‘Agni’ is the Sacred Fire, which is the central part of any traditional Hindu Wedding. It is considered vital for a happy married life. The ‘Vivaha Havan’ is meant to create an atmosphere of purity and spirituality.
In different languages
Yajna in Northern India; Homa or Homam in Southern India.
While the Vivah Homa plays an integral role in Hindu Weddings, it’s significance comes after the Mangalya Dharanam (tieing the mangalsutra) and Paani Grahanam (also known as Pratigna-karan or Saptha Padhi). The newlywed bride and the groom, hold each other’s right hand and walk around the Vivah Homa (pheras) seven times.
When is it used?
On the Wedding Day, in the mandap during the Vivaha Lagan or Mahurat, the homa is created for the pheras and other important wedding rites. It acts as a witness to the promises made by the couple to each other during the wedding.
How to source?
Traditionally, the vivaha homa is created by the priest in a havan kund (an Earthen/Terracotta vessel painted or designed, in which the agni is present). Nowadays, the electric havan kunds are also available. All you need to do is, just plug in and put some havan samagri and start the havan with no excessive fumes.
What does it contain?
The Havan Samagri or the items used for the Havan are considered very sacred. The priest officiating at the wedding either gets the items himself or lists out the items for us to procure.
Havan Samagri consists of a mixture of sandalwood powder (sandalwood is also used), mango, peepal and banyan twigs, roli (kumkum), mauli (kalava or pure red thread), lobaan (resin of a tree), ghee, incense sticks, dhoop sticks, diya, rice, camphor, gangajal (sacred water) and Haldi (turmeric).
Each item used in this carries significance. Listing out a few of them:
- Haldi is associated with purity and therefore used for its healing properties.
- Betel leaves and nuts are also a sign of purity.
- Agarbatti and dhoop add to the sweet fragrance of health, hope and prosperity and are used to welcome all.
- Ghee, sandalwood and camphor are offered to symbolize burning of the ego.
- The diya or the lamp represents the goddess Laxmi who blesses the couple with prosperity.
- Mauli is for the couple’s safety and protection.
The practice of using ‘Agni’ as a Witness to the Marriage Ceremony has references in the Hindu Scriptures. “As per Hindu tradition, no marriage is deemed complete, unless in the presence of the Sacred Fire, used to invoke the divine powers through Mantras, Vedas, and Agni.
The bride and groom sit in front of the havan kund, facing the East. The priest sits in the North, facing the South. Vivaha Havan signifies the burning of evil with good. Before the fire is lit, water is sprinkled around it. Its believed that sprinkling water purifies and rejuvenates the atmosphere.
The ancient belief holds a more logical explanation to this; In the olden days, weddings used to take place in open spaces, probably even in the jungles. Water was sprinkled around the havan to prevent the fire from spreading.
The sacred fire symbolizes Agni – the Fire God, which represents Shakti (the universal power).
Agni is pronounced as ‘the mouth of all pujas’ by the Vedic texts. It is believed that through the sacred Agni our prayers reach God. The offerings are made to the chants of shlokas which invariably end with a ‘swahaa’. ‘Swa’ – means self and ‘ha’ means ahamkaar or ego. Therefore by chanting ‘swahaa’, we are offering our ego to be destroyed by the Fire God. Agni acts as an interface between the divine forces and rituals of the Hindu wedding.
Image Courtesy: Sanjukta Basu | Photography
Havan requires active involvement of the participants and couple with deep faith and bonding. The grace and blessings flowing from the Havan is contained within the Havan Kund till it gets transferred into the ‘Kalasam’ containing the holy water. This water is later offered to the families and couple for sprinkling on themselves.