Holding the bride’s hand is a very important vedic ritual in all Hindu marriages. With each of us giving shake hand to hundreds of the other sex (pani Grahanam) it has lost all its ritual significance.
In a hindu marriage, first the father of the bride, given her to the proposed groom and requests him to get married to her, He then ties Mangalya(not a vedic ritual) and then the groom lowers his right palm and encloses it over the right hand of the bride. He covers all the five fingers of the right hand of the bride with his right palm through this act of paani grahanam. He recites mantras in praise of Bhaga, Aryama, Savita, Indra, Agni, Suryan, Vayu and Saraswati, while holding the bride’s hand. He prays for long life, progeny, prosperity and harmony with the bride during their married life. The closed fingers of the right hand of the bride is said to represent her heart. The paani grahanam ritual symbolizes the bride surrendering her heart in the hands of the groom during the occasion of the marriage. It is also a vedic ritual, where he promises that he would hold her hand and lead her safely in their married life).This means it is an extremely important step in their marriage.
But very strangely in Tamil Brahmin marriages he holds bride’s hand much before the Vedic marriage ceremonies begin , just after Oonjal(swing) as per instruction of the Brahmin priest or even previous day during Nischayathartham. The groom then takes her to the stage , does several vedic ceremonies concluded by Mangalya Dharanam, followed by real Pani Grahanam (when they become husband and wife). We in Tamil Nadu also used to call marriage as Panigrahanam once upon a time and even today the Telugu Brahmins call their marriage as “Pani Grahanamu “.
Maha Periyava has stressed about this several times but in a society every girl does “Panigrahanam” to each and every male she is introduced,Talking about this is meaningless
Just now I read from a Hindi site that “Paani grahanam” is acceptance of water by the groom from the bride and one of my friends told “never accept Pani (water ) from a girl other than your wife.”
Hope that also is true.
Thanking Shri P.R.Ramachander for this post.