One should marry a girl who is endowed with intelligence, beauty, a
good character and auspicious characteristics and who is healthy.
Aśv. gr 1.5.3
Āpastamba Gr̥hya Sūtra states a commonsense rule:
'A girl on whom his mind and eyes are riveted will bring him happiness
(or prosperity), he should pay no heed to other things; this is the view of
some’. Āp.gr. (III.21)
One imbued with faith may acquire excellent learning even from a
lowly person, special law even from the lowest, and the gem of a wife
even from a base family. Manu smriti 2.238
The procedure of wedding differs from place to place. The reason for it
is most of the South Indians follow Āp.gr whereas North Indians follow Par. Gr.
Vara Preśaṇam (Invitation of the Bride):
Firstly permission is requested from the elders to begin the ceremonies.
After offering worship to Ganesa (or viṣvaksena) for the removal of
obstacles, betel leaves and areca nuts along with some monetary offering is given to 2 brahmins who are requested to go and ask for the hand of
.Vara Varaṇam (Invitation of the Groom) :
The bestower formally welcomes the groom and after washing his feet and
honouring him, invites him to accept the hand of the bride and to become
his son in-law. The bride is then brought to the canopy and is seated to the right of the groom.
Kanyadānaṃ (bestowal of the bride):
After reciting the Saṅkalpa or Statement of Intent the hands of the
couple are joined. The bride’s father places a coconut in their hands
and after the clan (gotra) and the names of the illustrious ancestors
(pravara) have been proclaimed, water is poured from a conch-shell over the coconut by the bestower’s wife.
“This maiden is well adorned and bedecked with gold. I, desirous of
attaining the realm of Vishnu, give her to you O [embodiment of]
“The Supreme Being who resides in the hearts of all beings, and all
the gods are witnesses. I bestow my daughter upon you so that you may
fulfil your mutual obligations to your forefathers [through the
begetting of offspring].”
“For the performance of Dharma, for the begetting of offspring, and
for companionship in your daily duties are you formally joined in marriage.”
“This daughter well-dressed, righteous, well-mannered and intelligent
is united with you in matrimony so that you may fulfil your social and
religious duties, for prosperity and fulfilment of desires.”
The groom then recites:—
“This woman will be before me, she will be beside me, she will
encompass me on every side, may you be Liberated through your gift.”
Acceptance By The Groom..
The groom recites:—
“Impelled by God I receive you, with the two arms of Right
Knowledge & Right Action, and with the hands of the Enricher I receive you.”
(Tait. Sam 126.96.36.199)
“May King Varuna lead you, O Goddess to a partner for the sake of
progeny. By that may you attain to immortality as well as material
enjoyment & well-being.” (TA. 3.10.1)
“Who is giving what and to whom? Love is the Giver and Love the
Receiver. Love has entered into the Ocean of Being. Through Love I
receive you. O Love all this is for you.” (TA. 188.8.131.52
Vows of the couple
The couple now recite the vows. They promise that in the three areas of
life that they live together; in the field of
Dharma – the religious/moral/spiritual field,
Artha – prosperity, mutual financial arrangements and
Kama – pleasure, recreation and procreation; they will never do the wrong thing by each other.
Admonition — “In righteousness, in prosperity, in recreation; nurture
her at all times, and never offend this tender woman in any way.”
Groom- “I will not offend her in any way.”
Manu (IX.47) declares—
'Once is the partition of inheritance made, once is a maiden given
Madhu-parka/Vara Puja: (offering of honey by way of honour to a
distinguished guest). The word literally means — 'a ceremony in which
honey is shed or poured' (on the hand of a person).
The madhu-parka is offered to six persons who happen to visit one’s
- ṛtviks(priests officiating at sacrifices) when they are chosen for a
- A snataka(a Vedic graduate),
- The king or a government official,
- One's acarya(spiritual teacher)
- A bride-groom
- One’s father-in-law, paternal and maternal uncles or any other person who is dear to one and whom one wishes to honour.
This is still performed at the canopy after the groom arrives at the
hall. On their wedding day the groom is considered as the embodiment of
Vishnu the Preserver and the bride is Lakshmi — the Goddess of
prosperity. The groom is received by his father in law – his feet are
washed, water is given to sip and a honey-yoghurt drink called
madhuparka is offered. According to the ancient manuals a cow is
supposed to be killed to feed the groom’s party. Nowadays this is done
symbolically by offering a coconut which the groom rolls away saying:—
“I say to those who understand — don’t kill this cow for me release her, let her drink water and eat grass!”
A few small matters may be noted. Several grhya-sutras (such
as the Manava) describe madhu-parka as a part of the marriage rite,
while others like Asvalayana describe it independently. Others like Hir. gr. (I.12-13) describe it as part of the graduation ceremony (Samavartana).
In modern times there is generally no madhu-parka except in marriage and then too it is a simple matter and the elaborate procedure prescribed in some of the grhya sutras is hardly ever followed. Meat is never offered.
Samīkṣaṇam (Setting face to face) : The couple sit and face each other.
“Om. To us, O God Varuna, bring her, kind to her brothers; bring
her, O Lord of the Universe Brihaspati, kind to her husband and her children
O Indra. O Creator of the Universe Savita bring her with prosperity.”
“Om. Gaze gently upon each other, never be hostile to each other,
be tender to animals, of cheerful mind, beautiful in your glory, the
parents of heroes, be devoted to the gods, be the bestower of happiness, be
good and kind to us, and to all creatures.” (RV.10.85.44)
Kanya Saṃskāram (Sanctification of the Bride):
Previously men undertook the vow of brahmacarya(studentship) and studied
the Vedas. Women were excluded from the privilege of Vedic study and
consigned to home duties. The wedding ceremony therefore became the
equivalent of the bride’s initiation ceremony (upanayana) that the boys
underwent. The groom is the “guru” and through the vivaha samskaram she
is initiated into her domestic duties, and living with the husband is
the equivalent of living with the guru and his family (guru-kula-vasa)
The bride sits on a chair facing the east. The groom takes a blade of
sacred grass (darbha) and wipes the forehead of the bride and then casts
it to the west.
“I remove from you all that is negative and inauspicious.”
“O Brahmins bring pure water with which to bathe this maiden,
removing from her all sin, detriments and faults.” (AV.14.1.39)
The groom places a crown of sacred grass on her head.
“May this bride be surrounded by the blessings of all your mutual
He holds a miniature yoke above her head.
“O talented groom, sanctify your highly competent wife through
these three devices; through the yoke which symbolises her union with you,
through the gold which represents the Ultimate Truth, and through the
water which represents the Cosmic Principles. May she be radiant like
the sun and attain the goal of life.” (AV. 14.1.41)
Some gold or the mangala sutra is placed over the hole of the yoke.
The priests perform the holy bath (mangala snanam) by sprinkling holy
water on the bride.
“May the Golden-hued, the Bright, the splendid Cosmic Principles
that produced the Sun and Fire. Those that contain the Supreme Wisdom, the
golden Ones bring joy to you and bless you.” (AV. 1.33.1
Tait. Sam 184.108.40.206.)
“May the subtle ether in the midst of which the Resplendent Lord
pervades, watching men's pious and impious deeds, which acts as a
medium for lightning, beautiful in appearance, bring joy to you and
bless you.” (AV 1.33.2 Tait. Sam. 220.127.116.11)
“May the subtle ether which supports the manifold beautiful objects
in the sky, which acts as a medium for lightning, beautiful in appearance,
bring joy to you and bless you.” (A.V. 1.33.3 Tait. Sam. 18.104.22.168)
“May the Cosmic Principles behold you with auspicious eye, touch you
with their auspicious hands. May they bright and pure, shedding
loveliness and brilliance, bring joy to you and bless you.”
(AV 1.33.4 Tait. Sam 22.214.171.124)
Vastra Dānam (Presentation of clothing):
The groom presents the bride with a new set of clothes as a token of his
intention to take care of all her material needs for the rest of her life.
O lover of song, may these our chants encompass you on every side;
strengthening you with long life, may they bring delight to you. (S.Y.V. 5.29)
The bride retires to don the new sari.
Mangalya-Dhāraṇam (Bestowing the Tokens of Marriage):
The brahmins bless the maṅgala-sutra and the tray is carried around for
all the congregation to bless The bride returns to the maṇḍapa and sits
on her father's lap, according to some traditions she sits on a bag of
rice symbolising abundance and fecundity.
The groom holds the cord of the maṅgala sutra around her neck and ties
The following verse is chanted by the groom and the brahmins;
Mangalyam tantunanena mama jeevana hetuna
kanthe badhnami subhage twam jeeva sarada satam
Om I tie this sacred thread [I place this sacred ornament] around
your neck, so that we may live long together, and remain together enjoying
prosperity for an hundred autumns.
A present is given to the sister of the groom by the bride's party.
The couple exchange garlands three times to confirm their intimate bond
with each other. According to Hindu culture, food, garlands and clothing can
only be shared with those who are most intimate.
Yoktra Bandhanam (Binding of the girdle):
The groom ties the yoktram or girdle made of sacred grass around the
waist of the bride.
“We pray with a pure mind that we may obtain the blessing of good
children, fortunate and of sound health. O Agni be propitious to us in
this matter. I bind this girdle for happiness and the performance of
righteous deed.” (AV 14.1.42 Tait. Sam 126.96.36.199)
The groom takes the bride by the hand and leads her to the fire while
the priests chant the following verse:—
“Let the Lord who Nourishes take your hand and hence conduct you;
may Right Action & Right Knowledge transport you. Go to the house
of your husband to be the mistress of his household and speak as a
Lady to the gathered people.” (RV 10.85.26)
Agnisthāpanam (Kindling the Sacred fire) :
A new grass mat is spread to the west of the fire. The couple take their seats with the bride to the right of the groom.
The groom performs the preliminary rites & then recites
the following two verses:—
“O Woman, equanimity is your first guardian, observance of the Vedic law is your second, knowledge and strength of character are your third
guardians. One born of woman is your fourth guardian.”(AV.14.2.3.)
“Tranquillity develops in the girl the sentiment of following the
Vedic law; which in turn brings her knowledge and strength of character;
which bestows upon me prosperity and progeny.” (AV. 14.2.4)
Pāṇigrahaṇam (Holding hands) :
The groom takes the bride's right hand and recites the following
“I take your hand for wellbeing so that together we may attain to
old age in happiness. The Sovereign Cosmic Principles; Enjoyment
[Bhaga], Aspiration [Aryaman], Creativity [Savitar] and Completeness
[Purandhri] have united us for the performance of our duties as
householders.” (RV 10.85.36)
“This institute of Householders was previously established by these
Cosmic Principles, may we attain their benediction.” (Ap.MB
O” Sarasvati! Personification of learning and eloquence, the source of
well-being, O Gracious One, You whom I praise are the source of all
creation.” (Ap.MB 1.3.5)
“May the out-stretched golden hands of the purifying life force which
pervades all directions unite our minds as one.”
An appointed member of the family then ties the hems of the couples’ garments
Saptapadi (Taking of seven steps) :
The couple now take the first seven steps in their journey of life
together. These steps represent the seven areas of life that they need
to work on together in order to have a perfect marriage.
Significance of Saptapadi is explained in this answer.
Vaivāhika Homam (The wedding sacrifice)
The priests now make oblations of ghee into the sacred with the
following vedic verses. If the groom has been initiated and wears the
sacred thread he may be encouraged to make the oblations himself. If
not, the priests do it on his behalf.
Aśmarohanam (Treading upon the mill-stone):
The couple retire to the north of the fire where a millstone has been
placed. The bride stands upon it facing the east. The stone represents
difficulties and hurdles in married life. Conflict is inevitable and the success of a marriage depends on how effectively the couple learn to
apply their conflict-resolution skills.
Tread upon this stone, be you firm and steadfast as this stone, in
all your tribulations, pressing underfoot all negativity and grief. (Ap.MB. 1.5.1)
Lāja Homam (Offering of puffed-grains):
The bride’s cupped palms are filled with puffed-rice by her brother,
then supported by her husband she offers the grains into the fire with the
“This woman thus prays to God as she offers oblations of grains;
long live my husband! Yea, a hundred autumns let him live!” (AV.
May this maiden sacrificing here in the fire be completely united
to her husband, O Aryaman grant you this, that they may never be parted.
Aryaman, you are the personification of Spiritual Aspiration,
mysterious are you. O Self-sustainer, as a kind friend, with streams of
milk they anoint you, when you makes wife and husband
The person who helps the bride in this ritual is the nominated protector or sponsor of the bride. If she encountered any domestic difficulties in her new home she could then summon her sponsor to come to her aid and to mediate on her behalf.
The couple then circumambulate the fire altar three times with the groom
“O Agni, in obedience to your command, we have brought the bride
along with the marriage procession, unite her now with the husband
along with future progeny.” (RV. 10.85.38)
O Agni, give long life and energy to this couple, May they both
live for a hundred autumns.” (AV. 14.2.1 RV.
“Guide them through all tribulations as easily as one passes
rivulets of water.” (RV. 2.7.3)
Yoktra Vimocanam (Releasing of the Girdle):
The groom releases the grass-girdle (yoktram) that was tied around the
bride's waist. This act is symbolic of transferring the duty of
protection from the father to the husband.
O Bride! I free you from the restrictions of your parents,
wherewith your blessed father has bound you. Into the Seat of the Sacred Law, to the world of virtuous actions, I give you up uninjured with your consort.
Thus I release you from the noose of Varuna, wherewith the
Impeller, the Giver of Success hath bound you. I establish you in the realm of spirituality, in the world of virtuous actions, together with your
husband.(Tait. Sam 188.8.131.52)
Final oblation :
“O Mystic Fire, giver of refuge are you, irreproachable, in truth
refuge of the devotees. We meditate upon you in our minds, O Bearerof-
oblations, grant unto us healing remedies.” (Ap.MB 1.5.18)
It is of a hundred measures, man has a hundred years of life, a
hundred powers; verily on life and power he rests.(Tait. Sam3.2.6)
Highly auspicious is this bride, come congratulate her; wish her a
married life filled with her husband's love, and then repair to your
O Bride, radiant as the Sun, mount this all-hued, golden-tinted,
strongwheeled, highly brilliant car, gently rolling, bound for the world
of life immortal. Make for your husband a happy bridal procession.
Rise over conflicts and calamities, exceed your husband, and your
children in dignity and pride and be you famous.” (Ap.MB 1.6.5)
Be an empress over your father-in-law, an empress over your
mother in-law, be an empress over your husband's sisters, and an empress over
his brothers too. (RV. 10.85.46)
May you radiate over the daughters-in-law in your new home, over
all the children and the property, over your husband and his brothers and
over all the community.(Ap.MB 1.6.7)
Those who are at cross purposes and opposed to the wedded couple
may they not succeed. May the hard path of life be crossed by pleasant
journey. May all the forces of evil shrink away.(RV. 10.85.32)
Dvāra Pūjā (Reception of the Groom’s party) :
The wedding venue is technically the “Home” of the bride, so the groom’s party is welcomed at the gate with customary ceremonies done by the women of the family. What is done varies from community to community but the intention is to create auspiciousness and to avert negative influences.
Milini is the “meeting” of the relatives of the two sides. Usually done by
Punjabis. The respective male members of the two families meet, greet, garland and hug each other. Fathers, brothers, uncles etc.
The mantras chanted by the priests are from the final hymn of the Rig Veda:—
“Meet together, talk together, let your minds comprehend in
harmony; In like manner as the ancient gods concurring, accepted
their portion of the sacrifices.”
“May you pray together in harmony, may you strive for common
goals with a common purpose, may you have associated desires. I
repeat for you a common prayer, I offer for you a common
“United be your intention, united be your hearts, united your
thoughts, so that there may be a thorough harmony among you.”
The father of the bride then welcomes the groom. He anoints his forehead with sandalwood paste and rice grains and places a garland around his neck.
O noble son, with this tilak may you have longevity, health,
excellence, radiance, and blazing intellect!
The women perform ārati which is the waving of a tray with auspicious objects and a light in front of the groom. The exact method of doing this varies from family to family. There are traditional songs which are sung by the women at this time.
The groom’s party is led to the pandal and the groom takes his seat. The priest assists the groom to perform a Ganesha puja for the removal of all
A sacred protective thread is tied to the groom’s right wrist. This is called Kankana Dhāraṇam.
Vara Pūjā (Reception of the Groom):
This is already explained above.
Kanyā Āgamana (Arrival of the Bride):
The bride now makes her entrance accompanied by her bridal party. How the bride approaches the canopy is an individual matter nowadays. Sometimes she is accompanied by her uncles, and sometimes by her friends or bride’s maids.
Sometimes she is carried in a palanquin.
She approaches the pandal and meets the groom outside and the couple stand
facing each other and then when the priest recites the following mantra they
garland each other :—
May all the Directive Energies of the Cosmos unite our hearts, may the
Universal Principles, the Life Force and the heavens keep us two
Vastra Dānam (Presentation of Clothing):
The groom now presents the bride with a set of clothing. According to some Grihya Sutras the clothes are given by the groom’s side and some say that 4 items of clothing are given by the bride’s father — one for the groom and one for the bride.The groom takes 2 for himself and presents the bride with her set.
Kanya-dāna (Bestowal of the Bride):
The father of the bride or the authorised person is called upon by the priest to recite the saṃkalpa or recites it on the bestower’s behalf.
A coconut etc is placed in the bride’s hand by the father. The bride’s hand and coconut is then placed in the groom’s right hand. The bride’s mother pours water over the coconut.
This is already explained above.
The couple then recite the kāma-stuti or hymn in praise of Love together:—
Who is giving what and to whom? Love is the Giver and Love the
Receiver. Love has entered into the Ocean of Being. Through Love I receive you. O Love all this is for you.” (Tattiriya Aranyaka. 184.108.40.206 A.V. 3.29.7)
Agni-sthāpanam (Establishing the sacred fire):
This is explained already.
Pratijña (Vows by the couple):
Groom — dharme ca arthe ca, kāme ca, imāṃ nāticarāmi ||
Bride — dharme ca arthe ca, kāme ca, imā nāticarāmi ||
In our mutual pursuit of spiritual development, in our mutual financial
arrangements and in our mutual pursuit of pleasure and intimacy I shall never do the wrong thing by you.
This is observed in South India also.
Śubha dṛṣṭi (Auspicious gazing):
The couple are requested to look at each other without breaking their gaze as the following verse is recited :—
Om. Gaze gently upon each other, never be hostile to each other, be
tender to birds and animals, of cheerful mind, beautiful in your glory, the
parents of heroes, be devoted to the gods, be the bestowers of happiness,
be good and kind to us, and to all creatures.(RV.10.85.44)
Om. To us, O God, bring her, kind to her brothers; bring her, O Lord of
the Universe, kind to her husband and her children. O Creator of the
Universe bring her along with prosperity.(AV.14.1.62)
O Woman, Soma knew you first, and then the Gandharva, thirdly Agni
knew you, your fourth husband is one born of woman.” (AV. 14.2.3.)
Soma gave you to the Gandharva, the Gandharva gave you to Agni, O
Agni transfer her now to me along with prosperity and progeny.(AV. 14.2.4)
This is also performed in South India especially in Telugu states. Till this moment, the bride and groom are separated by a cloth screen. This is the first gaze of the bride and the groom.
Granthi Bandhanam (tying the knot):
An appointed member of the family then ties the hems of the couples’ garments together.
With the bonds of the food that you eat together, with the many-colored
thread of life; with the knot of truth I bind together your minds and
Lāja Homa # 1 (Offering of Puffed-rice):
The bride’s brother or a substitute places puffed rice in the bride’s cupped palms — the groom places his palms below hers.
This woman thus prays to God as she offers oblations of grains; long
live my husband! Yea, a hundred autumns let him live! (AV 14.2.63)
The couple circumambulate the fire with the bride in front while the priests chant the following mantra:—
Primordial God, in obedience to your command, we have brought the
bride along with the marriage procession, Give her now to her husband
along with future progeny. (RV. 10.85.38)
Aśmarohanam (Treading upon the mill-stone):
The couple stop to the north of the fire where a millstone has been placed. They stand opposite each other touching the stone with their right feet. They can either hold hands of the bride places her hands upon the groom’s shoulders.
Tread upon this stone, be you firm and steadfast as this stone, in all
your tribulations, pressing underfoot all negativity and sorrow.
This procedure is called Sannikallu in Telugu.
Lāja Homa #2
The bride’s brother places puffed rice in the bride’s cupped palms for a second time — the groom places his palms below hers.
May this maiden sacrificing here in the fire be completely united to
her husband, O Aryaman grant you this, that they may never be parted.
The couple circumambulate the fire for a second time with the bride in front while the priests chant the following mantra:—
O Agni, give long life and energy to this couple, May they both live
for an hundred autumns. (AV. 14.2.1 RV.10.85.39)
Lāja Homa #3:
The bride’s brother places puffed rice in the bride’s cupped palms for a third time — the groom places his palms below hers.
Aryaman, you are the personification of Spiritual Aspiration,
mysterious are you. O Self-sustainer, as a kind friend, with streams of
milk they anoint you, when you makes wife and husband one-minded.
The couple circumambulate the fire for a third time with the bride in front:—
Guide them through tribulations As easily as one passes through rivulets of water. (RV 2.7.3)
O Sarasvati Goddess of learning and eloquence, the source of wellbeing,
O Gracious One, You whom I praise are the source of all
creation. (ApMB 1.3.5)
It is in you the whole creation arose and in whom it is sustained and
into whom it is ultimately diṣsolved. Today I shall sing that song which
is the highest glory of women.
Together holding the winnowing basket the couple offer all the rest of the puffed rice. They then circumambulate the fire for the fourth time this time the groom leads.
Veṇī mocanam (Releasing a lock of hair):
The groom releases a few locks of the bride’s hair to symbolically liberate the bride from her parental control.
O Bride! I now free you from the restrictions of your parents,
wherewith your blessed father had bound you. I now establish you with
your consort in the practice of Dharma, in the realm of virtuous
actions. (RV 10.85.24)
Saptapadi (The rite of the Seven Steps): Explained already.
Abhyukṣaṇam (Sprinkling with Holy Water): The priests now sprinkle the couple with holy water.
Sūrya Darśanam (The Prayer to the Sun): The couple then either go outside to look at the Sun or stay where they are and pretend to see the sun.
Hṛdaya Sparśam (Touching the hearts): The couple touch each other’s hearts.
Māṅgalya Dhāraṇam (Donning the tokens of marriage.):
The sacred necklace is then placed around the bride’s neck or Rings are exchanged.
R.V. — Rig Veda
A.V. — Atharva Veda
S.Y.V. — Sukla Yajur Veda
Tait. Sam. — Taittiriya Samhita
Aśv. gr. — Aśvalāyana Gr̥hya Sūtra
Yaj. — Yājñavālkya Gr̥hya Sūtra
Āp.gr. — Āpastamba Gr̥hya Sūtra
Ap.MB. — Āpastamba Mantra Brahmaṇa
Hir. gr. — Hiraṇyakeśin Grhya sūtra
Par. Gr — Paraskara Grhya sūtra