Everything you need to know about marriage in India
Indian marriages are one of the most glamorous and extravagant types of marriages in the world. The country is home to over 1.3 billion people, and the average number of weddings per year is more than 10 million.
The large country has a very diverse culture, and people in various regions and geographical areas celebrate marriages based on different beliefs, cultures, and traditions.
The process of getting married in India involves some legalities for the marriage to be legal and protected by law. Various families with an Indian heritage celebrate marriages and perform ceremonial rites according to their religion, which date back many years. Indian weddings are typically more colorful and extravagant than western weddings.
Everything is different and big, from the costumes to the music, sacraments, food, flowers, and gifts. Marriages in India are done in two major ways. They are either civil or religious. Civil marriages are performed in the office of the marriage registrar, and couples may decide to carry out further traditional ceremonies based on their religious beliefs and culture. As you read on, this article will take you through everything there is to know about Indian marriages.
The Most Popular Marriage Traditions in India
Hindu Marriage Traditions
This is the most popular type of marriage in India as about 80% of the total population of India is Hindu. Most marriages follow the Hindu tradition in one way or the other. Hindu weddings are always very colorful, with celebrations that can last several days. This type of marriage is called Vivaha, and the specifics of how it is performed vary from family to family according to their region.
There are three major rituals in the course of Hindu marriages, which are Kanyadan, Panigrahana, and Saptapadi.
These three rituals have distinct meanings and they follow each other in the order they have been listed. Kanyadan means the giving away of the bride(daughter) by the father; Panigrahana is the voluntary holding of hands near a fire place to symbolize the union of the bride and groom; and lastly, the Saptapadi involves taking seven steps before the fire, with each serving as a complete circuit. The promises are made by the couples during each step in the presence of Agni, the fire deity, as well as family and friends.
The ceremony is conducted in a language known as Sanskrit, and there are post-wedding rites to officially welcome the bride to her new home. The seven steps and the sharing of vows in the presence of the sacred fire by the bride and groom are very vital in every Hindu marriage. However, Hindu traditions widely vary in different families and regions, and some communities do not observe all the rites.
Christian Marriage Traditions
These types of marriages in India usually have a mix of western and Indian marriage rituals as a part of the ceremony. Christian marriages normally begin in the church, but in India, two rituals (prayer and blessings from the family elders) are first done in the morning before the church service.
The groom is dressed in a formal suit, usually dark blue, gray, or black, and the bride is dressed in a beautiful wedding gown with a stylish veil. The bride is escorted to the church from her house to meet the groom and the other wedding party in the church.
As the knot is tied in western marriages, Indians also tie the thali. This is the most important part of the Christian ceremony. A thali is tied in a knot and placed around the neck to act as a sign of marriage and also signify stability and permanence in the relationship. The rings are then exchanged, and the bride and groom are declared husband and wife. Public kissing is taboo in India, and so the husband and wife do not kiss in church. This finally leads to the Nada Villi, or the wedding reception, where the bride and groom are celebrated by the members of the family, with blessings from the parents and wine and dining for the guests.
Jain Marriage Traditions
This marriage tradition is marked by its elaborate style and colorful theme. Jainism is a minority religion in India with distinct practices that set the religion apart from others in the country. Jain marriages involve three major rites, which are pre-wedding, main wedding, and post-wedding customs. The wedding processional is referred to as the Ghudchadi. Before the procession starts, the headwear of the groom is tightened and a tilak is applied on the forehead, and then, the groom’s barat rides a horse to signify the start of the ceremony. The barati involves the presentation of various gifts by the bride’s family, which is immediately followed by the kanyavaren.
The Kanyavaren indicates the giving away of the bride by her parents to signify to the whole public that she is getting married. The post-wedding rites then commence, where the bride is introduced to the house by her in-laws before the wedding reception, which usually takes place a day after all the rituals are completed.
Muslim Marriage Traditions
There are several Muslim rites and rituals that are held before, during, and after marriages according to the region and community. The main rituals in the actual wedding ceremony include the Nikah and Arsi Musaf. The Nikah is the main ceremony where the couples sit in the presence of a priest while verses from the holy Quran are read. Here, the bride and groom agree to the marriage and go ahead to sign a binding contract. The Arsi Musaf involves the covering of the heads of both the bride and groom with a veil. They are allowed to view each other through a mirror, and this ritual is one of the most unique traditions in Muslim weddings.
The post-wedding rites of the Muslim wedding include the Rukhsat and Walimah. Here, the bride says goodbye to her own family and goes ahead to join the family of her husband, where she receives a gift of the holy Quran from her mother-in-law. The Walimah refers to the wedding reception where music is played with enough food and drinks for everyone, and the bride and groom are celebrated and blessed with multiple gifts.
Punjabi Marriage Traditions
These marriage traditions are usually filled with fun, color, and loudness from music and celebrating guests. There are various pre and post-wedding rituals that are carried out by the couples and their families. Punjabi weddings can either be simple or very elaborate, depending on the families and customs.
The Gana Bandhna is one of the most important rituals in Punjabi marriages. Here, the bride and groom are required to attend a puja in the morning where the priest ties a sacred thread known as Mouli to their right wrists. All the rituals in-between lead to the Ghodi Charna, where the groom starts the wedding on a mare with beautiful decorations and a Tika on the head. The groom is led by his family to the wedding hall, where he waits for the bride to arrive so they can exchange garlands Punjabi wedding receptions are usually filled with so much fun and joy, with high-spirited music and gifts all over.
Sikh Marriage Traditions
This marriage has certain rituals for the groom and bride based on their region and beliefs. The wedding often leads to an elaborate ceremony to celebrate the newlyweds. The Sikh marriage also includes a baraat, signifying the arrival of the groom and the greeting of the bride’s family. This is followed by the Milano, which signifies the introduction of the two families, where different members are allowed to meet each other and have discussions.
The Ardas is the congregational prayer where everyone stands up to say a prayer, and this leads up to the other parts of the wedding ceremony. This leads to the Laavan and Sikhia, where the couples sit next to each other facing the Guru Granth Sahib. The couples are united together by these rites, including the scripture verses read and other religious messaging. The Jaggo is the last ritual involved, which includes dancing and singing by the couple, family, friends, and all the guests.
Bengali Marriage Traditions
Bengali marriages are unique and filled with a lot of excitement in India, where not just the couples are joyful about getting married but their families and friends are as well. Bengali marriages are typically lengthy, lasting several weeks at a time. There are several rituals that are performed by both the couples and their families.
These marriages involve pre-wedding, wedding, and post-wedding rituals. Some of the pre-wedding rituals include the sharing of gifts and different chant mantras to signify love and peace in the union of the couples. The wedding rites start with the Bor Jatri, where the groom is accompanied by family and friends to the bride’s house. The different rituals lead to the Subho Drishti, where the bride gets rid of betel leaves from her face and looks at the groom to strike a beautiful contact. The rites are eventually concluded by sindoor daan, where the groom is required to put sindoor on the forehead of the bride without making eye contact with her, and she also puts a saree over her head.
South Indian Marriage Traditions
India is very diverse, with different regions and communities. Marriages in the south are conducted differently than those in the north. Most South Indian marriages are held based on Hindu traditions. However, these traditions are distinct from each other according to region and belief.
Telugu weddings often begin with an engagement ceremony known as Nishchitartham, which leads to the Pellikuthuru, where oil and turmeric paste are thrown on the faces of the couples. Couples are required to take a holy bath to prepare them for the wedding ceremony as well as the worship of Ganesh Puja. Reddy weddings have some unique traditions, such as the groom being carried to the mandap while carrying an oil lamp. The groom later places a silver ring on the toe of his bride as a gesture of their beautiful union.
Marathi Marriage Traditions
These types of marriages are usually done in a simple and classy manner with a quiet and serene setting away from all the loudness and vibrant colors associated with most wedding ceremonies. The wedding ritual starts with the Seemant Puja, where the groom is accompanied by his family and welcomed by the bride’s family. It is customary for the bride’s mother to wash the feet of her soon-to-be son-in-law and share gifts.
The couples are not allowed to look at each other until the priest concludes his prayers and chants. A shawl is placed between the couples, and when the priest is done, it is removed. The final stages of the wedding ceremony involve the father praying to God for blessings, which leads to post-wedding arrangements. A reception is then planned in a flexible manner according to the preferences of the couples.
Indian Wedding Customs
There are some beautiful customs that have been in existence for centuries in India. Most of the various traditional weddings involve these customs, and they are applied and modified in different ways according to the community. Some of these customs are stated below:
This is regarded as the sacred fire and a lot of the marriage traditions in India involve this. The ritual is known by different names in different traditions.
The majority of the marriage traditions in India take place under a structure called the "mandap." It refers to the four elements in life: fire, air, water, and earth.
Indian marriage traditions are quite big on jewelry, and the traditions ranging from Punjabi to Bengali all have their own unique ways of wearing and styling jewelry for this special occasion.
This is a popular ritual in virtually all marriages in India. It is the pre-wedding event that takes place with different rituals by the groom, bride, and their respective families.
Court Marriage in India
Court marriages have been taking place in India since the 1950s, and couples are allowed to get married in court irrespective of their religious beliefs or background. Both native Indians and foreigners can get married in an Indian court.
There are certain conditions that must be met for court marriages to take place.
The groom must be at least 21 years old and the bride must be at least 18 years
old. Also, there must be no current valid marriages. There must be proof that the relationship is not prohibited. The couples must give their free consent for the court marriage.
There must be witnesses present during the court marriage and some important documents are required from both couples. Some of the documents include proof of residential address, a signed marriage application form, a passport, an affidavit, etc. There are certain fees involved in the application form of the court marriage, which usually range from Rs. 500 to Rs. 1000. When all fees are paid, a public notice of the marriage is issued, and the couples are required to sign a public declaration of their free consent to marry.
Marriage Laws, Rights, Costs, and Duties
Laws and Rights
As India is a country with a large population and, of course, many religions, the marriage laws and rights vary with each belief. To this day, there are 3 marriage laws in India; Hindu marriage law, Christian Marriage Law, and Special Marriage Law. However, irrespective of each religion's laws, a marriage certificate issued by the registrar gives legal validity and proof of the marriage of two persons.
In accordance with the Hindu marriage act of 1955, both parties must be single, and in the event of a previous marriage, there must be a divorce or death certificate. Both parties should be at least 18(female) and 21(male) respectively, and they both must consent willingly to the marriage, which obviously means they both should be mentally fit. Marriage between blood relatives is not allowed.
According to The Special Marriage Act, 1954, people from different castes, religions, or cultures are allowed to marry freely as this union has caused a lot of uproar in the past. The provisions of this marriage law grant freedom to anyone who wishes to do so, provided certain conditions are met; both parties must be of age, that is, 18 and 21, and they both must have a sound mind.
Under this act, marriage registration in India is important to formalize this union and this can be handled by a family lawyer. Both parties must not share ancestral bonds as there are 37 forbidden relations in which a marriage cannot be performed under this act.
Under the provisions of the Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872, underage couples would not be granted a marriage certificate, and there should be at least two witnesses at the solemnization before a marriage certificate can be issued; ex-spouses are not allowed to be invited to the ceremony; and both parties must consent willingly to the marriage without any compulsion from anyone.
In most cases in India, society favors the man more than the woman, giving rise to more marriage rights for women. However, both parties still have access to a variety of rights, ranging from the right to live with dignity and respect to the right to file for a divorce in the case of infidelity or violence. The Right to Streedhan is a particularly important right for every woman as all gifts which she receives before, during, and after her marriage rightfully belong to her irrespective of who is in custody of them. She has the right to maintenance by her husband, the right to reside in the marital home, the right to child maintenance, and so on.
The cost of an Indian wedding is estimated to range between 500,000 and 50 million rupees, which is about US$6,747.14 to US$6,743.50 in dollars.
The long guest list and extended celebration days are responsible for this estimate.
The parents of both families oftentimes go out on a limb to make the celebration possible. According to some Indian traditions, the family of the bride is responsible for the payment of dowry to the groom's family.
In some cases, either family can decide to carry on the full cost of the marriage ceremony, but most of the time it is equally divided among both families.
Despite the tight Indian traditions, some Indians may opt for destination weddings, a trend that started with celebrities but has become popular among average Indians.
In Indian society, which is largely patriarchal, religion plays a major role in how the duties of both the husband and wife are carried out in a marriage. In an Indian marriage, the woman is expected to be submissive and loyal to her husband and relatives, as her primary roles are marriage and motherhood. She is not expected to take on any active role in the home.
The husband takes up any and every active role where he controls every external relationship and coordinates family rituals and festivals, some of which the woman worships her husband as her God and prays for his long life. The man is expected to be able to provide basic amenities and proper care for his wife and offspring, as it is believed that in cherishing his wife, he's bringing prosperity upon himself. In essence, the greater bulk of the duties fall on the shoulders of the woman in an Indian marriage.
The Indian marriage industry is very large as there are millions of people getting married each year. Due to the large population, the country is filled with a vast number of people of different beliefs, norms, and practices. Every region or community has a way of practicing marriage that is unique to them.
Religious marriages in India are often a mix of some of the ancient traditions with western Christian marriage practices. All the marriages in India are practiced in a unique and colorful way, with distinct representations. We hope this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about marriage in India.
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