I was recently invited to attend a Indo-Fijian, Hindu wedding, as you would expect it was a festive occasion with lots of colour, glitter, elaborate frocks, food and piercings. However, one of the most fascinating things about the occasion was the articulation of the wedding space.
The ceremony significantly, does not take place within a temple or traditional house of worship, but at the family home of the bride, around a fire known as the hawan kund. The fire represents the sun’s energy and a form of Lord Vishnu. It is intended that the light and the heat of the fire will sustain the couple and bring them the comfort of mutual understanding.A lightweight canopy known as the mandap, created specifically for the occasion by the family, covers the hawan kund this represents the universe. The bride and groom and their parents sit together on elaborate rugs on the floor under the mandap and before the hawan kund. All around the wedding couple gather family and friends creating an enclosure and to give their blessing to the couple. This warm, embracing and dynamic, sacred wedding space, is the manifest of an idea, the walls of which are not stone, concrete or timber, but rather the assembled people.
The high point of the Hindi wedding ceremony is the mangal phere where the couple holding hands walk around the sacred hawan kund several times, symbolizing walking through life with God as a witness. There are different mantars, wedding vows, recited as the couple do this, depending on the region and type of Hinduism practiced, some mantars are very altruistic,
To lead a life guided by a moral compass and a sense of purpose
To achieve prosperity, happiness and wealth
To live passionately and enjoy life’s pleasures
To achieve enlightenment and salvation
Other mantars are more practical.
The bride leads four times and the groom thrice. This indicates that in all households’ matters she shall lead, since she is more experienced in this sphere. In professional or vocational fields, the man shall lead because he is more experienced. When both consult each other in matters pertaining to the home and outside and work in unison, they establish successful family together.
The final scene is the bride leaving the family home to live with her new husband, this is typically a poignant and final moment, in the wedding ceremony.