Singapore Hindu weddings
by Rakunathan Narayanan
In many Indian Hindu families today, traditions and customs still play an important role in life. Indian weddings, for instance, consist of many traditional customs and ceremonies that the bride, bridegroom and their families have to go through before and on the actual wedding day.1
The first significant pre-wedding ceremony is when the two families meet to confirm the proposed marriage. It is done in the presence of elders and sometimes a priest. Then, a few days before the wedding, there will be a bangle-ceremony where the family of the bridegroom goes over to the bride’s home with bangles for the bride. It is also at this time that the bride’s hands are decorated by henna.2
Next is the smelting of gold for the thali, the pendant that is one of the most revered symbol of marriage (along with the red pottu). This is performed as near to the wedding day as possible since the bride and groom traditionally cannot meet again thereafter until the wedding day. The smelting is performed by a goldsmith. A small nugget of gold provided by the groom is melted down and used to form part of the thali. A few days later, prayers are held at the bridegroom’s home with the thali. A similar henna-decorating ceremony takes place for the bridegroom.3
Wedding day customs4
On the wedding day, the groom's relatives will go to the bride’s home and accompany her to the temple. Meanwhile, the groom arrives with the best man, usually the bride’s brother, and followed by three matrons, each carrying a tray. One tray contains three coconuts, with their husks removed.
When the groom and best man are seated, the priest will begin the ceremony with chanting and blessings. At one stage, he will tie a piece of cord round the groom’s finger. About half an hour after the start of the ceremony, the bride arrives. The nuptial couple sits on a bench in front of which, placed on the floor, are two kuthu-vilakku or “lamps”, a ceremonial fire and various trays containing fruits and flowers. At one point during the ceremony, the priest will tie a piece of cord around the bride’s finger to bring her into the ceremony and to unite her with the groom. The sari and thali, which are given to the bride by the groom, are also blessed. The bride then leaves the hall to change. Dates, rock sugar and saffron rice are handed round to all the guests during the bride’s absence. The garlands that the couple will wear afterwards are also sent around to be blessed by the guests.
When the bride returns in her new sari, the groom ties the thali around her neck. The accompanying music hit a crescendo and the saffron rice is thrown at the couple as blessings. The married couple then exchange garlands. The couple now walks round the ceremonial fire three times, throwing a handful of grains into the fire at each circling. This keeps the fire burning and is symbolic of the eternal flame of love. During the circling of the fire, the groom will place the bride’s foot on a stone and slip toe-rings onto her toes. The priest then asks the bride to honour, love and obey her husband.
1. Sanmugam, E. (1992, January–March). Singapore Hindu: Publication of the Hindu Endowments Board, p. 10. (Call no: RSING 294.505 SH)
2. Perfect Weddings. (n.d.). Indian wedding customs in Singapore. Retrieved 2016, May 26 from Perfect Weddings website: http://www.perfectweddings.sg/indian-wedding-customs-in-singapore
3. Sanmugam, E. (1992, January–March). Singapore Hindu: Publication of the Hindu Endowments Board, pp. 10–11. (Call no: RSING 294.505 SH)
4. An Indian wedding. (1976). Goodwood journal. 2nd Qtr., 12. (Call no: RCLOS 052 GHCGJ)
Achikanno, G. (1992). Customs & celebrations: An Indian way of life. [Motion picture]. Singapore: Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.
(Call no.: RAV 306.0899141105957 CUS)
An Indian marriage: A celebration with the Gods [Videotape]. (1988). Singapore: Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.
(Call no.: RSING 392.5095957 IND)
Chung, K. H. (1986). Merlion city: Weddings [Motion picture]. Singapore: Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.
(Call no.: R 392.5095957 MER)
The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.