Dal Sabzi for the Aatman Dal Sabzi for the Aatman Dal Sabzi for the Aatman Dal Sabzi for the Aatman Dal Sabzi for the Aatman  
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THE VIVAHA (MARRIAGE CEREMONIES) 
- Page Two

The Wedding Ceremony : The wedding ceremony is basically performed by the couple, the bride’s parents and the groom’s parents. However, the bride’s brother, bride’s uncle (mother’s brother) are also called upon to give away the bride.

The planet worship or the Graha Pujan, which I have explained earlier, is then performed.

A number of homas (rituals) follow, the chief among them being Rastrabhrt, Jaya, Abhyatana and Laja Homa. The first contains prayers for victory and protection from hostile powers known or unknown to the bridegroom. The last homa is a ritual symbolical of prosperity. The brother of the bride pouts fried grains mixed with sami leaves out of his cupped hands into her cupped hands. The bride offers them with firmly joined hands to the fire while the bridegroom recites the verses : “To the God Aryman the girl has made sacrifice, to Agni; may He, loosen his hold on her, not from the husband’s side; may he, husband live long: may relations be prosperous. May this sacrifice bring prosperity to thee, and may it unite me with thee. May Agni (God of Fire) grant us that.”

Panigrahana: The panigrahana or the grasping of the bride’s hand comes next. The bridegroom seizes the right hand of the bride with “I seize thy hand for the sake of happiness, that thou mayest live to old age with me, thy husband. Bhaga, Aryama, Savitr. Purandhi, these gods have given thee to me, that art thou. That art thou, this am I. The Saman am I, the Rk thou: the Heaven I, the Earth thou: Come let us marry. Let us beget offspring. Let us acquire many sons and may they reach old age. Loving, bright with genial minds, may we see a hundred autumns. May we hear a hundred autumns.” This ceremony is symbolical of the taking charge of responsibility of the girl. The responsibility is very sacred, as the girl is supposed to be given not only by his father but also the above guardian deities who are witnesses to every solemn contract. The prayer in the end is suggestive of a fruitful, prosperous and happy married life.

Mounting the stone: In order to make the wife firm in her devotion and fidelity to him, the husband makes her tread on a stone to the north of the fire, with her right foot, repeating the verse: “Tread on this stone, like a stone be firm. Tread the foes down; turn away the enemies.” The stone, here, is symbolical of firmness and strength in crushing the enemies. This ceremony is known as Asmarohana or “Mounting the stone”.

Agni pradakshina: The couple then go round the fire while the husband recites the following formula: “Thee they have in the beginning carried round Surya with the bridal procession. May thou give back, Agni, to the hus­band the wife together with offspring.”

The Saptapadi: Then the great Saptapadi or the rite of seven steps takes place. The husband makes the wife walk forward seven steps in a northern direction with the words: “One step for sap, two for Juice, three for the prospering of wealth, four for comforts, five for cattle, six for the seasons and seven for performing homas.” The objects referred to in the above formula are essential for felicity. This ceremony is very important from the legal point of view as marriage is regarded legally complete only after it is performed. They then pray that God will provide them with the strength, courage and integrity to:

  1. Fulfill social, religious duties and responsibilities.

  2. Share their wealth and possessions.

  3. Share each other’s happiness and sorrows.

  4. Protect themselves from the five inherent enemies, i.e. passion, anger, greed, attachment and ego.

  5. Attain true enjoyment of all seasons.

  6. Be faithful in mind and body.

  7. Be associates in the worship of God, in the performance of Dharma (right deeds), in the acquisition of property and fulfillment of desires.

After the Saptapadi, water is sprinkled on the bride’s head and the formula is chanted: “The blessed, the most blessed waters, the peaceful ones, the most peaceful ones, may they give medicine to thee.” Water is famous for possessing sanctifying properties among all religions. By this ceremony the bride is supposed to be free from physical troubles and sanctified for the married life.

Next the husband touches the heart of the bride reaching over her right shoulder, with the words: “Into my heart will I take thy heart: thy mind shall dwell In my mind: in my world thou shall rejoice with all thy heart; May (prajapati) the Lord join thee to me.” The heart is the centre of feelings. By touching it the husband symbolically tries to rouse them to make them flow out to meet his own heart and thus unite them in the world of love.

Now the bridegroom invites the assembled guests and relatives to bless the bride, reciting the verses over her:

“Auspicious ornaments does this woman wear. Come to her and behold her and bless her.” The sindura-dana or painting of red vermilion on the head of the bride by the bridegroom takes place on this occasion. This ceremony is called “Sumanagali”. At this stage of the marriage ceremonies, a number of rites are performed in conformance with the local customs and traditions, such as tying of the garments of the bride and the bridegroom, touch­ing the cup of the banyan tree, touching the nose at the arrival of bridegroom, besmearing the chest of the bride­groom with curd, etc.

Though the ceremony proper ends at this point, a number of ceremonies relating to marriage still remain to be performed. The first few are symbolical in their nature. The bride is required to look at the sun, if the marriage takes place in the daytime. In the night the bridegroom shows to the bride the pole star and says: “Firm art thou, I see thee, the firm one. Firm be thou with me, O thriving one. To me Brahaspati has given thee; obtaining offspring through me, thy husband, live with me a hundred autumns.” According to other au­thorities Arundhati star and the Saptarshi-Mandala (constellation of stars) should be also shown to the bride. Whether she sees them or not, she is asked to reply when a question is put to her, “I see. These performances are suggestive of firmness in the conjugal life.

After the marriage the wife is supposed to sit on man’s left-hand side. The reason may be to leave the right hand of man free to protect her and himself against any intruder or any harm.

During the marriage ceremony the bride’s and the groom’s heads are clasped together to denote that they are two and henceforth they should be one in body and spirit. They both will also enjoy one destiny from now onwards.

The man expresses that he accepts her the way she is, by placing her five fingers on his forehead.

In our mythology, a woman has always worshipped her husband as her God, and by doing so it is claimed by our legends that she sometimes achieved tremendous powers.

This theory is based upon the theory of Bhakti (devotion of selfless service)

The quality of devotion instills humility within the devotee. Whom you are devoted to is immaterial; It may be to the country, to a cause, to scientific pursuit, or to a person; however the spiritual uplift that the devotee acquires by selfless service is tremendous.

Being a pativrata (husband-devotee) in no way proves that woman was inferior to man. In olden days It was considered that for a man to lead a perfect life, four things were essential: Dharma (Right deeds), Artha (Acqui­sition of property), Kama (Fulfillment of desires) and Mokaha (Salvation of the soul), and it was customary amongst certain Hindu communities for the groom to follow the bride three times round the fire as that denoted that a woman was the embodiment of the three qualities neces­sary for a perfect life-Dharma, Artha and Kama. As a matter of fact, certain religious rituals were not considered com­plete unless the wife participated with the man, and a couple was referred to as “Dampati” which signified their unity in what they did and thought and they were likened to the two wheels of a cart, both enjoying equal importance if they were to make any progress on the road of life,

After the wedding ceremony is over the couple leave for the groom’s house. Here, the feet of the bride are washed. Then a cover is placed over her head while she is made to sprinkle water on all corners of the house. This denotes that she should keep the respect of the family, and veil its shortcomings, and if there are any fights or misunder­standings within the family, she is supposed to cool them.

Among some communities it is also a custom to hold lit diyas (flames on small containers made of clay) on the bride’s head to denote that as she enters the house she should spread light all around her. The groom breaks a coconut in many Hindu ceremonies we have the above custom.

In the Hindu religion it is claimed that to reach anywhere spiritually you ought to get rid of the ego: the ego is a hard nut to crack, and that is what the coconut stands for; (the breaking of the ego is what we hope to achieve by breaking the coconut).

Amongst the Sindhis they have the custom of performing Datar, in which salt is exchanged from the bride’s hands to the groom’s hand three times. The bride also does the same with all the relatives from the in-law side.

It is commonly believed by the Sindhis that if you do the above there will be no arguments or fights between the bride and themselves. When salt mixes with food it loses its identity, it mingles totally with the ingredients of the meal, however, the presence of salt is felt because it gives the food taste.

Similarly, by exchanging salt, the family subtly tells the new bride that she is going to be part of the new family and she should mingle with them like salt does with food.

Amongst the Hindus it is also believed that if you eat the salt of anybody’s house, you ought to always be faithful to that family. Exchanging salt is also symbolic of the above belief.

The girl’s name is sometimes changed when she gets married. This is done to remind her that she will be starting a fresh life with a fresh name. Also, the changing of the bride’s name has a lot to do with Numerology, in cases where the family priest after comparing the boy’s and girl’s name decides that the bride should change her name as it would be better for both the parties in their future life together.

The day after the wedding, the bride normally goes back to her mother’s house for the day. The merriment continues until most of the relatives that may have come to attend the wedding leave for their respective houses.

Symbolism of Hindu Marriages: A symbol is a thing regarded by general consent as naturally typifying or repre­senting or recalling something by possession of analogous qualities or by association in fact or thought. A symbol is not important by itself. It has only a vehicular value and conveys something beyond it. It is a mode of expression, which vivifies abstract, subtle, unfamiliar or supernatural ideas before common folk. In ancient times when human fancy was stronger and the human speech was not ad­equately developed to express every shade of thought, symbols played a very important part. In religion and mythology they were commonly used. But even now they have not lost their value. The most up-to-date political ideology, which recognises little use of religion, employs symbols for its ends and ideals.

Sacramental marriage and symbol: Hindu marriage which the nuptials solemnize is not a social contract in the modern sense of the term, but a religious institution, a sacrament. By it is meant that besides the two human parties, the bride and the’ bridegroom, there is a third superhuman, spiritual or divine element in marriage. The physical conditions of the two parties are always subject to change and, as such, they cannot form the permanent basis of marriage. It is on the third element on which the permanent relationship between the husband and the wife depends. The husband and the wife are responsible not only to each other, but they owe a greater allegiance to this third element. This is the religious or mystic touch in the purely social and material contract between a man and a woman. Without it the conjugal life loses its charm and durability. The mystic aspect of Hindu marriage necessi­tates the use of a number of symbols.

Thus the general function of the Hindu marriage is to cover all the aspects of married life. The biological significance, the critical nature, the physical and mental union of the couple moderation, the social transition and sacrifice, these are the main features of the Hindu nuptials. They have been symbolically suggested but not described in transparent prose, because conveyed through symbols, they are better emphasized and become more eloquent and telling.

Marriage and social change : The nuptials, in their utter­ances, promises, hopes and fears, symbolise a great social transition in the life of the bride and the bridegroom. They are no longer irresponsible youths depending upon their parents for their bread and views. The seriousness of life dawns upon them. They forsake their old families to form a new one. They have to run an independent home, earn their own livelihood, procreate children, and discharge their obligations towards society. This is a life of responsibilities and cares. It is only in this sense that Hindu marriage or Vivaha can properly be understood which means to lift, to support, to hold up, and to sustain. This involves a great compromise and mutual sacrifice.

Those who marry only for pleasure are sorely disappointed. The essential difficulties of life are not given a send off under the wedding canopy but, as a matter of fact, the conscious acceptance of responsi­bilities in life is going to be a veritable lesson in human endurance. We no doubt talk of a happy mar­riage. A happy marriage is however possible when, though being united physically, both partners con­tribute to each other’s progress as individuals.

Khalil Gibran has rightly said of marriage : “You were born together, you shall be for ever more. You shall be together when the white wings of death scat­ter your days. Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. But let there be spaces in your togetherness. And let the winds of the heavens dance between you”.

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