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THE VIVAHA (MARRIAGE CEREMONIES) 
- Page One

The Vivaha is the most Important of all the Hindu rituals. Even during the Vedic period the marriage ceremonies had been developed and they have found literary expression in the Rigveda and the Atharvaveds. Marriage received great importance even in early times. The Smritis entirely endorse the Ashrama system and emphatically prescribed that a man should marry after completing his student life. “Having spent the first fourth part of his life in the house of the guru, the second fourth part of his life in his own house with his wife, the third part in forests, one should take sanyasa (Renunciation) in the fourth part. One who spends his life in this manner having conquered all the stages of life would attain enlightenment.

The Smritis highly praise the life of a house­holder. They call it the best Ashrama and regard it as the centre and prop of the whole social structure. Just as all creatures exist depending on air, so does society depend upon the householder. Because the householder supports the other three orders, his or­der is the highest. One who longs for imperishable heaven and happiness in this world should uphold the Grahastha Ashrama.

The purest and the most evolved method of marriage is Brahma. It is so called because it is thought fit for the Brahmins. The Smritis regard it the most honourable type of marriage, as it is free from physical force, Imposition of conditions and lure of money.

The marriageable age: In Rig Vedic times no girl was married before she had reached womanhood. During the period of the “Ramayana” and the “Mahabharata” also girls were grown up at the time of their marriage.

The ceremony: When the proper selection of the bride and the bridegroom is made, the ceremonies relating to mar­riage begins. In the beginning they must have been very simple. But as marriage is a very important occasion in the community, many rites, practices and customs arose, which were regulated by the community Itself. As marriage is a festive event in the communal life, all sorts of mirth and amusements are associated with it in form of feasts, music, dance, etc. Decoration of the house and adornment of the bride and the bridegroom express aesthetic motives natural to any important event in social life.

There are a number of ceremonies, which are sug­gestive of the various features in a marriage. The relatives of the bride have some right over her, therefore, it is necessary that she should be given in marriage in their presence. A large group of ceremonies are symbolical, One group of them symbolises the union between the wife and the husband. For example, Joining of hands, tying of garments, touching of heart etc. has for their motives the union of the pair. Another group of ceremonies has their origin in desire to promote the fertility of the union or to ensure the abundance of food for the household. Some ceremonies are connected with the idea that some danger is attendant on every transitional period of life and it should be averted by proper rites. Since marriage inaugurated the most important epoch in one’s life, many ceremonies are performed to ward off the evil influences connected with the event.

Betrothal: The preliminary part of the marriage ceremo­nies consisted in the Vagdanam (Betrothal) or oral giving away of the bride to the bridegroom.

Amongst the Sindhis, during the engage­ment, misri (crystal sugar) is brought by the boy’s family for the girl thereby denoting that the engagement is confirmed and merry-making may start. The Hindus consider eating of sweet auspicious.

A bowl of fruit is placed on the girl’s lap, which is symbolic of bestowing prosperity, and happiness accompanied with the blessing that she may bear strong and healthy children.

The couple exchanges engagement rings. This cus­tom dates back to the ancient Egyptians and is probably a modern addition to the Hindu rituals. The ring is worn on the third finger of the hand because it is believed that, that finger has a vein that leads directly to the heart.

The ring is normally golden. Since gold is supposed to last forever, it is believed that its use would bless the couple with a long and prosperous married life.

After the engagement ceremony, the Sindhis have what is called the “Sagri” ceremony.

Here the sisters of the bridegroom come to dress up the girl and adorn her with flowers. Maybe that was the way to get to know the girl a little better and make her more comfortable, as she would soon be a part of the family.

A little “attar” (perfume) is licked by the “to-be ­bride” maybe to bring fragrance to the tongue, literally and metaphorically!

After the Sagri the “Ghari Pujan” is done both in the brides house as well as the bridegroom’s. Here married ladies whose husbands are alive are made to grind wheat and pound turmeric, to symbolise that now the merriment is starting, food will be required for the guests. The above ritual is also to symbolise that the house should always prosper irrespective of the fact that the luck may change In the bride’s house because their girl leaving or in the bridegroom’s house because a girl will be entering it

The boy fills his cupped hands with grain and offers it to the priest. This is to indicate that even though he is entering the Grahastha Ashram he will never forget to give charity and to look after those less fortunate than him. Oil and turmeric root is rubbed by the respective mothers on the bride’s and groom’s hands, feet and backbone. This is what is called anointing with oil and it is a form of cosmetic besides helping their physical bodies to become stronger as the turmeric root and oil contain medicinal properties.

The bride’s and the groom’s respective mothers then along with the husbands of their elder daughters step out of their houses with pot of water on their heads.

This pot of water is placed outside the house and a knife is passed through it to break any evil spell.

The family’s son-in-law would be there as a protec­tor against any intruder or dacoits. They then enter the house amidst a great racket, which they create, to ward off any evil spirits that may want to cast an evil eye on the marriage festivals.

The bride and the groom are made to wear old clothes which are torn by relatives and friends amidst merriment to denote that their old life is now over and that they are now on the threshold of a new one.

Some people claim that it is to make them look shabby so that their beauty comes out in full glory on their wedding day.

The Nuptial Bath: In the morning the bride and the bridegroom at their respective homes take the nuptial bath with scented water and recital of Vedic verses indicative of the physical union of the husband and the wife. Then the marriage party from the bridegroom’s side proceeds to the place of the bride’s father. In the second half of the day the bridegroom bathes, puts on a pair of white clothes, deco­rates himself with scent and garlands and prays to the family gods.

The Marriage Party: On arrival, the bridegroom stands outside the gate of the house facing the east and is welcomed by a group of women bearing lamps and jars full of water.

Amongst the Sindhis the bride is made to come out to receive the groom where he places his foot on hers to denote that he should be the dominating force in their future life together. The bride’s mother and father then wash the feet of the bridegroom. This is because they believe that due to all the prayers that have preceded that moment the bridegroom is an embodiment of Lord Vishnu for that particular day.

After the marriage however he would not allow his in-laws to touch his feet ever again as after that day he is to consider them his parents and give them their due respect.

The bridegrooms finally enters the bride’s house and here, normally, his brother’s wife would adorn the new bride with jewels. The end of the sari of the bride is tied to a piece of cloth across the bridegroom’s neck on his shoulder, and their hands are tied with a string, which has been blessed by prayers.

The bride takes with herself gifts in clothes and ornaments given by her parents, which is commonly known as dowry. The dowry custom has not only been an Indian custom, but was practiced by the Europeans as well.

As a matter of fact the word trousseau is derived from a French word “trusse” which consisted of a few valuable items presented by the brides parents.

The dowry ensured that the bride would be recipi­ent of the share of her father’s property besides being a security for her future.

Of course, during those days, it was just a graceful gift by the father and the amount would depend upon how much he could afford.

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