Saturday, April 30, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Blessings at the Temple

After the wedding ceremony, together with all our guests, we went to the Temple for a short prayer and to receive blessings from other priests. The more priests, the more blessings, the more happiness in our future lives :)

As you can see in the photos below, it is not allowed to wear shoes inside a Hindu Temple. Moreover, one should not bring shoes inside (*) - they are considered to be dirty (in the spiritual sense). I mentioned it already in my "Does and Don'ts for Indian Travel" post that pointing bottoms of your feet/shoes towards any other person or images and statues of gods is considered to be highly disrespectful and offending. (Also our wedding website informed our guests about this important rule.)

Still, several of our guests brought their shoes inside the temple, and even inside the Vishnu Shrine! When one of the priests noticed it, he went berserk and immediately kicked out those of our guests from the Temple. I'm mentioning this issue to emphasize how important it is to follow rules of other religions if you want to participate in their rituals, or just visit places of importance to them.

Also, it was probably the only major hiccup that happened during our wedding ceremony, so it is fun to look back and laugh at it.

Inside the Temple, in front of the Vishnu Shrine:

Coming back to the Assembly Hall, where our reception was taking place:

(*) Shoes should be left outside the temples, and most of them have a designated place for that purpose, usually just outside the entrance.

(**) One other tip for people visiting Hindu temples: remember to use your right hand for all important things like handing over donations, receiving holy water, handing over money to the shoe storage guy, and pretty much everything else. The left hand is used in the toilet, and is considered dirty.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Aashirvaadam

Aashirvaadam - Showering of Blessings was the last part of our wedding ceremony during which we first said "thank you" to the priest by offering him a tray with fruits and an envelop filled with money, and then we asked him and our uncle for their blessings.

Afterward we turned to our family and friends and asked them for their blessings, which they bestowed upon us by showering us with flower petals (I posted a short movie from that part of the ceremony here). It definitely felt wonderful to be showered with flowers and love, and it made me feel very special :) Thank you dearest friends.

Our offering to the priest:

Blessings from our uncle:

Flower Shower!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Saptapadi

As the name suggests, during Saptapadi (Seven Steps) the bride and groom take seven steps together. These steps symbolize the beginning of their journey through life as partners.

With each step that Anil and I took together, we promised to each other to:
  1. Support each other
  2. Fill our hearts with strength and courage
  3. Prosper and share our worldly goods
  4. Fill our hearts with love, peace, happiness, and spiritual values
  5. Strive to create a happy, healthy, and strong family together
  6. Live a long life in a loving harmony with each other
  7. Respect each other, be best friends and eternal partners
Upon the completion of the seven steps Anil and I exchanged garlands, and from that moment onwards we became wife and husband.

The priest set up seven piles of turmeric-stained rice, each of which symbolizes one of the steps:

The last step:

Garland exchange. For reasons that are not fully clear to me, the uncle insisted that Anil should put a garland on me before I would put mine on him. I was later told that the person who puts the garland last will be the one that makes all important decisions in the marriage. Still, we did not listen to the uncle and I put my garland on Anil's neck before he put his on mine. I guess that means that Anil should make all decisions for us... :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Laaja Homam

As in the previous step, during Laaja Homam (Offering Puffed Rice to Sacred Ceremonial Fire), the priest chanted an ancient hymn of praise to the God of Fire (Agni) while we placed offerings into the fire. However, this time the offering consisted of rice, not honey, and it was done by me, not Anil.

I had to cup my hands and Bartek, who represented my father, was filling them with puffed rice. Then I had to throw the puffed rice into the sacred fire as havis (offering) to Agni. By this offering, we prayed to Agni, the ultimate witness to the marriage, for happiness and prosperity in our life together.

Here Bartek is filling my hands with rice. Every time I put the puffed rice into the fire it would make it explode, so I asked Bartek to give me as little rice as possible. Of course he did not listen to me and gave me even more rice than before!

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Pradhaana Homam

In Hinduism, human life is seen to have four great goals called purusharthas:

(1) Dharma - righteous conduct and the fulfillment of civic and religious responsibilities
(2) Artha - accumulation of wealth and prosperity by honest means, as well as pursuit of meaning
(3) Kama - enjoyment in life
(4) Moksha - spiritual liberation, as well as detachment

During Pradhaana Homam (Sacred Ceremonial Fire) part of the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom pray to Agni (God of Fire). To receive Agni's blessings they "feed" the fire by putting offerings of e.g. honey into it. Then the couple walks around the holy fire four times, symbolizing the walk of life. Each round around the fire symbolizes one of the purusharthas.

Anil puts honey into the fire. Notice that I keep my right hand on his lap, which symbolizes that I support his actions and that we put offerings to the fire together:

Neeta ties together Anil's dhoti and my sari:

It is difficult to walk when your clothes are tied together!

As we walked around the fire, Anil also put silver toe rings on my toes:

Toe rings distinguish married from unmarried women:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Mangalya Dharanam

Mangalya Dharanam - Tying of Matrimonial Necklace/Ring Exchange

In Hindu culture the groom and bride do not exchange wedding bands (though these days it might sometimes happen). Instead, the groom gives the bride a mangala sutra, a necklace made of gold that includes two talis (emblems) representing each family. The mangala sutra is the equivalent of the wedding ring and as such it identifies a lady as a married woman.

Usually I do not wear gold, so I was not too enthusiastic about having to wear a gold necklace on my neck for the rest of my life. Luckily, mangla sutras are usually black. Moreover, the one that Anil and his mother picked for me is actually pretty: it is not too big, not too flashy, and has an asymmetric pendant, as I requested.

I've been wearing my mangala sutra continuously for the past year, as Anil said that it would be nice if I would. However, during our recent trip to India his mother told me that I should not wear it everyday as it can break easily and it would be costly to repair it (or worse, I could loose it altogether). So I'm thinking about stopping wearing it on our first wedding anniversary. Strangely, it will not be an easy decision - I think wearing it grew on me during the past year...

During this part of the ceremony we also had an option to exchange wedding rings. Initially we were not sure if we want to have wedding rings at all, but then I thought that if I have to wear the mangla sutra, Anil should also wear something that would remind him about me. Moreover, I thought that it would be nice to get wedding rings from Poland, so I asked my parents to buy them for us. Thanks to that my wedding ring has a double meaning to me: it reminds me both about my husband and my parents.

My parents paid for and bought our wedding bands, but Anil and I picked the design we wanted. I probably looked at thousand designs before I selected a few that I liked the most. Luckily, Anil liked exactly the same ones as I did and together we decided to go with simple two-color wide bands made of white and pink gold.

Even though my parents bought our rings long before our wedding, we decided against having them shipped to the US as we feared they might get lost on the way. So we only got our wedding bands a month later, at the end of our honeymoon. My friend Bartek was visiting Poland and he brought them for us. (Thank you, Bartek!) In real life they looked even better than on the pictures, so we were very happy with our choice.

Oh, I should also mention that during our recent trip to India I learned that my mother in law promised to give her mangla sutra as an offering to gods if Anil gets married. She must have been quite worried if she made this kind of promise :)

The priest conducted several prayers before Anil tied the mangala sutra on my neck:

My managala sutra:

Anil, with help from Neeta, put the mangala sutra on my neck:

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Muhurtam

Muhurtham - The Sacred Moment is the most important part of Hindu wedding ceremony. It is when the cloth separating the groom and bride is removed and they see each other for the first-time. (For the first time on that day, hopefully, not in their lives...)

The date and time of Muhurtham is fixed to the seconds by family astrologers. For us it was picked by the priest who performed our wedding ceremony, but it was also confirmed to be auspicious by Anil's mother's astrologer.

But before the cloth is removed, the bride and groom place a paste made of jaggery and cumin seeds on each others heads. Jaggery (unrefined whole cane sugar) symbolizes the sweetness of marriage and cumin seeds symbolize the brief moments of inevitable bitterness. This ceremony should also remind the couple that their relationship is unbreakable and inseparable.

I only learned about the jaggery-cumin paste ritual a day before the wedding. I was not thrilled about it and already then I asked Anil to refrain from smashing the paste on my head. I did not want to spend a whole day walking around with sticky substance in my hair and I also wanted to look decent on my wedding photos. (I'm vain, I know.)

Once the Muhurtham moment came and we were asked to place the paste on each others heads, my dearest husband was kind enough to keep it slightly above my head, as I had asked him to. However, that was not good enough for our uncle and he asked Anil to smash it on my head! I was so terrified by that prospect, that I threatened Anil to divorce him if he would dare to do it... So my love skillfully dropped the jaggery ball, hence ending the subject, the cloth between us got removed, and nobody needed to fill for a divorce :)

You can not see it but in the photos below under the leaves we have a paste made of jaggery and cumin seeds:

Here you can better see that Anil keeps his hand with the paste slightly above my head:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Kanya Daanam

Kanya Daanam (Giving of the Bride) was one of the busiest and most eventful parts of our wedding ceremony. During this part the parents of the bride place hands of their daughter into the hands of the groom and ask him to except their daughter as his equal partner throughout life. This "asking" happens without words. Instead a coconut is placed on top of the bride's and her father's palms, and those palms are placed on top of palms of the groom and his parents. Then the bride’s mother pours holy water from the river Ganga on the coconut and the priest invokes the blessings of the gods.

As neither my parents nor Anil's could attend our wedding ceremony, we asked Anil's brother Gautam and his wife Neeta to substitute for Anil's parents, and my friends Bartek and Manja to substitute for mine. All of them did extremely good job as our parents :)

As you can see, Anil and I were still separated by a curtain. Manja (my mother) pours holy water over the coconut that Bartek (my father), Anil and I keep in our hands:

On this photo you can even see water dripping on the coconut:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Kankana Dhaarana

During step 2 (Kankana Dhaarana) of our wedding ceremony, while we were still separated by a curtain, a sacred thread (a turmeric-stained thread wrapped around a turmeric root) was tied on our wrists. This thread should protect us from evil spirits and also signified that we were prepared to take the vows of marriage.

The threads looked like this:

Here we are getting ready to tie threads around our wrists:

And here are some of our guests watching the ceremony:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Ganesh Pooja

While I was getting ready Anil was already "on the stage" and first prayers were taking place. Typically, Indian wedding ceremonies begin with the worship of Lord Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles and the provider of good luck. Ganesha's presence is invoked to insure the successful completion of the wedding ceremony. Other poojas (pujas/prayers) are also performed to invoke the presence of other forms of God to preside over the wedding ceremony.

This part of the wedding ceremony was point number 1 on our wedding program:
Ganapathy (Ganesh) Pooja = Prayer to Ganesh, the Remover of Obstacles

At the very beginning of the ceremony only the groom and the pandit (priest) are present:

Just before the entrance of the bride, the groom is hidden behind a curtain:

Then the bride joins the ceremony:

The groom and the bride are still separated by a curtain, and can not see each other: