The most vital part of a traditional Indian wedding, mandap (a temporary platform set up for weddings and religious ceremonies), is a scared place where the bride and groom get married. It is here that they take their sacred vows and promise to stay together for eternity and start their journey of a lifetime of togetherness. In a mandap, each décor piece is very special and has a very specific significance. With only the bride, groom, priest, parents of the bride and groom, and close family members seated under the mandap canopy, this is considered as the sanctum sanctorum of all the wedding rituals.
The earlier concept of a mandap had all the sacred rituals performed within the four walls of the house. Today, wedding and its rituals are not confined to homes or just closed spaces. The mandap - a traditional four-pillared structure is also known as manayarai. The four pillars, as per the Hindu Vedas, represent the four stages of life – Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha, and Sanyasa. Traditionally, these pillars are made of either wood, bamboo, sugarcane, or young banana stems. Stacks of pots are places near these pillars, which signify the four elements of nature – earth, air, water, and fire. The canopy signifies the space, the fifth element.
The mandap also has a lot of red and gold/yellow colours incorporated into it. These are celebratory colours that signify prosperity for the bride and groom. The fruits and flowers in the mandap are reminders of nature’s bounties. The kalasha, filled with holy water, is placed in front of the bride and groom, which represents the human body. It signifies that the soul which occupies the human body is pure, and is topped with a coconut which represents the head/mind. This is decorated with five mango leaves that represent the five senses. The kalasha is placed on a plantain leaf that is covered with paddy or raw rice. This signifies prosperity, fertility, and wealth. The agni (fire) in the centre of the mandap acts as the saakshi (witness) for wedding vows. Once the bride and groom finish taking the vows around the agni, the wedding is considered complete, making them husband and wife. – Zainab