverse kinds, induced the bridegroom to that act. This form of marriage constitutes the eternal practice of all good Kshatriyas.

When the father of the girl, disregarding his own wishes, bestows his daughter upon a person whom the daughter likes and who reciprocates the girl’s sentiments, this form of marriage, O Yudhishthira, is called Gandharva by those that are conversant with the Vedas.

The wise have said this, O king, to be the practice of the Asuras, viz., wedding a girl after purchasing her at a high cost and after gratifying the cupidity of her kinsmen.

Slaying and cutting off the heads of weeping kinsmen, the bridegroom sometimes forcibly takes away the girl he would wed. Such wedding is called by the name of Rakshasa. Of these five (the Brahma, the Kshatra, the Gandharva, the Asura, and the Rakshasa), three are righteous, O Yuthishthira. And two are unrighteous. The Paisacha and the Asura forms should never be resorted to.

[Note: Explanations by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli: Eight form of marriage are mentioned by Manu and five forms of marriage are described in the Mahabharata. Such parts of the Mahabharata are unquestionably more ancient than the Manu we know. There must have been an older Manu upon whose work the Manu we know has been based.]
___________________________________
             
          From Manusmrti (Laws of Manu) Chapter III

  1. Let the husband approach his wife in due season, being constantly satisfied with her alone; he may also, being intent on pleasing her, approach her with desire for conjugal union on any day except the Parvans.

  1. Sixteen (days and) nights (in each month) including four
    days which differ from the rest and are censured by the virtuous, are called the natural season of women.

  2. But among these the first four, the eleventh and the
    thirteenth are declared to be forbidden; the remaining
    nights are recommended.

  3. On the even nights sons are conceived and daughters
    on the uneven ones; hence a man who desires to have
    sons should approach his wife in due season on the even (nights.)

  4. 50 He who avoids women on the six forbidden nights and on eight others is equal in chastity to a student, in whichever order he may live.

  1. Women must be honoured and adored by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers-in-law, who desire their own welfare.

  2. Where women are honoured, there the gods are pleased;
    but where they are not honoured, no sacred rite yields rewards.

  3. Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon
    wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers.

  4. The houses on which female relations, not being duly honoured, pronounce a curse, perish completely, as if destroyed by magic.

  5. Hence men who seek (their own) welfare, should always honour women on holidays and festivals with (gifts of) ornaments, clothes, and (dainty) food.

  6. In the family where the husband is pleased with his wife
    and the wife with her husband, happiness will assuredly
    be lasting.

  7. For if the wife is not radiant with beauty, she will not
    attract her husband; but if she has no attractions for him,
    no children will be born.

  8. If the wife is radiant with beauty, the whole house is bright;
    but if she is destitute of beauty, all will appear dismal.

  9. By low marriages, by omitting the performance of sacred
    rites, by neglecting the study of the Vedas, and by
    irreverence towards Brahmanas (priests), (great) families
    sink low.

  10. By sacrificing for men unworthy to offer sacrifices and by denying (the future rewards for good) works, families,
    deficient in the knowledge of the Veda, quickly perish.

But families that are rich in the knowledge of the Veda,
though possessing little wealth, are numbered among the
great, and acquire great fame.
___________________________________

Index Alphabetical [Index to Pages]

Pre-Marriage Ceremonies and Preparations
By Sarita Boodhoo
Mauritius
From the book  'Kanya Dan'

[Note: Some customs and traditions may vary from province to
province in India. Sarita Boodhoo's expanations are based
upon the Bhojpuri tradition.]

The major celebrations associated with the marriage ceremony stretch over a week beginning from the tilak or official betrothal ceremony till the chowthari or the ‘fourth day’ of marriage. A number of minor pre wedding and post-wedding rites, customs and traditions are interspersed, coupled with singing, dancing and feasting.

 These may start as early as six days before the actual wedding day, but nowadays they have generally been curtailed to four days in Mauritius.

The sandhya rites of ritual singing start usually on a Friday evening.

  1. Hardi is on a Saturday with or without Tilak ceremony on the same day.

  2. Wedding nuptials are generally held on Sundays

  3. Chowthari – the fourth day of nuptial feasting is usually on a Monday.

 The marriage is the biggest, most elaborate, magnificent, spectacular and impressive of all the life cycle rituals in a Hindu’s life.

Tilak
By Sarita Boodhoo

The tilak is an auspicious occasion. The tilak itself is a mark of auspiciousness. It is applied on the forehead on all religious and ceremonial occasions to denote welcome. It is made of sandal-paste, sacred ash or kumkum. Devotees of Lord Shiva apply ash on the forehead, those of Lord Vishnu apply sandal paste and worshippers of Devi or Durga apply kumkum or hardi. Tilak is applied at the Ajna Chakra – the space between the two eyebrows, at the spot of the Third Eye. It has a cooling effect and creates good vibrations.

The term tilak is used to denote the rite performed a little before the marriage ceremony to finalise and to make official the betrothal. After the groom’s family accepts the proposal of the bride’s family and the horoscopes have been compared, an auspicious day is fixed by the priest for the tilak and the wedding. The tilak is an old custom.

From the Kriya Chintamani:

Upavitam phalam pushpam
Vasanti vividhani cha

Deyam variya varane
Kanya brata dwijen cha

 “The brother of the bride and Brahmins should go to the house of the bridegroom and offer him Upavita, fruits, flowers, clothes, etc., on the occasion of Var Varna.”

Several names are given to the ceremony known as tilak. It is also known as Vagdan that is vacchan ka dan, meaning a promise. Another name for tilak is Phal-dan , gifting of fruits. The tilak ceremony symbolises (and made official) given word of honour that the marriage is concretised. Tilak symbolises that the boy is ready for marriage. When the tilak is applied to his forehead by the girl’s brother, it makes a formal acceptance suggesting that the boy is a fit match for the girl. From now on the boy is given a new status. He is known as Var, meaning the son has reached adulthood and is ready to assume new responsibilities and enter marriage hood. From now on he is known as the bridegroom. The girl is also given a new status, and addressed by the term Vadhu or Kanya. The daughter has reached maidenhood and is ready to enter the household ashram. She is given the special appellation – Vadhu, meaning bride. She is given a name whereby she can stand on her own independently of being a daughter. Hence the special term of Var-Vadhu used by the priests during the nuptials before they duly reach the status of Pati-Patni, husband and wife.

The tilak ceremony used to be held one month before the marriage ceremony took place. Gradually the tilak ceremony has drawn closer to the wedding day. Modern practice has shortened that to one week and in some cases to a day or so. The tilakahu or tilak party consisted of only the Brahmin and barber accompanied by main male members of the bride’s family. The tilak party gradually increased from three to ten or fifteen. The tilak party is composed of a select inner circle of relatives and close family friends.

The tilak ceremony actually marks the beginning of the wedding. The bride’s party composed mainly of the bride’s father, bride’s brother, the Brahmin, the barber and other close relatives and family friends go to the house of the groom to apply the tilak on the bridegroom’s forehead. It is a high form of respect and marks the official form of acceptance of the bridegroom by the bride’s family.

The groom sits in the centre on a painted or decorated Chawki, also known as Pidha. A Gawri-Ganesh symbol is made with rice and betel nuts. It is worshipped with water, flowers, rice and sandal paste. The place is sanctified and Gawri and Ganesh are invoked to give their blessings to the tilak ceremony and to the participants. The priest chants sacred mantras and a homa (sacred fire ceremony) is performed. The bridegroom and the bride’s brother have a formal handshake before occupying their respective seats opposite each other. They both wear white kurta and trousers or dhoti as the case may be. Both the bridegroom and the bride’s brother, and in some cases the father, are ritually purified for the ceremony. They are anointed with sacred water and made fit and pure to enter the sacred cosmic space. The bride’s brother is then requested to wash the bridegroom’s feet symbolically on a thali (tray). It is symbolical welcome (rooted in the most ancient past) of a guest of honour who is akin to god (Atithi devo bhava – Taittiriya Upanishad).

It is the highest form of welcome. The bridegroom and the bride’s brother are both sanctified. Then tilak is applied to the bridegroom by the bride’s brother, as a mark of respect and acceptance. The bride’s brother places yellow rice, coloured with turmeric (hardi), in the cupped hands of the bridegroom, resting on his knees. (Rooted in the most ancient past)  

 The bride’s brother honours the bridegroom with the gifts he has brought along for the tilak ceremony such as: 1.Clothing   2. Fruits  3. Sweets  4. Thali and lota, katora set  5. A garland   6. Flowers    7. Token money.

 These are all Chadhawas. They are first offered to the presiding deities before being offered each in turn to the bridegroom with the accompanying mantras chanted loudly by the priests on both sides. Hence the term ‘Tilak chadhana’ ceremony. The money is token and is symbolised by one Rupee and twenty-five cents.

After the main tilak ceremony, the two fathers, Samdhibhais  (sandhi = to join, bhai = brother) go through a little test of honour. Both parties bring a little unhusked rice, dub grass, turmeric roots that are offered at the chowka. The rice is symbolical of fertility. The dub grass is a luxuriant herb growing profusely and hence symbolises fertility and prosperity. The origin of the use of dub grass dates back to the Vedic period.  The Aryans were an aesthetic people. They enjoyed the lush, green environment and embellished their houses and surroundings with green plants. “Let about the approach and exit of the house there grow the flowery Durva grass, let there be a well of water and let there be a lake covered with blossoming lotus.”

The turmeric (hardi) is auspicious and wards off evil and negative feelings. These plants and ingredients are an extension of good wishes. The family priests mix these ingredients i.e., rice, turmeric and the dub grass from both parties and after mixing them well, separate them into two equal portions. They are placed in kerchief or Bandhawa. Then a little ‘competition’ ensues between the two samdhis to see who succeeds in tying the bundle of ingredients first. After tying these materials in a bundle, each samdhi puts it on his left shoulder. They both try to show their dexterity, skill and wisdom in tying these materials and in coming out first under the scrutiny of the assembly who watch with amusement the competition. One of the two has to ‘win’ in any case. Usually, even if the girl’s father, who becomes an adept in the game if he has married off several daughters, proceeds to be the first in the ‘race’, he gallantly and courteously allows the boy’s father to ‘win’ out of respect. Firstly, because he is a guest at the bridegroom’s father’s residence and secondly he is the bride’s father and therefore has to give in. This subtle game marks the new relationship between the two families. It serves to enliven the atmosphere. After successfully tying the two bundles, the two fathers embrace each other. This gesture is known as Bheintakwar. The rice, hardi and dub grass have been mixed in such a way that it is difficult to distinguish and say which grain of rice is from which house! It is symbolical of the mingling of the two families. All these ingredients are used ritually in the hardi ceremony. The unhusked rice, the dhan, is stored in a neighbour’s house, once the party goes back home. It is used on the marriage day.

After the tilak ceremony is over and the samdhibhais have embraced each other, blessings are offered by the priests from both sides. The assembled gathering stands up and recites the Shanti Path (peace prayer). Then five married women, usually close relatives, have done the Chumawan (see below) five times, the bridegroom is led back by his mother to the ‘Kohbar’ which will be his room till well after the wedding day. The mother proceeds step by step, leading her son back. She sprinkles water all along to purify the path of her son stepping into the new householder’s life. It is to protect him from anything that might bring a mishap to the new life he is to embark upon.

All the guests are taken to the reception area (hall or pavilion) where tea and snacks await them. The two families and parties mingle with each other. This is an opportunity for the two families to socialise. The father of the girl usually does not eat at the bridegroom’s place. Bhatwan ceremony has to be performed afterwards so that he would be able to eat at his married daughter’s new home. Many fathers, keeping up the ancient tradition, never eat at their married daughter’s homes till this day. After the reception the girl’s party goes back home.

Related articles
Tilak

 Chumawal or Chumavan

Chumawal or Chumawan is a rite by which five married women, close relatives whose husbands are alive come to ‘detach’ the bride and bridegroom from her/his ceremonial ritual space. The whole procedure is to protect her/him from any obstacle that may befall her/him upon embarking on a new life. It is also a way of giving blessings. The Bhojpuris were agricultural and rice growing people. Rice as element of fertility is stressed all along in all other ceremonies. Chumana means literally to kiss. Physical kissing is not done but these five married women ‘kiss’ or touch the limbs of the bride or bridegroom with rice. A thali or plateful of rice is placed at the feet of the bride or bridegroom. The bride or bridegroom holds her/his cupped hands on her/ his knees. A cupful of rice is poured to fill the cupped hands. A gold item, usually a bangle is placed on it. Gold is a valuable ritual metal and a good economic support in times of hardship. Gold is also symbolical of durability.

Each woman, in turn, takes some grains of rice in both hands and holding them within her fingertips touches the head, shoulders, hands, knees of the bride/ bridegroom and throws them off either at the feet or behind her/ his back at each session. This is repeated five times by each of the five women. The Chumawan can be done also proceeding upwards from the knees, hands, shoulders and the head. All negative forces are thus removed and cast off. This custom is also accompanied by Bhojpuri folk songs sung by women. The custom of Chumawan also signifies that the bride/ bridegroom will never be in need of food and will always be prosperous. “May all the limbs be healthy and protected and function properly.” After the Chumawan, the mother of the bride or bridegroom each at her respective place has to place back the remaining rice in her own anchal, the front end of her sari, which she then deposits at the shrine of the family deities.

She then sprinkles water from a lota with a mango leaf, all along her daughter’s/son’s path and leads her/him to the inner chamber, the Kohbar.

 The Chumawan is done after the tilak ceremony, for the bridegroom, after the hardi for both bride and bridegroom at their respective places, and after the nuptials are over for both of them.

Chumawan song

Man bhara chumiya amma
Dil bhara chumiya ho
Hriday se diha na ashish ji
Man bhara chumiya chachi
Dil bhara chumiya ho
Hriday se diha na ashish ji

“Do the Chumawan, mother of the bride/ bridegroom, with all your heart and shower your blessings whole-heartedly.”

And so for all the five ladies who will do the Chumawan, one by one, their relationship to the bride/bridegroom is stressed in the song.

Lagan Kholna

When the tilak party comes back from the bridegroom’s place, the bundle containing the dhan, gardi, dub grass and token money of one Rupee twenty-five cents is given to five married women of the house whose husbands are alive. They sit is a circle on a mat on the floor and do the Lagan Kholna ceremony. The bundle of dhan, hardi and dub grass in fact used to contain the lagan patrika (wedding invitation card) in olden days, confirming the date of the marriage. To do this, they should be shining in their nuptial glory. Symbolically, they are given some oil to apply to their hair. A lady who herself is married and whose husband is alive, applies sindur to her hair parting, after which she combs her hair. A tilak of vermilion powder is applied to each one’s forehead. They cover their heads with end part of their saris. After this shringar (make-up) session is done, then only they open the bundle of dhan, hardi, and the dub grass and make a mock game of looking for the lagan-patrika. On this occasion a song known as Saguna is sung by women.

Saguna Song

Arey arey Saguni
Sagunwa le le ho aye
Toharu hoi hain biyah
Arey arey Saguni…”

Saguna means good omen. Here the song says:

“O Saguni, the one who brings good omen, bring a good omen. With your omen, O Saguni, the marriage will be performed.”

The Sawaiya (literally means one and a quarter) i.e., the token money of one Rupee and twenty-five cents is taken by the bride’s phouphou (father’s sister). She also collects all the pieces of turmeric amidst much teasing by the other female members of the family, gathered to watch the mock game of lagan kholna. She has the task of grinding the turmeric roots to a fine paste for applying the hardi, a few hours later. She will receive a neg or token money and a gift for this ‘job’. The same procedure of lagan kholna takes place at the bridegroom’s house.

Since the day of lagan, five or seven married women whose husbands are alive massage the bride/ bridegroom with bukawa, a paste of parched mustard oil, turmeric paste and water. This would be done as a daily ritual until the day of marriage. In the olden days and still to this day in the Bhojpuri belt of India, this is performed eight, seven or five days before marriage. That is why it was known as aath (eight) mangra, sath (seven) mangra, or panch (five) mangra. When later on this was performed three days before marriage it was known as teen (three) mangra, but nowadays, it is performed only on the last day before marriage. The bride and bridegroom are massaged five times daily by five married women whose husbands are alive with the bukawa and with curd and besan as well.

 The singing of songs would start as from this day of lagan dharana or lagan kholna and continue daily till the day of marriage.

 During this period, the bride is not allowed to wear bangles nor ornaments nor to plait her hair. The bride and the bridegroom are not allowed to go anywhere out of the house. Their movement at noon or after dusk is forbidden. No work is sought from them and they are allowed complete rest so that their bodies take on all their physical glow and strength. They are not allowed to take bath or change clothes during this period. This is to increase the potency of the protective qualities and power of the ‘bodily massage’. These are all precautionary measures to save the bride and bridegroom from evil influences. The rubbing of besan, curd, turmeric, and mustard oil on the body of the bride and bridegroom is called ‘ubtan’. It is a form of cosmetics for beautifying the body and making it fit for the new phase of life. Nowadays, with the pressure of modernity, willingly to sit with ubtan for several days is becoming less practicable.

 Boys and girls are prepared to sit a couple of days only or at least for one night on the hardi occasion. Most brides and bridegrooms, these days, may be working till the last few days before their marriage. So all these traditions have, in fact, been curtailed to the barest minimum. 

Matkor

Matkor is the rite of digging clay. This clay is symbolically used to make the Vedi or ritual space in which the kund or ritual basin is placed and in which nuptial fire is lit and around which the marriage vow is made. In Sanskrit, it is known as mridaharana and in Bhojpuri as matkor. The word matkor is a compound of two words: (i) matti meaning earth or clay and (ii) kor meaning digging. How this ceremony originated is not known but it is a long-standing folk custom. It is not found in the scriptures themselves, but it is mentioned in the Padhatis.

 Actually, at the beginning of every auspicious occasion, sprouts are used for mangal (auspicious) decoration. Be it for Katha or a Yajna etc., sprouts are germinated as a decorative feature. In the Padhatis, it is mentioned: “On the ninth, seventh, fifth or third day before marriage in an auspicious moment, with music and dancing, earth (clay) should be fetched from a place to the north or east of the house, for growing sprouts, in a pot of clay or a basket of bamboo.” This is a quotation from Gadadhar in the Padhatis. Sprouts signify fertility, a new life. A bit of clay is dug to the accompaniment of music and singing (and/ or dancing) and is placed in a basket of bamboo known as dalya. This dalya is placed on the head of bride’s/ bridegroom’s sister or phouphou. It is performed at both homes. The ceremony of growing sprouts is not done nowadays in weddings, but the custom is retained in all kathas, such as Bhagavat Purana, Gita or Durga Pujas. Rice sprouts are cultivated in special clay all round the Vedi. Formerly the earth was dug near a sacred water source, a river, a well or a lake. This earth (soil) is kept under the kalash on which dhan is kept for parching. This is known as Lawa and will later on be used in the Laja Homa ceremony (during the wedding ceremony). This is the dhan that was mixed in the tilak ceremony.

 The bride’s or bridegroom’s paternal aunt, phouphou or younger sister carries the dalya on her head covered with a piece of red cloth. A group of women follows her. They proceed as mentioned above to a water place to Hanuman’s shrine, the chowtra in the family compound. Here a lamp is lighted before the Hanuman’s shrine, the god who keeps vigil in all Sanatani Hindu homes. A hoe is carried to dig the clay. This hoe is ritually purified. It is anointed with a paste of flour by five married women of the family whose husbands are alive. The lady of the house, if her husband is alive does the first action. The paste is applied on the hoe by each of the five women at seven different places. This symbolises the Sapta matrika, the seven mothers.

 The vermilion is smeared on the seven areas where the flour paste has been applied. Now the hoe has been sanctified and is ritually fit to dig the earth. The other accompanying women dig a little bit of earth each. Before they do this, they all have to apply a little bit of oil and sindur in their hair parting. An oil lamp is lighted on the lump of dug earth. A prayer or sankalpa is made. The clay thus dug is then placed in the dalya, carried by the phouphou or sister on her head. As for the bride’s or bridegroom’s mother, she takes her share in the loose end of her sari, the anchara, to the devkul or family shrine.

 The mother and the phouphou/sister are both followed back by a string of women who performed the ceremony while women sing appropriate folk songs.

Matkor Song

Outhou outhou matiya ho
Piyari se piyari ho
Tohar bina kaissan biyah
Ehi matiya ke
Vediya bana wele ho
Tohar bina kaissan biyah

“O Earth, arise. Take the yellow colour as (when the turmeric dyed flour paste is applied) as an auspicious sign. How can the marriage take place without your presence? After all it is with this Earth only that the wedding Vedi will be made for the nuptial Fire. How is the wedding possible without you?”

 This song as it is sung to this day in Mauritius during the matkor ceremony is also sung in almost the same form and with the same wordings and meaning in the Bhojpuri region of Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Tohi Bina Matiya Kaissan Biyah

Outhi outhi matiya kari piyar bhayi
Tohi bina matiya kaissan biyah
Kahwan hi matiya toharo janam bhaye
Kahawan hi matiya oujwal jaye
Khur khete matiya toharo janam bhaye
Eh mandawari matiya oujwal jaye

 “Without you O earth, O how is a wedding possible? Get up, get up, O black Earth, becoming yellow, without you, O Earth, how is a wedding possible? Where, O Earth, were you born? Where, O Earth, is your destination? O Earth, you were born on the outskirts of the village; O Earth, mandap is your destination”.

 After this custom, an arti of the phouphou carrying the dalya of clay is made by the five married women. At each turn of arati, each woman has to give her a neg. Only after this does she bring down the dalya and hand it over to the sacred place in the maroh where the Vedi will be made. She does not do so unless she is duly rewarded and a lot of teasing takes place. Throughout the Hindu wedding rituals, a number of such occasions occur where teasing goes on side by side with the more serious prescribed rites and ceremonials. The social customs closely follow as an under current the main rites as prescribed in the marriage manuals. They compliment each other. This teasing reflects the home culture that predominates in the Hindu families.

 There is a close bond, indescribable in nature that intertwines different members of the Hindu households. The family relationship is strongly stressed in the Bhojpuri folk songs. The father’s sister exerts a strong influence on the family just as the bridegroom’s sister does. This custom highlights her role and importance. 

 Today matkor ceremony is carried out only symbolically. It is a tradition that holds on strongly despite pressures of modern life. The Vedi is in actual fact already set and ready before the clay is even dug. Nevertheless, the lump of clay is placed on the already prepared Vedi and is used as a resting place for the sacred Kalash.

The Chowka

The chowka is the sacred space where all the major ceremonies will be performed. It is a decorated dais and is square in shape. Hence the term chowka. The Fire Altar (the havan kund) is made on the chowka, where the Vedas are sung. This is one of the most ancient ritual constituents handed down to the present day Hindus and still much functional. It is here that the Vivah Homa, the nuptials will be performed. The marriage canopy is made over the chowka, facing the north or the east. It is built under the larger pavilion erected for the accommodation of guests. The chowka is painted with rice, flour or coloured powders in ritual designs pleasing to the gods. Words like Chowka, Vedi occur repeatedly in the folk songs sung on the occasion of marriage.

Jab Raja Ramchandra
Chawka hi baithale
Brahman gotra onchare

“When Raja Ramchandra sits on the chowka,
the Brahman starts speaking about their lineages.”

Chowka Puja

If the nuptials are held in a social hall, then a makeshift maroh is made to serve the purpose on the dais without the traditional canopy or measurement of nine marriage poles etc. The only two essential elements such as the harish and the Vedi are brought from the actual maroh built at the bride’s place and placed on a freshly delimited ritual space sanctified with appropriate sacred verses. All the gods and goddesses are invited to take their seats, and given due respect and welcome so that they may act as divine witnesses and give their blessings to the couple. The Gowri Ganesh puja is also performed and all the rites for propitiating the gods and the nine planets are repeated to sanctify the nuptial spot. Offerings of asana (seat), food, water, bath, betel nut, rice, flowers, clothing, sweets, fruits, money are all religiously done. A kumbh (vessel or container in the shape of a lota) is placed at the harish. This kumbh is filled with water symbolising Varuna, the ocean god. The couple is blessed with plenty like the ocean which is always full.

Harish Gadhana

Harish is a compound word meaning God. It is a symbol of Lord Vishnu. The rite of fixing the Harish is known as Harish Gadhana. The harish symbolises the importance of the yoke or plough shaft in the life of an agricultural people.

 “Let your place of drinking water be common and let the partaking of food be together, as I yoke you to a common yoke. Worship Agni (Fire) all of you together attaching yourself to Him. Just as the spokes are attached to the nave of the chariot all round.”

Hari – a term for Lord Vishnu.
Ish – Where God is.
Hari-Ish menas in Sanskrit where God abides. What the Harish is made of?

 

  1. A small branch of mango plant

  2. A bamboo pole with some leaves or

  3. Some kush leaves.

 Harish signifies the skambh. It is also the Prajapati.

 “Who out of many powers tell me, O learned, is that supporting Divine Power (Skambh) on whom Prajapati, the Creator of the universe set up and firmly established the worlds?”

 Although there is no difference between Prajapati and Skambh, they are described as different attributes of the one and the same god. The supporter of the universe is known as Skambh while the Creator is known as Prajapati. The Creator set up and firmly established the world on Himself. he being the Creator is also the Skambh, the main supporter of all the worlds.

Skambhe lokah skambhe tapah
Skambhadhyrita ma hitam
Skambhe twa Veda
Pratyaksham Indre sarvam samahitam

“All the worlds rest on Skambh, the all supporting Divine Power, austerity reposes on Skambh, and the Vedas (eternal laws) repose on Skambh. O Skambh, I esoterically know you as Indra, the almighty God in whom all the universe finds its base or rest.”

 The three above named plants, the mango, the bamboo and the kush, are noted for their auspiciousness in the Hindu tradition. These customs and traditions have originated in the Gangetic plains where bamboo and mango groves thrive. Therefore these plants have come to occupy a significant place in the Hindu beliefs and ceremonies. Mango leaves are used as decorations and as ritual spoons for the various ceremonials.

Mango represents prosperity, progress; always moving forward. Symbol of progress, a branch of mango gives firmness and support to the new life to be shared by the new couple. The mango tree gives fruit once a year, which is very delicious and enjoyable. It is thus symbolical of the prosperity of the householder’s life to be entered by the bride and bridegroom.

The bamboo known as bans (also vans) is symbolical of fertility. The word bans means badho (increase) – have progeny. It is derived from the Sanskrit vansh i.e. lineage. In the family ancestry, the descendants will go on flourishing like the bans, the bamboo grove.

 As for the Kush, it is a very ‘clean’, pure and brittle grass that grows in abundance in the plains and hills of India. The Aryans were an agricultural people and nature worshippers. The kush grass lent itself to the making of the Vedi for the yajnas and other life cycle ceremonies, the asanas, resting places and cottages.

O performer of yajna!
Strew kush grass and spread it
On the yajna Vedi and
Do not rob this Vedi who is like
The sleeping sister.
Let the seat of the hotar-priest be
Green with grass and glitter with gold
And let the garlands be arranged
For gift in the place of yajman.

We are all familiar with the story of the Ramayana. When Sita gave birth to twins after her banishment to the forest, Valmiki took a blade of grass and broke it in two. He called one son ‘Kush’ and the other ‘Lav.’ Kush is a benevolent grass, also symbolical of progress and alertness. The saying ‘kushal buddhi’ originates from kush, meaning an alert, and pure, bright mind. It is a satwic plant that stands for intelligence.

In Mauritius, all the three plants are available and lend themselves to the dcor of an Indian wedding fittingly.

The Harish delimits the sacred space of the nuptial ceremony. It is under the Harish that the gods and goddesses will be invited to take their asanas.  Writes Chandramani Singh in the Marriage Songs from Bhojpuri Region  “…the Kalyani Puja ceremony is performed in which one bamboo pole, a branch of a mango tree and a cluster of kusha grass are planted in the courtyard.”

 The harish is fixed in the centre of the chowka by five married men of the kul, all ‘gotras’ if possible i.e., the grandfather, father, the brother, paternal uncles etc. The harish is fixed with the help of Sanskrit mantras chanted by the family priest, just a little before the hardi ceremony takes place. The Harish Gadhana ceremony takes place after the matkor. The maroh which in reality should now be built, is already erected to suit the exigencies of time in the context of modern life. It is only when the harish is installed, signifying the setting up of the marriage pole, that the rest of the maroh should be erected in fact.

 The maroh or mandhawa is the nuptial canopy. In Hindi, it is known as mandap and in Bhojpuri as maroh. The nuptial canopy is erected according to the rules laid down in the scriptures. It is known as Mandap Pratishtha. The ceremony of fixing the marriage canopy is known as maroh chawai or maroh gadhana. The maroh is built with bamboo poles. The erection of the maroh heralds the close approach of the wedding and leads to much excitement and joy in the family circle. Folk songs are sung on the occasion by women.

The maroh is usually built after the matkor ceremony but nowadays with the pressure of time, it is built earlier during the day. It is built with the sacred kusha grass; symbol of purity and bedecked with flowers, mango leaves and sweet smelling decorative plants. A twig of mango branch and a bamboo pole or plant are fixed in the middle, accompanied by the recitation of mantras.

 Four or eight bamboo poles are fixed in four or eight corners that are at a distance of five times the hand of the bride from the centre.

“Who out of many powers, tell me, O learned, is the supporting divine power in whom twelve Adityas – the months of the year, Rudras, the eleven vital breaths including the soul, and Vasus, the eight localities are contained and in whom the past, future and all the worlds are firmly established?”

The eight localities are represented by the eight bamboo poles of the maroh. The Vasus mentioned in this verse from the Atharva Veda, are a class of deities, eight in number, known as attendants upon Indra. In Vedic times they were personified as 1.Apa- water, 2.Dhruva-polestar,  3.Soma- moon, 4.Dhara-earth,  5.Anila-wind,   6.Anala-fire, 7.Prabhasa-dawn,  8.Pratyusha-light.

 The guardian of the eight quarters of the world are:

1.Indra- lord of the celestials, of the East

2.Agni- Fire god, of the South East

3.Yama-god, dispensing the fruit of one’s good and evil actions, of  the South                      

4.Nivriti-god of death, of the Southwest

5.Varuna- the god of water, of the West

6.Vayu- the wind god, of the North West

7. Kuvera- the god of riches, of the North

8. Isana-Shiva, of the North East.

 The central pole in the centre signifies the marriage pole Skambh (also known as harish).

 These eight surrounding poles together with the central pole also represent the nine planets or Nav grahas whose presence is essential to the good conduct of all the nuptial rituals.

 When the harish has been installed with sankalpa (resolution), then only Brahma, Vishnu, Shrishti, Creator of Nature, Prajapati, the universal lord, are invited and propitiated. With the fixing of the harish, the sankalpa of the family is that the new household will flourish, progress and prosper, having children and lead a blissful conjugal life.

 After the harish is thus fixed on the chowka, five married women of the family whose husbands are alive, apply the following ingredients to it:

 

  1. Hardi- turmeric- for auspiciousness

  2. Dahi- curd for brightness in life

  3. Ata- paste of flour for firmness

  4. Sindur – vermilion powder, a symbol of Suhag, sign of being married and for the Saptamatrika as well.

 The five married women should do the lipan, smearing of the Vedi with the clay (earth) brought from the riverbank or Hanuman shrine during the matkor ritual. Afterwards they tila the harish with the above mentioned ingredients.

 All is now set for the homa. The rite of fixing the harish is accompanied by a meaningful and highly literary song item, very profound and sublime in essence, sung by the elderly ladies of the family and of the neighbourhood. This song, like thousand others, lays stress on Ram and Sita as a couple and the marriage preparations under way at the bridegroom’s house.

A dialogue ensues between Lord Ram and his father King Dashrath on the ritual materials to be used in the wedding. Ayodhya falls within the Bhojpuri belt of India and therefore since thousands of years, it has given rich literary support to the lores, legends and folk literature of the peoples of the surrounding areas. Sita’s maike or neihar or mother’s residence Janakpur falls in the present state of Bihar and Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.

In the song the nao, i.e. the barber, and the badhai, i.e., the carpenter, are asked to run to Ayodhya, the kingdom of Ram, to fetch God’s image, all in gold, for the nuptial ceremony and to bless the bride and the bridegroom. Prince Ram tells his father Dasharatha: ‘Listen, father, to these words of mine. It is not in man’s destiny or within ordinary mortal’s reach to have an image of God, all in gold. It is the luck of common man to have a golden image. Therefore, ordinary man has to make good the void with an image in the form of ‘bamboo’ that is harish.

All the other ceremonial items: the kalash, the lamp, the seats for the bride or the bridegroom are now placed on the chowka. In the same song, reference is made to the above items. The nao is asked to bring a pot of gold. Prince Ram tells his father Dasharatha in the song that it is not the fate of ordinary man to have a golden ceremonial pot, and therefore he asks him to bring an earthen pot instead. And the same reference is made for the lamp. An earthen lamp will do for the common man. Since golden seats are out of the question for the nuptials, the badhai is asked to make two wooden seats – pidhas out of chandan or sandalwood. Till today we find that the tradition of making little pidhas of sandalwood prevails. If sandalwood is not available then they are made of kath wood that is from the jacktree and dipped in turmeric. Formerly the pidha was made all in one piece. Sandalwood is one of the seven sacred woods used in Hindu rites. Nowadays, more sophisticated handmade pouffes, or velvety cushioned seats for the bride and the bridegroom are made. In the Tamil Nadu families, the bride and bridegroom sit on the floor to this day.

Harish Geet

Dhawa ho nawwa ho
Dhawa ho bariya
Dhayi Ajodhya mein ja
Ohi Ajodhya mein sone ke

Harish wa
Ho sone ke harishwa
Dhayi harish lele awa (2)

Kahe Raja Ramchander
Soonoo Pita Dasruth
Soonoo le ho bachan hamaar
Sone ke harish
Manush kahan paihein
Manush kahan paihein
Bans ke harish dharawa

Dhawa ho naw ho
Dhawa ho bariya
Dhayi Ajodhya mein ja
Ohi Ajodhya mein sone ke

Kalash wa
Ho sone ke kalash wa
Ho sone ke kalash wa
Dhayi kalash lele awa
Dhayi kalash lele awa

Kahe Raja Ramchander
Soonoo leho bachan hamar
Sone ke kalash wa
Manush kahan painhein
Manush kahan painhein
Mati ke kalash dharaawa
Mati ke kalash dharawa

Dhawa ho nawa ho
Dhawa ho bariya
Dhayi Ajodhya mein ja
Ohi Ajodhya mein
Sone ke Deepak wa
Ho sone ke Deepak wa
Dhayi Deepak lele awa
Dhayi Deepak lele awa

Kahe Raja Ramchander
Soonoo Pita Dasruth
Soonoo le ho bachan hamar
Sone Deepak wa
Manush kahan painhein
Manush kahan painhein
Mati ke diyara barawa
Mati ke diyara barawa

Dhawa ho bawa ho
Dhawa ho bariya
Dhayi Ajodhya mein ja
Ohi Ajodhya mein
Sone ke pidhaya
Sone ke pidhaya
Dhayi pidhaya lele awa
Dhayi pidhaya lele awa

Kahe Raja Ramchander
Soonoo Pita Dasruth
Soonoo le ho bachan hamar
Sone ke pidhariya
Manush kahan painhey
Chandan ke pidhayi dharawa
Chandan ke pidhayi leyawa
Dhawa ho badya
Dhayi Ajodhya mein ja
Ohi Ajodhya mein
Sone ke harish wa
Dhayi harish lele awa

Kahe Raja Ramchander
Soonoo Pita Dasruth
Soonoo le ho bachan hamar
Sone ke harish
Manush kahan painhein
Manush kahan painhein
Bans ke harish dharawa
Bans ke harish dharawa

Index Alphabetical [Index to Pages]

Aam Mahua

The ceremony is not practised among the Mauritian Bhojpuris. It is a common feature among the Magahis in Bihar. Mahua (bassia latefolia) is an oil-giving pant that was used in Indian households. The oil is made from the flowers. The marriage of mango and mahua signifies the bringing together of two properties, of unifying two personalities. The mahua tree is rare in Mauritius. It may have been useful for its oil earlier. The tradition of Aam-mahua may have been in practice in the early days of immigration, but perhaps because of the unavailability of the mahua everywhere in the island of Mauritius, the custom was eventually dropped. In early days, the ladies of the house accompanied by singing women, used to go to the orchard and invite various auspicious trees invoking them to give their blessings to the family for this very important rite of passage.

Katha

 After the matkor and harish gadhana ceremony, the pundit now proceeds with the katha and puja. The katha is a recitation of chosen stories from the scriptures by the family priest. The boy’s and girl’s parents at their respective places sit as the listener – shrota and as the jajmaan  (yajmaan)– the host. The most popular katha on such occasions is the Satyanarayana (Satnarain Swami katha) among the Bhojpuris in Bihar. This tradition is very popular in Mauritius too. It is meant to hear ‘panch nam’ that is five names of God. Formerly, the katha used to be held a little before the hardi vidhi (ceremony), but since it involves a lot of time, parents arrange with their priests to have the katha a little earlier on the same day or on a previous day, at their convenience. The hearing of the katha is meant to purify the mind and strengthen the sankalpa for the marriage ceremony. The katha highlights the importance of vrata in domestic life. It helps the parents direct the mind and one’s energies to secure the attainment of the object in view, in this case the proper conduct of the marriage.

Puja

After the katha is recited and listened to, the family priest conducts the puja. All the appropriate rites are conducted so that the place is properly sanctified and converted into a temporary temple. All the gods and goddesses are invoked to descend to the sacred site and take their asana so as to give their blessings to the bride and bridegroom as well as to their families and at the same time to be the divine witness to the wedding event. This invitation is conducted with the greatest respect and love. They are invoked according to the traditional sixteen modes of welcome. Each of the deities is given a ritual ‘bath’ (water is sprinkled on ‘them’). They are offered clothing in the form of the protective cord or suta, and the traditional tika of welcome, either vermilion or chandan paste. They are garlanded and offered ritual food, and gifts of money in the form of silver or copper coins.

Puja Songs

Folk songs are a rich heritage of oral traditions very popular among the Bhojpuris. In Mauritius too, the Bhojpuri speaking people have a rich repertoire of folk songs for each and every ritual performed during the wedding ceremony. Beautiful puja songs invoking the gods and goddesses and extending invitations to them to come and take their respective seats on the ceremonial space so as to be able to bless the bride and bridegroom are sung on this occasion.

Puja Song

Kahawa se awe la
Barma (Brahma) ho Bishun (2)

Kahawa se Bharat Bhuwalaji
Kahawa se awe la Gaya Gajadhur
Kahawa se Gowri Ganeshji
Sargue se awe la
Barma ho Bishunji (2)

Sargue se Bharat Bhuwalaji
Sargue se Bharat Bhuwalaji
Panphul chadaibon mein
Barma ho Bishun (2)

Akchat Bharat Bhuwalaji (2)
Homiy Karaibon mein
Gaya Gajadhur (2)
Homhi Gowri Ganeshji (2)
Singhasan se awe la
Gaya Gajadhur (2)
Singhasan se Gowri Ganeshji (2)

Kahwa baissai bon mein
Bramha ho Bishun (2)
Kahwa hi Bharat Bhuwalaji
Kahawa baissai bon mein
Gaya Gajadhur (2)
Kahwa hi Gowri Ganeshji (2)

Harish baissaibon mein
Bramha ho Bishun (2)
Kalash hi Bharat Bhuwalaji (2)
Chowke baissai bon mein
Gaya Gajadhur
Chowke hi Gowri Ganeshji
Kaile hi pujabon mein
Barma ho Bishun (2)
Kaile hi Bharat Bhuwalaji (2)
Kaile hi pujabon
Gaya Gajadhur (2)
Kaile hi Gowri Ganeshji (2)

Kalash Stapana

Kalash or pitcher is symbolical of the universe, of space. It represents ‘the body’ of God. According to the Karma Kanda and the ancient Rishis, the stapana (sthapana) or ‘installation’ of the kalash in all religious functions means that the gods prevail here. “Hiranya garbha sama varta tagre” is sung in the Vedas – “Here, the gods prevail.”

 Panch palav, five leaves are placed on top of the kalash (in the mouth of the kalash) by the priest. These should be leaves of

  1. Peepal

  2. Var

  3. Palash

  4. Gular

  5. Aam

If these are not available, then the traditional and common mango leaves are used.

Certain ingredients are used to give fullness to the kalash also known as ‘purna patra’. These ingredients are symbolical of purna, fulfilment. They are:

Dhan – unhusked rice
Chawal – cleansed rice
Coconut – a pure fruit

The coconut is placed on the pitcher containing the five leaves as specified above. A yellow piece of cloth is kept on it, or a suta dyed in turmeric is placed on it. According to the scriptures, one should install only gold pitcher or silver, or copper or brass pitcher. As these may not always be available, as is mentioned in the harish song, then an earthen one is a good substitute.

The kalash stapan involves both religious and folk traditions. The daughters in the bride’s or bridegroom’s house decorate the ceremonial pitcher. In former days, five married women whose husbands were alive did the kalash parchawan.

The ceremonial pitcher is filled with water by five married men from the family. Water as an element of life signifies vitality. It gives life to the kalash. Jal, water, signifies there is life. “Praana he”. Apa Pranah is mentioned in the Vedas. Apa means water i.e., water of life. Vayu, air is already present. The seed of air is water. The five elements of life:

  1. Agni –        Fire

  2. Apa -         Water

  3. Vayu –       Air

  4. Prithvi –    Earth

  5. Akasha -   Space

are thus represented in the kalash. After the pitcher is ceremoniously filled, it is placed by five persons in the maroh. These five persons include the priest, the bride/ bridegroom at their respective places, the parents. Then the bride/bridegroom puts five turmeric roots, one betel nut and sawaiya (one Rupee and twenty five cents) into the pitcher. The priest chants some sacred mantras. After applying oil and vermilion to their mid-hair parting, five married women whose husbands are alive, apply ‘tika’ (dot) of vermilion on the pitcher. After that only the pitcher is ritually tied with a suta dyed in turmeric. An earthen plate with some grains of rice is placed over the pitcher by these five married women. Then an earthen oil lamp is kept lit on this earthen plate over the pitcher, near the harish. This lamp is to be kept burning throughout the marriage ceremony, day and night till the bride arrives at her in-laws’ house. It symbolises Lakshmi, goddess of light and prosperity. The lady of the house or her assistants, have to keep vigil throughout the night to see that oil/ghee is not lacking in the lamp and that there is no danger of the lamp being extinguished.

 If a coconut is placed on the kalash, then the grains of rice are placed on the chawka below it beautifully arranged in geometric designs, pleasing to the gods. The earthen oil lamp too is placed near it.

Index Alphabetical [Index to Pages]

Matri Puja

Worship of the Mother Energy is performed in the maroh before the sacrifice is performed. This is known as Gawri Puja. Gawri’s name is mentioned in numerous Bhojpuri songs in all her epithets e.g. Sato Bahani, Devi, Kalimai. Sitala mata etc. After the ceremonious installation of Gawri in the maroh, the other deities of the family shrine are worshipped. The priest uses betel nuts or other symbols to represent Gawri at the ritual space on the chawka.

 The Mother Energy and her son Ganesh- the remover of obstacles, are ceremoniously installed at the same time. Seven oval shapes of flour paste or clay are made on the floor near the family shrine . Vermilion is applied to these. Ghee is applied to each.

Betel leaves, betel nuts and rice are offered to them. Lamps are lighted, camphor burnt in front of each. These seven shapes are representatives of the Sapta Matrika the seven mothers or the Sato Bahani, the seven sisters. If this installation is not done in the house, then the family does the puja at the local Kalimai. And, if a visit to the Kalimai is not possible, then a sankalpa (resolution) is made mentally, following a manas puja (mental worship).

Nav-Graha Puja  (Graha Shanti Puja- Yajna)

After the kalash sthapan and matri puja, the Nav-Graha Puja is held in which the planets are propitiated. Graha means planet. Nav means nine. Nav Graha Puja means the propitiation of the nine planets. It is very essential in all pujas to propitiate the planets. They are represented in the maroh by nine bamboo poles. Eight are fixed on the sides in a circular or square pattern and one is fixed in the middle representing the marriage pole. Actually, it is to this marriage pole that the harish is tied. The marriage pole is the pillar of marriage representing the solidity of the new household life to be entered upon. Earth too is a planet. In fact, nothing is essentially bad. But obstacles and obstructions are found in the atmosphere in both tangible and intangible forms that prevent the cosmic harmony of the self with the Greater Self. The Graha Puja seeks to harmonize these negative elements in physical phenomenal things that are seen and heard.

The aim of the Graha Puja is to remove all the planetary obstacles that may not be visible to us physically but which are very much manifest in the atmosphere. The removal of these planetary obstacles from the bride’s and bridegroom’s paths helps to make their new life a smooth one. Nothing is left to chance. All preventive measures are taken to protect the bride and bridegroom, and ward off evil or negative influences that may upset this important rite of passage.  This planetary rite is therefore performed to avert any attendant danger on all transitional periods of life. Radiation from different planets has a certain effect on a person’s emotions, feelings and character as do their movements. They therefore mark man’s destiny. 

The planets are therefore requested to grace the occasion and give their blessings, a little before the nuptials are performed. The Nav Graha Puja is performed symbolically on the Vedi. The planets, for a temporary puja, are represented by betel nuts, or by little bamboo staffs, nine in number, to which are tied yellow, red, green, black and white miniature flags. Akshat (rice) is offered to each. They are invited to take their asana  (seats) with due reverence. The invitation extended to the planets and the deities is as respectful as that extended to one’s guests. They are allotted a prominent place on the chowka throughout the duration of the ritual.

Kul Devta Puja

The ladies of the house do the act of worship of the family gods and goddesses, known as kul devta/devi. The kul devtas are worshipped daily through the following rituals;

1. Sandhya             - Lighting of the lamp

2. Vandana             - Prayer

3. Jaap                    - Mental recitation of matras with or                          without   counting of       beads

4. Tap                      - Sacrifice

 

5. Homa                  - Lighting of sacred sacrificial fire which

                                   the self is offered

Through these various media, God is remembered and concentration is strengthened. Not all these procedures are observed throughout the Hindu community, but orthodox Hindus make it a point to have strict observances of all the puja rules. On such occasions as marriages in the family, mental affirmations known as sankalpa are made so that all goes well till the end of the ceremonies.

The kul devta/devi vary according to the particular traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation and from kul to kul. Among the Bhojpuris, Devi in her varying forms is popular.

But other gods and goddesses such as Hanuman, Ram, Sita, Shiva, Krishna and Radha, Ganesh, also find their place in the family shrine. The kul devta is allocated a little corner in one of the family rooms away from public glare. A little curtain delimits the sacred site of the gods and goddesses. The shrine can be either on a little shelf or on the floor in a corner position. If this room is too small and is not convenient as the kohbar or nuptial anteroom, then a lamp is lighted in a corner of a room to be converted into the kohbar.

 The family makes daily offerings of flowers, incense etc., to the kul devta. If this is not possible, then one member of the family does so on behalf of all others regularly. In the evening at sandhya, dusk   - an earthen lamp with ghee or oil is lighted in front of the kul devta/devi/s. After a mental or verbal prayer, and veneration with folded hands, the curtain is drawn and the gods are expected to retire. Bells are rung to ‘awaken’ the gods and goddesses, during the daily routine.

 In some families, a whole room is delimited as a family shrine known as Puja Ghar, the House of Worship. These families are more particular in their daily rituals and perform elaborate morning and evening worship in their Puja Ghar.

The Arya Samaj families do not have a kul devta or devi shrine but perform daily rounds of sandhya morning and evening. They also light a traditional earthen oil lamp on a little shelf where a symbol of Om is kept. Once every week, they perform the havan or homa, also known as yajna, around the havan kund. Offerings of rice, sandalwood, flowers, incense, camphor, ghee, havan samagri (sacrificial ingredients), sweet rice puddings, halwa or suji are made. The whole family sits round the kund and participate in the homa. After the food offerings are blessed by Agni, they are shared among the congregation. Devotional songs are sung by the family members. An elderly member of the family sometimes makes topical discourses of moral or religious significance. On the occasion of marriage in the family, a havan is conducted by a priest before the hardi ceremony, and before the barat proceeds to the bride’s residence.

Nariyal (Coconut) Puja

The coconut is a satvic fruit. It is sacred, pure, clean, and health giving, endowed with several properties. The coconut has been of great ritual significance in Hindu ceremonials both in North and South India since time immemorial. The coconut has three parts:

1. The outward                    - the pulp

2. Outer core                         - cover shell

3. Inner core                          - fruit or milk

This fruit and water is as untouched and pure as God residing in the inner self of man. This is why the coconut is an ever-present ritual item. Among the Marathi Hindus, it is customary to give a coconut and a betel nut to invites as a marriage or ritual invitation. It has the same importance in Tamil Hindu communities.

 The coconut is like the Dwijati, the twice born, issued from

  1. The mother’s womb and

  2.  Saraswati Ma – Intelligence.

The twice born becomes so after initiation with the sacred mantra and sacred thread. The coconut too, after its first birth is now invested with Pran Pratishtha, new life with the help of the sacred mantras, symbolising the fullness of life. Both the bride and the bridegroom are entering a new life to serve (1) Dharma,  (2) Society and  (3) the Nation. They should be alert, wise and awakened. Coconut is a sign of auspiciousness and alertness. The same ritual welcome is made to the coconut as to the other deities.

Other Ritual Materials

After the kalash sthapan, other utensils of domestic utility are placed near the harish in the maroh. These are:

 1. The sil and lodha -                     grinding stone

2. The dal ghontni -                          wooden cream churner

3. The onkri-musal -                         wooden pestle and                                                             mortar

4. The senura -                                the vermilion box

5.   A lota of water

In former days, a potter’s wife was ‘paricha’ with the above items before they were placed at the ritual site on the chowka. This action symbolises good omen in the new married life. The above mentioned utensils are all items associated with domesticity. The pairs of sil-lodha and onkri-musal signify union, being in pairs. The pestle is useless without the mortar and so is the grinding stone without the grinder. They go by pairs. Similarly, the householder’s life is incomplete without either wife or husband.

Moreover, these utensils were used to grind the dal, the hardi and the dhan for (1) the rituals and (2) for the marriage featst. They had therefore to be blessed and kept in a ‘clean’ place. Today, they have only a symbolical value and are still kept at the chowka in the maroh. Though the sil-lodha are still brought from the kitchen or backyard and kept near the Vedi, the onkri-musal has been replaced by a miniature ‘spice’ mortar and pestle. A suta dyed in turmeric is tied around the grinding stone, the pestle, the mortar, the cream churner etc., as a protective cord (Raksha Sutra). These materials are not removed from the maroh until the marriage is over.

Homa

After the various gods and goddesses have been ceremoniously invited to take their respective seats to grace the site of the nuptial ceremony with all due respect, prayers and offerings, the homa is performed. The fire is lighted in the havan kund or sacrificial basin placed in the Vedi made from the clay, brought symbolically during the matkor ceremony. The homa is the symbolical sacrifice performed during the pre-wedding and also during the main wedding ceremonials.

 The sacrificial offerings are made in the names of the gods and goddesses consecrated initially at the ritual space. The nature deities of the Vedic period also are honoured so that the atmosphere is purified and made auspicious.

 Fire assumes a great importance in all the Hindu sanskaras (sacraments). It is in fact the most permanent constituent of the sanskaras. Every Hindu rite was/is performed in the presence of Agni (Fire) the Great Witness. In fact, Agni was worshipped as the domestic deity by the Aryans, during the Indo-Iranian period.

Agni was the ‘Grihapati’ the lord of the house. It was a constant companion to the householder in his secular as well as sacred life. And the importance Agni assumed in the Aryan’s domestic sacrifices may have developed in a given geographical and environmental context. In the cold winters of the northern countries from where the Aryan tribes may have originated and afterwards moved to the Gangetic plains, fire must have been their constant companion. Dr. Rajbali Pandey says: “The family hearth was the first ‘holy of the holies’… The fire that was kept burning in every house became a perpetual sign for all influences that bound men with family and social relations, and became the centre of all domestic rites and ceremonies.” He further adds: “The Romans and the Greeks also made the hearth the centre of religious faith and rite.”

Fire is one of the five essential elements in life. Without fire, there is no heat. It is a symbol of Energy. Fire also lights the domestic hearth. Traditionally, food is cooked with fire. The kitchen is the heart of a house to this day. When families that have lived jointly separate, the first conspicuous sign is a separate chulha, domestic hearth. Separate chulha means separate economy and budget. It is a sign of partition. Thus fire is symbolical of family life, of unity and social relations.

Fire also burns all the impurities of the ego in man. In the sacrificial fire, the bride and bridegroom burn all their impurities and make themselves fit for the responsibilities of a new life. Agni is also representative of the Fire of life that creates union of man and woman. Fire is also lighted at the last journey of man to consume and absorb his decaying body.

With the performance of the Agni Hotra, lighting of the sacrificial fire, the family gods are pleased and the house becomes auspicious and blissful. The environment is purified and exudes sweet fragrance. The homa is performed with special wood, the choicest, either sandalwood or mango twigs. Pure ghee (purified butter) from cow’s milk is used to nourish the fire as the woods burn in the havan kund to the tune of mantras, chanted loudly by the presiding priests. All the family gods, pleased, pour their blessings on the bride and the bridegroom. Homa is performed during the tilak ceremony, at the hardi ceremony and during the main nuptials, on the wedding day

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Mantras - Sacred Fire

Hardi 

There is an undeniable sanctity attached to Hindu customs and traditions and this is no less true in the case of the hardi ceremony. The hardi ceremony is the application of turmeric paste on the bride and the bridegroom at their respective homes. The word ‘hardi’ in Bhojpuri means turmeric. It is known as haldi in Hindi from the word Halad in Sanskrit. The term is given also to the ceremony of applying the turmeric paste. The custom is mentioned in ancient marriage manuals and is known as ‘Haridra Lepana’ (applying or smearing with turmeric).

Smearing the bride and bridegroom with an ointment of turmeric root paste and mustard oil is an old Indian tradition popular in all Indian states. By virtue of its yellow colour, turmeric stands as a spiritual plant giving a divine glow. Yellow is also an auspicious colour.

Hardi is also applied at the time of the janeo or upanayana sanskar. That is why a boy who has taken the janeo may also apply the hardi on the bride/ bridegroom even if he is still a bachelor. When ascetics take the path of renunciation, they are smeared with turmeric paste to denote their new life of Sanyasi (monk).

At the time of the moondan sanskar head is massaged with hardi paste to denote the rite of passage. At the last rites of man, the antyeshti, too, the dead body is usually smeared with turmeric paste. In several Hindu communities, hardi is applied at various stages. In the Tamil Hindu community, young girls, on reaching the age of puberty, have a ceremonial massage of turmeric paste especially on their face and limbs. They carry on this custom every time they have a ritual bath. Tamil Hindu married women whose husbands are alive when changing the protective cord of their marriage jewellery – the Tali, every year, have a massage of hardi on their face, hands and body in general.

Hardi is also noted for medicinal properties. Hardi paste in milk is a good medication for sore throats and chest colds. When one has bodily injuries or bruises, the grandmothers recommend an application of ground raw turmeric roots. Domestic animals like goats etc. are actually treated by village folks with green turmeric paste when injured.

There are three main reasons for applying the hardi at the time of marriage.

  1. It is the tradition of the kul (family), the rit riwaaj. The kul devtas and devis are worshipped with turmeric.

  2. The time of marriage is a crisis period. There is a change is man’s life cycle. To ensure a safe passage into the new stage, the hardi is applied to protect the bride/bridegroom against evil forces and strengthen her/him in the face of challenges in the Grihasthashram (householders life). The Veda mantras that are pronounced help to create the right atmosphere and strengthen the bride and bridegroom.

  3. According to the Ayurvedic tradition – hardi keeps away diseases.

The hardi is a beautifying process that beats even the modern cosmetics system. It has been beautifully incorporated in the Hindu rites and rituals. The hardi colour gives a special golden glow and lustre to the body of the bride/bridegroom that defies description.

The hardi ceremony is usually held on Saturday nights after the Swistakrit Homa is performed. The turmeric paste is first offered to the Harish by the officiating priest so that its protective force is further strengthened with the recitation of sacred formulae.

The hardi used at the girl’s and the boy’s place is the same that was mixed and separated during the tilak ceremony. Each party separates the hardi roots in the Lagan Kholai (lagan kholna) ceremony in which five married women whose husbands are alive sort out the hardi and dub grass. The boy’s and girl’s phouphous (father’s sister) at their respective place make a paste of the hardi and mustard oil. The mustard oil enables the hardi to penetrate deeper in the skin pores. The oil gives warmth and strength when rubbed on the skin and also gives a shine. The phouphou receives a neg or token money for the job well done. The ground hardi is initially kept in a katori at the foot of the harish in the maroh over the chowka. In the Hindu tradition, even the beautifying process needs the blessing of the gods. The officiating priest takes a bunch of the dub grass, applies it to the katori (container) full of turmeric paste, touches the harish with it before applying it to the eight limbs of the bride’s/bridegroom’s body, the head and the heart. These eight limbs are the shoulders, the knees, the feet and the hands.

The elderly ladies of the family and women of the neighbourhood bring out their choicest hardi songs from their repertoire to accompany the hardi ceremony. They sing:

“Pehle hardiya more bipre chadhawe lan, pacche sajan sablog.” 

“First of all, the priest applies the hardi, afterwards all others.”

It is the officiating priest who has the honour of applying the hardi first of all, and then the others follow suit, led by the bride’s/bridegroom’s father on behalf of the men-folk and the bride’s/bridegroom’s mother on behalf of the womenfolk.

The hardi ceremony is an occasion for much teasing. The atmosphere is a relaxed and pleasurable one. Overzealous friends and relatives rub an overdose of the turmeric paste on the face of the bride/bridegroom. The bride and bridegroom sitting quietly and patiently have no say in the matter. They have to bear all the pranks and mischief of their relatives and friends with a smile.

Only married men and women are allowed to apply the hardi on the bride/bridegroom. As mentioned earlier, those bachelors who have undergone the janeo ceremony are entitled to apply the hardi, however.

How is the hardi applied? First of all a coin or a note depending on one’s generosity, is rotated five times round the head of the bride and bridegroom in a clockwise direction, to remove all the malevolent eyes. This coin/money is put on a plate at the feet of the bride/bridegroom. Later, it is collected by the attendant of the maroh or the barber who assists the priest. After the priest has applied the hardi on the bride/bridegroom, he is followed one by one by the paternal male relatives, and the maternal male relatives beginning with the grandfather, father, brothers, brothers-in-law, uncles, nephews, cousins and friends. After the last of the male members has applied the hardi, it is the turn of the female members of the family to do so, led by the bride’s/bridegroom’s mother. This ceremony is accompanied by the singing of hardi songs adding the name and relationship of each person applying the hardi.

“Pehle hardi more baba
Chadhawe lan…
Pache sajan sab log
Pehle hardiya mere
Chacha chadhawe lan
Bhaiya chadhawe lan…
Moswa chadhawe lan…
Pache sajan sab log…”

 “First of all my father will apply the hardi… first of all my uncle (father’s brother), first of all my uncle (mowsa; mother’s sister’s husband), first of all my brother will apply the hardi…then all others will do so”

The close relatives and friends smear the bride’s/bridegroom’s face copiously with the hardi paste. Her/his sister-in-law, bhavji (elder brother’s wife) is in attendance by her/his side to wipe off the dripping oil and remove the excesses of turmeric paste from her/his face and mouth. It is all accepted lovingly and with a smile. There is no reproach.

No one is allowed in the maroh with his shoes on. The place is sacred and has been duly sanctified. In applying the hardi, the fervent desire or wish of one and all is to bless the young one with all the happiness that can be conjured, in the future conjugal life. A special feeling is created in the mind with the application of hardi, strengthened by the sacred mantras chanted a little while earlier.

The dub grass used in applying the hardi is also of some significance. This grass grows almost anywhere, is lush green and spreads quickly. It is a symbol of prosperity. It is strong and stands for fastness. A bunch of dub grass is unbreakable. And the marriage too is expected to be as durable as the dub grass.

As has been mentioned earlier, the hardi was formerly applied for a whole week, just after the tilak ceremony, and the lagan (wedding) was fixed. The mixture of hardi, mustard oil and a bath of curd, besan paste known as ubtan, massaged on the limbs of the bride/bridegroom makes them strong and healthy allowing all the hygienic and medical properties to be absorbed in the pores.

The curd has cooling properties. All the ingredients used help to produce a shine on the bride’s/bridegroom’s body that is so far unmatched by any beauty parlour treatment.

When all the relatives and close friends have applied the hardi to the bride/bridegroom at their respective places, five married women of the family, whose husbands are alive do the chumawan rite with grains of rice. After this, the mother of the bride/bridegroom carrying a lota of sacred water leads her daughter/son back to the kohbar. All along the way, she sprinkles water from the copper/steel vessel with mango leaves to purify her daughter’s/son’s path and remove all obstacles. In the kohbar, the bride/bridegroom soaked in hardi from head to toe with golden glow, first does gor lago (bow down) to the kul devta/devi or Lakshmi (the oil lamp in the corner). This lamp, like the one near the harish in the maroh will be kept burning till the wedding is over. Actually a little clay from the matkor ceremony is kept here, on which the oil lamp is kept alight.

After the pao puja, the bride/ bridegroom stay in the kohbar. They should not be touched or kissed by anyone. They do not move around or out of the kohbar unattended. They are given a steel knife or a pair of scissors to wear on the body. They are accompanied even to the toilet and have to keep the steel object all the time on their body. It is a protective device and wards off evil forces. The bride/bridegroom in fact are to lead a life of asceticism till the chaturthi karma/chowthari, observing continence, wearing simple clothes (they do not change their turmeric dyed clothes) and no jewellery etc. They sleep on the floor, on a mat. Formerly this was made of kush grass. They eat vegetarian meals and in some families only sweet food. They are to make all these observances so as to be able to enter the new life with full vigour and a pure heart, mind and body.

The hardi day has a nostalgic, enchanting atmosphere about it, heightened by the lilting strains of hardi folk songs sung by women creating an amorous longing in the heart of one and all. The hardi day has a special place in the social functions of Mauritius. Hardi is a traditional, folkloric rite.

Hardi Songs

1.
Koyireen koyireen
Beti sukumari ho
Koyireenje hardi oupajaye la
Beti suhageen ho
Kekar sir hardi chadhe la
Chadhe ke suhagan ho.

“O farmer’s wife, my daughter is very dear to us. O farmer’s wife who cultivates the turmeric, my daughter is on the point of reaching the marriage status, the hardi will be applied on her body and this will give her the marriage status.”

2.
Sone ke katoriya mein
Pisal hardiya
Hardi chadhawe lan baba ji
Hardi chadhawe lan chacha ji.

 “In the golden katora the paste of pounded turmeric is kept. Father is applying the turmeric, chacha (uncle) is applying the turmeric.”

Hardi Dinner

The hardi dinner is the most impressive and grandiose social feast in the Hindu community enjoyed by one and all. When one is invited to a Hindu wedding, one impatiently awaits the day of hardi. It has become a day of joyous social gathering where relatives and friends, who do not usually have the opportunity to meet each other and have a relaxed chit-chat, look forward to having a good time. One is certain to meet all distant and near relatives as well as family friends. The hardi dinner is a must. No guest is allowed to go home without having eaten the traditional puri and kacchu. The hardi ceremony may still be on, while guests are requested to go to the makeshift dining pavilion to have the hardi dinner. Even if one has missed the hardi ceremony, one is still entitled to a dinner and to be entertained with honour to the hardi feast, no matter what the time may be.

Since early morning on that day, huge chulhas (hearth for cooking foods) are lit for the large-scale preparation of the various food items to be served to the guests.

Several people, men and women, help in the preparation and cooking of the nuptial food. Some help in peeling the vegetables and still others do the actual cooking in large sized cauldrons, dekchis and other vessels. Firewood is used for the cooking. We have mentioned already how the chulha is ceremoniously lit by the lady of the house. Food is cooked in large quantities to feed all the guests and even those who drop in casually. Some parties may receive three hundred guests, others may have eight to twelve hundred or more guests on a single night. Tables and chairs are hired from caterers for the occasion. No hired servers are needed. Family members and friends, young men and women, boys and girls belonging to all ranks of life and profession, and even children all in their best attire, vie with each other and move around like colonies of ants or busy bees to serve food to the satisfaction of the guests.

The guests are invited to take their seats group by group and by turn, after each group has finished. The tables are quickly cleared and made ready for the next batch. And nobody is hurried. People take their own time and eat at leisure, conversing and cracking jokes. Everybody is all smiles and relaxed. Those who have not had their food yet wait patiently for their turn.

The men-folk talk mostly of the hot issues or events of the day. Usually, politics is a prime topic. The women, on the other hand indulge in light gossip. Family matters, dress and fashion and also politics.

The food is served hot and steaming on leaf plates. It is a most practical way of serving food. In North India, the leaf plates are made of dried sal leaves, pinned together with little wood pricks or wooden needles. In South India, banana leaves are used. The tradition of eating on banana leaves is most probably of South Indian origin as bananas are luxuriant growth in South India.

Banana leaves are used as plates in some hotels in Singapore and are fast becoming an exotic feature in Mauritian seaside resorts, satisfying the tourist’s cravings for exotics. The banana leaves are never bought. Someone in the family or friend provides the leaves or makes arrangements for the large-scale supply from somebody’s farm. The leaves are cut, washed and stacked ready for use. The banana leaves are convenient and practical, for the simple reason that they do not cost any money. They are clean and pure and are easily disposed of after use. The banana leaves are used only once and are thrown away after a dinner. The food is served from special containers, which volunteer helpers carry along and replenish as needs be. Everybody eats with his fingers and of course uses the right hand. No one is expected to eat with forks and spoons from a banana leaf.

The hardi food consists of:

1. Puris These are served hot. Hosts of helpers, male and female, help with the kneading of the dough – both from white flour and wheat flour, and the making or belona of the puris and afterwards the chano or frying in huge carahis.

2. Konhra Pumpkin

3. Aloo Potatoes

4.      Kadhi badhi Dall balls in gravy, cooked with curd and spices. They are made either in besan or gram dall.

5.       Kela sabzi Raw bananas are grated and cooked in turmeric, spices etc.

6.       Kacchu  ‘Songe’

7.       Gros Pois  Broad beans

8.       Chutney or murabba Rougaille of tomatoes (a tomato spiced paste), the murabba is sweet pickles or crystallised fruits.

9.       Chouchou  Crystophene. Depending on the season.

10.   Cauliflower curry Depending on the season.

11.   Badhi  Gateaux piments – spiced chickpea balls.

12.   Takkar Tamarind thick syrup prepared in sugar, jeera and elaichis and slices of pineapples for flavour and taste.

13.   Kooncha  Mashed mango and fruit cythere mixed with spices and seasonings.

14.   Pickles  Either suran. Mango or fruit cythere and/or chillies.

15.   Rice  Rice is a must

 

Rice is served hot like puris. While the first course is made of puris and all the main curries and pickles, the second course is made of rice and curries, the third course is the takkar and the fourth course may be dahi. The sweet course consists of dessert of sweets such as gulab jamoun, barfi or ladoos. The fourth and fifth courses are optional nowadays, depending on the choice of individual families.

Pickles are a must and are served all along the first and second courses. While one is eating, several helpers go round with their containers full and shout “Kacchu? Puri?” meaning “Any one for a second helping of kacchu or puri?” etc. One can have as many helpings as one’s appetite demands. Nobody feels it is impolite to do so nor is anybody hesitant on this day. It is a big feast, enjoyed by all. Children are those who enjoy and savour hardi delicacies the most. They have fun. Hardi feasts are remembered long afterwards. Despite the huge variety and bulky preparations, the various food items are tastefully prepared and leave a nostalgic taste in the mouth for quite some time.

Index Alphabetical [Index to Pages]

Distribution of Soaked Grams

The tradition of giving a ‘khoincha’ of soaked grams is an old one in the Gangetic belt. This custom persists till today. The gram is soaked overnight and kept in two huge bamboo baskets. In the Bhojpuri region of India, the distribution of soaked grams is associated with the matkor ceremony. The soaked gram is chadhao to devi also. After the matkor ceremony, the soaked gram is shared among the women who go along for the digging of the clay ceremony. In Mauritius, the soaked gram is distributed to all women who have come to the hardi ceremony. Formerly, the soaked gram was distributed to the women who came for the singing sessions on Friday nights.

Two baskets, full of soaked grams, are placed at the gate. Nowadays, the women are dazzlingly dressed and nobody is willing to take the soaked gram in the khoincha (loose end of the sari).

The host family therefore makes a practical arrangement for ready-made plastic bags of soaked grams neatly sealed at the top and handed over to each departing guest. There is a wisdom in this custom. The overnight soaked grams are germinated and modern home science proves the nutritional value of germinated pulses. Pulses are rich in protein. This is folk wisdom.

Post Hardi Dinner / Gamat

After the hardi dinner, guests are entertained to a gamat (merry making; enjoying) or a mehphil (musical entertainment).

  If no such arrangements have been made, loud film music is played and sometimes an amateur musical band is hired. Guests make their own little groups, linger on and socialise until they feel like going home. It is traditional in some families for the boys of the family to sing till late.

Mehendi

When the bride has had her hardi ritual and already taken her ‘dinner’ in the konbar, always keeping a steel penknife or scissors on her person, she is joined by her sakhi-sahelis or friends. One of them, who is adept in applying the mehendi, starts the intricate and beautiful joy-giving art of applying the magical herb paste on the bride’s hands, palms and feet. The paste is made of green leaves of the plant known by the same name and finely crushed on the stone grinder. Nowadays, ready-made mehendi powder is obtained from the market, imported from India.

The mehendi is the traditional Hindu colour of auspiciousness, joy and celebration. But more than that it is the bridal herb par excellence. It evokes a world of beauty, leisure and sensuous womanhood. It exudes tenderness, softness and a mystery as mysterious as the heart of a woman.

Mehendi is the Indian word for henna, a common garden shrub, dull to look at in the words of a botanist. But this simple shrub provides one of the finishing touches to the bride’s shringar on her wedding day, and for maidens and married women alike on festive occasions. This ordinary looking plant produces a redness of the reddish-orange hue that is obtained when its leaves are crushed. The botanical name for mehendi is lawsonia inermis or lawsonia alba.

Mehendi is associated with marriage. The custom of applying herbal paste comes down from the Vedic period. Red is a colour of auspiciousness, of good omen.

In ancient India, the beautifying of a person was raised to an art. The senses were explored in all their subtleties to suit the responses of paint, perfume and jewels. Thus mehendi established itself as a beauty aid for women. It reached its height during the Chivalrous Age of the Rajputs and has been raised to a great form of art in Rajasthan. The warm dry climate of the north was conducive to the growth of the mehendi plant. “Every northern home cultivated its own patch of the short heavily leafed bushes”. There are many designs of flora and fauna, symbolical of birds, animals and geometrical shapes, which are on practice in different regions of Bihar, especially the Mithili and Bhojpuri speaking regions. In the Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Kashmir, the word ‘mehendi lagana’ signifies suhaga (marriage).

Vatsyayana in his work Kama Sutra has referred to the art of decorating the body with designs of different motifs. “In Sanskrit literature there is a reference of about fifteen different designs of mehendi such as the pushpakam (flower garland), makarkam (crocodile), vall (creeper), chakra (wheel), chitra (picture)” etc. The art of mehendi is very popular in Bhojpuri folklore.

In Mauritius, this ancient Hindu custom was lost because it was believed that it was only a Muslim custom. But gradually the Hindu brides, probably influenced by the many mehendi scenes in Hindi movies, have discovered the ecstasy, mystery and sensuousness of the magical effect of this Vedic tradition of embellishment. It is a tradition in India, on marriage occasions for the young maidens as well as married women of the family to decorate their palms, finger tips including the nails, the toes, the soles and sides of feet along with the bride, with intricate designs of mehendi dye. Beautiful, intricate designs are made with the mehendi on the palms as well as on the feet. The paste takes quite a few hours to dye. One has to keep applying oil or lemon juice on the dyed parts. The Rajasthani designs are the most intricate. The most auspicious design is the single circle on the palm denoting the Bindu or void of Hindu Tantric philosophy. The peacock, mango leaf motifs are also traditional Hindu designs.

It is said that the deeper and faster the colour of the mehendi, the greater will be the husband’s love for the young bride!

As red and saffron are the colours of celebration in the Hindu tradition, mehendi has come to occupy its rightful place in the sixteen processes of beauty techniques known as solah shringars.

Moreover, mehendi has a cooling effect. It has a distinct, delicate but subtle fragrance that is exuded for days after the dye has been applied. Applied in the hair, it gives it a resplendent glow and gloss after a hair bath, the best shampoo in fact! It is also believed that its aroma cancels the powerful pungent smells of onions and other condiments such as turmeric, garlic and ginger. And hence, when the bride prepares herself to assume her domestic responsibilities, she is not only beautifully bedecked and bejewelled, but also armed for the new chores awaiting her in her new life! The film song “Mehendi lagi mere hanth” indicates the impact of mehendi on the Hindu consciousness. Mehendi is also applied in India on the occasion of Holi, Diwali and exclusively by married women on the occasion of Karva Chawth when they perform a special rite for the longevity of their husbands, dressed in their bridal elegance. This tradition is almost lost in Mauritius but is still practised among the Trinidadian, Guyanese and Fijian Hindu women.

Mehendi, in the Hindu community, unlike the Muslim community, is applied to the hands and feet of the bride only and not to the bridegroom.

The tradition of applying mehendi links the present day Hindu woman to hoary past as steeped in mystery as woman herself.

Pitr Neote

In the early hours of the main wedding day, at about three or four in the morning, the lady of the house is woken up, if she ever goes to sleep or has a chance to sleep at all that night! The whole night has been one of feasting, amusements and preparations. From one source, it is believed that this is the reason why raatjagahs (vigils) were held formerly, so that the families would keep awake throughout the night. The bride’s/bridegroom’s mother is woken up for the pitr neote ritual – offerings to the ancestors. In the maroh, the bride’s and the bridegroom’s mother at their respective places do the pitr neote ceremony.

Actually, in India, this rite is done at the local temple. But since temples are not always near the homes, the improvised temple in the maroh serves the purpose. Accompanied by the husband or alone covering the head with a veil, she crushes some gram and rice on the grinding stone with the right hand only. After this, the rice and gram mixture is placed in a little hole dug in the Vedi. This hole of gram and rice mixture is then covered with the grinding stone. The grinding stone is turned upside down, that is, it should not be used again now. The mother lights a camphor on a betel leaf on the grinding stone and then loosens the suta from it and the onkri musal as well. She then offers water to the ancestors before prostrating to them. She takes their ashirvaad, that is, their blessings. An invitation is extended by her to the ancestors to come to the wedding and bless the couple.

 Formerly the pitr neote used to be accompanied by women singing and drum beating. But the singing and drum beating have almost disappeared. Only a few families still carry on the tradition. Actually, this is equivalent to sandhya, and reminds one of what is known in the Bhojpuri belt in India as parati or morning songs. Says Chandramani Singh in her book Marriage Songs from Bhojpuri Region, “Elderly ladies from the family and the neighbourhood sing five songs in the morning and five in the evening to invite the gods and goddesses to participate… the idea is that marriage is such an auspicious occasion that every one should join…. Women sing that Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, all are you, our ancestors are you, you must bless the couple who are going to be wedded. She adds that not only the gods and natural powers, but the plants, birds and animals, in fact the whole creation, is invited to attend. 

Lawa Bhoonjana

After the Tilak ceremony the girl’s party brings back a bundle of unhusked rice, dhan, turmeric roots and dub grass. This is sorted out in the ceremony known as lagan kholana. The turmeric is crushed into a paste for the hardi ceremony. The unhusked rice is either kept in the maroh or at a distance in a neighbour’s house that has been made clean and pure. It may also be kept at the shrine of Vir Hanuman, also known as Mahabir Sami in Bhojpuri. In the early morning of the main marriage rites this rice is parched. This ceremony is known as the lawa bhoonjana. The daughters of the bride’s or bridegroom’s family  - sister of the bride, bridegroom or father’s sister – phouphou are eligible for the ceremony. After the parching of dhan, they get neg or token money or a gift of sari.

The parched unhusked rice is known as lawa or laja and is used in the main wedding rites known as Laja Homa. While the dhan is being parched, women sing songs. The lawa bhoonjana is done at the bride’s place only.

Hardi on the Wedding Day

In the old days, hardi used to be applied for several days. Modern bride or bridegroom may not be prepared to sit for, say a whole week, soaked in hardi in the kohbar. Therefore, the custom has been adjusted to the needs of a changing society. But the number has been symbolically retained. On the early morning of the actual wedding day, hardi and ubtan are applied seven times by five married women whose husbands are alive to the bride and bridegroom at their respective places before they have the ritual bath. Much cher-char or teasing takes place at this time between the family members of both sexes while applying the hardi and between the bridegroom and his bhabhis for example. This flexibility at the time of weddings in the rigid social rules of former times prevailing in Hindu families, allows for multiple pranks, teasing and intermingling between members of the opposite sex, for example between the devars and the bhabhis and the behnois and their salis.

[Note: Devar = husband’s younger brother. Bhabhi = elder brother’s wife. Behnoi = sister’s husband. Sali = wife’s sister.]

Mild flirtations are tolerated as there is nothing serious. Such happy occasions are capable of absorbing mild escapades. The Bhojpuri songs in fact, offer several examples of these relationships. It is a game that has come down from the distant past. Unlike the previous hardi night when friends as well as family members applied the hardi, at this time, only a few close family members participate in the ceremony.

Kunwar Pat Uttarna

There are several preliminary rites that are performed before the actual wedding rites take place. These are all preparatory in nature and effect. They are in fact a psychological preparation for the rite of passage. In the early morning of the wedding day, khir, a pudding of rice cooked in milk and sugar is prepared. The person who cooks the khir is given a neg (token money). She should be a married woman whose husband is alive.

The bride at the bride’s place and the bridegroom at his place are offered a dish of khir on a banana leaf. They sit with four children who have not reached puberty on a chattai (mat) in the maroh. Actually the khir should be cooked on a special fire made in the maroh itself. The bride sits with four girls and the bridegroom with four little boys. They should face the east. The group can also be brought in all to a figure of seven but should not be in even numbers. The woman who serves the khir rotates the food leaf plate of each boy or girl as the case may be four times over the bridegroom’s or bride’s head while asking him/her: “Kunwar pat uttaral?” meaning has your bachelorhood gone? When the food plate is rotated over the head of the little ones, each one says “No”. But when it comes to the turn of the bridegroom/bride the reply is “Han”, i.e., “Yes”.

After this rite has been completed, they all have their meals of khir or sweetened rice cooked in milk together. Children who participate in this meaningful ceremony are quite excited at being involved thus ceremoniously. This ceremony is known as the ‘kunwar pat uttarna’. It signifies the last stage of bachelorhood or maidenhood that is being symbolically terminated. It is in fact the last time of one’s bachelorhood as pure and untouched as the children who accompany one in the ceremony. The symbolical termination of bachelorhood is done in the company of children, symbols of purity.

Index Alphabetical [Index to Pages]

Pokhra - The Nuptial Bath

 Bath is an act of purification for the Hindus. Its most effective form is the Arghya, morning bath in the river. The bride and bridegroom at their respective places have their sacred nuptial bath before stepping into the married life. This is no ordinary bath.

Actually, this sanskar (sacrament) surely takes its origin in the rite known as the Samavartana. In the ancient times, the samavartana sanskar was performed at the close of the student life when, the student returned from his guru’s ashrama, after completing his education. It marked the termination of brahmacharya (celibate life). Samavartana means ‘returning home from the house of the guru’. It was also called snana (bathing) because ‘bathing formed the most important item of the sanskara’. Dr. Rajbali Pandey says that according to some anthropologists, bathing was meant for washing away divinity from the student. As a student, the brahmachari had a divine glow and lived in divine contact as knowledge is divine. Therefore before he returned to the mundane life, especially if he had to enter the household life, he had to put off this divine influence.

In the Sanskrit literature, learning was comparable to an ocean and one who was learned was deemed as having crossed the ocean of knowledge. He was also known as vidya Snatak. According to some scholars, therefore, the ceremonial bath at the end of the student life symbolized the crossing of the ocean of learning by him. But in the course of time, the samavartana lost its true significance and became merely a licence of marriage. Manu says: “Being permitted by the guru, one should perform the samavartana and marry a woman.”

“Having bathed, with the permission of his teacher, and performed according to the rule the Samavartana  - the rite of returning home, a twice-born man shall marry a wife…”

The samavartana sanskar was performed on an auspicious day fixed by the guru. The student shut himself for the first half of the day in his room so as not to insult the sun by his superior glow acquired from his learning. At midday, he came out of his room, embraced his guru’s feet and paid his last tribute to the Vedic fire.

Eight vessels of water were kept for him. The number eight denoted the eight cardinal points. It symbolised the honour placed on the student from all quarters on the planet. The student, therefore, drew water from one of the vessels and said: “The fires that dwell in the waters, the fire that must be hidden, the fire that must be covered, the ray of light, the fire that kills the mind, the destroyer of the body, the fire that kills the organs, these I leave behind, the shining one that I seize here…” Reciting other formulae he poured water from the other vessels and bathed, the bathing signified the cooling of the fire of austerity and penance a student had undergone during his studentship and prepared him for the comfortable life of a householder.

After the ‘grand bath’ the student removed his student outfit and wore new clothes.

“Having eaten some curd and sesame, he shaved, cut his nails and cleaned his teeth with an udumbara (fig) tree branch saying: ‘Array yourself for food. Here has come King Soma, he will purify my mouth with glory and fortune”.

All the time, during his studentship, the brahmachari had practised continence both in food and speech. Many comforts and luxuries denied to him during the time of student life were now presented to him at the time of samavartana by the guru. First he was given a bath with fragrant water. Then ointment was applied to his limbs, and permission was granted by his guru for leading a worldly life. “Satiate my up-breathing, and down-breathing; satiate my eyes and satiate my ears” was the wish expressed by the student. The student was given new garments that had not been washed and received flowers and garlands. He was offered ‘ornaments, collyrium, earrings, turban, umbrella, shoes and mirror’ all of which were denied to him as a student. The teacher then offered to the student the madhuparka, indicating a great honour that was reserved only for a chosen few such as a king, a teacher and a son-in-law.

In the medieval times, it was established that the samavartana was performed when the marriage of the youth was already settled. Today it has no significance and is incorporated in the Upanayana or Vivah ceremonies. Nowadays, “it takes place before the marriage possibly with the Haridra ceremony”. And that also, it is hurriedly performed, the only remnants of the elaborate procedure “being the nath and the decoration of the person, and these also without proper Vedic mantras” says Dr. Rajbali Pandey. This holds true for India as for Mauritius.

Five married women whose husbands are alive actually help with the bath. In the old days, there was no bathroom either attached or detached. And since the Ganges was not available near one’s residence, a little pond was dug in the courtyard known as pokhra.

The pokhra is symbolically dug by the sister or phouphou of the bride/bridegroom. She gets neg (token money) for it. The Bhojpuri song goes thus:

Ke ouje pokhra khanawale
Ghaat banhawale
Kekar bharle kahar
Raja Dashruth pokhra khanawale
Ghaat banhawale
Kosila dei ke bharale kahar
Ta Ram nahale…

“Who had the pond dug, who had the steps leading to it built, whose servants are drawing water from it, Ram is taking a bath there, king Dashruth had the pond dug and, had its steps constructed, Kaushalya Devi’s servants are drawing water from it and, Ram is taking a bath there.”

A little plank is placed on the pond. The plank or wooden shaft is perhaps a remnant of the former plough shaft used by the Aryans during the Vedic periods. The shaft is symbolical, moreover of firmness. The strength of the wood is acquired by the bride/bridegroom in their new life. The bath ensures a healthy body, removal of germs, diseases and illnesses. All previous thoughts are cleansed, as was the original significance of the samavartana rite. The ritual bath prepares a youthful, vigorous and beautiful body and mind fit for the household life.

Before the ritual bath takes place, an oil massage is given together with a final application of ubtan. On the day of the bath the ubtan is composed of besan, gram flour paste, dahi (curd), adrak (ginger), jeera-ajawain (cumin and bishop’s seeds), sarso (mustard), lawang (cloves) and elaichi (cardamon). Bathing with milk is a royal luxury. The ubtan or paste mixture of the above mentioned ingredients is rubbed all over the limbs of the bride and bridegroom by five married women who are suhagan (whose husbands are alive). This is a similar rite as that performed in the ancient days.

In fact, Gobhila Grihya Sutra prescribes that on the eve of the wedding, after the bride has been washed with water mixed with the paste of kilitaka, barley and beans, a woman who is affectionate towards her should sprinkle her head thrice with sura (wine) of excellent quality so that her whole body including her intimate parts get wet. Some commentators cannot accept sura as wine but rather interpreted it as water. Today, lustral water is brought from the boy’s bath water as a token of love (the sneh-jal). Is it a residual rite of the early Vedic period? A mantra was recited at that time:

“O Kama! (god of love), I knew thy name,
Intoxication thou art my name”

With this mantra the name of the bridegroom was uttered, at the end of which swaha was said.

To this day, women whose husbands are alive, accompany the bride to the bathroom, to give her a ritual bath. In fact the whole body is to be given a bath by these women of the family whose husbands are alive.

Manava Grihya Sutra (1.8.11) points out that the bride should be sprinkled over with water poured from a brazen vessel. This was part of the Indrani Karma rite. If wine was used in the early Vedic period, it got modified later on to water as symbolic gesture so as to give the bride the fullness of womanhood i.e., the Mahanagni as mentioned in the Atharva Veda. Sura was prescribed for the continuation of fertility and prosperity through the woman in the family of the performer. The origin may be even pre-Vedic when Mother cult was prevalent.

In the old days, chemically produced soaps were not available. Nowadays, the bride and bridegroom have their baths straightaway in the bathroom and use perfumed soap. In some families, to this day, chemical soaps are not used in ritual baths.

The elaichi (cardamom) and lawang (cloves) in the bath ingredients of ubtan are to add fragrance to the paste so that after the bath the youthful body of the bride/bridegroom radiates and exudes fragrance. Women sing songs while the ceremonial bath is given. Much teasing and marriage jokes are cracked at the time. The bridegroom especially is quite perplexed and has to muster all his courage in the company of the five married women!

The bridegroom has his bath first of all, at a ritual time fixed before the bride has her bath. During the bath, the bridegroom bends his head on his mother’s lap so that the bath water that drips from his head or body is collected in a ceremonial earthen pot known as chulia. This water arrives with the marriage party to the bride’s place or is despatched to the bride by the nao or nainin, the barber or barber’s wife a little earlier. The bride’s hair is ceremoniously washed with this sacred water. In the Vedic times, sacred Ganga jal (water from the Ganges river) was used. The symbolical gesture is to unite both the bride and the bridegroom while they have ‘bath’ from the same sacred water also known as ‘sneh-jal’ i.e., love water.

Najjar Uttarna

After their nuptial bath, the bride and the bridegroom at their respective places, go through a custom known as ‘Najjar Uttarna’. Five married women whose husbands are alive fill an earthen pot with embers and place it in front of the bathroom or pokhra. The five married women including the bride’s/bridegroom’s mother oincho (rotate) over the bride’s/bridegroom’s head with a handful (right hand) of jeera (cumin), ajawayan (bishop’s seeds) and sarso (mustard). Each in turn rotates these seeds five times over the head of the bride and bridegroom and then throws the ingredients in a fire kept in the earthen pot near the groom or bride. The embers burn these ingredients. This is the symbolical burning away of bad eyes. Elderly women sing songs taking the name of each of the five women doing the ‘najjar uttarna’ ceremony.

“After the bath is over, mustard and ajawayan are taken around the head of the groom and thrown in the fire near by,” writes Satya Deo Ojha in ‘Some aspects of Marriage in Bhojpuri Folklore’.

Jeera jawain amma oinche
Dekhiya ho koyi najar na lague

Jeera jawain bhavji oinche
Dekhiya ho koyi najar na lague

Jeera jawain chachi oinche
Dekhiya ho koyi najar na lague

Jeera jawain mawsi oinche
Dekhiya ho koyi najar na lague

Jeera jawain phouphou oinche
Dekhiya ho koyi najar na lague

“Mother is removing the evil eyes from the bride with the cumin and bishop’s seeds. Look here, let not anybody’s evil eyes fall on my daughter. Chachi (aunt) is removing the evil eyes, Mausi (mother’s sister) is removing the evil eyes. Father’s sister is removing the evil eyes.”

The bride or bridegroom is then asked to symbolically crush the lamp with her/his right foot after overturning it and its contents. This is a residue of superstitious beliefs of folk nature. The idea is to remove all evil forces and obstacles that may even at this point mar the good and smooth running of the nuptials.

Janeo

 Janeo is the more popular term current in North India as in Mauritius for the ceremony known as Upanayana. It is the rite of giving the sacred thread and takes place a little before the bridegroom gets ready to leave for the bride’s place. Usually, it should have been done during childhood as an initiation rite. It is now performed symbolically because it is a compulsory rite. Together with the Vivah Sanskar, it entitled a person to perform all kinds of sacrifices as befitted an Aryan and increased his status in society. It was considered as a ‘passport for admission into the Aryan community in the Vedic periods’. With the Upanayana ceremony, one could be called the twice born. One who would not undergo this ceremony, was excommunicated and denied the privileges of the race and without it none could marry an Aryan girl.

At a time when the Aryan community was constantly coming into contact with the non-Aryans and the children were mixing freely, the Upanayana investiture served to distinguish the Aryan child/youth from the non-Aryan.

The transformation of a man’s status by means of religious ceremonies has a parallel in the Christian rite of baptism known in Mauritius as ‘premiere communion’. Through his physical birth, man loses his pristine purity. To re-establish his link with the spiritual world, he must be born again. He thus becomes a Dwija, a twice born.

The Upanayana ceremonies date far back in Aryan history. There is in fact a corresponding rite in the Parsi community called Naujat, the New Birth by which the Parsi children, both boys and girls receive religious initiation after they have reached the age of six years and three months. This indicates that the Upanayana originated in a period when the Indo-Aryans and the Persians were still living together.

The Upanayana originally was performed in the fifth or eighth year. It marked the commencement of the primary education, therefore an early age was preferred. It became a compulsory rite towards the end of the Upanishadic period. Education was an essential element in the cultural life of the Aryans. In order to make education universally available, the Upanayana was made compulsory.

When the Upanayana became a compulsory bodily sanskar only, it had to be performed, no matter how late in life. It is now performed as a remnant of the original rite at the time of marriage. In this sense, it is called Janeo, that is a ceremony in which a boy is invested with the sacred thread. Performed on the marriage day, it denotes that the bridegroom is fully prepared to enter the grihasthashram. It is a hurried ceremony of the actual Upanayana rite.

However, the ceremony performed reflects that the bridegroom has completed his education, has gone to the gurukul, has studied the Vedas. As such he receives his yajnopavita, the sacred thread that invests him with a second life. With this, he has symbolically completed his life of Brahmachari, and terminated his all-round education. He is now ready to assume the marriage status and his new responsibilities. That is why a bridegroom is required to go through the janeo ceremony, if he has not done so in his childhood.

At the janeo ceremony, the bridegroom is smeared with hardi. The priest requests the rivers Narbada, Godaveri, Ganga etc. to purify the environment. Having seated the gods and goddesses with due honour and propitiated them, he blesses the environment with rice and flowers and chants the ‘Vishwani Deva Savitr Duritanipara’ and ‘Shanti’ mantras. Flowers and fruits are offered to the gods. The inner planets, the Navgraha are next propitiated, so that the student’s journey will be smooth one. The ‘student’ is then offered a slate and a janeo thread on his shoulder. This represents his new student’s ‘uniform’.

He is next given a staff. The staff is symbolical of many aspects of the forest-day life. Armed with his staff, the student is directed to beg for alms. On the Upanayana day, he is required to beg only from those who would not refuse food, his mother and the relatives. He requests his mother “Mata, bhiksham dehi” and she says, Bhiksham bhava” “I give you alms” and gives him coconut, sweets and other fruits, rice, etc in his jholi (bag). Similarly he goes to his other relatives who do likewise. After his round of begging he comes back and bows to his guru and makes an offering to him of the alms received. The student performs the act of going to Kashi for his education. Women sing songs.

He then comes back and does the homa at the chowka. His education is terminated. He makes offerings of milk and fuel to the sacred fire. The sacred fire was the centre of all religious activities of the Indo-Aryan. The worship of fire began with the initiation into student life and lasted throughout life.

Now that the Brahmachari stage has been terminated symbolically, the samavartana rite is supposedly done. The ‘student’s’ hair is symbolically trimmed. A lock is put in the mother’s lap to be immersed in the Ganges. In Mauritius it is immersed in the sea. This is symbolical of the Kesanta Sanskar. He now goes for bath and changes his hardi dyed dress into a yellow coloured dhoti. Now he is given a gurumantra. The student’s sacred thread is removed and placed on the harish and he is invested with a new set of sacred thread. It contains three strands. Five married men help him to wear his new ‘thread’. He makes a guru puja. He is requested to touch the sil lodha, symbolical of the ‘mounting on stone’ ceremony. He is asked to turn the sil lodha upside down. The guru touches his heart, to show the complete harmony that exists between a student and his teacher. As part of the samavartana ceremony, the Kanchedan ceremony is done, the ceremony of gifting a comb and a mirror to him. Two of his phouphous adorn him, apply kajjal to his eyes, make the symbolical gesture of putting earrings to his ear lobes, offer him perfumes and bless him with flowers and garland him. They get a neg for this from the bridegroom’s father. He is now invested with a householder’s thread. The other one is removed and placed on the harish. He takes his guru’s ashirvaad (blessings) and washes his feet. Women, including his mother, do his parchawan and give ashirvaad with rice and flowers.

Since the bridrgroom is leaving the Brahmachari stage to enter the householder’s life, the ritual performed in one hour is meant to cover twenty-five years of a Brahmachari’s life. In the beginning, the upanayana must have been a very simple ceremony as in early times the father himself was the guru. By the time of the Brahmana period, the ceremony had acquired sacrificial elaboration. As the upanayana progressed till the modern times, it acquired many non-Vedic and popular characteristics and details that are practised to this very day in orthodox Hindu families in Mauritius.

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Sacred Thread (Upanayana Samskar)

Imli Ghontai

The imli ghontai ceremony is held on the wedding day before the barat (wedding party) leaves for the bride’s residence. What is imli ghontai? From the number of books consulted, no authority seems to know exactly the origin of the term, which has nothing to do with the actual ritual. Imli means tamarind. Gontai means to swallow. Tamarind is a well-known and common tree in the northeastern provinces of India, but what has this to do with the actual ritual is a matter of great puzzle. However, this custom, known by the same name is prevalent in Mauritius too. The bride at her residence and the bridegroom at his place sit in front of their mother in the maroh. The mother wears the beautifully decorated pat mawri, crown, on her head, that the son will soon wear. In the meantime the nao paints the feet, toes, fingertips and nails of both the mother and her child with red coloured liquid known as mahavar or alta. The nahachu nonkh tungana ceremony is held at this juncture.

What takes place in the imli ghontai ceremony? The mother sitting on a pidha, a low stool, behind her son/daughter covers his/her eyes with her hands. This is symbolical of the mother seating her son/daughter in her lap actually. She covers his head/her head with her anchal (end portion of sari). The boy/girl too sits on a pidha or low stool between his/her mother’s legs. The groom’s/bride’s maternal uncle, mama (mamoo in Mauritius)  offers a mango leaf to his nephew/niece. The bridegroom/bride bites a little piece of the stem of the mango leaf, which he/she then spits in his/her mother’s cupped right hand stretched in front of him/her. The uncle pours a little water on this, in her cupped outstretched right hand. The mother makes a symbolical gesture of sipping this water. This water poured in the mother’s right hand is symbolical and pregnant with meaning. It is to remind her that it was this water that he had given to her at the time of her own wedding, many years ago.

This water giving ceremony started in the laja homa ceremony when she was getting married. And he had made a protection vow with the sacred water at that time to protect her. Now that her own child is getting married, he reminds her of his promise made on her wedding day of supporting her all along in life. And now that her child has reached marriageable age and is entering a new rite of passage, he is there by her side to look after his nephew/or niece – the result of the water he had offered her- that is her progeny. She has done well, he seems to say, and has produced children of her own. She has had a prosperous life for which he had blessed her on her wedding day. Now that she is marrying her own child, he is there by her side again with the same sacred water to bless her child this time. This ceremony signifies the interest that the agnatic lineage of a woman takes in her even after her marriage and consequently her absorption into another family, and years later when her own child has grown up and reached marriageable age.

The maternal uncle gives a sari to his sister on this occasion to congratulate her. The bridegroom’s/bride’s mother is shown a lot of affection. Not one, but all her brothers bring saris for her and if the brothers are no more or are absent, their wives replace them. Sisters are also known to be doing the imli ghontai ceremony. Late Pandit Jugdish Sharma of d’Epinay (Mauritius) gave one explanation for the term imli. According to him, imli may be a corrupt form of amli, derived from aam (Sanskrit-Amar), that is, mango since the tender twigs of the mango leaves are utilised in the ceremony. Amli may be the leaf of mango that she offers her son/daughter as a sign of affection, which he/she returns in turn. Amli is also significant of what is close to the heart, that is the heart’s desire of a mother is being fulfilled when her child has reached marriageable age and is about to enter a new life of his/her own.

After the imli ghontai ceremony, the pat mawri is removed from the mother’s forehead and tied to the bridegroom’s. He is now ready for proceeding to the bride’s residence. The elderly ladies of the family and neighbourhood sing songs on the occasion. Special references are made to the bond that exists between the mother and her brother. 

Nahachu

The bridegroom and the bride after their nuptial bath and the janeo ceremony sit in the maroh for the other beautifying customs preceding the nuptials at their respective places. The ceremony known as Nahachu is now done. In this, the nails of the bride and the bridegroom are symbolically cut by the barber. It signifies that the bride/bridegroom are leaving behind their life of bachelorhood. The nail is a part of the body. The new nail that will grow will be that of a householder. Formerly, a little blood was let as a means of sacrifice. But more significant, the drop of blood and a bit of this nail is tied in a kankan, a protective cord that is tied on the partner’s wrist in the maroh at the time of the nuptials. The kankan will be removed on the chowthari day when the gods and goddesses will be released (visarjan or taken leave of) from the maroh and all protective cords removed. The nahachu is also known as the nahachu-nonkh tungana ceremony. The kankan is also known as the sneh kangan. It means the love bracelet. The exchange of blood between bride and bridegroom on the day of the nuptials signifies union and that the bride has come into the kul (family) of the bridegroom.

It celebrates the groom’s changing relationship to his parents as he enters a new phase of life and its responsibilities. The sneh kadna ceremony signifies the changing affection between the mother and the child, as a new relationship is to begin. Loyalties will now change towards the new family. Red i.e., blood is symbolical of auspiciousness. The nahachu nonkh tungana ceremony is held simultaneously with the imli ghontai ceremony.

Index Alphabetical [Index to Pages]

Getting Ready at the Bride's Residence

The bride is expected to have her nuptial bath only after some drops of water are brought by the barber in a chukia, small earthen pot, accompanying the barat. But nowadays since marriages are mostly held in social halls and time is pressing, the bride has her nuptial bath well before hand. When the water arrives, she has already had her bath. It is then symbolically and ceremoniously applied to a strand of her hair! This water is known as sneh-jal – love water. After the nuptial bath and the elaborate massage with ubtan, she exudes a fragrant glow that defies all the world beauty queens! The Sankhayana Grihya Sutra says:

“On that night when the darkness of night is gone, they wash the girl up to her head with water that has been made fragrant by all sorts of herbs and the choicest fruits together with scents.”

She is painstakingly dressed by her bhawji (elder brother’s wife) and friends. The embellishment ritual of a bride has a romantic aura and charm of its own. This is what is known as the solah shringars – the complete make-up of an Indian woman in her marital splendour.

Every detail is attended to, to make the bride look unique in her glorious radiance. Indeed, she does. So that when the bridegroom’s eyes are cast on her he succumbs instinctively and immediately to her charms and bewitching beauty. Her hair is especially made by the hairdressers. Flowers fresh from the garden are plaited in her sleek tresses on her majestic and regal bun. Nowadays, special bridal aestheticians are available everywhere who help with the hair-do of not only the bride but also all her close female relatives. The beautician dresses her up in her silk sari, jewellery, applies mahavar on her hands and feet and does her facial make-up. This is all an elaborate process. In the olden days, the bride wore very simple attire, dyed in turmeric and wore no jewellery. It was only after the guratha ceremony, that she was dressed in the garments and jewellery gifted to her by the bridegroom’s party. Nowadays, since time is limited, the bride gets ready at the very outset for the nuptials. In South Indian weddings in Mauritius, the bride still changes in the new set of dress and jewellery sent for her by the bridegroom’s party during the nuptials.

The Chaddar

Once the bride is dressed up and her hair is done, a diaphanous bridal veil is put on her head as the finishing touch. This head veil covers her head and partially hides her face. It is known as chaddar. The veil that fully drops down covering her face is known as ghunghat. The veil is a common feature of the bridal set-up of North Indian brides. But it is not prevalent among the South Indian brides in India. The veil is still worn by modern brides but does not cover their faces. The veil is not an appendage of the Muslim purdah as some people believe, but is a Vedic heritage. The Vedic description of the marriage of Surya to Soma in the Rig Veda and Atharva Veda makes mention of the bridal veil. The Mahabharata period costumes of women include the head veil.

In those days, the women’s attire consisted of a long robe that was worn from the waist downward with a piece of cloth tied round the bodice enclosing the breast and a veil over the head. Even with the evolution of the sari and choli, the veil remained as a Vedic relic in the bridal attire.

Bridal Dress

The bride’s wedding dress is glamorous with a superb glow and shine. It has a magical touch about it. It is a gorgeous silk sari from Benares or the South with intricate golden brocade and tinsel work. It is either cream or red in colour. These days, special bridal saris are obtained from India. In the old days, during the Vedic period, the bridegroom’s womenfolk handmade the bridal dress. A few decades ago, the brides had special tie and dye saris known as chunris. In fact, it is the tradition in Bhojpuri culture for women to wear these tie and dye saris on marriage occasions. Some years back, plain georgette or chiffon materials were bought and embroidered with silk threads, jari work, badla (tinsels) and synthetic pears. The ensemble had a matching choli and beautifully made matching under garments stitched elaborately in lace works.

The Solah Shringars

Since time immemorial man has tried to enhance his human form by the use of adornments and the application of pastes, colours and marks. Both men and women have sought to increase their beauty in the above manner in various civilisations and countries. Tattooing the skin on various exposed parts of the body with indelible marks, designs or figures as a mark of beauty is known in many cultures. Many contemporary tribal men in Africa, Asia and Latin America still wear their ethnic jewellery. Today, with the pop culture emerging, it has become fashionable for youths to have one ear lobe pricked and wear a stud or a pendant.

But nowhere else have jewels had a greater place in the religious life and been associated with divinity, blessings and protection, power and glory, success and prosperity as in India. Gods and goddesses, celestial beings, men and women and children alike, wear jewellery in the Indian society. But it is during the vivah sanskar that both the bride and the bridegroom assume their most magnificent bloom. Their elegance, charm, glamour and glitter captivate the gaze of one and all.

And since the dawn of history, women in particular have tried to make themselves more alluring and attractive. Beautiful or plain, each woman may spend hours each day indulging in beauty rituals and treatments guaranteed to enhance her inherent charms and sensuousness. No other day is as bright, glamorous, sensational and more appropriate for this ritual than the marriage day. On the occasion of marriage the bride ‘sajdhaj’ (embellishes) herself. This embellishment rite is known as the solah or soroh shringars among the Bhojpuri Hindus.

The solah shringars symbolise the culmination of the basic feminine urge for beautification. Shringar, the painting and decorating of the body to enhance it has been an elaborate art of the Hindu society. It was not a mere cosmetic process but had an under-current of deeper significance – a philosophy.

And the roots go deep into Indian traditions. The smooth running of life was regulated by a number of disciplines and rituals in the ancient Vedic society. These rituals encompassed even the aesthetics. The solah shringar rituals were evolved for the requirements of health, hygiene as well as for the divine and aesthetic sense. C.G.Jung once said that man’s most vital need is to discover his own inner reality through the cultivation of a symbolic life. To discover this inner reality, he has to discover the inner beauty and the way to the inner beauty is through the outer beauty. Did not Keats say “A thing of beauty is a joy forever?” Beautiful conveys closeness to perfection, which gives intellectual and/or spiritual satisfaction as well as sensual pleasure. The body is an expression of one’s psyche and the house of the inner self – manifestation of the greater Self – the All Pervading – God. Beautifying the body is preparing the body as an abode of God for the act of welcoming the divine qualities as a first step in worship. All the bodily preparations: bath, perfuming, libations, decorations are but outward preparations of the body as it is the chief instrument of worship. It is then that the Shakti, female energy, the creative power of Shiva in man, is awakened. The ritual marks are regarded as cosmic cross-points. By being adorned for the nuptials, the bride is being prepared as a representation of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth (prosperity). Beautifying the body today is a mere mechanical and physical process, to emphasize the sensual rather than the divine.
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