Hindu Wedding Photographer Cornwall
I have had the joy of photographing several Hindu weddings; brightly coloured, highly planned, full of culture festivities rich in celebration and tradition. The essence of a Hindu wedding ceremony as with all religious wedding ceremonies is the emotional, spiritual and physical joining of two people; it's also the coming together through prayer & celebration of the bride and groom's families.
Expectations and Traditions
A Hindu wedding is a mix of the couple’s expectations and their family traditions. Many rituals and mini ceremonies lead up to the main wedding ceremony day that joins the couple and their families for ever.
The Sangeet - Joyous Celebration
Before the day of the wedding ceremony, there's a gathering called the sangeet or garba (terminology depending on the regional background) where family get together to dance, sing in the joyous celebration of the upcoming marriage.
Sangeet means to have sung together. Both families sing a traditional folk song to welcome the other. Members of both families may give full on performances and may compete with one and other in celebration.
The Mehndi Ceremony
The mehndi ceremony is a party that starts off the wedding. Traditionally the mehndi is only attended by the bride's close female family members and friends.
This event normally takes place a day before the wedding ceremony itself, on the same day as the sangeet as it can take hours. It's during the mehndi that henna paste is applied in very intricate designs to artistically decorate the bride's feet and hands.
The designs are normally floral motifs though it's common to hide the groom's name within the designs for the couple to try to find it later in what's believed to test the patience that will be in their ongoing marriage.
Many Hindu beliefs are focussed on the meaning of the colour of the wedding henna. One of which is the darker the henna the more a fondness a mother-in-law will have for her daughter in law. Hindus from different regions believe the darker the henna, the more the groom will love his wife or the stronger the marriage bond will be.
Not A White Wedding
The bride will not be dressed in white for a hindu wedding - she'll traditionally wear a red sari or a lengha that will be wrapped around her in preparation of the wedding ceremony.
The richness of the colours of red material and gold embroidery create gorgeous often intricate patterns on the brides "wedding dress" that are a sign of her level of commitment and fertility. Many modern brides also prefer a variety of brightly coloured or pastel yellows and striking blues floral prints with fabulous embroideries.
The Groom's arrival
The arrival of the groom and his party to the wedding ceremony, the baraat or vara yatra (depends on the region), is a joyous celebration.
As guests arrive, they are divided into the groom and bride's side. The bride's side will be shown to a meeting place while the groom is joined by his guests for his grand entry to the wedding ceremony.
The groom’s guests, on arrival will join the processional group instead of going straight to the ceremony room. They are greeted by members of the other set of parents, family and friends with music and dancing.
There is a traditional rice toss, called akshat, the groom is presented with a plate carrying a lit lamp, arati, and a garland of flowers. Sometimes a dot on the forehead, known as a tilak, is also administered.
Father of the Bride Gives Her Away
The bride will be escorted to the wedding ceremony by her brothers or uncles. The moment the father gives his daughter away is known as the kanyadaan.
In the Hindu tradition, no groom can marry his bride until she is offered to him. During the ceremony, the father of the bride places his daughter's hands into her husband to be's hands as a gesture of giving her away.
The Couple Marry Under a Mandap
The wedding mandap is a temporary structure made for the wedding ceremony. It may be on a raised platform and is decorated with anything from fabric and crystals to flowers and foliage. Traditionally the bride and groom are joined, under the mandap, by their parents and the person conducting the ceremony.
Fire - the Witness to the Wedding
A fire is made in the center of the mandap. A Hindu marriage is not a contract it is a sacrament. During the marriage ceremony, the fire burns as a witness and offerings are made.
The bride's brother gives three fistfuls of puffed rice to the bride for good wishes for his sister's happy marriage. Each time, the bride offers the rice to the fire. This offering is known as a homam.
The Bride's Mangala Sutra
The bride is adorned with a necklace called the Mangala Sutra
The bride is draped with a black and gold necklace of beads by her husband. Traditionally, Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, is represented in the mangala sutra, (auspicious thread) and the bride is said to receive blessings throughout her marriage. Different regions may include beads of white, red or other colors.
The Saptapadi - The Bride and Groom's Outfits Are Tied Together
The saptapadi is an important action in Northern Indian Hindu weddings. During the saptapadi, the newlyweds have their outfits tied together normally the bride's veil and the groom's sash.
In Southern India the couple walk seven steps together which signifies their friendship.
The tradition in Northern India is for the newly weds to make seven circles around the ceremonial fire with each round signifying a specific blessing the couple have asked of the gods.
The main significance of the saptapadi is making friendship which is the foundation of a Hindu marriage.
The Newlyweds Shower Each Other With Rice
During a Southern Indian tradition, the talambralu, (ritual of happiness) the couple shower one another with a mixture of rice, saffron, turmeric and sometimes pearls.
This ritual symbolises prosperity, fertility, and happiness for the married couple's future life together. It's a moment of levity and celebration after the more serious ceremony. In some cases members of the families and friends will lift the couple up whilst cheering for joy as shown in the photo at the top of this page.
Red Powder on the Bride's Hair - She Is Married
Sindoor, a red-orange powder, is applied to the parting of the bride's hair, which confirms she is now a married woman after the ceremony has been completed.
Traditionally the sindoor is applied by her husband on the wedding day. All married women, as wells as the bride, may wear this powder as a way of showing their marital status. Sometimes they shade in the entire hairline whilst others will only wear it as a dot on the forehead. This depends on regional customs or personal tastes.
The Bride's Sendoff - The Vidaai Ceremony
Not all brides' goodbyes end with smiles. A Hindu bride officially leaves her home to start a new life with her husband so the farewells can be tearful moments during the vidaai ceremony.
Whilst the bride walks away she is showered with rice and sometimes coins in a ritual for her parents to say farewell to their daughter as she leaves to start her married life.
The vidaai ceremony marks the end of the wedding day celebrations as the bride's parents give a final farewell to their daughter.
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