Monday, July 07, 2008

Anuthentic Hindu Wedding in Telugu Tradition

We are just coming off a long weekend. We are pleased to have been a part of the Welker - Ivatury wedding these past few days. The priests at the Temple in Helotes were so gracious and welcoming. I hope to return soon.

I wanted to share this one bit of information which endears me to the Hindu religion: "Hinduism accepts all religions as true and valid paths to God."

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world that has been in continuous practice for thousands of years. Although it has changed through the years, the core principles remain the same. The goal of a Hindu is to attain Self (God) realization. Hinduism allows for wide latitude in practice of religion and each devotee decides for him/herself what the most suitable way is.

Anyone can adopt the principles of Hinduism in daily life without being required to convert to Hinduism. Hinduism does not encourage proselytization or conversion from other religions. It respects all other religions and paths to God as valid. A popular hymn elegantly expresses this notion:

Aakaashaat patitam toyam yatha gacchhati saagaram Sarva deva namaskaaram Keshavam prati gacchhati
transalation:

Just as rain water, regardless of where it falls, eventually reaches the ocean, salutations
to all Gods eventually reach Keshava (One God).

Here is the content of their wedding program:

The marriage of Rebecca and Joga unites two souls, two families, and two communities into one harmonious existence. A deep significance is attached to every step within it. With the completion of the ceremony, Rebecca and Joga enter into Grihasthashram, the second phase of life, which is devoted to family.

8:30am-10:30am
Upanayanam, Sacred Thread Ceremony

Upanayanam is known as the sacred thread ceremony. Upa means near and nayanam means going; that is the act of going to a teacher to learn. The meaning of the word upanayanam can also be interpreted as nayanam meaning eye prefixed with upa- (auxiliary), creating the interpretative meaning: bringing the ultimate truth nearer in sight. The hallmark of having gone through the Upanayana ceremony is the wearing of the Yajñopavītam (Sacred Thread) on the body. The thread is circular, being tied end-to-end (only one knot is permissible); it is normally supported on the left shoulder and wrapped around the body, falling underneath the right arm. The length of the thread is generally 96 times the breadth of four fingers of a man, which is believed to be equal to his height. Each of the four fingers represents one of the four states that the soul of a man experiences: waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep, and knowledge of the absolute. Joga performs the Upanayanam the morning of the wedding day in order to prepare for marriage.

10:30 am
Snathakam and Kashi Yatra

Snathakam is a ceremony performed at the temple. Joga will wear a silver thread on his body and perform a Puja, or prayer ceremony, and Kashi Yatra.
Kashi Yatra is a unique ceremony that takes place in the early morning hours of the wedding day. This ceremony has Joga saying that he has discarded worldly pleasures and is going to Kashi, the sacred city in India. For a higher spiritual purpose, Joga is given a final opportunity to leave before the bride enters. He is asked if he would like to abandon worldly life and lead the life of an ascetic. To stop Joga from his symbolic departure to Kashi, Ron Welker, Rebecca’s brother requests Joga not to leave, but to stay and marry his sister.

11am-1:30pm
Mehndi Ceremony

Mehndi is the application of henna as a temporary form of skin decoration that is applied for special occasions, especially weddings. The tradition of henna started in India in the early days when bridal decoration was scarce. The patterns of mehndi are quite intricate. Henna is applied to Rebecca, female family members, and her closest friends in the late morning of the wedding day. Rebecca has good reason to look after her henna, for she is not expected to partake in housework until the henna is gone. This means she will not be rubbing, scrubbing, or tubbing.

6pm-7pm
Gauri Puja

In Hindu tradition, any auspicious event is commenced by a Puja. Puja is the prayer ceremony when blessings from the Gods are obtained for the event. Rebecca worships the goddess Gauri. Gauri is the Mother Durga who symbolizes divine supremacy, energy, woman power, and fertility. During this time, female relatives give their blessings to Rebecca to remove obstacles and to bring good fortune to the her. Rebecca offers prayers to the goddess Gauri seeking the blessings of prosperity and a long and happy married life.

Hinduism believes in the existence of a Supreme Being. This Being is described in the Vedas (scripture) as "unmanifest, unthinkable, and unchanging." The Supreme Being manifests in this world in different forms and at different times. Hinduism also believes that the soul is divine and eternal. It is neither created nor destroyed. When a soul has found release from this cycle of rebirth is it said to have achieved liberation (moksha).

Hinduism accepts all religions as true and valid paths to God. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna says, "Whenever there is a decline in dharma (righteousness) and an increase in adharma (unrighteousness), at that time I manifest Myself." In this way, all religions are seen as the manifestation of the Divine into this world.

The Hindu Wedding

The traditional Hindu wedding is a deeply meaningful and symbolic combination of rituals and traditions. It is a ceremony that is about 4000 years old. Each phase of the ceremony has a symbolic, philosophical, and spiritual meaning. The ceremony not only joins the souls of the bride and groom, but also creates a strong tie between two families. The ceremony is traditionally performed in Sanskrit, which is the language of ancient India. Today the ceremony will be performed both in Sanskrit and English.

7:30pm
Welcoming of the Groom

Accompanied by his parents, Joga arrives at the site of the ceremony, and is greeted by the bride’s parents. The mother of the bride, Patricia Welker, welcomes the groom with an aarti (prayer). After receiving the blessings of his elders, Joga is escorted by Rebecca’s parents to the mandap (wedding altar) accompanied by his parents.

Ganesh Puja

The priest begins the ceremony with an invocation to Lord Ganesh so that his divine grace, power, love, and spiritual strength may remove all obstacles for the bride and groom. Ganesh puja is considered auspicious for any important occasion as it ensures the successful completion of the wedding ceremony.

Kanya Agaman (The Bride’s Arrival)

Rebecca arrives at the Mandap in the company of her Godfather: Steven Welker, maternal Uncle: Michael Hickey, and two eldest Aunts: Mary Ann Welker and Virginia Aharrah. As Rebecca’s family members guide her to the Mandap, they promise to guide and morally support the couple. During the bride’s entry, Julie Popplewell, Rebecca’s cousin, will play auspicious music on the oboe.

Antarpatalam

An Antarpat (a white fabric) is held in front of Joga as Rebecca makes her entrance to prevent him from seeing her. This symbolized traditional barriers and reminds the bride and groom to avoid ideological differences in marriage. The Purohit (Priest) chants the Vedic shlokas invoking
the blessings of God.

Kanyadaan (Giving away of the Bride)

Daniel Welker joins the hands of Rebecca and Joga, declaring to all gathered that he hands her to the care of the man of her heart. Dan seeks a pledge from Joga of his enduring love, fidelity, and security in caring for his daughter. Once Joga has agreed, He and Rebecca both pledge to support each other in fulfilling the four goals of human life: Dharma, the duty to lead a moral life; Artha, the duty to lead a joyous and fruitful life; Kama, the duty to lead a pleasant and productive life; Moksha, the duty to obtain enlightenment.

Sumuhurtham

The Purohit seeks the blessings of the couple’s ancestors as well as the blessings of God. Thereafter, Joga and Rebecca apply the paste made from cumin seeds and jaggery on each other’s hands. The bitter taste of cumin seeds and the sweetness of jaggery cannot be separated, applying this paste communicates that the relationship of the wedded couple is unbreakable and inseparable. The Antarpat between the two is removed at this stage. As the fabric is brought down, the couple greets each other as a gesture of their willingness to accept each other as partners in life.

Sumangli

The bride changes into a white cotton sari with a red border. This is called Mandhuparkam. White signifies purity and chastity and red signifies strength. Rebecca returns accompanied by eight married women (Sumangalis). Some hold plates full of rice and turmeric powder mixed together. The others hold plates with small lamps m ade from a mixture of rice flour, sugar and milk. Rice, the staple crop of the south, signifies abundance. The lit lamps represent sweetness and light, two qualities that the bride brings with her to this new phase of life.
Mangalsutra

Joga ties two strings (each with a golden disc representing the mangalsutra) separately around Rebecca’s neck, each with three knots to represent the strength of their union on every plane - physical, mental and spiritual.

Kanyadaan Akshata

Having tied the mangalsutra, Joga and Rebecca now exchange garlands. Those present at the wedding shower their blessings on the couple by sprinkling flowers and turmeric-coloured rice (Akshata) on them.

Havan (Lighting of the Fire)

The fire is lit outside to invoke Agni, the Vedic Deity of Fire, to be the witness and bless their marriage. The flames are enhanced by offering crushed wood and ghee (butter) into the ceremonial fire.

Saptapadi (Seven Steps)

These steps are representative of their marriage vows. The Purohit ties Joga’s cloak to Rebecca’s sari and guides them to take seven steps hand in hand around the sacred fire. The number seven refers to the earth, sun, moon, and the four planets visible to the naked eye that are all locked together in harmonious interrelationships governed by a single law.
Rebecca leads three rounds and then Joga leads four rounds, signifying that both are capable of leadership. At this time, John Aharrah fills her hand with rice, symbolizing wealth and prosperity. Rebecca will offer the rice to the sacred fire. The seven steps symbolize the following:
Step 1: To love you and be faithful always. I take this first step with you.
Step 2: To put our love and marriage in front of all social, cultural, and religious difference, with you I take this second step.
Step 3: To always respect your family. I take this third step with you.
Step 4: To be your best friend and eternal partner. With you I take this fourth step.
Step 5: For an abundance of pure and nourishing food and a life that is noble and respectful. I take this fifth step with you.
Step 6: For the welfare of all entities in the universe and for begetting noble and healthy children. I take this sixth step with you.
Step 7: For a long and joyous life that is filled with loyalty, harmony, unity, and trust. With you I take this seventh step.
Having exchanged these vows of love, devotion, and faithful union the couple agrees to be each other’s partners for eternity. Upon the completion of the seven steps and the declaration, Rebecca and Joga are officially considered husband and wife.

Arundhati Darshana

Rebecca and Joga gaze up at the pole star (Druvaloka) and meditate on stability in the marriage union. Each night as the stars rotate in the sky, the pole star (north star) always remains fixed. In the same way as life is constantly changing the union of the bride and groom should remain fixed like the pole star, Druvaloka.

Aashirvad (Blessings):

The priest offers his final blessings and good wishes to Joga and Rebecca and declares them husband and wife.
Here are the vendors for Friday, July 4th.
Hindu Temple of San Antonio (in Helotes)
Priest: Sri Lanka Ramalinga Sastry
Brian Tsai of Life Mosaics
Anne Marie's Catering
Sarovar Indian Cuisuine
Maharaja Resturant (for the sweets)
Jim Rough of Our Wedding Video
the staff of A Regal Affair
Mandala Art Gallery, Mehndi Artist: Pramod Goshai
Hilda DeHoyos of Salon Diva, Rebecca’s Hair/Make-up
Sitarist, Chuck Morrow of Austin
and Star Shuttle for getting stuck at the bottom of the hill and making it one crazy night! Like the bride's family said, it wouldn't be a Welker wedding without at least one big mishap. We were happy to keep the tradition going.

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