Sunday, June 1, 2014

VIVAAHAM--HINDU BRAAHMA SACRED MATRIMONY

   Vivaaham—Hindu Braahma Sacred Matrimony


(Compilation for a discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, Brentwood, TN, June 2014)

Prologue on Vivaaha (Marriage) Sacrament

Sri  Manjakkudi Rajagopla Sastrigalwrote in The Hindu of Madras in 1975: “Hinduism attaches sanctity to the Institution of Marriage. The rituals and the Vedic incantations that go with it are extremely significant, designed as they are to ensure the happy, prosperous and harmonious living of the couple.  By way of offering a garland, the bride gives her heart and soul to the bridegroom and identifies herself totally with him. She is exhorted to follow her spouse, like his shadow, in treading the path of Dharma. She is called upon to stand by him, with rock-like firmness, through distress and difficulties lending him full support to face the vicissitudes in life. They pray for their mutual well-being. With the strength of divine grace invoked through Vedic Mantras and the blessing of elders, the couple begins their life-journey. If the various rituals are performed properly and the Mantras chanted  sincerely with intonation, they are bound to be effective and fruitful” --This is he said while describing the wedding of Sri Rama with Seeta the ideal couple in Hindu Puranas in a discourse  (upanyaasa) on Sita Kalyanam.

Hinduism prescribes three stages in life called Aasramas to cope with, in one’s life. These are Brahmacharya (bachelorhood or focus on spiritual and secular education)); Garhastya (Married Life adulthood, paying  debts to parents, gods and ancestors while bringing forth good children and serving the society)); Vaanaprastha (Retiring to  rest  and seclusion to lead a simple and peaceful life)  or Sanyaasa (Sainthood or Spiritual seeking and liberation living in seclusion).

Hindus prefer Grihastaasrama to Snyaasa: One famous couplet in Kannada says: “Eesa beku, iddu jayisa beku” –we need the grace of God for that Sainthood is not the only solution; better to live with the world and lead a successful life serving family and society.  Upanishads contain many wisdoms to lead a successful married life while seeking liberation. They are not shy to discuss about sex life at length. The commitment of man and woman in the Vivaaha Samskaara and their coupling together is stressed in Vedas with the object of leading a life devoted to Dharma together as husband and wife, bringing forth worthy children serving the family and the society.  Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad gives further many mantras for copulation, begetting good children healthy, intelligent and prosperous, maternity advice as well as action for walking out of the agreed alliance before tying the knot. Once knot is tied it is a life-long commitment.  Married couples seek a good-life of living together for hundred years in their prayers prescribed in this Upanishad. Based on this later Vaatsyaayana brought forth several aphorisms contained in his Kaamasaastra, Scripture on Love-life.
Of the four stages of life one resorts to, preference is given to Grihastaasrama by Hindu forefathers as described in Puranas based on two reasons: 1) It is the Married person who supports the Brahmachari (or bachelor) to live well by providing necessary food for nourishment and The recluse or Sanyasai also by giving the alms or food charity sought after. In Hindu practice both do not run their kitchens but depend on the society for their food. 2) Those   that lead bachelorhood as well as those who lead the life of recluse or mendicant are not eligible to bring forth children and keep the continuity of the society. Only married men can realize the full benefits of human life and work for the betterment of society through the   practice of Hindu Dharma prescribed in scriptures.

A detailed guide for the use of the Bride and Bridegroom as well as their parents to study  in advance, understand all the implications involved and then perform the sacred matrimony of Hindu Braahma Vivaaha meaningfully is presented here.  I am sure Hindu migrant society living in their country of adoption, which does not have easy access to such information would benefit from this discourse.  

Introduction
The Sanskrit word Vivaaham is derived from the root vahati meaning to bear  or carry.   What does this mean?  Husband takes care of the welfare of his wife. Wife takes the responsibility   of looking after the needs of her husband and bringing forth children and nurturing them.  They both together look after the welfare of the family as a whole.  It is a ceremony for assuming joint responsibilities as man and woman. They both are bound by the Grihastaasrama Dharma, The law of the Householder as contained in scripture (Dharmasaastra).   Hindu marriage is more a marriage between two families than between two persons. A Hindu marriage is not just a relationship between a husband and wife; it also engenders a close and lasting relationship between the members of both the families.

Hindu wedding today is by and large Vedic (Braahma) Marriage.   Earliest grand wedding of Rama with Sita in Treta Yuga in Ramayana is called Sita Kalyaanam and it provides the basic guideline for the present day Hindu marriages.  Sita kalyanam though considered as grand was simple and strictly a Vedic sacrament.     Over a period Marriage rituals were made elaborate sometimes extending to five days of celebrations based on several other divine weddings. Due to population explosion, limited time,   availability of hall and cost considerations this celebration is now shrunk to few hours on the previous day of marriage called Nischayatartam or betrothal and few hours the following day of Main wedding called Muhurtam.  Sita Kalyaanam essentially consisted of the following as detailed in Ramayana: 1)  A formal proposal by the girl’s father to boy’s father; 2) Mutual exchange  of family backgrounds and acceptance of the proposal by boy’s father; 3) Inviting the bridegroom’s party and welcoming them; 4) Samaavartana for the boy [this has turned to Kasi yaatra today] 5) Nandi Sraaddha (obeisance to ancestors);  6) Paalika-- Preparation of Vedic Altar and sprouting the seeds as a symbol of praying for fertility; 7) Giving away  bride to the bridegroom by bride’s father (Kanyaadaana);  8) Holding the hands together (paanigrahana); Fire Sacrifice and going round the fire thrice and around the priests and bride’s father;  9) Retiring to their place for rest; 10) Farewell ceremony with parting gifts. Priests are usually appointed to conduct traditional Hindu marriages as described in Ramayana.

Marriages officiated by priests are considered sacraments; Marriages are not required by Hindu law to be registered.   Most of the Hindu marriages conducted in India and elsewhere are both social and religious functions. There is no uniformity on the social side. These are based on local customs and traditions. On the religious side, with minor variations, they follow some specific rituals as indicated in the Vedas. The wedding ceremony and the mantras chanted therein are based on the text of the Hymn 85, Mandala X, of the Rig Veda. The marriage ceremonies are called Vaidika ceremonies as they follow the Vedic Scriptures.

Smartha Tradition with non-sectarian outlook in worship prescribe the Braahma   form of Vedic marriage (a type of arranged marriage or mutually agreed upon by both sides even arising out of love). This marriage ceremony is derived from Vedic directives.  Women acquire the traditions of her husband's family upon marriage. Lineage is an important continuity for the Smarthas. It is called the Gotra. Each Smartha family belongs to a particular Gotra which is the progeny of an identified Rishi. People belonging to the same Gotra are deemed brothers & sisters and hence cannot marry each other.

A Hindu hymn says “A girl who has come of age must wait for three years for a groom to come seeking her hand. If no such groom turns up, she may herself go looking for a groom. [Treeni varshaayu-deekshetaa kumaaree ritumatee satee | Oordhvam tu kaalaad-etasmaad-vindeta  sadrisam patim]. {Childhood marriage is a  later  historic development coming from North India}

The stage of life in which one lives a life of commitment to one’s spouse and family is called “Grihastaasrama” in Vedic culture. It is a relationship to have a progeny and fulfill the duties and responsibilities that go within the context of making home and serving the society as per the mandates of Sanatana Dharma.   It is a life-long commitment sanctified by the Hindu marriage ritual. The husband puts on a second Yajnoepaveeta (holy thread) as he steps into the ritual signifying his wife’s partaking in all rituals. He undertakes to fulfill his debt to gods, pitrus (ancestors) and rishis (sages).  Thread ceremony was common to all   castes in the Puranic period as evinced by Sita Kalyanam, Radha Kalyanam   and many other divine weddings celebrated in   Puranas.

Marriage is looked upon as a coming together of two participating families to provide a broader social base wherein the couple can live together and raise a family besides joining hands as husband and wife. In Hindu marriages the union is not between a boy and a girl, but between two families. The girl is given in marriage to a family and not to a boy.

The marriage ceremony involves numerous prayers and sacrifices (homas) in which the couples seek the blessings of various forms of Supreme (gods) for a prosperous fulfilling of life together. They both request the invisible gods and the guests assembled to be witnesses to their commitments—making pledges to understand and support each other, live as friends and fulfill their obligations to the family and the society. Parents and siblings play an important role in the marriage ceremony. After the Sacrament of Vivaaha, an individual assumes the responsibility to perform Samskaaras in the role of a parent.

Eight types of marriages have been prevalent in Hindu tradition. These are:

1.  Braahma Marriage—the father or guardian gives away the girl to a carefully chosen bridegroom well educated and endowed with noble qualities with their mutual consent.
2.  Daiva Marriage—girl is given in gratitude to a priest performing some important worship ritual. Such marriages are rare.
3.  Aarsha Marriage—the bride’s father gives the girl in exchange for the gift received in the form of milk cow and a breeding bull from the boy. In ancient times dairy cattle was the main wealth of Hindu society, hence such a gift which has no relevance today.
4.  Praajaapatya Marriage—girl’s father gives away his daughter to the boy with his blessing “May both of you perform your duties together”
5.  Gaandharva Marriage—the boy and girl marry secretly without the knowledge of their parents or guardians after a love affair.
6.  Asura Marriage—the boy gives voluntarily as much wealth as he could afford to bride and his relatives in token of getting a wife.  The law giver Manu did not approve this because it was like buying the bride by paying money.
7.  Raakshasa Marriage—the girl was forcibly taken away from her family and then forced or coaxed to marry.
8.  Paisaacha Marriage—person marries a girl whom he had seduced while she was as sleep, intoxicated or insane.

Of the eight forms of marriage Braahma Marriage, as is most popularly solemnized today, is the one that Dharmasaastra regards as the noblest and approves as Hindu Marriage. After the student-bachelor has completed his mission, his parents approach the parents of a girl belonging to a good family and ask them to give their daughter in marriage to their son—to make a gift of their daughter (Kanyaadaana). In it the girl’s family does not give any dowry or jewelry to the boy’s family. There is no commercial transaction and the goal of the Braahma Marriage is the dhaarmic advancement of the two families. This marriage also needs the mutual consent of the boy and the girl. Parents act as only advisers.

The love marriage is the Western style of marriage, and is close to Gaandharva Marriage. This has enthusiastic support these days. In all these eight forms of marriages the bride and bridegroom have the right to be united in wedlock with the chanting of the Mantras as per Hindu Law based on Vedic rites.

The entire marriage procedure for the bride and bridegroom is an elaborate religious ritual consisting of fasting, worship, fire sacrifice (homa) and some festivities. The exchange of rings and garlands is also part of the ceremony. The marriage ceremony starts with the Vaagdaana(oral consent) ritual and ends with Saptapadi ritual (seven steps promise). The marriage generally takes place in the bride’s home or a temple arranged by the bride’s parents. After the marriage bride goes with the bridegroom to her parents-in-law home where certain other rituals connected with the marriage take place.  Hindus do not plan for honey moon after marriage. During these ceremonies many friends and relatives are invited and treated with sumptuous feasts in both the homes. The bride is pampered with lavish gifts by the invited guests and close relatives. It seems,   Vedic scriptures do not favor child marriage of a young man under twenty-one until after completion of his Vedic studies.

VEDIC MANTRAS EMLOYED IN WEDDING
A lot of information is available from Vedas, religious texts, Sanskrit and Tamil literary sources and reliable Internet sites on these marriage details and vows undertaken during wedding.  The same are reflected below for your convenience gratefully acknowledging the enormous efforts put in by others while  adding mantras  slokas in Sanskrit where possible:

The groom faces west, while the bride sits in front of him with her face to the east, he holds her hand while the following Rigveda mantra is recited:

I take thy hand in mine, yearning for happiness; I ask you, to live with me, as your husband till both of us, with age, grow old; Please understand this; May the Gods Bhaga, Aryama, Savita and Purandhi, who have bestowed your  person  upon me so that I may fulfill, my Dharmas of the householder be with  you.

This I am, that you are; I am the Saman and you are the Rik; (Mantra of Rigveda and chanting of Samaveda)

I am the Saman, You are the Rik; I am the heaven, You are the Earth.

Following Veda Mantra from Rigveda is invariably chanted by groom addressing the bride:
Somah prathamoe vivide | Gandharvoe vivida uttarah | triteeyoe agnishtepatih | tureeyaste manushyajah || Somoe dadad gandharvaaya |Gandharvoe dadaad-agnaye |  Rayincha-putraamschaa- daad | Agnir- mahya-matho imaam ||

[At first Soma deity had hold on you; then the divine personnel Gandharvas became your guardians; thirdly Agni (god of fire) became your master; I, as a human being have as the fourth to hold sway over you.   Soma passed you on to the Gandharva and the Gandharva to Agni. Agni has now given you over to me]. {These divines impart beauty, lust and glamour to the bride]
Hindu wedding is conducted with Fire as witness (agnisaakshi).


TYING OF MANGALA SOOTRAM (MAANGALYA DHAARANA)

“Kanyaam kanakasampannam” (the bride adorned with gold): these words occur in our Saastaras relating to marriage rituals. Gold symbolizes the grace of Lakshmi (suvarna rajatasrajaam) of golden hue. This does not call for other types of expensive jewelry, diamond studs and so on.  A mangalasootra with a grain of gold as amulet is enough. Amulet can be in gold or silver. Gold helps to increase energy levels in the body and is a symbol of prosperity. Hindus are crazy about gold and precious stone jewelry beyond their means, particularly noticeable at the time of wedding. The auspicious string worn by the bride at her wedding is called Mangala-sootra or Maangalya sootra. In the South it is called Taali. A married woman prices it more than any other ornament and is divested of it only on the death of her husband.

Tying the taali or the Mangala-sootra around the bride's neck by the groom is   the most important  part of rituals of a Hindu wedding today though not mentioned in Ramayana in Sita’s wedding.

While the groom ties three knots, the pundit chants this sloka which means; “This is a sacred thread. This is essential for my long life. I tie this around your neck O maiden having many auspicious attributes. May you live happily for a hundred winters (with me)” [Winter here means years. Probably weddings took place in winters or they were scared of cold winters to survive]
Maangalyam tantunanena mama jeevana hetuna: kanthe badhnaami subhage twam jeeva saradas- satam”
The following sloka   is chanted by bride’s father while offering the hands of the bride into the hands of bridegroom (Panigrahana).
Iyam…(Name of the bride).. mama sutaa sahadharmacharee tava| prateeccha chainaam bhadram te  paanim grihneeshva paaninaa. Pativrataa mahaabhaagaa chchaayevaanugataa sadaa ||”
This (pronounce the name of the bride)   my daughter, is going to be your helpmate in discharging your sacred obligations. Take her hands in your own and accept her as your own. She is highly fortunate and will remain exclusively devote to you (her husband) and will ever follow you as a shadow]. So saying the father of the bride transfers the water consecrated by the recitation of sacred texts signifying the will to offer the hand of his daughter to the bridegroom.

This famous sloka is from Ramayana recited by Janaka, father of Sita when he offered her to Rama as bride.  Probably this is the earliest divine wedding known to mankind performed with Vedic rites. A similar celebrated wedding is hailed in Puraanas of Siva and Parvati conducted by a priest none other than Brahma. Tamils believe the wedding of Sundareswarar and Meenakshi took place in Madurai where Brahma was the presiding priest. It is customary to repeat the same in all Hindu weddings by the father of the bride during Paanigrahana ceremony. Some of the couplets appropriate to the ceremony can be seen later. Another famous wedding is that of Aandal with Sri Ranganatha. The famous couplet, “Maddalam kotta ….kanaakkanden thozhi naan” is oft repeated in Tamil wedding invitations.

Vedanta Desika has included the following sloka in his Paduka Sahasram which explains the tradition of tying the Mangalyasutram in Hindu tradition:

Vahanthi rangEshvarapAdharakshE !
DhIrGhAyuShAm DharShitha Bhakthi banDhA ||
AshADhipAnAmavarODhanAryasthvan |
mudhrikAm mangaLa hEma sUthraIh||

Meaning: Oh Paaduka! The 8 Direction-guardians enjoy such longevity only because their damsels wear, in their gold-chain-hung Thirumangalya, Your image. They become thus blessed.

In the earlier slokas, Swami Desikan stated that the new brides wear jewelry containing the representation of Paadhukaas on their head. At the high moment of Maangalya dhaaranam, the bridegroom ties the auspicious thread around the neck of the bride that contains the Paadhukaas (Lord Ranganaatha’s feet) as the centerpiece. Swami Desikan points out that the wearing of the Mangala soothram is not confined to human beings alone but is also observed by the wives of the Devaas, who wish to have long lives for their husbands. Swami Desikan says in this context: "Oh Ranganaatha Paadhuke! The wives of the long lived Masters of the 8 directions demonstrate their devotion to their husbands by wearing the auspicious golden chain around their necks containing the medallion bearing your representation". It is probable that tying of Mangalsuthra has come from Tamil tradition and  therefore  not mentioned in Ramayana when Sita weds Rama as per Vedic tradition.


HIGHLIGHTS OF HINDU WEDDING
Hindu-wedding   differs widely from region to region in India based on age-old traditions (Sampradayas).  Essentially it consists of five important ceremonies.
a.       Vaagdaana—The verbal contract between the fathers or guardians about the marriage of the boy and the girl (nischayataartam)
b.      Kanyaa Sampradaana—giving away the daughter to the bridegroom by her father or guardian.
c.       Varana-welcoming the bride and the bridegroom
d.      Paanigrahana—Ritualistic holding of each other’s hands by the bride and the bridegroom
e.      Saptapadi—the seven steps walking ritual by the bride and bridegroom.
The most important part of Hindu wedding ritual as is believed today Saptapadi, starts with preface announced by the priest, and thereafter followed by a series of vows the groom and bride make to each other.  Sita Kalyana does not mention about the same. Sita and Rama went round the fire thrice.

Saptapadi hymns bring forth the following meaning:
Priest's preface: The world of men and women, united in the bond of marriage by Saptapadi (seven steps), to further promote the joy of life  together--listen with pride.
Step 1 Groom's vow: O!  You, who feed life-sustaining food, nourish my visitors, friends, parents and off-springs with food and drinks. O! Beautiful lady,  I in the form of Vishnu, take this first step with you for food.
Step 1--Bride's vow: Yes, whatever food you earn with hard work, I will safeguard it, prepare it to nourish you. I promise to respect your wishes, and nourish your friends and family as well.
(Step one refers to the availability of ample food in the home, eating and living together)
Step 2--Groom's vow: O!  Thoughtful and beautiful lady, with a well-managed home, with purity of behavior and thought, you will enable us to be strong, energetic and happy. O! Beautiful lady! I as Vishnu, take this second step with you for the strength of body, character and being.
Step 2 Bride's vow: Yes, I will manage the home according to my ability and reason. Together, I promise, to keep a home that is healthy, strength and energy giving.
(Step two relates to physical work around the house)
Step 3 ---Groom's vow: O!  Skillful and beautiful lady, I promise to devote myself to earning a livelihood by fair means, to discuss, and let you manage and preserve our wealth. O! Dear lady! I, in the role of Vishnu, cover this third step with you to thus prosper in our wealth.
Step 3--Bride's vow: Yes, I join you in managing our income and expenses. I promise to seek your consent, as I manage our wealth, fairly earned, so it grows and sustains our family.
(Step three relates to mutual respect and prosperity)
Step 4--Groom's vow: O dear lady! I promise to trust your decisions about the household and your choices; I promise to dedicate myself to help our community prosper, the matters outside the house. This shall bring us respect. O! My lady! I, as Vishnu, take this fourth step with you to participate in our world. (Vishnu took three steps to measure the two visible words and Netherworlds pushing Bali according to Puranas)
Step 4--Bride's vow: Yes, I promise to strive to make the best home for us, anticipate and provide necessary things for your worldly life, and for the happiness of our family.
(Step four relates to happiness)
Step 5--Groom's vow: O lady of skill and pure thoughts! I promise to consult with you and engage you in the keep of our cows, our agriculture and our source of income; I promise to contribute to our country. It shall win us future. O My skilled lady! I, as Vishnu form, take this fifth step with you to together grow our farms and cattle.
Step 5--Bride's vow: Yes, I promise to participate and protect the cattle, our agriculture and business. They are a source of milk, yoghurt,   ghee and income, all useful for our family and necessary for our happiness. {Aryans were basically agricultarists}
(Step five relates to personal duties and responsibilities)
Step 6--Groom's vow: O!  Lovely lady, I seek you and only you, to love, to have children, to raise a family, to experience all the seasons of life. O! My lovely lady, I as Vishnu take this sixth step with you to experience every season of life.
Step 6--Bride's vow: Feeling one with you, with your consent, I will be the means of your enjoyment of all the senses. Through life's seasons, I will cherish you in my heart. I will worship you and seek to be complete with you.
(Sixth step relates to mutual respect for each other’s families striving together)
Step 7--Groom's vow: O friends!  Allow us to cover the seventh step together, this promise, our Saptapadi-friendship. Please be my ever loving wife.
Step 7--Bride's vow: Yes, today, I possess you I secured the highest kind of friendship with you. I will remember the vows we just took and adore you forever sincerely with all my heart.
(Seventh step relates to mutual friendship gained between the couple)

After the seventh step, the two become man and wife.  With Saptapadi completed, the groom and bride change seats, the bride moving from the right to the left of the groom.
Some Indian weddings abroad symbolically maintain some of the customs in India. Like the arrival of the groom on a horse (baraat) with the band.
Many Hindu weddings start with the Milan (meeting) and Swaagatam (welcome) ceremony. This ritual is where the Baraat (groom's procession party) arrives at the bride's home or the location where the bride is and marriage will be celebrated. The Baraat typically includes dancing by joyous members of groom's family, relatives and friends. On their arrival, there is a ritual where key persons from the groom's side and bride's side are introduced to each other. The introduction is typically followed by Jai mala (garland exchange between bride and groom) and a reception that serves food and drinks.

Other rituals sometimes found in Hindu weddings include ceremonies such as madhuparka, vivaaha-homa, agni-parinayana, asmarohana, laajahoma, abhisheka, anna-praasana, and aaseer-vaada     [All these ceremonies are done at the wedding location, typically at or near the bride's home.  These additional rituals include the participation of the brothers, or sisters, or maternal/paternal relatives, guardians or friends of the bride. These will be described elaborately under the South Indian wedding.

After the wedding is complete, the bride leaves for groom's home, where Hindu family members of the groom welcome the newly wedded couple in a ritual known as Grihapravesa (home coming/entry  This ceremony typically requires participation of the mother, father, brothers, and sisters, or other guardians of the groom.

In modern Hindu families, the couples proceed to honeymoon after Grihapravesa. While there are many rituals in Hinduism, starting from those at birth to passing away of loved ones, the Hindu wedding is the most important, extensive and colorful personal ritual an adult Hindu undertakes in his or her life. Typical Hindu families put  significant efforts and spend  financial resources to prepare and celebrate weddings. Brahmins of South India conduct the weddings adding many social events to bring the families closer and intimate and also include many  rituals after the boy  ties the knot  with Mangalya Dharanam described above reciting Veda Mantras and repeating slokas found in famous weddings celebrated in Puranas.

SOUTH INDIAN WEDDING


South Indian wedding is more elaborate loaded with Vedic Mantras compared to the North Indian Wedding.  Southern States closely follow ancient Tamil Traditions with their own specifics. The important events in Tamil Wedding are broadly as follows:

Marriage ceremonies last two days--a day prior to the auspicious wedding called  Nischayataartham Day and the main day called  Muhoortam Day   on which the actual wedding ceremony according to Vedic rites  takes place.

The ceremony each day begins with Pooja invoking the blessings of Lord Ganesa  (Vigneswra) in Saivite tradition and Vishwaksena in Vaishnava tradition, for removal of all obstacles and bless the peaceful and orderly conduct of ceremonies and Nandi Shraddham seeking the blessing of the ancestors. It is also customary to visit the temple of their family deity, offer prayers to the presiding deity and take the bridegroom (hereafter referred to as boy) in a procession to the hall where the marriage is conducted.

On Nischayataarham Day, the Lagnapatrika, (a document indicating lineages of the Boy and the Girl)   and the timing and place of marriage, duly signed by the parents of the boy and the girl is read out and signed by their parents.     This takes the shape of a contractual moral document but not legal. Though this does not take the character of a legal document, it serves the purpose of a formal agreement   which both the parties abide by.   In many cases, this formality is completed much before the marriage day in the form of Nichiyathaartham (prenuptial) ceremony, which is done to commit the parties to the marriage indicating a specific date for the marriage. But nothing is definite till the Mangalya daharana ceremony takes place on the wedding day with the blessings of all gathered which moment is anxiously waited for by both the parents.

KASI YAATRA
South Indian wedding starts with dramatic and colorful ceremonies called Kaasi Yaatra, Malai Maatral (exchange of garlands) and Oonjal (Jhoola or swing). These have no religious significance as such. Secondly, these rituals vary from community to community, depending on the families’ custom and traditions.

The Kaasi Yaatra ritual which is peculiar to Brahmin community is the one when the father of the girl symbolically dissuades the boy from the pursuits of Brahmacharya (bachelorhood) The boy symbolically pretends to start his journey to Kaasi (Benares or Varanasi), the seat of Vedic culture and Education but the girl’s father requests him to enter Grihasthaasrama (Family life) by marrying his daughter.

Note: This apparently counters the very ceremony conducted thereafter (Kanyaaveshanam), where the bride groom’s   emissary is sent to seek the hand of an identified girl from a specific family even though  Kaasiyaatra is continued as essential part of the marriage ceremony. Probably, this incongruity can be explained as follows: In the ancient period, it is the boys' side which took all the initiative and was searching for a suitable girl for the boy. This has gone the other way round amongst the Brahmins now.    It is the girls' parents who search for the boys and seek their alliance among Brahmins. In most other communities (some Non-Brahmin families in Tamil Nadu), the ancient system still continues.  

Oonjal, is a ceremony of ladies, where boy and the girl are cajoled to sit on a swing and propitiation is done, to ward off the effect of "evil eyes"    (cast off evil eyes, thoughts or curses) on the couple with colored rice balls to be picked up by birds and animals. This is a sort of   Bhoota yajana seeking nature’s help in this act of driving away evils. This oonjal ceremony is to make the couple  comfortable in following the instructions  of the priest and perform assigned rituals.

The real and important Vedic side of the ceremony starts only thereafter; the following paragraphs indicate briefly the meaning of some of the most important rituals and mantras recited at the time of the wedding ceremony.  

The very first ritual is started with mantras soliciting the bride—Kanyaveshanam .
Sequence of events following this are:

(1) Seeking the bride from an identified family through the emissary of Pandits (Kanyaanveshanam);

Prasugmantaa diyasaanasya sakshani varebhir vara(ga)m  abhishupraseedata asmaakam indra ubhayam  jujoshadi   yatsaumyasyaanta so bubhodati ||

Oh elders who walk with swiftness and grace! When you have made up your mind I would request you to approach the parents of the girl with the purpose discussing about the girl as a match for me. (My marriage proposal is approved by divines.) Lord Indra who is going to enjoy the Soma juice offered by me in the wedding fire sacrifices is in favor of us both coming together in a wedding knot.

(2) Promise from the bride’s side to offer the girl in marriage (Vaagdaanam);
Mahavishnu svaroopaaya varasya idam aasanam” mahavishnu swaroopa! Vara! Swaagatam! Idam te paadyam||
I offer this seat to the bridegroom  with veneration having come  in the  form of Vishnu! Welcome to the bride come in the form of Lord Vishnu! Here is the water for your feet!

3) Invoking the Holy waters to purify and protect the girl from evil forces. (Here a water pot Kalasa) is established and waters of the sacred rivers and all the gods and goddesses including Trinities (Trimurtis) and Varuna, are invoked in it. The girl takes a symbolic bath by sprinkles with this Holy water (Kalasa Pooja). Holy rivers are invoked by this sloka:

Gange cha Yamune chaiva Godaavari Saraswati |Narmade Sindhu Kaaveri jalesmin sannidhim kuru ||

Oh! Holy waters of Ganges, Jamuna, Godavri,  Saraswati,  Narmada, Sindhu, and Kaaveri,  please make your presence  into the water contained in the pot]
Vyukshat krooram udasantu aappah aasyai brahmanaah snapana(ga)m harantu | avieragneeh  udasantu aapah ||
Let bad elements come out. Let the waters come out.  Let the learned pundits bring the water for her bathing. May the waters   that do not kill the children to be born   come out!

(4) Worship of the divine power that causes sprouting (ankuraparna); This is invoking the Deity of Fertility [Please see the explanation under Paalika]
Gandhadvaaraam duraadharshaam nitypushtaam kareeshineem  |
Easvaree(ga)m sarvabhootaanaam taamihopahvaye sriyam ||
I invoke you to come near us. O Goddess Earth the ruler of all entities who art known by odor, who art invincible by sins, who art ever full and who art associated with cow dung. [Mother Goddess is the presiding deity over plant kingdom hence she is invoked and little mud from the pots are borne on the  head.]

5) Worship of ancestors (Naandi Shraaddha; Propitiating the departed elders or pitrus).

(6) The boy receives directives from the teacher (Ceremony for concluding Vedic studies--Sama avartanam- Kaasi yaatra);

(7) The girl is escorted by bride's maid and enters the hall and stands facing the boy;

(8) Meeting of the eyes (Sameekshanam);
Abhraatrugneem  varuna apadighneem brihaspate |
indra aputraghneem lakshmayantaam asyai savitassuva ||
Oh Lord Varuna! May this girl be not harmful to my spouses! Oh Brihaspati! May she be not harmful to her husband! Oh Lord Indra! May she be not harmful to her children! Oh Lord Sun! Bless her with all riches! (Thus the boy seeks divine help to see that there are no deficiencies in the girl he has chosen)

(9) Boy and girl garland each other (varamaalaa) and exchange them thrice.
Note: The order in which 5 to 9 are performed has changed over a period of time.   Kaasi Yatra and Maalai Maatral are invariably done before Swinging ceremony.
 (10) Kanyaadaanam (Giving away the bride as an act of charity):
[This is an important ritual wherein the girl is given as   charity   to the boy’s family; the bride loses her family identity completely after this charity.  She is called Matruppenn or adapted daughter. Even the   lineage or Gothram to which the girl belongs till marriage is changed to that of the boy.  Even in Western culture the bride’s family name is changed to that of the bridegroom. This is because all said and done we live in a male dominated society!  Unlike Western culture girl after wedding keeps her husband’s first name as her middle name. Hindu marriage is more a marriage between two families than between two persons. [There is a law in US which says the child gets the surname of the father if the couples are married; if unmarried the child will have mother’s surname. It would be a good idea for Hindu Americans to keep mother’s surname as middle name and father’s surname as the last name.  The child will not lose its birth identity with father and mother even in the case of separation.]

It is customary to repeat the sloka from Ramayana here by the Bride’s father substituting the name of Sita with that of his daughter as follows:

“Iyam (name of the Bride) mama sutaa sahadharmachaaree tava | Prateechcha chainaam bhadram te paanim grihneeshavapaaninaa |pativrataa mahaabhaagaa chaayaaevaanugataa sadaa||

This daughter of mine is going to be your helpmate in discharging your sacred obligations. Take her hand in your own and accept her as your own. May good betide you! She is highly fortunate and will remain exclusively devoted to you and ever follow you as a shadow” [So saying Janaka gave away his daughter Sita to Rama.]

11)  Paada Suddhi (washing the feet)—Girl’s father requests the boy to take the seat sit   and washes his feet considering boy  to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the protector. Girl’s father chants the following Mantra:
Mahavishnu swaroopa!vara! swaagatam! Idam te Paadyam!

Oh  Bridegroom ! Thou art like Vishnu! Welcome! This is the water for your feet!
At that time, boy recites a mantra which says:

Aapah   Paadaavanejaneeh dvishantam   naasayantu may | asmin kule brahmavarchasee asaanee||    

"Let the holy water which is poured on my feet safeguard me against all enemies and let me glow in splendor equal to the Brahma”.
He then takes a mixed liquid made of honey and curd and sometimes with ghee added to this mix symbolic of divine nectar (amrita).
[Girl’s father washes the feet of the boy elevating him to the divinity status of Vishnu while thinking of his daughter as Lakshmi. The whole wedding is imagined to be a divine wedding of Vishnu uniting with Lakshmi]

12)  Let happy future overcome the grief of elders as the girl anyhow has to leave of them soon —It is an occasion when the elders brood over the girl who will be leaving them soon   and that could bring  tears. Being a joyous occasion they should overcome this grief. Also grief is considered to be a sign of bad omen in Hindu concept. Hence the boy seeks for divine intervention.    So the bridegroom prays for   peace and happiness to prevail so that the function could  run smooth.

Jeeva(ga)m Rudanti vimayante advare deerghaam anuprasatima didheeyuh narah | Vaamam pitrubhyah ya ida(ga)m samerire mayah patibhyah janayah parishvaje ||
The elders who perform this wedding ceremony which is liked by the ancestors, which gives happiness to the husband and which gives an opportunity for him to embrace her, should not themselves grieve being   torn away from the girl.  Let the elders think about this holy union between them for long years to lead a happy life (than her moving out).

13) Placing yoke on the head of the Bride: Girl’s father takes his daughter on his lap. The boy places a   Kusha grass ring (pavitra) on her head and on that places a small replica of a wooden yoke. This is expected to be witnessed by the sisters and mothers of both boy and girl.  When he places the right end of the yoke, he recites a   mantra meaning:
Ke(a)nasah ke-rathah Keyugasya sacheepate | Apaalaam Indra trih poortvee akarat Soorya varchasam  ||
"As Apaalai was cleansed by you of all her sins and purified through the holes of the wheel, the chariot  and the yoke, Oh, Lord Indra, cleanse this girl of all her illnesses and make her shine in splendor."
He then places gold coins on the holes of the yoke and pours Holy water in one of the holes reciting a mantra   meaning:
Sam te hiranyam samu santu aapah samte | Medheebhavatu   samyugasya dritma | sam te  aapah satapavitraah bhavantu  adaa padyaa tanva(ga)m s(ga)m srijasva ||

"Let these gold coins bring you prosperity and happiness. Let the Holy water purify you and bring happiness to you. You can thereafter offer your body to your husband."

14)  Mangala  Snaanam (auspicious bath):

Then the girl is (symbolically) given a bath in Holy waters with  mantra  which seek God’s blessings to give her purity, happiness, closeness and understanding with husband, and good company.

Hiranyavarnaah suchayah paavakaah prachakramur hitvaa avadhya-maapah |
Satam pavitraa vitataa hyaasudaabhishtavaa devassavita punaatu ||

The waters that are coming in contact with this girl are devoid of all defects and shine  with  golden color, pure and have the cleansing power for all things.  There are indeed hundreds of pure elements in this water.  May Lord Savitar purify you with this water!
S
ivena tvaa chakshushaa pasyantvaapah sivaayaa tanvopa sprisantu tvacham te |
Kritas chyutas suchayo yaah paavakaas ta aapas sak(ga)syotaa bhavantu ||
 May the waters cast auspicious look on you! Let them touch your skin with their auspicious form.   May those waters that slide away  the grease and are pure impart comfort and unity to you!

15)  Wearing the Wedding Sari (called Koorai Pudavai in Tamil):
A gorgeous wedding sari is worn for the marriage ceremony like the wedding gown in Western culture. The type and color of the sari depends upon family custom. Preferred color is   red (arakku) color symbolic of Lakshmi. It is blessed   with a mantra   and given by the priest. After girl comes back wearing the sari, the boy  ties a rope belt  made of Kusa grass around her waist with a mantra which says:

Paritvaa girvanah girah imaah bhavantu viswatah | Vriddhaayum anu vriddhayah  jushthaah  bhavantu jushthaayah ||   
Oh Lord Indra! You are approachable through the medium of sound.  Just as this sari she is wearing surrounds her, these words which reach elders like you envelope you.   Let these prosperous words reach you.  May these words be worthy of being enjoyed by you !
Aasaasanaa saumanasam prajaa(ga)m sowbhaagyam tanoom | Agne ranuvradaa bhootvaa sannahye  sukritaaya(ga)m ||
"With a good heart and praying for good children, long life for the husband and good health, my bride   is sitting near the Agni. Tying this rope I lead her to the sacred wedding ceremonies."

He, then,  ties the belt of Kusa grass  round her waist, holds the right hand of the girl and leads her to a carpet spread near the Agni and recites mantras praying for  the boon from Soma, Gandharvas (demi gods of Kubera) and Agni for imparting strength, beauty, and youth to the girl  for his enjoyment.

Aasaasanaa saumanasam prajaa(ga)m soebhaagyam tanoom |
agner 
anuvrataa pootvaa sannahye sukritaaya(ga)m ||

Every girl had Moon, Gandharva and Agni as her husbands  successively and then only  comes to  man. [The strength, beauty and youth in her is due to these three deities]

Somah prathamah  vivide gandharvo vivida uttarah |
Triteeyo agnishthe patih | Tureeyaste  manushyajaah ||

Soma got her first; then Gandharva. Her third husband  is Agni and her  fourth husband is a human being.

Somo (a)dat gandharvaaya gandharvo (a)dadagnaye |
rayinch putraa
(ga)mscha adaat agnir mahyamato imaam ||
S
oma gave you to Gandharva; Gandharva gave you to Agni;  Now  Agnideva blessed you  with wealth and children and then gave you to me.

[Soma is Moon deity who delights our lives. Soma is also the plant whose juice (amrita) is a favorite   drink of the divines. Its juice bestows immortality.  Soma is venerated as God of Gods. Thus the bridegroom prays for long happy married life with the bride] 

16) Mangalya Dhaaranam--The Holy three knots:

In South Indian Brahmin families, Mangalya Dhaaranam is considered to be the most important ceremony. Though there is no special Veda mantra for this, the boy is made to recite the following sloka (probably composed later):

“Maangalyam tantunanena mama jeevana hetuna: kanthe badhnaami subhage twam jeeva saradas- satam”

["This yellow rope is auspicious   Round thread.  This will help my longevity. I shall now tie this rope in your neck. I pray you live happily for a hundred winters (meaning years)."]
With this sloka, he ties the rope around girl’s neck and puts two knots in it. The third knot is usually completed by boys’s sister (now girl’s sister-in-law) as a symbol of bringing the two families together.

Before tying, the Mangalyam (usually a pair of religious symbol amulets from both parents, with golden beads stringed to three strands twisted yellow rope) is taken round the gathering to receive blessings from all elders present. The tying of the knots is declared to the assembly with the beating of drums and blowing of pipes to declare that the boy and girl are now married.The loud noise also prevents other disturbing and inauspicious disturbances like sneezing, crying etc., bringing the focus of all gathered  only to the sacred mantra chanted in loud voice by priests’ assembly.
There is a reference to this ritual in Soundaryalahari as contained in the line from sloka 69.
Vivaaha-vyaanaddha-pragunaguna –sankhyaa-pratibhuvah |Three lines of fortune contained in your (Lalita’s or Parvati’s) neck remind   one of the several strands of  holy threads tied at the time of wedding. [The whole concentration and attention of the audience and parents is on this ritual which has to be performed exactly at the specified time predetermined by astrologers  so that the couples are assured of a Happy and healthy married life by divine grace. This therefore will be  dealt in detail in   a separate   discourse.]

 The next two rituals namely Panigrahanam and Sapthapadi are very important for all Hindu marriages:

17) Panigrahanam: After Mangalyadharanam, bridegroom lowers his right hand and catches bride’s right hand with all the fingers together.  Mantras recited at that time is as follows:

 1. I hold your hand to keep you with me to raise good children and till you become old. Devatas including Indra have offered you to me to become the Lady (grihinee) in charge of the house.
Grihnaami te suprajaastvaaya hastam  mayaa patyaa jaradashtir yathaa(a)sah | bhago aryamaa savitaa purandhir mahyam tvaa(a)dur gaarhapatyaaya devaah ||

2. Sun God and Lord Agni, who have been powerful when they are having their "Grihasthasrama"  (married life) have now  given you to me. [You know Agni will not take any offering to other gods   unless his wife Swaha is honored at the time of the sacrifice]

Te ha poorve janaaso yatra poorva-vahohitaah |moordhanvaan yatra saubhravah poorvo devebhya aatapat ||

3. Oh, Goddess Saraswati, you should protect us well. We will offer our oblations to you before all the living   entities   of this world.
Saraswati pretamava subhage vaajineevati | taam tva visvasya  bhootasya prakaa-yaamasya-agratah

4. Let the Vaayu God who cleanses and pervades all directions and corners, and who holds gold in his hand and is the counterpart of Agni may that Vaayu make you agreeable   to me!

Ya edi pratisas sarvaa disaa(a)nu  bhavamaanah | hiranya hasta airammas sa tvaa manmanasam  krinotu ||
After this, Sapthapadi is performed.

18)  Saptapadi:

The Bridegroom    gets up from his seat holding the right hand of the bride.  He then goes round the Holy Fire (Agni) from the right side, by lifting the right feet of bride, step by step. This is done for seven steps of the bride assisted by her husband.  With each step, he recites a mantra addressed to the bride, conveying;

Let Lord Mahaa Vishnu follow each one of your steps for the following specific purposes:

Step 1--To give you unlimited food. (This step refers to the availability of ample food in the home, eating and living together).
Ekamishe Vishnus tvaa (a)nvetu |

Step 2--To give you excellent health and energy. (This relates to physical work around the house).
Dwe oorje Vishnus tvaa(a)nvetu |

Step 3--To make you perform your rituals as ordained in Vedas, during your life time.  (This calls    for religious  disposition  as Sahadharminee)
Treeni vrataaya Vu ishnus tvaa(a)nvetu

Step 4-- To give you happiness in life. (This relates to happiness)
Chatvaari  maayobhavaaya  Vishnus  tvaa(a)nvetu

Step 5-- To make your cattle wealth healthy and to grow in strength and numbers. (It relates to personal duties and responsibilities for cattle wealth or all movable domestic property in modern concept)
Pancha pasubhya Vishnus tvaa(a)nvetu |

Step 6--To make all the seasons to be beneficial and enjoyable. (It relates to mutual respect for each other’s families all through the year)
Shadritubhya Vishnus tvaa (a)nvetu |

Step 7--To perform Homas (sacrifices to be done in Holy Fire) in your life as ordained in Vedas, fruitful and free from hindrances."(It relates to follow the path of Dharma for mutual benefit)
Sapta saptabhyo hotraabhyo Vishnus  tvaa(a)nvetu
Obviously, the idea behind this is to pray to Lord Vishnu, the protector of life, for his blessings in marital life.

 19) Bridegroom then recites a mantra to convey the following meaning:
Sakhaa saptapadaa bhava | sakhhaayau saptapadaa babhoova | sakhyante gameyam | sakhyaatte maayosham | sakhyaanme maayoshttah ||
Samayayaava sankalpaavahai sampriyau rosishnoo sumansyamaanau | ishamoorja-mapi samvasaanau  samnau manaamsi  samvrataa samuchittaanyaakaram ||
Saatva masya moohamasmi saatvam, dyauraham prithvee tvam,  retoham  reto bhrit tvam, manohamasmi vaak tvam | saamaaha masmi rik tvam, | saa maa manuvrataa bhava pumse putraaya vettavai || Sriyai putraaya vettavaa ehi sunrite ||

"After crossing seven steps with me thus, you should become my friend. We both are friends now. I will never discard this friendship and you should not also do that. Let us be together always. Let us resolve to do things in life in the same manner and tread the same path. Let us lead a life by liking and loving each other, having good heart and thoughts, and enjoying the food and having our strong points together. Let us have undivided opinions. We will perform the rituals together. Let us have same and joint desires!  I will be Sama (Samaveda); you will be Rig (Rigveda). Let me be the Heaven; let you be the Earth. Let me be the Shukla (Moon) and you be its wearer. Let me be the mind and you its spokesman (Vak). With these qualities, you be my follower. You the sweet tongued, come to me to beget good male children and wealth."-
[Note: All the above Veda mantras are rich and vibrant with meaning and it would have a better effect, if these mantras are explained to both the girl and boy   in advance; unfortunately it is not done now-a-days. In fact, both of them go through these rituals in hurry without understanding as a routine religious obligation. Even the visitors show least attention to the ceremonies that follow once tying-the-knot ceremony-- Mangalyadhaaranam is over.]

20) Pradhaana Homam (Main Fire Ritual)
After Saptapadi the main Vedic ritual called Pradhaana Homa is conducted. Both bride and bridegroom go round the fire and sit near the sacred fire trough. The bride sits touching the bridegroom while the bridegroom offers oblations chanting Vedic mantras with ending word Swaaha for each oblation.  There are 10 Vedic   Homa mantras offering 16 oblations (aahutis) to Vedic deities of Soma, Gandharva, Indra,   Agni etc.  These lengthy mantras are not repeated here. From now on wife is called sahadharminee and shares equally the merits of all the worship though a silent partner.
Pradhaana Homa Mantras are as follows: 

PRADHAANA HOMA MANTRAS

1. Somaaya Janivite swaahaa |
This oblation is to Somadevata who has attained this girl--Swaaha.

2.Gandharvaaya janvite swaahaa |
This oblation is to Gandharva who has attained this girl—Swaahaa

3. Agnaye janavite Swaahaa
This oblation is to Agnidevata who has attained this girl—Swaahaa

4. Kanyalaa Pitrubhyo yadee patilokam avateekshaa mathaaastta swaahaa |
This girl as a virgin left her father and others and has   come to her husband’s house duly wedded and has left behind wrongs done in her   virgin’s life. This oblation is towards that—Swaahaa

5. Preto munjaadi naamudas subaddhaa mamu tas karat | Yatheya mindrameedhvas-suputraa subhagaa-asati swaahaa ||

Oh the Rain God Indra! Please release her from her father’s home! Please inspire her to get absorbed fully in her husband’s household. You should see that she gets fully involved, begets good children, get  all good things in life in her husband’s house.  This oblation is towards that cause!

6. Imaam tvamindra meedhvah suputra(ga)m subhagaam kuru | dasaasyaam putraanaadehi pati mohaadasam kriti ||  Swaahaa ||
Oh Indra! While providing rain bless  this girl to   bring forth ten  good children, bless her  with all riches and also see that  she fondles her husband as the eleventh child!

7. Agniretu prathamodevaana(ga)m sosyai prajaam munjatu mrityupaasaat | tadaya(ga)m raajaa varunonumanyataam  yadeya(ga)m stree pautrama(ga)m na rodaat  swaahaa ||
Welcome to Agnideva the first among the divines! May he release them from the noose of Yama! May her get the assurance of Lord Varuna in such a way that she will not be subjected to any grief towards   her daughters and sons! This oblation is directed for the same—Swaahaa.

8) Imaam agnis traayataam garhapatyah prajaamasyai nayatu dheergamaayuh | asoonyopasttha jeevataamastu maataa pautrmaanandam-api prabhuddyataamiyam Swaahaa||
Oh Agni! You are in touch with all householders. Please protect her! Please grant long-life to her children! Please see she is not barren! This oblation is for things connected with pleasures for her children--Swaahaa!

9) Maa te grihe ghosha  uddaatanyatra tvadhritatyas samvisantu | Maa tvam vikesyura aavathishtthaa jeevapatnee patiloke viraaja pasyantee prajaa(ga)m sumansyamaanaam || swaahaa ||

There should be no noise in your house. Whatever is subject to grief let that move away from your house! Let you not beat your chest with loosened braid of hair! Let you shine with children being well taken care of. (Meaning let not your   husband part from you when you are alive)
10. Dyauste prishtha(ga)m rakshatu vayu  rooru asvinau cha sthanam  tayanta(ga)m savitaabhirakshatu | aavaasasah paridaanaat brihaspatir visvedevo abhirakshatu paschaat  || swaahaa ||

Let your back-part be protected by Deities of the sky! Let Vaayudeva protect both of your thighs! Let Aswinee devatas protect your breasts! Let Sun God protect your breast-fed child!  Let Brihaspati protect him till he can wrap around   his clothes, then Viswedevas Protect you! This oblation is made towards that goal—swaahaa! 

11) Aprajaastaam pautramrityum paapmaanamudavaaham | sreeshnah srajamivon-muchya dvishadbhyah pratimunjaami paasam || Swaahaa ||

Just as barrenness as well child death (kaakavndyaa and mritavandya) sins and grief   are removed by you like the flowers from the braid I will leave the tether  with my enemies.  This oblation is towards that goal—swaahaa.

12) Imam mae varuna sruteehava madhyaa cha mridhaya tvaa mava syu raachake swaahaa ||
Oh Lord Varuna!  Please listen to my hymn (prayer)! Please let me get well at this very moment! With the desire of being protected I sing this hymn. This oblation is towards the same!

13) Tattvaayaami braahmanaa vandamaanas tadaasaste yajamaano havirbih | ahedhamaano varuneha bodhiurusa(ga)m samaana aayuh pramosheeh || swaahaa ||

I am seeking you who are honored by Vedas. One who performs a sacrificial ritual seeks that kind of a protection. Keeping that in mind I take refuge in you who are glorified by many ways. Please do not take away our lives! This oblation is towards the same.

14) Tvanno agne varunasya vidwaan devasya hedo avayaasi seeshtthaah  | Yajishttho vahnitamah sosuchaano viswaa dveshaa(ga)msi pramumuktyasmat || Swaahaa||

Oh Lord Agni! You are in the knowledge everything. Please convey to effulgent Varuna our anger! You who are glorified, who carry all the fuel for the sacrifice, who are ever glowing remove all enmity residing in us.  This oblation is towards that—Swaahaa.

15) Satvanno agne avamo bhavodee nedishttho asayaa ushaso vyushthau | avayakshva noe varuna(ga)m raanoe veehimrudhee(ga)m suhavo na edi  || Swaahaa||

Such quality possessing Agndeva!  You  are in the forefront of all divines.  When the early morning gets bright you should be by our side to protect us! You must stop Varuna (Varuna being red is imagined to be embodiment of anger). Please take our offers and eat what gives you comfort. Please be our guest! This oblation is towards the same—swaahaa.

16) Tvamagne ayaasyayaasan manasaa hitah | ayaasan havya moohishe ayaano dehi bheshajam ||

Oh Agnideva! You have reached us. You are not only worthy of being with us but are also worshipful. Being accessible, you carry the fagots. You who are accessible should provide us soothing medicines. It is with this objective the oblation is offered—Swaahaa. (The asahes from Homakunda  are believed to possess healing powers)
[There are certain concluding rituals after the Pradhana Homa that are being described below. Then follows certain fun and frolic social events to   make bride and bridegroom   feel comfortable and mixing   with close relatives on each side which social events are not described in this discourse.]

20) Ashmarohanam (Treading the Stone) and Laaja Homam
 Husband then holds wife’s toe of the right leg and places it on a stone placed to the right side of Agni (fire).  While doing so, he goes through the mantra:

Aadishtemam asmaanam asmeva tva(ga)m sthiraa bhava | abhitishtaa  bhrithanyatah sahasva bhrithanaayatah   ||

"May you step on this stone! May you   be steadfast as the stone; may you overcome those who intend to harm you and may you tolerate your enemies!"-

There is a reference to this ritual in Saundayalahari as seen in the following two lines contained in sloka 88.

Katham vaa baahubhyaam upayamanakaale purabhidaa | 
yadaadaaya nyastam dripadi dayamaaneena manasaa ||
How could Lord Siva known for his  kind heart could place with his hands those feet of Parvati on the hard stone at the time of wedding?

[Upayamana means  Marriage or Vivaaha; These lines clearly show that this ritual was popular from ancient times as it refers to Siva-Parvati wedding ceremony]

In the Laaja homa  ritual that  is done simultaneously with a view to ensure long life to her husband, wife offers puffed rice to Agni going round and stepping on the stone each time. The rice is poured into her hand by wife’s brother and with the recitation of mantras husband pours ghee to the rice and together they offer the rice to the Agni. Husband then goes round the Agni and once again keeps her right feet on the stone. This is done three times.  
Priest then invokes Agni saying:  “Oh, Agni, bless the couple with perfect mental accord” and  then asks the boy  to repeat after him following mantras while the pair offer the puffed rice mixed with ghee as oblation:

Introductory Mantra
Iyam naaree Upabhrute gulpaanyaavabndikaa |
Dheergaayur astu may patir jeevaatu saradssatamm||

This lady who is performing Laajahoma says that her husband should have a long life and he should live through hundred winters.                                                                                  

First time Laajahoma with Puffed Rice
First Mantra while going round the fire, offering the oblation and stepping  on the stone
Tubhyamagre nparyavahan sooryaam vahatunaa saha |
Punah patibhyo jaayaam taa agne prajayaa saha ||

Oh Lord Agni! They gave you in marriage   the daughter of Sun with all riches before. In turn please give the wife who bears children to  me.
Then the bride should step on the stone as before.

Second Mantra while going round the fire , offering oblation and stepping on stone:
Punah patneem agni rathaat aayushaa saha varcchasaa saha dheergaayurasyaa yah pati sa etu saradssatam  ||

Now Lord Agni is kind enough to bless me with a wife with long life and body luster. May I the husband of this bride live long life through hundred winters!
Then the bride should step on the stone as before.

Third mantra going round the fire, offering the oblation and stepping on the stone:
Viswaa uda tvayaa vayam taaraa udanyaa iva |atikaahemahi dvishah ||

Besides, with your kind help we should able to overcome all our enemies like wading through the   water waves and crossing over.
Then the bride steps on the stone once more.
 Second time Laajahoma with puffed rice 

Mantra for 2nd Homa:
Aryamanannu devaam kanyaa agnimayakshata | sa imam devo advarah preto munjaadi naamudah subhadda mamu taskarat || Swaaha ||

Oh Agni, My bride who leaving her parents  and  going to set up home with me, has performed all the ordained rites. Please bless us with safe travel through a path of life free from misfortunes.

Third  Laajahoma with puffed rice:

Tvamaryaamaa bhavasi  yadghaneenaam naam svataavatsvaryam bibharshi |agjanti vriksha(ga)m sudidam na gopir yad dampatee samanasaa krinoshi | tubhyamagre paryavahan punah patneem agnirathaat viswaa uda tvayaa vayam || swaahaa||

Oh Lord Aryama! For what reason you bear the brides named after food and also as means to reach heavenly abode grant me such privileges. They are saturating you with melted butter of cow because you have made the couple united like the well planned pair of trees planted together. This is my third oblation with the mantra Swaahaa.
Husband then unties the Kusa grass belt    from wife’s waist and promises a happy married life for her with the following Mantra:

Prathvaa munjaami varunasya paasaan yena tvaa abhadnaat savitaa suketah | dhatuscha yonau sukritasya loke syonante saha patyaa karomi ||
Imam vishyaami varunasya paasam yampatneeta savita susevah | Dhatuscah Yonau  sukritasya loke rishtaam tvaa sah patyaa ghrinomi

I release you from this munja grass belt tied by Varuna with good heart and inspiration. You live with    Me as your dear husband in this world of the Creator Brahma planned by me for your happy and healthy living.

Aseervaadam-Blessings (concluding ceremony)
The wedding   is not complete without the blessings of the priest and all elders gathered. It is even extended to departed elders as invisible spectators.  As you know in typical South Indian wedding the function starts with Nandi Shraaddha. This is paying obeisance to departed elders and seeking their blessings to keep up to the ideals of the lineage which they have shown. Mention is made of this important ritual in Ramayana which was performed by Rama and his brothers before the start of the wedding.
The priest and elders bless the couple with several mantras initiated by the priest while both husband and wife prostrate with Shashtaaga Pranaama  for boy  and Panchanga   pranayama for girl  (religious mode of prostration). The chief priest loudly announces the gist of the benediction for the guidance of the audience which the audience humbly endorse with the words “Tathaastu”, may   it be so (like Amen):
"May the mantras, the holy chants, uttered during this ceremony be true and bear fruit. May this period of time when these two were married prove to be very auspicious period in their lives! May all the benefits that the celestial powers can confer be conferred on this couple! May all the inauspicious planets confer benefits as if they are in auspicious position; let all the auspices planets yield manifold benefits! May this couple who is setting up a household be blessed with long life, health, fame, vitality, material wealth, steadiness of purpose, fulfillment, blessedness, compassion, spiritual luster, impeccable virtue and happiness and  may this couple be ever engaged in celebration of happiness, ever filled with happiness and ever immersed in happiness ! May the people all over the world be free from illness and other distress, be followers of righteous conduct, be strong, be without jealousy and be compassionate.”

Iyam dampati paraspara anukoola bhaava vivardhayan  | ati  sahita prema anuraaga sampado bhooyaat  | Sri Lakshmiee Narayana yoga eva yogo bhooyaat || Sakala bhoga bhaagya, aiswarya, grihasta jeevana tushthi bhooyaat || Dharma artha kaama moksha phalasiddhir bhavatu  |  Bahu putra pautra praaptirastu | sakala saubhaagya siddhirastu Om Subham bhavatu ||


“May this couple be blessed with eternal in married life, peace, happiness, good health, wealth, prosperity and the joy of children and grand-children! May God help them to live by the laws of Dharma and enrich their lives with h His grace and guidance! 

South Indian Hindu weddings conclude with Mangala Aarti (waving of auspicious waters with lamp)    by elderly married   women for all round welfare   and prosperity. Note also the Aseervadam ends with the universal appeal wishing well all people, typical of any Hindu prayer.

The newly married couple then bow down to their parents, the priest and all the elders in attendance  individually and together ask for their blessings with these words: "Respected elders, parents and gurus, kindly accept the salutations from us, the newly married couple. You all attended sacrament out of your love and affection for us. We are eternally grateful to you for that. We pray to you to once again extend your best wishes to us."
The priests recites  a verse of blessing, and all the attendees follow him in unison: "May all be well with you. As long as the sacred river Jahnavi (Ganga) flows on this Earth, and as long as the Sun, protector of all beings, shines in the sky, may you live happily with your daughters, sons and grandchildren. And may your life be filled with beauty, grace and happiness. May all be well!"
 22) Grihapravesam (Establishing of the new household or entering  husband’s home):
Certain mantras are recited for the safe passage of husband and wife   up to husband’s   house to establish a new household. These have no significance in marriages conducted in marriage halls in cities today. In most marriages, it is not possible for the husband to take his newly wedded wife to his home.   The function is symbolically done in the room allotted to boy’s family members. Husband enters his room with his wife carrying the Agni in the stone trough Homa Kunda from the marriage hall.  Wife   places her right foot first while entering the Symbolic home of her husband.
Husband then establishes the homa kunda on the north-east side and invokes Lord Agni in it. With wife  touching his shoulders through a Kusa grass  he then pours ghee in the Agni (fire sacrifice or homa) and recites certain mantras to convey the following. This homa is called Pravesa Homam.
Aagan goshttam mahishee gopir  asvaih aayushmatpatnee prjayaasvarvit  | bahveem prajaam janayantee suradnemam-agni(ga)m satahimassaparyaat || Ayamagnir grihapatis  susa(ga)m sad pushtivardhanah | yathaa bhagasyaapyaam  tadat rayim pushtimato prajaam || Prjayaa aapyaam prajaapata indraagnee sarma yacchadam | Yathainayor prmeeyaataa ubhyor jeevitoh prajaa ||  Tena pooteena havishaa aya maapyaayataam Punah | jaayaam yamasmaa aavaakshus ta(ga)m rasenaabhivardhataam  || Abhi vardhataam payasabhiraashtrena vardhataam | rayya sahsraposhsemau staamanpekshitau  || Ihaiva stam maa viyoshttam visva maayur vasyanutam mahyaa || indra svastaye || Dhruvaiti poshyaa mayi mahyan  tvaah taat brihaspatih ||  Mayaa patyaa prjaavatee sanjeeva saradassatam || tvashtaa jaayaamajanyat tvshtaasyai tvaam  patim | tvashtaa sahasra maayoo(ga)mshi dheergamaayuh krinotu vaam ||
The gist of the above Pravesa homa appealing to Vedic deities and seeking their blessings for a happy and healthy living with children is summarized below:
"May the Lord creator grant us progeny ! May the Lord anoint us together for longevity! The auspicious Lord has given you to me. Let us enter our home!  May you bring comfort to all living beings! May we both live together in our home and never be parted! May we both attain long life!
The bride while entering the house says:
Grihaan  bhadraan sumanasah prapadye aviragnee veeravadas suveeraan |iraam vahato kritamukshamaanaas  teshvaha(ga)m sumanaas samvisaami ||
"With full willingness, I enter this holy house having plenty of food , honey and ghee flowing  and resided by good minded and brave people with lot of good will and pure mind and thoughts"-
At the end of the Sesha bhoma  the wife sits to the left of the husband  changing her previous positioning to the right and says;
 Iha gaavah prajaayatvam iha-asvaa iha poorushaah | Iho sahasra dakshino raayas posho nisheedatu ||
Oh cattle! Please be born in this house! You horses! Please be born here! Oh humans! Please take birth in this house! May wealth in thousand-folds   be available in this house for dispersing as charity or gift to gurus!
 23) Placing a Child on wife’s Lap:
So far, wife has been sitting to the right of husband . Now she shifts and sits to his left side. A male child from a family in which no death of a child has taken place, is made to sit on the lap of wife (The idea is wife should get such healthy male children.) The child is fed with fruits  chanting  mantras:   
Prasvasthah preyam prajayaa bhuvane socheshtha | Somenaadityaa balinas somena prithivee dhridhaa | atho nakshatraanaam-esha-mupasthe soma aaditah ||
"Oh fruits, as you cause growth in those who eat you, bless this girl with good progeny." Divines get their strength from moon. The earth gets its strength from Moon.  Just as stars are established around the Moon in the same way let this child be seated on your lap.   It implies that the children so born bring love and affection.”
Addressing   the bride, the priest  says:
Iha priyam  prajaayate samrudhyataa -masmin grihe  gaarhapatyaaya jagrihi |yena patyaa tanva(ga))m srijasvaataa  jeevaree vitatamaavadaasee ||
"Be aware of your duties to your husband and guests; propagate good deeds to all those you have contacts."
Sumangaleer iyam vadhoor ima(ga)m sameta pasyata | sowbhaagya masyai dadvaayaadaas   tam viparetana ||
This girl is endowed with all auspiciousness. Come and join her; behold her. Blessing her all good things in life go back to your homes,
24) Other Rituals—Wife looks at the Pole Star and says:
Dhruvakshitir dhruvayonir dhruvamasi dhruvadas sthitam | tvan nakshatraanaam medhyasi samaa paahi pritanyatah  ||
"Oh, Pole Star (Dhruva Nakshatram), as you are fixed for ever, let me be similarly fixed in this home; Protect me from my enemies."
Then husband and wife together   look at the Arundathi* Star in the constellation of Great Bears and Husband  says:
Saptarishayah prathamaam krittikaanaamarundhateem  | yad dhruvataa(ga)m ha ninyush shadkrittikaa mukhyayogam vahanteeya masmaaka medha tvashtamee  ||
"Keeping Arundathi* star in view, let my wife be like Arundathi   attain the status of the eighth wife as the role model of seven wives of seven great rishis!
[* Arundathi was the most sacred amongst the wives of the Sapta rishis and a model to be followed by all the married women].
 PAALIKA  AND PAALIKAA  VISARJAN:
This custom of germinating seeds is observed in marriage ceremony. Five earthen pots are filled with sand or earth—these are meant for the five deities, Brahma, Indra, Yama, Varuna, and Soma. The one for Brahma is kept in the center while the other four are kept at the four points of the compass (the pots Indra, Yama, Varuna and Soma being kept in East, South, West and North respectively). Seeds of rice, black gram, green gram, sesame and mustard are soaked in milk and sown in the five different pots by five Suhaasanes. On the fourth day of marriage (in the five-days’ marriage of ancient tradition) or at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony when the seeds have germinated the pots are immersed in a sacred river or pond. This custom, called, pancha-paalika, is meant for the protection and prosperity of the family for whom the function is performed. Incidentally this is asking for peace through flora and fauna awakening once duty towards environmental protection and prosperity; Recall the mantras we chant in daily prayers—Oshadhayah saantih; vanaspatayah saantih | It is also symbolic of fertility   praying for good progeny. It is also the Mantra addressed to Goddess of Fertility seeking for good progeny.
[The description above may not contain all Sanskrit mantras which the priest employs during the ritual which is left to his training and expertise. He can however skillfully blend some of the Vedic mantras, hymns and explanations given in this text. The explanations given in English cover the essence of the powerful mantras and slokas chanted by the priest from his marriage ritual guide]
 NANDI SHRADDHAA
Sri Rama performed Naandi Shraaddha to his ancestors  at the commencement of  the actual  wedding ceremony. Activities related to deceased ancestors are more important than those related to God. Therefore every sacred ceremony begins with Nandi Shraddha. So also begins the  Marriage ceremony. Taittiriya Upanishad 1.11 says:    Devapitrukaaryaabhyam na pramaditavyam-- One should not commit mistakes in any task performed towards God or ancestors' souls. One should not avoid these rituals. Gita also says: “Patanti pitaroh yesham  luptapindodaka kriya”-- Due to the nonperformance of rituals like pinda shraddha and offering water to deceased ancestors etc., the ancestors of such people (who do not perform Shraddha) have to reside in the Hell region. This results in stagnation and no progress of the descendants.
MARRIAGE REGISTRATION:
It is a practice now-a-days to get the wedding registered as per the provisions of the Hindu Law. Though the marriages conducted in the manner described above are conclusive evidence and are acceptable in a court of law in India, in most marriages registration is done as a matter of abundant precaution and to meet the requirements of law requiring proof of marriage.

CONCEPT OF COUPLING ORIGIN OF VIVAAHA CONCEPT

[HINDU BRAAHMAA WEDDING IS VEDIC SACRED CEREMONY UNITING MAN AND WOMAN IN HOLY COUPLING. THIS COUPLING CONCEPT IS REVEALED IN VEDA MANTRAS DESCRIBING MALE, FEMALE COMPONENT AND THEIR SACRED COUPLING OR UNITING TOGETHER IN HOLY MATRIMONY].


Yagna is a holy sacrifice where Rik (Rigveda) and Saama (hymn) are tied together or coupled together to attain Om or Brahman.  Here Rik is masculine in Sanskrit and Saama is feminine. Vedic wedding is a holy coupling of Man and Woman by a fire sacrifice. Bridegroom is compared to Rik and bride is compared to Saama.  The resplendent Self is attainable by the practice of spiritual discipline as truth and continence. When the mantras are sung with intonations, a divine atmosphere is created with holy vibrations all around. This is hailed as Maithuna or holy coupling. The union of man and woman with Veda mantras is aimed at good progeny and to lead the path of Dharma with Sahadaharmaini, wife who shares dharma with him. Upanishads say samyak  varnaprayoegena brahmloeke maheeyate—One who recites mantras with intonations attains highest merit purifying his body and mind. That is why Saama veda which sings the Rigveda mantras is glorified and this combining mantra and it’s chant is considered  as holy union.
1. Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad
Esham vai bhootaanam prithivee rasah | prithivyaa aapoe aapaam oshadhayah| Oshadheenaam pushpaani pushpaanaam phalaani phalaanaam purushah purushasya retah ||”
The earth is the essence of all the beings. Water is the essence of the earth. Herbs are the essence of water. Flowers are the essence of herbs. Fruits are the essence of flowers. Man is the essence of fruits; the seed (retas) is the essence of man. [This sloka emphasizes that man is the seed for procreation   responsible for the progeny]
Sa ha prajaapatir-eeksham-chakre- hantaasmai prtishthaam kalpayaaneeti | sa striyam sasrije taam srishtaadhan upastha ||
Prajaapati thought let me make an abode for it (retas). And he created the woman.   Having created her he kept her under.
Athainaamabbhipadyate amoe-ahamasmi sa tva(m)saa tvamasyamoe-aham samaahamasmi riktvam prithivee tvam taavehi sa(m)rabhaavahai saha retoe dadhaaavahai pumsae putraaya vittaya iti ||
 And then he embraces her saying, “I am the vital breath (amah); you are the speech: You are that speech and I am the vital force; I am Sman (hymn) and you are rik (veda); you are the earth and I am the heaven. Come let us strive together; bear the seed so that we may have a male child.
2. Chandogya Upanishad
Oshadheenaam  purushoe rasah purushasya vaag rasah  vaachah rig rasah richah saama rasah……..
The Purusha or human body is the essence of herbs. Speech is the essence of Purusha.   The Rik is the essence of speech. The saman is the essence of Riks. 
Vaagevark praanah saama….. tadvaa etan- mithunam yad vaak cha praanascha rik cha saama cha ||
Yadaa vai mithunau samaagachchata aapayatoe vai taavan-anyoenyasya kaamam ||
Speech alone is Rik; the Praana (vital air) is Saman; Speech and Praana as well as Rik and Saaman are the couple [meaning thereby Man and Woman are couple]. When the couples unite, they attain their mutual desire.
[The notion of coupling or sexual union between ritual concepts or implements is wide spread in Vedic mantras of Upanishads with the idea that such a union produces powerful results. This is the inspiration    and significance with which Hindu Vedic marriages are performed with fire sacrifice].

SOME WEDDING MANTRAS AND SLOKAS FROM SANSKRIT LITERATURE

The Karmakaandaa of Veda details the different types of marriages, rituals followed, mantras recited and the true meaning behind these. In almost all literary works including Raamaayana, Mahabharata, Puraanas and literary works of famous authors like Kaalidasa and others there are beautiful and elaborate descriptions of marriage ceremonies of Gods-Goddesses, celestial beings, Kings-Queens etc. Even in present day marriages mantras from these sources as well as slokas from celebrated weddings of gods and goddesses and kings celebrated in Puranas and famous couplets from literary Sanskrit works are recited along with rituals.  If the true meaning of the Vedic rituals and slokas are followed, each and every marriage will be a never ending happy union. Here are few slokas collected from different sources which can be used in marriage ceremonies, wedding cards etc. 
Ihamaavinda samnuda chakravaakeva dampatee | prajaayaunau svastakau visvamaayurvya asnutaam  ||
O Lord Indra! May you bring together this newly married couple in the same manner as a pair of chakravaka birds; let them enjoy marital bliss, and along with their progeny, live a full life.  (Atharvaveda)]
Dharmecha arthecha imaam naaticharaami |dharmecha arthecha kaamecha imam naaticharaami ||
In my duty, in my financial commitments, in my needs, I will not violate you. [Note: In essence it means - In my duty, in my financial commitments, in my needs, I will consult you, will take your consent and act upon. The first oath is taken by the bridegroom (Grihnasta) and the second by the bride (Grihanee) respectively thrice. (Vivaaha karmakaanda)]
Chittiraa upabarhanamchakdshuraa akshyanjanam |  Dhyaurbhoomih Koesa aaseed–yadayaat-sooryaa patim ||
Thought was pillow; and the sight the collegium of the eyes; heaven and earth were her treasure box, when Surya went to her spouse (Soma).
[Note: This is one of the mantras describing 'Soma' when 'Surya' goes to accept her as wife in marriage. (Rigveda - Marriage of Surya with Soma)]
Grihnaami te saubhagatvaaaya hastam mayaa patyaa jaraddashtirthaasah |bhagoe aryamaa savitaa purandhir-mahyamtvaadurgaarha-patyaaya devah ||
I your husband take your hand for perfect enjoyment with me; may you attain long life. Bhaaga, Aryamaa, Savitar and Purandhi have given you to me to be my wife.
[Note: This is the vow that Surya takes while accepting Soma as his wife. (- Rigveda - Marriage of Surya with Soma)]
Kaasyapa—yayoetiriva sarmishthaa bhartrur-bahumataa bhava | sutam tvamapi samraajam seva poorum-avaapnuhi ||
May you be cherished by your husband, as Sarmishthaa was cherished by Yayoeti. And may you bear a son, as did Puru, who shall be sovereign of the world. [(Abhijnaanasakuntalam)]
Kasyapa: Abhee vedim paritah kliptaadhishnyah samidvantah praaptasamsteena-darbhaah | Apaghnantoe duritam havyagandhauvairtaanaastvaam vahanyah paavayantu ||
Kashyapa says:  Let these sacrificial fires, whose places are fixed round the altar, fed with holy wood, having the Kusa grass strewn around their margins, removing sin by the perfume of the oblations, purify you. [-Abhijnaanasakuntalam]
Kasyapa: Susrooshasva guroon kuru priya sakhee vrittim sapatneejane | bharturviprakritaapi roeshanatayaa maa sma prateepam gamah |Bhooyishtham bhava dakshinaa parijane bhaagyeshvanutsekinee | Yaantyevam grihineeepadam yuvatayoe vaamaah kulasyaadhyah ||
Kashyapa says:- Pay respectful attention to your elders; treat other women of family as your dear friends; should your husband does  wrong  to you, let not your resentment lead your disobedience. Be ever courteous towards your Husband.
Arthoe hi kanyaa parakeeya eva taamadhya sampreshya parigriheetuh | Jaate maamaayam visadah prakaamam pratyarpitanyaasa ivaantaraatmaa ||
Kashyapa says:  In truth a daughter is another's property; and having today sent her to her lord, I find my soul has become quite clear as if after restoring a deposit. [Abhijnaanasakuntalam]
Prayuktapanigrahanam yadabyad vadhoovaram pushyati kaantimagrayaam | saangdhyayogaad-nayoe-stadaaneem kim kathayate sreer-ubhayasya tasya ||
When, by the presence of these (Uma and Shiva) other couples, on the eve of their marriage, attain a rare splendor, who could describe the glory of them both?   (Kumaarasambhavam)
Pradkshina-prakramanaat kusanoer udarchishastan mithunam chakaase | meroer-upantoeshviva vartamaanam anyoenya-samsakta-mahs-tri-yaamam ||
By going round these blazing fires, the couple shone like night and day, clinging to each other and revolving round the fringe of mount Meru. -- Kumaarasambhavam]

 

WEDDING MANTRAS FROM HINDU SCRIPTURES


Mantras from Chandogya Upanishad as described above allude to mantras of the wedding ritual to expound trying to explain the mystical significance Om. The sacred coupling of Rik and Saaman leads to Om.  Rigveda, Atharva Veda and Jaimaneeya-Upanishad Braahmana direct Grihya Sootras to frame wedding mantra used in the holy coupling of male and Female.
1. RIG VEDA
Somah prathamoe vivide | Gandharvoe vivida uttarah | triteeyoe agnishtepatih | tureeyaste manushyajah || Somoe dadad gandharvaaya |Gandharvoe dadad-agnaye | Rayincha-putraamschaa- daad | Agnir- mahya-matho imaam ||
[At first Soma deity had hold on you; then the divine personnel Gandharvas became your guardians; thirdly Agni (god of fire) became your master; I, as a human being have as the fourth to hold sway over you.   Soma passed you on to the Gandharva and the Gandharva to Agni. Agni has now given you over to me]. Hindu wedding is conducted with Fire as witness (agnisaakshi).
2. ATHARVA VEDA
Amoe ahamasmi saa tvam saamaahamasmariktvam Da yauraham prthiveem tvam|Taavahi sam bhavaava prajaamaa janayaavahai ||
This one I am, that one are you. I am the Saaman, you are the Rik. I am heaven, you are earth. So, let us two unite here; let us beget offspring.
3. JAIMANEEYA UPANISHAD-BRAAHMANA
Dwayam vaavedamagra aaseet-sacchaivaasaccha |
There was duality here in the beginning; Being and Non-being.
Tayoeryat-sattat-saama tanmanah sa praanah|atha yadasatsarik saa vaak soe apaanah
Of the two what was the Being, that is the Saaman, that is the up-breathing. Now what was the  non-being, that is the rik, that is speech, that, is the  down-breathing (apaana).
Tadyan-manascha praanascha tatsamaanam | atha yaa vaak chaapaanascha tatsamaanam idam-Aayatanam manascha praanacheda-maayatanam vaak chaapaanascha |tasmaat pumaan dakshinatoe yoeshaamupaasete ||
Now what is the mind and the up-breathing, that is alike; and what is the speech and the down-breathing, that is alike. Mind and up-breathing are of this abode; speech and down-breathing are of this abode. Therefore the Man (identified with the non-feminine manas) sleeps to the right  of the Woman (identified with the feminine Vaach).
Soeya-mrigasmin-saaman-mithunam-aichchata | taamaprichchat | kaa tvamaseeti | saahamasmeety-abraveet | atha vaa ahamamoe asmeeti ||
This Rik desired a sexual union with this Saaman. He asked her; “Who are you?) “I am that one (saahamasmi) she said. Then (he said) “I am this one (ahamamoe asmi)”.
Tadyatsaa chamascha tatsaamaabhavat |tatsaamnah saamatvam ||
Now what is Saa “that (feminine)” and amah “this (masculine)”, that became the Saaman (saa+aama=saama). That is the Samanhood of the Saaman.
Tau vai sambhavaaveti…..
(She said): “So let us unite.”…..
4. AASVALAAYANA GRIHYA SOOTRA
Amoe aha-masmi saa tvam saa tvamasyamoe aham | dyaur-aham prithivee tvam saamaahamriktvam || Taavehi vivaahaavahai prajaam prajanayaavahai | sampriyau roechishnoo sumanasyamaanau jeevema sardassatam ||
This one am I, that one are you; that one are you, this one am I. I am heaven, you are earth; I am the saaman, you are the Rik.   So come, let us two marry; let us beget offspring. Dear together, shining, with good intentions, may we two live a hundred autumns (=years. Probably Vedic people with their bear bodidies shredded winter, so the emphasis on winter.)

CONCLUSION
The Vedic traditional wedding mantras are from Rig Yajur and Sama Vedas, Upanishads,   Ekaagni Kaanda of Yajurveda, Puranas, Grihya Sootras of sage   Aapasthambha etc.   The   Wedding Vedic  mantras when chanted with intonations   raise their spiritual values. Later sootras have made changes here and there to suit the times. The sacred Vedic concept of coupling is scaled up with suitable additions to the sacred concept of wedding by the later Saastras called Grihya Sootras framed under the authority of Vedas by learned pundits. This is also the basis on which the Sacred Hindu Wedding Ceremony is described in the main text here without referring to the actual procedures employed or without mentioning all the customary mantras in Sanskrit leaving it to the trained priests since traditions vary   from region to region, but explaining Vedic wisdom all through contained in slokas or mantras or the holy texts employed.  Also often priests make several changes to suit particular situation to quickly finish the ritual as per the requirement of participants and available time.  It would be a good idea if the priest could find some time before wedding ceremony, hand over a copy of the ritual procedures and explain them to the girl and the boy with active participation of their parents as a sort of rehearsal, like the general practice in Western culture weddings--marriage rehearsal. If parents or Hindu society is serious they could make this obligatory.  In the hustle and bustle of the wedding and the short time at the disposal of the priest nobody understands what is going on and the boy and the girl do not know what they are chanting or doing. The priest only guides and the mantras are to be recited by the bride and bridegroom with understanding to practice later in life guide lines provided or saastric injunctions.
Hindu marriage ceremony is very colorful, noisy, loaded with music rising  from bands,  wind instruments, stretched instruments and tapping bells, Vedaghosha (chanting of Vedic mantras from the priests), cross  loud talks from enthusiastic crowd of friends and relatives in several hundreds and the people walking around running errands for the priest. The young couple blindly follow  the priest along with their parents chanting sacred mantras right or wrong, more often wrong  than not, without understanding anything. Sometimes priests are forced to cut short mantras to finish the whole procedure in time for reaching the auspicious time of tying the knot, to succeed in married life as per astrological prediction.  Priest stands with a stop watch waiting for the time of tying the holy thread, for they should stick to the auspicious time called Muhurtam.  Latter part of important rituals and mantras are just completed as a formality though pregnant with meanings and extremely significant to wedded life.
 It is much easier to arrange   marriage rehearsal in Western countries like USA since almost all Hindu marriages take place in temples where well trained and knowledgeable priests are employed. It is heartening to note that marriage partners in inter-racial and inter-caste marriages too want their marriage in Hindu temples and also the Vedic way.  If marriages are celebrated with Vedic rituals the partners should think seriously about the commitments they make for life long living together, discharge their duties in the path of Dharma as per the commitments made during the ceremony and serve  both the family and the society. Otherwise it is all a farce and waste of time and reduces to fun and frolic and abuse and insult to Hindu Dharma.   Therefore lot of effort has been taken to compile all the meanings of the Vedic mantras in Sanskrit chanted during the marriage by bride and bridegroom.   Any Vedic ritual should be done with due reverence and should not be reduced to a farce and show. It is unfortunate every Hindu parent wants Upanayana, Marriage ceremonies and other Hindu Samskaras (sacraments) the Vedic way but do not bother about the promises and oaths undertaken during the ceremony to practice in life. They should at least commit life to essentials. If such a commitment is not possible it is better not to go through the ritualistic wedding and stick to social part of the celebrations. That will be a great service and respect to Hindu Dharma.
The commitment of man and woman in the marriage ritual and their coupling together is stressed throughout with the object of leading a dhaarmic life together as husband and wife and bringing forth worthy children.  Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad gives further many mantras for copulation, begetting good children healthy, intelligent and prosperous, maternity advice as well as action for walking out of the agreed alliance before tying the knot. Once knot is tied it is a life-long commitment.  Married couples seek a good-life of living together for 100 years in their prayers.
I am sure if this discourse is given  to the boy and girl ( tobe  married couple ) few days before wedding    to go through and understand    in advance it would make the wedding more meaningful to them. They would also then appreciate the sacredness of this matrimony. They can then well understand the responsibility and wisdom conveyed by these mantras to plan their lives together.  It would also facilitate them to follow the complicated wedding procedures with understanding in the short time available to them at the wedding stage.  It would also make the priest’s and parents’ life easy   to derive the full benefit of the conduct of the ceremony.    


Four popular Buddhist Wedding Prayers
 The Buddha's Sermon at Rajagaha
Do not deceive; do not despise each other anywhere. Do not be angry nor bear secret resentments; for as a mother will risk her life and watches over her child, so boundless be your love to all, so tender, kind and mild.
Cherish good will right and left, early and late, and without hindrance, without stint, be free of hate and envy, while standing and walking and sitting down, whatever you have in mind, the rule of life that is always best is to be loving-kind.
-- The Buddhist Scriptures, The Buddha's Sermon at Rajagaha, Verses 19-22

I Bow Deeply
Standing quietly by the fence,
you smile your wondrous smile,
I am speechless, 
and my senses are filled
By the sounds of your beautiful song,
Beginningless and endless.
I bow deeply to you.
 - Thich Nhat Hanh


Buddhist Wedding Prayer 
Today we promise to dedicate ourselves completely to each other, with body, speech, and mind.
In this life, in every situation, in wealth or poverty, in health or sickness, in happiness or difficulty, we will work to help each other perfectly.
The purpose of our relationship will be to attain enlightenment by perfecting our kindness and compassion toward all sentient beings.
- Lama Thubten Yeshe
A Blessing for The Journey (Buddhist Prayer)
Let us vow to bear witness to the wholeness of life,
realizing the completeness of each and every thing.
Embracing our differences,
I shall know myself as you,
and you as myself.
May we serve each other
for all our days
here, there, and every-where. 
Let us vow to open ourselves to the abundance of life.
Freely giving and receiving, I shall care for you,
for the trees and stars,
as treasures of my very own.
May we be grateful
for all our days
here, there, and every-where.
Let us vow to forgive all hurt
caused by ourselves and others,
and to never condone hurtful ways.
Being responsible for my actions
I shall free myself and you.
Will you free me, too?
May we be kind
for all our days
here, there, and every-where. 
Let us vow to remember that all that appears will disappear.
In the midst of uncertainty
I shall sow love.
Here! Now! I call to you
Let us together live
The Great Peace that we are.
May we give no fear
for all our days
here, there, and every-where.
-- Sensei Wendy Egyoku Nakao.


WEDDING VOWS ACROSS RELIGIONS
 (Courtesy: Editor, Huff-Post)

Wedding vows are one of the most traditional and important aspects of a wedding ceremony. Wedding traditions from different cultures and religions vary greatly. Most religions recognize a formal assertion of marriage, but there is a difference in how verbal the couple themselves are  in making the vows. While Western cultures tend to utilize spoken vows between the couple, many other religions rely on ceremonial and symbolic gestures.
Here are some highlights of how different religions handle wedding vows:

Christian Wedding Vows - Typical Christian weddings, including Catholic, Protestant, Episcopal, Lutheran and Methodist, use what most of us see as traditional wedding vows - the couple promises to honor and cherish each other as well as commit to each other through good times and bad. They vow to never part until death, but they also add "according to God's holy ordinance and thereto I pledge thee my faith [or] pledge myself to you." Catholic weddings place an added emphasis on the bride and groom promising to remain faithful in their mutual, everlasting love. Also, prior to the exchange of vows in a Catholic ceremony, the bride and groom are asked to "accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church."
Quaker and Russian Orthodox vows--These religions focus on silent mutual prayer. Instead of saying their wedding vows aloud, the couple prays together. During the prayer, the bride and groom agree to commit to one another, remain loyal, and to always love each other. Following a Quaker silent wedding prayer, which is a congregational affair, the couple stands up, holds hands, and recites vows similar to this: "In the presence of God and these our friends, I take thee to be my husband/wife, promising with Divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful husband/wife so long as we both shall live."
Jewish Wedding Vows - In a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, only the groom makes a proclamation in Hebrew to his bride. However, many modern Jewish couples choose to add their own spoken vows, sometimes both in Hebrew and English. Today's Jewish ceremony combines tradition with modern styles of exchanging vows but the vows are phrased in a question, rather than a statement, like "Do you take this man/woman to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband, to love, honor and cherish?"
Hindu Wedding Vows -A Hindu ceremony involves what is called saptha padhi or the Seven Steps. The Seven Steps involves a priest quoting seven promises that the couple then agrees to. As the promises are read aloud, the couple circles a fire, which symbolizes that the bride and groom are together for eternity. A personalized exchange of vows may be utilized, but in a Hindu ceremony, whether the couple exchanges vows or not, the Seven Steps must always be done last and is the final indication that the couple is married.
Muslim Wedding Vows - Muslims see marriage as a union of the souls, and Muslim wedding ceremonies are known as nikah. Typically, the Imam or the head of the Mosque reads directly from the Qur'an and speaks about what is required in a marriage. He reiterates the responsibilities the couple has to each other as well as Allah. Once this is finished, the couple formally agrees by saying, "I accept," or the bride and groom can each pledge their faithfulness and honesty to each other. Nikah is considered sacred, so the ceremony is always intimate and simple.
Each religious wedding ceremony has different ways of approaching wedding vows, but the meaning behind them are all similar - they are all steeped in meaning and love and express to the world how committed two people are to each other and their marriage.
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An Astrology Expert’s Opinion on Vivaaham
“To my knowledge astrological matching boy’s and girl’s   horoscope for holy matrimony was very rare back around 100 years or so! Only the Purohit (Priest) who conducted the marriage used to see the star and the Gotra.  If both parties had doubt they used to go to a temple and place a white flower and a red flower in betel leaves separately. After placing the same before the presiding deity an innocent boy or girl would be asked pick one of the closed leaves.  If they picked white flower they agreed for the marriage. If they picked the leaf with red flower they agreed to cancel that marriage proposal. This was the system prevailing then. I also feel astrological matching is not a must for marriage.  Manu Smriti says if the parents of the girl do not find a match for the girl before three years after the girl’s  attaining puberty, she has every right to choose her partner. In Hindu marriage Panigrahanam and Kanyaka Daanam are to be performed during the Muhurtam.  Muhurtam time is fixed to overcome all ill effects in the horoscope.  During Mangalya Dhaaranam only a Sanskrit Sloka is chanted and not a sacred  Vedic Mantra  and therefore this is  not  the  most sacred step  as it is made out today. In earlier days only a Kantha sootram was tied around the neck of the bridegroom for the   occasion like the holy thread tied to the hand. You may also note that this sloka is also used during Shashthiabdi poorti celebrations (60th birthday of husband if wife is alive when the marriage ceremony  is reenacted.  Srimad Bhagavatam predicts Sangara Vargam (people marrying out of caste) would increase and gradually all caste system would fail in Chapter 12 while elaborating on Kaliyuga Lakshana” says our astrology expert. [Here is a justification for love marriage as well as inter-caste marriage too in Hinduism.]


 


REFERENCES:
1.  Geetaa Press, Gorakhpur, Srimad Valmeeki Raamaayana, Baala Kaanda, India.
2.  Chandrsekharaanada Sarasvati Svaami, Dharma,  Bharatiya Vidya bhavan, Mumbai, India.
3. Swami Bhaskarananda, The Essentials of Hinduism, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
4. Ed. Viswanathan, Am I a Hindu?  Rupa  & Co.,  New Delhi,  India.
5.  Dr. Prem P Bhalla, Hindu Rites, Rituals, Customs & Traditions, Pustak Mahal, Delhi, India.
 6. Hans Heinrich Hock,  An early Upanishadic Reader, Motilal Banarasidass Publishers, New Delhi, India
7. Antarangacharya N.S., Brihadaaranyaka Upanihad and Chandogya Upanishad, Bengaluru, India.
 9. Vivaaha Mantraartha Bhodhini" --published in Tamil by M/S The Little Flower Company, T.Nagar, Madras 600 017
10. Various Internet Sources; Samskrit.com
11. Anna, Soundaryalaharee Bhaashyam, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
 

[This is a prepared lecture compiled from above references and others for a discourse at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville and to benefit those who are not able to attend the same in person. You are free to download and use it for your reading and reference as well as circulate to others to spread the wisdom of Vedas and Hindu values which good act will be appreciated.]