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At the heart of every extravagant Indian wedding stands the mandap, a sacred structure that serves as the focal point for your wedding rituals. One of the key questions you are facing when you are planning your Indian wedding is what type or style of mandap you would like for your wedding ceremony. The mandap not only holds immense cultural and symbolic significance in Indian weddings, but also it represents the sacred space where  you and your fiancé united and blessed by the divine. In your mandap, the four pillars of the mandap symbolize the four essential aspects of life – Dharma (duty), Artha (prosperity), Kama (desire), and Moksha (spiritual liberation). The sacred fire, known as the Agni, is lit by your pandit within the mandap, symbolizing the presence of a divine witness during the marriage ceremony.

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The concept of the mandap can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Indian Vedic traditions. In those times, the mandap symbolized the sanctity of the marriage ceremony and provided a sacred space for the union of the couple. Don’t worry, I don’t want to bore with historical facts. It is important to mention that originally, the mandap was a simple structure constructed using natural materials such as bamboo, leaves, and flowers, reflecting the connection between nature and spirituality.

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Over the centuries, the mandap has evolved and diversified, incorporating various regional and cultural influences. In North India, the popular styles include the ‘Chhatri Mandap’ with its domed roof supported by pillars, and the ‘Mughal Mandap’ characterized by intricate arches and delicate carvings. In South India, the ‘Kalyana Mandapam’ showcases ornate pillars, intricate sculptures, and vibrant colors, reflecting the region’s Dravidian architecture.

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You don’t have to have a traditional wedding mandap. Thankfully, India’s diverse cultural landscape has given rise to a plethora of regional variations in mandap designs. The main directions are: the Gujarati mandap often features a square or octagonal shape, adorned with intricate mirror work and vibrant textiles.

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You can opt for one popular in Rajasthan, where the mandap is influenced by the state’s royal heritage, boasting regal elements such as grand arches, ornate detailing, and exquisite fabrics. The Bengali mandap, on the other hand, showcases a unique blend of tradition and artistry, with elegant white structures adorned with intricate floral patterns.

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Today, the mandap has undergone innovative transformations, incorporating modern elements while maintaining its cultural significance. Modern mandaps often feature creative backdrops, sophisticated lighting arrangements, and intricate floral decorations. Some couples opt for open-air mandaps that showcase picturesque natural surroundings, while others choose themed mandaps that reflect their personal style and preferences.

Quick question comes to your mind, what is really happening under the mandap during your wedding? First part is your Ganesh Puja aka “Seeking Blessings”. During this puja or ceremony the mandap becomes the sacred space where Lord Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, is worshipped by you and your family. You along with your family seek the blessings of Lord Ganesh for a smooth and harmonious wedding ceremony, symbolizing the importance of invoking divine guidance and blessings in your journey of togetherness.

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The second part is the Kanyadaan, The Giving Away of the Bride. One of the most significant rituals under the mandap is Kanyadaan, where your parents entrust you to your fiancé. Your father performs this sacred act, symbolically giving away your hand in marriage. Under the sanctity of the mandap, amidst chanting of mantras and blessings from elders, your parents place your hand in your fiance’s hand, signifying your solemn commitment.

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 Thirdly, the Circling the Sacred Fire. The Mangal Phere is a pivotal ritual that takes place under the mandap. You will circle the sacred fire, known as the Agni, seven times, representing the seven promises or vows known as the Saptapadi. Occasionally, I noticed in the past that you may circle 4 times only. I guess it depends on the pandit.

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With each round, you both take a vow to support and cherish each other, promising lifelong commitment, love, and shared responsibilities. The mandap witnesses your sacred union as the couple seeks blessings from the divine fire, symbolizing your eternal bond and the strength of your marriage.

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Forth and probably the most most important part:  the Sindoor and Mangalsutra, Sealing the Bond. Under the mandap, your fiancé applies sindoor (vermilion) on your hair parting and gives you the mangalsutra (sacred necklace). He usually needs some help her because he has to place it around your neck. It may be difficult because of you dupatta and your wedding garland. The sindoor symbolizes your married status, while the mangalsutra signifies the eternal bond between you guys. This ritual signifies the completion of the wedding ceremony and marks you as a married woman. The mandap witnesses this profound moment as the you both take a significant step towards a lifelong journey of love and companionship.