- Marriage Rituals - Some thoughts
In a marriage performed as per old customs purported to be as recommended in the scriptures, there are three aspects essentially important.
· The first is kanyadanam. This was relevant in those days the marriages were performed when the girl was anything from 6 years old and was really a kanya (pre-puberty stage). Such marriages are legally unacceptable today. Hence, let us not mention kanyadanam in the marriage agreements, invitations or any other documents.
· The next is panigrahanam. The groom holds her right hand by his right hand and accepts her as his life companion. This is relevant even today and hence panigrahanam in place of kanyadanam is mentionable in marriage agreements and invitations.
· The third is saptapati. This calls for the groom holding the hand of the bride walks seven steps around the homa fire. Thhis is believed to pronounce that the two had become friends for many lives and live by mutual adjustment. This is very relevant today. In fact it is not only in marriage that saptapati is mentioned. It figures in Ramayana when Lord Rama became friends with Guhan, Sugreevan and the like.
· Mangalyadharanam, even though, gets a lot of importance in all marriages now a days, iy is a later develpment in history and is probably an identity establisher for a married woman. Same is the case of wearing metti on the legs of the bride, churna on the parting line of the hair etc. These are not really vedic requirements. In any case, it is not uncommon these days for the married woman to remove the mangalyam and hang it on a nail during oil bath or shampoo bath. The traditional mangalyam was not in gold. It was only a piece of manjal tied to the yellow string.
· Kasi yatrai is also a later development. In the ancient days, in the gurukulam, the desciple after learning from whatever his guru could impart decides to pursue further studies for which he decides to go to Kasi. The reason is that there were a lot of learned people in kasi. Against this proposal, the guru or nearby people who were pleased with the conduct of the desciple persuade the boy not to go away and their daughter is also offered in kanyadanam. This enactment, though not essential. but is still being practised by people who believe in tradition as told to them by their relatives and friends. This is also relevant for the marriages performed on very young boys and girls.
· Unjal is also similar to the above tradition which was enjoyed by the child groom and child bride. It is not relevant for the current day marriages of grooms and brides in their late twenties and late thirties.
· Garland Exchange: Just imagine how an elderly uncle can carry the adult groom or adult bride on his shoulder during the garland exchange exercise.
· The olden days’ marriage was a five day affair for all visitors and a month’s affair for close relatives who join the brides family for preparing appalam, pickles and many other requirements for the marriage. These were not purchased from the market. Because, only marriage and similar functions provided an occasion for people to travel and meet their relatives at one place. For those days of lack of entertainment (except for temple performances or local street plays) the marriage function provided a lot of merriment and scope for enjoyment to be remembered for many years to come. Needless to say, this is not the order of the current day wherein it is an affair of 24 hours or less starting from evening of day one and closing at noon of the second day.
· Reception is clearly a recent development in the last 20 and odd years with lavish decorations, video, still photos, music performances, gifts and rich dinner comprising of extensive menu. With people even in their thirties complaining of cholesterol and high BP, shun these items, or waste them or indulge in them followed by subsequent suffering. Why not have a simple menu and the savings donated to an orphanage or old peoples' home?
· Let it not be construed that I am advocating modern type of marriages. I am only trying to stress on the need for knowing the why and why not of various traditions and follow the relevant & recommended essentials.
· Finally, the parents do not educate their children on the traditions and their relevance. I mean those parents who know them. Many parents these days do not know these because their parents did not inform them.
I would like to be enlightened further on these by those who know them more authentically with relevant vedic quotations. Thank you all.
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