Last Updated on April 26, 2021 by Michelle Moyer
Hinduism in Trinidad
Hinduism is considered by many to be the world’s oldest religion, dating back more than 4,000 years with more than 900 million followers located mostly in India. It has no specific founder but is a compilation of beliefs, philosophies, traditions, and a way of life that has lasted for millennia, including the beautiful Hindu wedding traditions that we witnessed on our trip to Trinidad.
The Hindu way of life is one that strives for dharma, a good and moral code of living. Hindus believe in karma, the universal cause and effect relationship, and the doctrines of samsara, a continuous cycle of life, death, and reincarnation. In this faith, life is comprised of many stages. One of the most important stages is marriage.
A Hindu wedding is one of the most sacred of the traditions and has many customs and rituals lasting over several days. Hindu weddings celebrate the coming together of two families, not just a bride and groom, and many of the rituals involve both families.
If you missed out on hearing the story of how we were invited to be a participant in our first Hindu wedding — READ ABOUT EXPERIENCING CULTURE IN TRINIDAD HERE. Deowatie, the bride-to-be, was my penpal since grade school. We have kept in touch, but I had never been to Trinidad until I attended all her wedding festivities.
For a description of many pre-wedding preparations in the days before the actual wedding ceremony, you can read about our Mehendi Ritual and preparing laddu for sweet treats during the wedding.
Hindu Wedding Traditions in Trinidad
Pre-Wedding Ceremony day – Maticoor Night
A Maticoor night is a celebration to prepare the Dulahin, bride-to-be, for her new journey into married life. As we assembled at the Dulahin’s house, the beat of the kettle drums, tassa, throughout the Maticoor ceremony welcomed friends and family and emitted an energetic and joyous ambiance.
The ceremony began with a puja ritual at the Dulahin’s house. A ceremonial tray was lifted by an elder, married woman and placed on the head of a young, unmarried girl who was chosen because of her innocence and purity. The girl carried the tray on her head and led a procession to an area of earth near running water where the Maticoor Ceremony continued, all the while listening to the beat of the tassa drums.
The earth was dug and some loose dirt was added to the tray. The running water was used in a ritual to wash away any evil that may be surrounding the Dulahin while the women in the party began festive dancing to the tassa melodies.
The next ritual was the application of saffron to cleanse the Dulahin of impurities and beautify her skin. Saffron is a grated root that is mixed with coconut oil and rubbed on the skin to make it a glowing yellow. After this ceremony, the Dulahin had to stay in her home until the actual day of the wedding ceremony so that she was not vulnerable to evil spirits.
HINDU WEDDING DAY PREPARATIONS
What to wear to a Hindu Wedding
A Hindu wedding is a glamourous, elaborate event. It is common for all guests to wear traditional Indian clothes. Women wear saris and lenghas and men wear long-sleeved tunics and pants. Bold, vibrant colors are recommended for Hindu wedding attire for guests, as is lots of eye-catching, sparkly decorations and jewelry. What shouldn’t you wear? The bride wears red, so stay clear of that, while white is usually associated with funerals and black is considered unlucky.
Deowatie took us all shopping at the Indian Expo in Trinidad a few days before the wedding. She treated us to the most beautiful dresses that we have ever seen. I don’t think I have ever worn anything as glamourous as my Hindu wedding dress! Read about our INDIAN EXPO SHOPPING EXPERIENCE HERE.
My daughters chose saris in vivid colors. They were instructed how to put it on starting with wrapping it around their waists several times with a final special pin at the top.
I chose a lengha because I was dead-set on the color of purple. It was 2-piece and rather short on the top. Also another first for me, since that area has not seen the light of day since pre-children! We had it professionally altered so that nothing was bare!
We bought elegant shoes to match. The shoes would be removed once we entered the temple, so ultimate comfort was sacrificed for sheer glamour. We went all-out and outfitted ourselves with a large supply of jeweled earrings, rings and necklaces to add to the sparkle. Deowatie treated us all once more with bangles in the color of our dress. These made an especially nice display with our elaborate mehendi.
What does a Hindu bride wear?
The bride-to-be is called a Dulahin. She will be wearing red, so make sure your wedding attire is a different color. In Indian culture, red symbolizes prosperity and fertility for the Dulahin.
Deowatie’s Hindu wedding dress was absolutely beautiful. She looked like a royal princess outfitted in her red dress with golden sparkles all around.
Wedding Procession to the Temple
Our trip to the temple was a long caravan of cars holding the bride’s entire wedding party. The caravan had a flatbed truck at each end on the long line of cars. The trucks were equipped with a massive sound systems. They had strapped huge stereo speakers blasting traditional Indian music to their back ends. Everyone cheered, danced, and waved as we drove by.
A HINDU WEDDING CEREMONY IN TRINIDAD
The Hindu wedding ceremony is an elaborate set of rituals and traditions that are witnessed by friends and family. The ceremony takes place in a Hindu temple, honors the couple’s love, joins their families together, and ensures a successful marriage by procuring the blessing of deities.
There are many similarities between the Trinidad Hindu wedding ceremony and Moroccan weddings, but there are also many unique traditions for each type of ceremony.
The Hindu wedding sacrament takes place in a mandap, wedding altar canopy, that is decorated with beautiful flowers. The holy burning fire is the centerpiece of a Hindu wedding so that the Fire God Agni can be a witness to this sacred ceremony. Fire is one of the most powerful elements of nature and symbolizes light, power, and knowledge.
What takes place in a Hindu Wedding Ceremony?
I had never witnessed a Hindu ceremony before, so it was truly a new and enlightening experience for me. There was an interpreter at the ceremony that explained all the rituals that were taking place sot hat we could understand them better.
Please remember that I am a westerner attending a Hindu wedding for the first time. The explanations of the rituals that took place during the ceremony are based on my experience and the interpreter’s explanations. They may not be totally accurate to Hindu standards, but this was how I understood everything.
How long is a Hindu wedding?
Quite long! Let’s just say that I am super happy that they passed out sweet treats in the middle since I was starving after a couple of hours went by! We received our own golden goodie box full of laduu.
Arriving at the temple
Since we were in the bride’s wedding party, we did not get to witness the arrival of the groom and his party, called the vara yatra. They arrived at the temple and were greeted by tassa drums and friends and family.
Our bridal party arrived at the temple, took off our shoes and made final preparations. We waited for the guests to arrive and the temple to be readied for the big ceremony. We took a lot of pre-wedding photos, so I made myself useful in straightening the long wedding dress train.
Beginning the Traditional Hindu Wedding Rituals
As the ceremony began, my daughters and I took our place in the front row. There was quite a nice size audience all dressed in their Indian wedding attire.
And then…It Began… the procession began. Indian dancers led the procession. They would perform traditional dances later during the ceremony
The beautiful Dulahin, my friend for all these years, walked down the aisle, all eyes on her.
The first ritual, Kanyadan, was a presentation of the Dulahin as she was offered to the groom as a luxurious gift. She sat on the groom’s right side while listening and reciting mantras and prayers and exchanging vows of love, duty, fidelity, and respect
The garlands they wore were an expression of love for each other.
For the Mangelphera ritual, as they took 4 circles around the holy fire, their wedding attire was tied together by a long yellow linen to represent the union of their two souls. Perhaps this is where the TIE THE KNOT expression comes from!! They walked around the fire four times, as a symbol of the four ashrams of life. They are entering the second ashram of life where together they will raise their family in marriage.
They took 7 steps together in the Saptapadi ritual at the culmination of the ceremony to signify their friendship, the basis of a Hindu marriage, as they requested the blessing of the gods. After the seven steps, they were legally considered husband and wife. They changed seats and the bride was on the left of the groom. The marriage is symbolized in a triangle with god at the top. The wife and husband are at each corner and the closer they get to god, the closer they get to one another.
Sindoor is a red-orange cosmetic powder that is applied to the part of the bride’s hair and is the mark of a married woman in Hindu communities. The groom placed the sindoor on his bride’s hair, officially declaring her to be his wife.
Their marriage was blessed by many guests. The current Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. the honorable Keith Rowley, attended the ceremony with his wife. He presented his good wishes to the happy couple and wished them much happiness in their future.
The bride’s fingers and wrist was adorned with golden jewelry, but there was still room for one more special piece…a wedding ring. They exchanged wedding rings in yet another special ceremonial ritual.
In a final ritual of happiness, the new couple was showered with rice.
And now introducing the new happy couple, bonded by love and the many rituals that are a part of the traditional Hindu wedding ceremony.
….and just like that, after around 4 hours, it was over and my friends were off to start their new lives together.
This was definitely a new experience for me and I will remember it forever. I am so happy that my ‘penpal’ friend extended the invitation to us and treated us like royalty during our entire stay. I will be eternally grateful.
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