The Essential Guide to Nepali Weddings: Wedding Traditions

2015 Jun 10 - by Nadya
The pre-wedding part of Nepali weddings is the calm before the storm. Vedic Hindu Nepali wedding rites are extended sometimes over four days, not including the events that come before the wedding day. During the ceremony, multiple gifts are exchanged and blessings are invoked, each in their own ritual.

Photo courtesy of Maritha Mae Photography

Nepali Wedding: Introduction 

Nepali Wedding Engagement

Nepali Pre-Wedding Traditions

Nepali Wedding Traditions - You're here!

Nepali Post-Wedding Traditions

Nepali Bridal Attire and Jewelry

Nepali Groom’s Attire

Nepali Wedding Food and Desserts

On the auspicious wedding day, the bride's family and close friends fast and perform Nandi-shradha and Matrika-poojam, during which the ancestors are honored and worshipped.

Kicking off the festivities is the Janti (also called the Baryatra), or wedding procession. Much like the Baraat, the Janti is a loud and cheerful gathering of the groom's side. A musical band playing traditional tunes and Bollywood numbers proceeds the guests.

The groom is carted to the wedding venue either in a car or a horse-drawn carriage. Occasionally the smaller children of the bride's side are allowed to join in. Before the Janti, the groom's side may pray to Lord Vishnu or Ganesh.

Once the groom and his well-wishers arrive at the bride's house, her family walks around the groom three times and throw Lawa-akshat, or popped and peeled rice, over everybody. They also throw flower petals at the groom.

Photo courtesy of Maritha Mae Photography

An aarti is often said and tikaa is applied to the groom's forehead. The groom then moves to a wooden seat in the courtyard, called the pida. Here he is welcomed by the bride's father and members of his party are given food to eat.

The actual marriage ceremony begins with the Kanyadaan, or Mahasankalpa. The groom is seated in the mandap and faces East. A yellow cloth is then spread over the bride, groom, and whomever is performing the Kanyadaan.

The formal giving away of the bride is done with a Kalash full of water, mango leaves, pipal, palash, gular, arka, camphor, areca nuts, betel nuts, sacred thread, durva grass, and whatever else the family considers important.

Photo courtesy of Maritha Mae Photography

The bride then sits next to the groom. Both the bride and groom's feet are washed by the bride's relatives using a copper bowl. This is called the godadhuwa ceremony.

The groom is then given a conch shell filled with grass, rice, yoghurt, fruit, sandalwood, and water. Some of these are also sprinkled on his head. The groom is fed a mixture of ghee, yoghurt, and honey.

Whomever performs the Kanyadaan is required to offer a gift to the priest of the ceremony to ward away the evil eye. This gift is usually a cow or some money.

From here the bride and groom are ushered into another room, called the guptaghar. Here the groom offers new clothes to the bride. He is also given new clothes by the bride's family, which he must change into. A length of cloth, the gath-bandan or lagan-gantho, now links both the bride and groom together.

Photo courtesy of Maritha Mae Photography

The person who performs the Kanyadaan places the groom's right hand in the bride's right hand. He then announces that he is giving away the bride, the incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi. He does this with the priest, the fire, and the other gods as witnesses. He asks the groom to accept the bride.

Following this, the priest repeats a series of prayers and places tikaa marks on both the bride and groom. In some Nepali communities, the Brahman priest conducts a stone worship, called the Shilapooja. During this, the bride's brother places popped rice in the hands of the bride. She throws it in the air.

The groom clasps the bride's thumb and says his vows to her, which translate to something like "You are the Earth and I the sky. Please let us marry and have children. May they be strong and successful. May we live for a hundred year in good health." The bride then takes a step, using the groom's shoulder for support. The groom repeats a few prayers. After, the couple offers the popped rice to the fire three times and walk around the fire three times.

Photo from Nattuvaidyam

The eight mountains are then worshipped. Popped rice is collected in eight separate places to represent Sumeru, Shekhu, Udayachal, Marut, Vindyachal, Himalaya, Burait, and Sharad. Following this the couple conducts their Saptapadi and take seven steps together in front of the holy fire.

The groom asks the bride to look at the sun if it is a daytime wedding or the North star if it happens at night. The groom places his hand over the bride's heart and tells her, "You are my wife. You'll act according to my wishes and obey my instructions." The couple then maintain a vigil in front of the fire, sometimes for many hours.

Before the groom applies sindhoor to the bride's hair parting, the groom gifts the bride with pote necklaces.  This tradition varies between Nepali groups and some Nepli grooms give three pote necklacces, one red, one yellow, and one green.

The couple then exchange mallas in the Dubo Ko Malla.  Nepali malas are made of grass.  Sometimes flower malas are given and may even be exchanged as early as the post-Janti aarti.  The couple also exchange wedding rings.

Photo courtesy of Bridal Safari

Finally the groom applies sindoor, or vermillion powder, to the bride's parting, in the Sindhur Halne.  The groom puts the powder three times on the bride's head.  In some communities a length of white cloth is tied around a statuette of Vishnu or Ganesh and extended to cover the bride's face while the sindhoor is applied.

On the third time, the couple is officially considered married.  The bride then bows to the groom, placing her forehead on the top of his feet.  After, she mixes ghee, honey, and yoghurt together in a bowl with her index finger.  She feeds half to her husband and finishes the other half herself.

Photo courtesy of Nika Photo

In the Buddhist tradition, a wedding is less a sacred rite and more a social agreement between the bride and the groom. Typically Buddhist couples will have a Civil Ceremony at a marriage registrar's office and then go to a Buddhist monastery for a blessing. Monks chant from Buddhist sacred texts. It is solemn and all who attend must remain quiet and respectful. Afterwards the couple leaves. Confetti and rice aren't thrown, as per Buddhist tradition of formality.

Phew, Nepali weddings are no joke.  Let's wrap it up with the post-wedding traditions.

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