The rituals and customs that the Hindus in Karnataka follow during their weddings are similar with minor variations depending on the caste and community. The wedding is usually held at the bride’s house though, depending on expediency, some weddings do take place at the groom’s house.Â
Pre- Wedding Ceremonies
The vivaha purvakrithayam is done on the day prior to that of the wedding. The parents of the bride and the groom bathe, wear new clothes (preferably white) and recite mantras. After reciting certain mantras, the groom is given new clothes, sandals and a garland.Â
Similar to the baraat in north India is the varasya vadhu grahagamanam. The groom, wearing new clothes (Again the preferred colour here is white.) and a garland, seeks the blessings of the kuldevta or family deity. Then he seeks the blessings of his parents and the elders in his family. After taking their permission, he proceeds to the bride’s house, accompanied by his relatives. The groom is usually seated on a white horse or in a car meant especially for this purpose. A white umbrella is held out for him.Â
When this procession reaches the bride’s house, the bride’s father and uncles welcome the marriage party and take them to the mandap karyalaya that is meant for accommodation for the marriage party.
Five married women, referred to as muthaidi, welcome the groom and perform an aarti. The bride’s maternal aunts usually perform this ceremony. After the welcome, the muthaidi lead the groom to the vivaha mandap. The groom is seated and the ceremony of madhuperk is performed. A prasad (or offering) of a mixture of honey, rice and curd is made to Lord Vishnu (by Vaishnavites) or Lord Shiva (by Shaivites). Then the bride’s father feeds the groom with this prasad.Â
Meanwhile the bride performs gourihar pooja at her home. After the mangal snan (bath), the bride wears a new white saree and offers prayers to Lord Shiva and Parvati. She then accepts her change of status to a married woman by smearing her hands with turmeric powder. In the presence of a large gathering invited to witness the wedding, the father or guardian of the bride performs the kanyadaan (literally meaning ‘giving the girl’). He pours holy water into the sacred fire lit at the mandap, symbolizing the giving away of his daughter to the groom. The groom then chants Vedic hymns. He promises the bride’s father that he will assist the bride in realizing three ends – dharma, artha and kama.
During the paanigrahana or hasta milap ceremony, the groom stands facing the west and the bride sits in front of him facing the east. He holds her hand and chants mantras for happiness and a life long relationship. The bride’s brother pours food into her hands and she in turn pours it into the sacred fire, offering the food to the Gods to seek their blessings.Â
The bride and the groom hold hands and walk round the nuptial fire three times, during the rite of agni parinayaa. They recite Vedic hymns to the Gods praying for prosperity and conjugal happiness. They touch each other’s hearts and offer prayers for the union of their hearts and minds. Every time they complete one round of the sacred fire, the couple step on a stone and pray that their love be steadfast like the stone. This rite is called asmaarohana or shilarohana. Then, the bride pours fried grain from the mouth of a winnow into the fire.Â
The saptapadi is the most important rite of the wedding. The bride and the groom take seven steps round the nuptial fire. They make seven promises to each other – that they will nourish each other, that they will grow together, that they will share their joys and sorrows, that they will preserve their wealth, that they will care for their children, that they will remain together forever and that they will be the perfect halves to make a perfect whole.
The groom ties the mangalsutra around his bride’s neck (The mangalsutra is a thread or chain worn around the neck, and is a symbol of a married woman all over India). After this rite of mangalsutra dharana, the groom places sindoor, a red powder, in the parting of his bride’s hair. The groom’s parents bless the couple and offer their new daughter-in-law flowers and new clothes.Â
After the wedding, the couple depart from the bride’s house. They leave for the groom’s house, carrying with them the sacred fire that must remain lit. The bride enters the groom’s house placing her right foot first. The groom’s mother welcomes the couple and performs an aarti. Gifts are given to the couple.Â
The couple sit in silence till dusk. When the stars are visible, the groom shows his bride the saptha rishi mandal or the Great Bear group.