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Indian Weddings are most of the time arranged marriages, but has been dramatically changing. With Indian marriages it is said that in the wedding it is not only two people getting married but the families also marry each other. The event intertwines the two families. Because of this the parents still play a huge role in finding the bride or the groom. For thousands of years, the history of Indian weddings is arranged marriages. It is only recently that people could choose their partner out of love. In ancient India falling in love with a partner before marriage was considered a sin. For a man to get his choice in bride, he would sometimes have to kidnap her. It was considered very brave of man to do this. In medieval India it was mandatory for all women to get married except those who chose to give up marital pleasures for religious purposes.
The first step and most important step in an Indian Wedding is to pick the life partner. In the Hindu traditions, it is customary for the partners to pick the bride/groom for their son or daughter. Once the selection process is over, the family members of both the girl and the boy ask the priest to suggest a hopeful and promising date for the engagement. This is also known as Misri or ring ceremony. The next important ritual is the Medhndi party. This is equivalent to the bride's bachelorette party in America. This ceremony is celebrated with the bride's family and friends. Only females are allowed to this ceremony and they rejoice and celebrate this occasion together. During this ritual the bride's hands and feet are covered in henna. Mehndi means henna in English and "mehndi is believed to signify the strength of her marriage as well as the amount of love that she will receive in her husband's house." The designs of the henna draws vary from wedding to wedding. Sometimes they included a peacock, flowers, leaves and conch-shells and images of the bride and groom as well as the grooms name are mandatory. The parents and friends also get henna painted on them and when they are done they sing traditional songs and dance to the beat of music. On the eve of the wedding day a Ghari Puja is held. In this ritual the bride and groom are in their own homes. A priest comes to the homes and says prayers.
On the morning of the wedding a ceremony called Pithi takes place. This is a cleansing ceremony where the bride and groom are covered with turmeric powder in their respective homes; this is a part of their beautification process to be ready for the rest of the day. Next comes the actual wedding later that day. The Hindu wedding mostly takes place in a mandap (or in English a tent) and it is decorated with flowers. The wedding ceremony is a long and elaborate affair and it lasts for several hours. The guest rang from relatives, friends, and acquaintances; there are always a large group of people because it is more than just the bride and groom coming together. The marriage ceremony begins with what is called a vratham. It is performed separately for the bride and for the groom. For the bride this means tying of the kappu, or the holy thread on her wrists. This is meant to help ward off all evil spirts and it symbolizes a kind of protective armor for the bride. For the groom this means he begins with pray to the Gods Indra, Soma, Chandra, and Agni. This is preparing him for this new chapter in his life of no longer being a bachelor. The groom accepting this is what his vratham is all about. After this is completed the Malai Mathal takes place. The bride and groom are lifted onto the shoulders of their own uncles. The couple takes and puts garland around each other and this signifies a unification where there is one soul living in two bodies.
Once this is completed they are carried and seated on a swing. They are then rocked back and forth as women sing songs to praise the couple. Water and lit lamps are placed around the swing in order to guard off demons and ghosts. "The chains of the swing signify the eternal karmic link with the Almighty. The to and fro motion represents the undulating sea-waves of life. Yet in mind and body they shall move in harmony - steady and stable." After this the main wedding ceremony takes place. As the ceremony begins, the grooms feet are washing in milk and dried off by silk. After this a Mangal Surta, an ornament on a chain, is placed around the bride's neck. "As the Mangal Sutra lands on the middle of the bride's chest, it symbolizes that her man has occupied the whole of her being through her heart." The bride then sits upon her father's lap. Her father gives away the bride to the groom like a gift. This is similar to America when the father walks the bride down the aisle to her husband-to-be. "The bride is then given an auspicious ablution. A new sari, exclusive for the occasion, called the koorai is chosen." This new sari is then draped around the bride; this is done so by the sister of the groom because it represents the bride joining the family.
The father of the bride while offering his daughter chants: 'I offer ye my daughter: A maiden virtuous, good natured, very wise, decked with ornaments to the best of my abilities. With all that she shall guard thy Dharma, Wealth and Love' The bridegroom returns his assurance to the bride's father saying three times that he shall remain forever her companion in joy and sorrow, in this life and life after.
The Bride then ties a piece of turmeric around the wrist of the groom. This is to bind them with a religious vow. For the first time the groom as the right to touch the bride while he ties a piece of turmeric around the wrist of the bride. The last part of the ceremony is called the Saptapadi and it is perhaps the most important part of the Indian Hindu wedding. The name of this step literally means 'Seven Steps.' In this part of the ceremony the couple takes seven steps together making vows to each other. They take these steps around the Holy Fire or Agni; this fire is considered a witness to the vows they make. The groom takes the bride's right hand in his own right hand. The region in which they get married tells who leads which step, however the bride usually leads the first step. With each step they make vows to each other to have a happy healthy relationship and household. Once this ceremony is complete the bride and groom are now declared husband and wife. The most emotional ritual follows the wedding in where the bride leaves her home to live with her new husband.