Hindu Wedding in Europe And Hindu Priest in Europe
Hindu culture envisages the observance of many samskaras (rites of passage) in one’s life. The Vivaah Samskar (Marriage ceremony) is a transition from the first stage of life to the second one. You devote the first stage of life to education, learning, and equipping oneself with knowledge to stand him in good stead later on in life. The second stage is that of building a household and raising children to carry on your generation. This is the most important stage in a Hindu’s life. They have a duty towards their family as well as the society. Marriage envisages a sacred union between the bride and the groom culminating in the oneness of soul and spirit.
There are eight different ways to get married as per the Hindu culture. The highest form of marriage is the “Brahma Vivaah.” This method requires the full consent and active participation of family members from both sides. This is a way of integrating the lives of two separate individuals across two families and many generations, both horizontal as well as vertical.
The Hindu wedding ceremony takes its cue from the mythological wedding of Surya (daughter of the Sun God) with Ashwinikumar (Source: Rig-Veda). The Sun God organizes a chariot race with a stipulation that he will hand over his daughter in marriage to the winner of the race. After Ashwinikumar wins the race, the Sun God gives away his daughter in marriage to him in a splendid ceremony. Hindus follow the same rituals even today. The rituals involve chanting of sacred mantras from the Rig-Veda. Each mantra has a specific meaning. You can find the explanation and significance of these mantras in Grihiya Sutras (Vedic domestic ritual texts).
According to the Grihiya sutras, the Hindus should follow the under mentioned seven key steps of the marriage ceremony. These steps are common in all parts of India (North or South, with a few extra rituals here and there). They are
• Panigrahan (marriage ritual)
This ceremony includes the traditional welcoming of the groom’s family at the wedding venue with sweets and Arati. The ceremony starts with an invocation of Lord Ganesha to seek his blessings and remove all the obstacles in life. The maternal uncle of the bride has a very important role to play in the ceremony. He, along with other members of the family, brings the bride to the marriage ceremony. After the chanting of Vedic mantras, the bride and the groom exchange garlands symbolizing mutual approval to the union. The bride and the groom are now ready to enter into wedlock. The parents of the bride “give away” the Bride into the hands of the groom. Hindus consider this as one the noblest acts one can perform. This is one way of repaying the debt to their ancestors and passing the family heritage to the future generations.
• Vivaah Homa (sacred fire ceremony)
Right since the ancient times, every Hindu ceremony involves the presence of fire as one of the main witnesses. The fire symbolizes light, power, and knowledge. The wedding Hindu priest recites the holy mantras confirming the union of the two souls in the presence of fire as a witness. The groom and the bride repeat the sacred pledge and request the fire to act as a messenger to God for hearing their various prayers for Santati (children), Sampatti (wealth), and Deergharogya (long, healthy life).
• Laja Homa (offering of rice to the fire)
This starts their transition into the second phase of their lives. The brides’ brothers have an important role to play in this phase of the ceremony. They offer parched rice to her to enable her to offer the same to the sacred fire. Hindu scriptures draw an analogy with the method of planting the rice saplings. Farmers transplant the original rice saplings to another place to facilitate better yield. In the same manner, the bride’s family transplants her to the groom’s family to spread happiness. This is one way of handing over the bride to the groom for future safekeeping.
• Ashmarohan (marriage ritual)
The groom adorns the bride’s neck with a mangalsutra (necklace symbolizing the relationship) and apples kumkum (vermillion) on her forehead signifying her status as a Sowbhagyavati (harbinger of good luck). The bride applies tilak (sandalwood mark) on the groom’s forehead signifying his status as a Grahastha (householder) and initiating him into the second phase of his life.
• Agni Pradakshina (circumambulation around the sacred fire)
This marks the first steps of the couple into the second phase of their lives. They circle the sacred fire four times with the groom describing their complementary relationship in poetic terms. Once this ritual is over, the bride moves over to the left side of the groom, signifying total transition from one family to another.
• Saptapadi (Taking the seven vows)
These are the first seven steps taken by the couple together in their married lives. Each step has its own significance as follows.
First step: Signifying provision and support for each other
Second step: Developing mental, physical, and spiritual strength
Third step: sharing worldly possessions
Fourth step: Acquiring knowledge, happiness, and peace
Fifth step: Raising strong and healthy children
Sixth step: Enjoying the fruits of all seasons
Seventh step: Remaining friends and cherishing each other’s lives
• Dhruv-Saptarishi Darshan (Integration of the bride into the groom’s family)
This is the final phase of the ceremony where the integration of the bride takes place into the groom’s family. They accept her in totality. This changes her gotra (clan). With this, the bride takes the surname of the groom signifying the total integration. In the olden days, the groom used to show the seven-star (Saptarishi) constellation to the bride and seek their blessings. He also points out the Pole Star signifying that their relationship should be as steady as the Pole Star (Dhruv Tara)
There are many more ceremonies depending upon the local rituals which are performed by Hindu priest for marriage ceremony . However, the above-mentioned seven rituals are common throughout all Hindu weddings.
There are many post-marriage ceremonies too such as welcoming of the bride into the groom’s household, naming of the bride and so on. This may differ from place to place.
We have seen the background and spiritual significance of a Hindu wedding ceremony.