The law allows for Hindu temples to be registered for marriage according to its own rites. The legal requirements to be fulfilled are those that apply to civil marriages.
If the temple in which you wish to marry is in a different registration district to where you live, you need to prove to the superintendent of that building that you normally worship there or there is no building in your registration district. Failing that, you are required to give notice after having met the residency requirement (speak to the superintendent concerned). A superintendent registrar may also need to attend the ceremony.
If the building in which you intend to marry is not registered for the solemnisation of marriages, you must arrange a civil ceremony beforehand for you to be legally married.
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Preparations for a Hindu wedding
To Hindus, marriage is regarded as a sacrament and the Hindu male needs to get married to enter a vital part of his life: grihasti (the householder). It is his socio-religious duty as it fulfils the three aims of a man’s life:
- Dharma: his duty to his family and society.
- Prajana: children. This is where he is expected to have children to benefit his family name, the human race and appease the souls of his dead relatives.
- Rati: literally, sensual pleasure where a man seeks sensual intimacy within legitimate bounds.
Wedding traditions vary according to each family and custom but the marriage itself is traditionally arranged by both sets of parents, although you both have the right to refuse the match if you wish. Compatibility is important and your horoscopes are often compared to judge the match. In addition, the time and date of the ceremony are decided by astrological charts.
Hindu Wedding Ceremony
The universal wedding is known as the Vedic marriage, named after the Vedas (holy book). However, there are regional variations with their different traditions.
The groom arrives with his wedding party (baarat) and is received by the bride and her family (milni). Some brides greet their groom by garlanding him (jayamala) after their mother has already done so (aarati) and he may choose to reciprocate.
Moving inside the temple, the priest calls for Ganesha’s blessing for success (Ganesh Puja) followed by the Navgraha prayer (asking the blessing of all of the planets for peace and wealth). Your Mamaji (maternal uncle and your sisters) walk you to the mendap (wedding tent) where brides father performs kanya danam (handing over ceremony). By spreading turmeric on the brides hands, she acknowledge her change in status from a single woman and daughter to a wife. The father then places your dyed hand in your groom’s where he holds it as a symbol of your everlasting love. By pouring out some of the sacred water, your father ‘washes his hands’ of you and gives you away at which point your groom recites Vedic hymns to Kama, the God of love, asking for the blessing of pure love. To prove that he is worthy, your groom must promise your father three times to help you realise dharma (enlightenment), artha (wealth) and kama (true love), great achievements in the Hindu world.
The Marriage Fire (agni) The marriage fire, representing the divine witness as well as sanctifying the ceremony, is lit and you perform the Offering of the Parched Grain (Laya Homa), a sacrifice of food for the sake of prosperity. Your brother, or another male relative, pours the grain into your hand signifying his continuing support of you.
The Seven Steps (Sapta padi) Seven is an important number in Hinduism and you and your groom walk around the fire (Agni Parinayai) seven times after God’s blessing has been invoked by offering samagree (a pungent mix of sandalwood, herbs, sugar, rice, ghee and twigs). Some communities, such as Gujarati, require you to walk around the fire only four times. As you walk, you both make offerings to the fire, touch each other’s hearts and pray for the union of your hearts and minds as well as reciting Vedic hymns to the gods calling for wealth, good luck and fidelity
At the end of each circling of the fire, both of you stand on a stone (Shilarohana, the mounting of the stone) and pray for your love to be firm.
The ritual of The Seven Steps is the most important part of the ceremony where the two of you walk seven steps together, either forwards or round the fire. At each step, you both ask for blessings:
- May the Lord lead us to sustenance
- May the Lord lead us to strength
- May the Lord lead us to prosperity
- May the Lord lead us to the source of all bliss
- May the Lord lead us to good progeny/children
- May the Lord lead us to enjoy all seasons and longevity
- May the Lord lead us to union, devotion and companionship.
The ceremony concludes with a prayer that the union is for life. At the end of this, you will be husband and wife.
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