Customs of Hinduism


Marriage in Hindu Dharma

Traditional Marriage

Traditional Hindu marriage was strictly based on absolute trust, mutual affection, capacity to adjust and sharing the responsibilities equally. At every stage of the wedding ceremony when the incantations (Mantras) from the Vedas were uttered, prayers were offered to ensure a smooth life. The duties were demarcated and freedom given to both. The union being sacred, the vow did not give room for separation.

The character of the bridegroom was first assessed and his qualifications were taken into consideration. Both husband and wife should be loyal to each other and contrary to the mistaken belief that the wife was not treated on par with her husband she had full charge of the household while he was to assist her in maintaining the family. Wealth accumulated by him should be used for the family insisting that it should not be frittered away.

The process of marriage commenced when the parents felt that their son was mature enough to shoulder responsibility. Unlike the prevailing custom now, in olden times the eligible boy's father used to go in search of a girl from a noble family and seek her parent's approval.

A verse refers to the expectations regarding the factors governing compatibility: the bride yearning for a spouse with charm; her mother, a wealthy boy; the father, a boy of character and high educational qualifications and the relatives, about the family tradition. For the bridegroom, she must be a companion, an adviser and one who enthuses him in all his tasks.

Sri A.Sivaramakrishna Sastrigal in a discourse explained the significance of the mantras recited during the marriage ceremony. The solemn assurance of upholding the spirit of unity was made before the Lord of Fire (Agni) serving as witness. The ``Paanigrahanam'' was an important step.

The significance of taking seven steps was that the couple should never give scope for differences of opinion and should an occasion arise, both should respect the sentiments of the other, thereby ensuring that no confrontation takes place.

As one who was in charge of the household, she should stand like a rock. Whether a fine image is carved out of it or rain pours on it or made to bear heat, the stone is impervious. Another statement records that the father of the bride felt extremely happy and relieved that the interests of his daughter have been entrusted to a capable person. From then on, he concentrated on his personal work. The sanctity attached to the marriage has been clearly brought out in the Ramayana by the manner in which the Divine couple conducted themselves, both in prosperity and in adversity.

Hindu View of a Harmonious Family

Every human being is potentially divine and the goal of life is to express this divinity by performing useful work. A harmonious family is an institution which provides the energy and inspiration to bring forth one's divinity. A child of a harmonious family becomes a divine personality.

Expressing one's inherent divinity is akin to entering a house that has four doors, with each door having a unique key. Each door must be opened to gain entry into the house. There is one road that leads to this house. In this example, the four doors are dedication, contribution, learning and responsibility. The four keys are love, recognition, sharing and trust. The name of the road is offer and receive (sammarpan and swękăr). The following illustrates which key opens which door:




& Receive





















Love and Dedication

Love is accepting a person as he (or she) is and helping him to grow. Love is a divine feeling which is beyond likes and dislikes. Dedication is self-sacrificing devotion to whatever one does. Dedication builds attitudes in people. Positive attitudes are necessary to perform useful work in the world.

Love and dedication are two aspects of the same relationship. When parents are loving, the children are dedicated. When the children are dedicated, the parents are loving. When the teacher is loving, the students are dedicated and when the students are dedicated, the teacher is loving. The love-dedication relationship brings out noble qualities of the child and helps him to grow and establish harmonious relationships within the family and with the outside world.

Recognition and Contribution

While attitudes are necessary, abilities and skills are required for an active and contributing personality. Abilities and skills are developed by performing useful work. It is essential to ensure an atmosphere of daily useful work in the family. When children contribute to useful work, they can perform useful work for the society, nation and humanity in their adult lives.

Recognition and contribution are two sides of the same interaction. Recognition begets contribution and the contribution begets recognition. Parents are the starting point. When parents recognize and appreciate, children will contribute more and more. When children contribute, parents will appreciate more and more.

Sharing and Learning

Dedication and contribution alone are not sufficient. Knowledge is necessary to perform useful work in the world. Knowledge comes from learning, and learning comes from sharing. While there is an end for every teaching, there is no end for learning. When parents continuously share their knowledge and experience with their children, the children continuously learn.

Sharing and learning are two aspects of the same relationship. When parents share, children learn and when children learn, parents share. Sharing is the best way of teaching. Sharing encourages learning. With a positive attitude towards work and learning, children can grow into noble personalities.

Trust and Responsibility

Positive attitude, dedication and knowledge alone are not sufficient for a person to express divinity. Responsibility is another key factor. A responsible person is an enriched person. Assuming responsibility for the family, society, nation, and humanity is divinity.

It is essential to inculcate a sense of responsibility into children, a task for the parents. The parents cannot perform this task unless they are responsible themselves. Trust and responsibility are two aspects of the same interaction. When parents trust their children, the children take on responsibility, and in turn develop increasing trust with their parents. A trusted person is a divine person.


  • A harmonious family is an institution which provides the energy and inspiration necessary to bring forth one's divinity.
  • The key to a harmonious family is the offer and receive philo-sophy (sammarpan and swękăr), as taught by rishis. Family members must learn to rise above the take and take (a thief's philosophy), take and give (government philosophy), give and take (business philosophy) and adopt the offer and receive philosophy within the family.
  • The love-dedication relationship builds positive attitudes in children. As parents offer love and receive dedication, children will offer dedication and receive love.
  • Encourage children to participate in all aspects of daily work of the family. With positive attitudes and useful work, they will develop into noble and productive personalities in their adult lives.
  • Share knowledge with children. With positive attitudes, useful work and learning, they will become dedicated, knowledgeable and contributing personalities.
  • When parents trust children, children will take on responsibilities. A responsible person is an enriched person.
  • The three basic ideals of Hindu Dharma-seva (unselfish service), vishva kutumbam (universal family), and sahaviryam (together-ness in the family)-can be realized when children grow into responsible, knowledgeable, and dedicated contributors.

Types of Marriage in Hindu - Dharma

Historians have documented eight different types of marriages in ancient India.  These eight types are described in this section.   The eight marriage types are :

Brahma Marriage :
The father or guardian gave away his daughter, "decked with costly garments and jewels" to a carefully chosen bridegroom well versed in the vedas and endowed in noble qualities

Daiva Marriage :
Daugher "duly decked with ornaments", was given in gratitude to a priest for performing some important worship rituals.
This was extremely rare

Arsha Marriage  :
Bride’s father received a gift of milk cow and a breeding bull from the bridegroom. This was not considered dowry, but a token of respect

Prajaapaatya Marriage :
Bride’s father gave his daugher to the bridegroom with the traditional blessing "May both of you perform your duties together"

Gaandharva Marriage :
Bridegroom and bride married secretly without the knowledge of their parents.  This was considered inferior because caused by lustful impulses.

Asura Marriage :
Bridegroom voluntarily gave as much wealth as he could afford to the bride’s relatives, not in accordance with the injunctions of the scriptures because it was like buying the bride, which was prohibited

Raakshasa Marriage :
Woman was forcibly taken away from her family and then persuaded to marry.  This was considered inferior because caused by lustful impulses

Paishacha Marriage :
Person married a woman whom he had seduced while she was asleep, intoxicated or insane, this was prohibited

Hindu Marriage Ceremony

The Hindu marriage ceremony consists of several steps.   The following is a description of this colorful and unique ceremony. This is a generalized wedding ceremony, and there are regional and community variations.  Some of the steps may be omited or added from the following list based on local and family customs.

Pre Marriage : Mahendi and Peethi

A day before the wedding the palm and feet of the bride are decorated with "Mahendi".A canopy or mandapa decorated with flowers is erected at the place of wedding. On the wedding morning, various ablutionary rituals are performed on both the bride and the groom in their own homes. Their bodies are anointed with turmeric, sandalwood paste and oils, which cleanse the body, soften the skin, and make it aromatic. They are then bathed to the chanting of Vedic mantras.


The Marriage Ceremony

In a mandapa - canopy or marriage stage decorated with flowers and and with a fire as witness the Hindu marriage ceremony begins.  It is a long and elaborate ceremony, with every step rooted in vedic tradition, signifying various aspects of live that is to follow after the marriage. 

The various steps in the marriage ceremony include :

Baarat (Wedding Procession)- The Bridegroom arrives for the wedding along with his family and friends in a procession. They are received by the bride's family and friends.

Commencement of Marriage : The priest commences the marriage under a canopy that is specially decorated for the ceremony.  The priest invokes blessings of God for the couple to be married. The bride offers yogurt and honey to the groom as a token of purity and sweetness.  The bride greets the groom by placing a garland around his neck and the groom reciprocates. Both are congratulated by guests.  The priest invokes the memory and blessings of forefathers of the bride and the groom for this auspicious occasion.

Kanya Danam (Giving away of the daughter) - The bride accepts her change of status from an unmarried woman to a wife by spreading turmeric powder on her hands. Kana Danam is performed by the father (or uncle of guardian) of the bride in presence of a large gathering that is invited to witness the wedding.The father pours out a libation of sacred water symbolizing the giving away of the daughter to the bride groom.  The groom recites Vedic hymns to Kama, the God of love, for pure love and blessings.As a condition for offering his daughter for marriage, the father of the bride requests a promise from the groom for assisting the bride in realizing the three ends : dharma, artha, and kama.  The groom makes the promise by repeating three times that he will not fail the bride in realizing dharma, artha and kama.

Vivaaha (Wedding) - The bride and the bridegroom face each other, and the priest ties their garments (the bride's saree to the groom's shirt) in a knot, symbolizing the sacred union.The bride and the bridegroom garland each other and exchange the rings. Next the nuptial fire, symbolizing the divine witness, and the sanctifier of the sacrament, is installed and worshipped. Both the bride and the groom grasp their hands together and pray to God for His blessings. Samagree, consisting of crushed sandalwood, herbs, sugar, rice, ghee (clarified butter), and twigs is offered into the sacred fire to seek God's blessings for the couple.

Paanigrahana or Hasta Milap (Holding the hand) - The bridegroom stands facing west and the bride sits in front of him facing east. He seizes her hand and recites Vedic hymns for happiness, long life, and a lifelong relationship. When the bridegroom takes the bride's hand he says :

"O Sarasvati, gracious one,

rich in off spring,

you whom we hymm first of all the Gods,

may you prosper this marriage."

"I seize your hand."

Laya (Laja) Homa : The Oblation of Parched Grain - Here the bride offers sacrifice of food (poured into her hands by her brother or someone acting in her brother's behalf) to the Gods for their blessings.

"This grain I spill. May it bring to me well-being and unite you to me. May Agni hear us."

He then causes the bride to spill the grain into the fire, saying:

"This woman scattering grain into the fire, prays: Blessings on my husband. May my relatives be prosperous.

'Svaha!' "

Agni Parinaya : The Circumambulation of the Fire - The bridegroom holds the bride by the hand and both walk three times around the nuptial fire. Both offer oblations and recite appropriate Vedic hymns to Gods for prosperity, good fortune, and conjugal fidelity.They touch each others heart and pray for union of their hearts and minds While walking around the bridegroom repeats:

"First now they bring to you in bridal procession this Surya, guiding her steps in circular motion. Return her now, O Agni, to her husband as rightful wife, with hope of children to come."

Then the entire rite is repeated twice more, beginning with the rite of the fried grain.At the fourth round she pours into the re all the fried grain from the mouth of the winnowing basket saying: "To Bhaga svaha!"

Asmaarohana or Shilarohana (Mounting the stone) - At the end of each round of nuptial fire, both the bride and the groom step on a stone and offer a prayer for their mutual love to be firm and steadfast like the stone.The bridegroom says the words while the bride stands up:

"Come, beautiful one."

And lets her put the  tip of the right foot on the stone, saying:

"Come, step on the stone;

be strong like a stone.

Resist the enemies;

overcome those who attack you."


Satapadi (Seven Steps) - This is the most important rite of the entire ceremony.  Here the bride and the bridegroom take seven steps together around teh nuptial fire (Agni) and make the following seven promises to each other :

As per the Vedic rituals, the bridegroom sings the following :

With God as our guide, let us take :

the first step to nourish each other

the second step to grow together in strength

the third step to preserve our wealth

the fourth step to share our joys and sorrows

the fifth step to care for our children

the sixth step to be together forever

the seventh step to remain lifelong friends,

the perfect halves to make a perfect whole.

After the seventh step he makes her remain where she is and says:

"With seven steps we become friends. Let me reach your friendship. Let me not be severed from your friendship. Let your friendship not be severed from me."


The Spatapadi ceremony ceremony concludes with a prayer that the union is indissoluble.  At the end of this ceremony, the bridegroom and bride become husband and wife.


In some communities such as Gujarati, instead of seven, only four steps, signifying Artha, Dharma, Kama and Moksha are taken


Hradayasparsh : Touching the Heart - The bridegroom then comes over bride's right shoulder touches her heart saying:

"I hold your heart in serving fellowship, your mind follows my mind. In my word you rejoice with all your heart. You are joined to me by the Lord of all creatures."

Mangal Sutra Dharana - The Mangala suthra Dharana is the tying of the thread containing the marks of the Vishnu or Shiva in the neck of the bride by the groom.

Suhaag or Sindhoordana - The groom places sindhoor (red powder) on the bride's hair symbolizing her as a married woman.

Aashirvaad : The groom's parents bless the couple and offer cloth or flower to the bride (now their daugher-in-law), symbolizing her joining of the groom's family. All those assembled shower flowers on the couple and bless them completing the marriage.

Post Marriage Ceremonies


The marriage is not over, just because the main ceremony is over.   The bride and bridegroom go to their new home, and begin their new lives with the following ceremonies :


Grahapravesha - Entering the Home - The couple depart from the girl’s house after the vidai , for the groom’s house.They carry behind the couple the sacred fire in a vessel. They should keep the re constantly alight.When they reach his house, he says:

"Enter with your right foot. Do not remain outside."

The bride enters the home placing the right foot - considered auspicious, first.
When the bride and the groom enter the groom's house, the mother of the groom welcomes the bride by doing an aarati.They sit in silence until the stars are visible

Post-Marriage Game Playing - There are several regional variations to this ceremony.

Aeki-Beki - The above in typical in a Gujarati marriage.  In the groom’s house a game called aeki-beki is played, by placing a ring and several coins in a tray of water which is colored by vermilion and milk. It is said that the person who finds the ring four times, will rule the house.

Talambra - In many South Indian marriages the rice mixed with the turmeric is poured over the heads of groom and bride by bride and groom. After this there are ceremonies of name calling singing and other games  aimed at the bringing the bride and the groom closer.

Arundhati Darshan - Arundhathi Darshana is the showing of the Saptha Rishi Mandala and the small star Arundhathi underneath the star of Vashistha. These seven sages and their families are the originators of the Vedic Lore of the Hindus. In memoriam of these great sages the seven stars in the Great Bear constellation are named after them. The significance of this ritual is to remind the couple of the cosmic responsibilities they have to fulfill. Darshan of these Great Sages is intended to remind the couple the heritage they have to carry and the debt to the sages they have to pay.

Dhruva Darshan - Looking at the Polestar - After sunset he shows her the polar star, saying: 

"You are firm and I see you. Be rm with me, O ourishing one! Brhaspati has given you to me, so live with me a hundred years bearing children by me, your husband."

Vedic Marriage Mantara

The Hindu marriage is based on the marriage of Soma with SuryA, and is narrated by Rishi SuryA in the RigVeda. This could be based on an imagined marriage ceremony or could be the marriage of the seer herself.

This collection of verses is mainly form the RigVeda, and has been compiled by Sri Anirban to adapt it for use in Hindu marriages. The verses are full of Vedic imagery. I will use a Bangla translation by Professor Gouri DharmapAl, and re-translate them into english.

* Shubha-dristi

Aghorchakshur apatighniedhi shiva pashubhyah sumanAh suvarchAh.
Virasur devakAmA syenA sham na bhava dvipade sham chatuspade.

RigVeda 10.85.44
Trishtup chhanda.

Be (edhi) soft gazed (aghor-chakshuh), not a widow (a-pati-ghni) benefactor of animals (pashubhyah shiva), pleasant hearted (su-manAh), bright looking (su-varchAh), mother of heroes (vira-suh), devoted to God (deva-kAmA). Be peaceable with (sham bhava) our (nah) people (dvipade) and animals (chatuspade).

Groom takes the bride to the altar and both sit down. AchArya recounts the marriage of Soma with SuryA.

* Somatattva

AchArya: SatyenottabhitA bhumih suryenottabhitA dyuoh.
RitenAdityAs tishthanti divi somo adhi shritah.

RigVeda 10.85.1
Anushtup chhanda

Earth (bhumih) is hoisted up (uttabhitA) by satya (satyena). The sky (dyouh) is hoisted up (uttabhitA) by surya (suryena). The Adityas (AdityAh) stand on Rita (ritena tishthanti). Soma (somah) is supported by sky (divi adhishritah).

SomenAdityA valinah somena prithivi mahi.
Atho nakshatrAnAm eshAmupasthe soma Ahitah.

RigVeda 10.85.2
Anushtup chhanda

By Soma (somena) the Adityas (AdityAh) are powerful (valinah). By Soma (somena) the earth (prithivi) is glorious (mahi). And (atha) Soma stays (somah Ahitah) close to the stars (eshAm nakshatrAnAm upasthe).

Somam manyate papivan yat sampishanti oshadhim.
Somam yam brahmAno vidurna tasyAshnAti kaschana.

RigVeda 10.85.3
Anushtup chhanda

The creeper that people crush (yat oshadhim sam-pishanti), (the drinkers) imagine (manyate) (that) they are drinking soma elixir (somam papivAn). That soma (yam somam) which the brAhmins (brahmanah) know of (viduh), nobody ever eats it (na kaschan tasya ashnAti).

* Soma desires a wife

Somo vadhuyrabhavat ashvinAstAmubhA vara.
SuryAm yat patye shamsantim manasA savitA dadAt.

RigVeda 10.85.9
Anushtup chhanda

Soma (somah) becomes (abhavat) desirous of a wife (vadhuyuh). Both Ashvinas (ubha ashvinA) became (their) welcomers (vara AstAm). When (yat) suryA (suryAm) became desirous of groom (patye shamshantim), (then) savitA (savitA) mentally (manasA) offered (her) (adadAt).

* SuryA is described

ChittirA upabarhanam chakshurA abhyanjanam.
Dyuorbhumih kosha Ashidyad suryA patim.

RigVeda 10.85.7
Anushtup chhanda

When SuryA went towards her husband (yat suryA patim agAt), (then) the sky and earth (dyuoh bhumih) became the carriage (koshah Asit), (her) awareness (chittih) became (Ah) the back cushion (upabarhanam), (her) vision (chakshuh) became (Ah) eye make-up (abhyanjanam).

Mano asyA an AsiddyourAsiduta chhadih.
Shukrou anadvahou Astam yadayAtsuryA griham.

RigVeda 10.85.10
Anushtup chhanda

When SuryA went to (husband's) home (yat suryA griham ayAt), (then) her (asyAh) mind (manah) became (Asit) (her) chariot (anah), and (uta) sky (dyouh) became (Asit) (its) roof (chhadih), two stars (shukrou) became (AstAm) (her) ride (Anadvahou).

Dve te chakre surye brahmAnah rituthA viduh.
Athoikam chakram yadguhA tadaddhatayah idviduh.

RigVeda 10.85.16
Anushtup chhanda

O suryA (surye), brAhmins know (brahmAnah viduh) (about) your two seasonal cycles (te dve rituthA chakre). But one of these cycles (atha ekam chakram) which is secret (yad guhA), that is known to the poet (tad addhatayah it viduh).

* Bow to all

SuryAoi devebhyo mitrAya varunAya cha.
Ye bhutasya prachetas idam tebhyokaram namah.

RigVeda 10.85.17
Anushtup chhanda

They who wishes well of creatures (ye bhutasya prachetasah) them SuryA, Mitra, Varuna and others (tebhyah suryAoi devebhyah mitrAya varunAya cha) I bow to them (idam namah akaram).

* To the bride

Somah prathamah vivide gandharvo vivida uttarah.
Tritiyo agnishte patisturiaste manushyajah.

RigVeda 10.85.40
Anushtup chhanda

Soma recieved first (somah prathamah vivide), Gandharva recieved afterwards (gandharvah uttarah vivide). Agni is your third husband (Agnih te tritiyah patih), son of man is your fourth (manushyajah te turyah).

* The fire is lit and said to

Agne shardha mahate soubhagAya tava dyumnAni uttamAni santu.
Sam jAspatyam suyamam Akrinushva shatruyatAm abhi tisthA mahAmsi.

RigVeda 5.28.3
Trishtup chhanda

O Agni show your might (Agne shardha) your best illuminations (tava uttamAni dyumnAni) may bring great luck (mahate soubhagAya santu). Make the spousal family (jampatyam Akrinushva) evenly balanced (suyamam sam), resist the might of (mahamsi abhi tistha) the unfriendly (shatruyatam).

* Groom's AjyAhuti

(she will touch his right shoulder with her right hand)

Om dyuos te pristham rakshatu vayur uru ashvinou cha.
StanandhayAmsa te putrAn savitA abhirakshatu.
AvAsasah paridhAnAt vrihaspatir
Vishve devAbhirakshantu paschat svAhA.
SAmamantrabrAhmana 1.1.12
Tri-avasana shatpada kakummati shakkari chhanda

(May) the sky (dyuoh) protect your back (te prishtham rakshatu), Vayu and the two Ashvinas (vAyu ashvinou cha) (protect your) legs (uru). (May) your unweaned sons (te stanandhayAn putrAn) be protected by savitA (savitA abhirakshatu). (May) vrihaspati (vrihaspatih) (protect you) till you are clothed (AvAsasah paridhAnAt), afterwards (paschAt) may the vishadevas protect (vishve devAh abhirakshantu).

kta pareitu mrityur amritam me agAt.
Vaivasvato no abhayam krinotu svAhA.

SAmamantrabrAhmana 1.1.15
ChatushpadA gAyatri chhanda

(May) death (mrityuh) be sent far (parA etu), immortality (amritam) come near (me Agat). Son of VivasvAn (vaivasvatah) give us shelter from fear (na abhayam krinotu).

* Exchange of seats and acceptance of hand

PushA tveto nayatu hastagrihya ashvinA tvA pravahatAm rathena.
GrihAn gachha grihapatni yathAso vashini tvam vidatham A vadasi.

RigVeda 10.85.26
Trishtup chhanda

(May) PushA (pushA) lead you from here (itah nayatu) holding your hand (hastagrihya tva). The two Ashvinas (ashvinA) carry you in chariot (tvA rathena pra vahatAm). Go home (grihAn gachha), so that you become the lady of the household (yathA tvam grihapatni asah), take control (vashini) (and) give orders (vidatham A vadAsi).

Groom: GribhnAmi te soubhagatvAya hastam

MayA patyA jaradashtir yathA sah.
Bhago aryamA savitA purandhir mahyam tvAdur gArhapatyAya devAh.

RigVeda 10.85.36
Trishtup chhanda

For good luck (soubhagatvAya) I accept your hand (te hastam gribhnAmi), so that (yathA) in my husbandship (mayA patyA) you reach old age (jarat ashtih asah). The devas Bhaga, AryamA, SavitA and Purandhi (Bhago aryamA saviA purandhir devAh) have given you to me (mahyam tvA aduh) for (becoming your) husband (gArhapatyAya).

* Bride's lajAhom

Bride: Om dirghAyur astu me patih shatam varshAni jivatu.

EdhantAm jnAtayo mama svAhA.
SAmamantrabrAhmana 1.2.2

GAyatri chhanda

(May) my husband (me patih) live long (dirghAyuh astu), live one hundred years (shatam varshAni jivatu). My relatives (mama jnAtayah) prosper (edhantAm).

Om aryamanam nu devam kanyA agnim ayakshata.
sa mAm devo aryamA preto munchatu mAmutah svAhA.

SAmamantrabrAhmana 1.2.3
Anushtup chhanda

(As a) daughter (kanyA) (I) made vows (ayakshata nu) to deva Aryama and Agni (aryamanam devam agnim). (May the) Aryama deva (sah aryamA deva) liberate me from it (mam itah pramanchatu), (May Agni) liberate me from that (ma amutah).