39) Elements of Hindu Marriage (Part-3)
In the last article of part-2, we explored the pre-stages of a hindu marriage. All of the first 8 elements are completed under one name of “Snātakaṃ” these days. I hope you all caught the essence and the intention behind those elements. Let us go further into the details of ritualistic aspects.
This part-3 (8-17) entails the entrance of bride or bride’s family into picture. this part is as much as physical as much as it is spiritual. One needs to properly understand the mantras uttered to get the true spirit of marriage. I will try as much as possible to comment this section so as that the suggestions of sages will sink into our hearts. Just make sure to read the extra note of previous article to have a clear idea of how to correctly understand the way of this exploration.
9. Kanyāvaraṇa Lakṣaṇa: Choosing the Bride
The main aim(s) in the past, of a marriage, was to nullify the “DEBT to reproductory angels” (ref: the sacred thread section of previous article) which is only possible by keeping our sexual impulses pure and having at least one progeny. There are reasons behind this kind of aim.
- The sexual ability is not ours, but that of angels’, and hence, we need to keep it pure.
- We are in this physical body because the Pitṛs/Reproductory angels have worked through our biological parents to create a material body for our wandering souls. We too need to give that chance, to other wandering souls, by participating in the ritual of giving birth.
- Not only that, by very event of taking birth, we associate ourselves with a NARAKA or a HELL named “Punnāma Naraka”. This HELL is the very debt that we are talking about. Its a karmic bondage kind of concept. Only a child can relieve us from such clutches of HELL. That is why a child is called “Putra = Pu (Punnāma Naraka) + Tra (to protect) = The one who protects us from the hell of birth”.
So, you see how important we consider having a child! Now, those who do not have or do not want, they have alternative arrangements like adoption or suffering from the effects of the hell of taking birth. Please note that NO restriction is imposed to Hindus, by so called Hinduism, but are only suggested gently to follow certain ways for a better path for the sake of cycling SOUL!
In this line of thought, a thorough and strong genetic tree is sought by both parties. Though it has been shown in allegories of Prahlāda and others how the genetic order does not matter if proper instructions are followed by couples or pregnant ladies, so as to transform a budding mind into the path of divine. Well, leaving all that to personal choices, the gist here is that one is always seeking what they think is “Best” for them and their progeny (if interested) and so did our ancients!
That is why in the mantrās associated to this part, we see how the groom denies to have any association of marriage with those having same gōtra (more about it later) or to say that the groom and bride will become “brother and sister”, or who are cousins (yes we did not encourage marriage between cousins – which south Indians still do unfortunately!!), etc.
10. Varāgamanaṃ: Coming of the Groom
Now, the groom will explain his house holders the invitation of the bride’s family to visit and marry their daughter. He has to take his family members, who has his best interest in mind (pious at hearts) to the bride’s home or a guest home. In this act, the groom first does what is called “Sankalpa” – holy utterances of sanctification of body and mind and hence the thoughts. This clears his prejudices and expands the horizons of contemplating larger life picture. One of the best pat of the mantrās uttered here suggests that – “the statements which we utter physically arise from a sublime state of existence and let that sublime state be a cow which gives the milk of auspicious gratification”.
11. Kanyāvaraṇaṃ: Accepting the bride
The elders (in the numbers of 2 or 4 or 8) who decide to go, along with the groom, to the bride’s place will have to first have a positive and pure mindset. This is to create an atmosphere of comfort and a lovely outlook that nurtures the minds of would be couple who might know each other at all! Such group of elders will first utter the invocations of Viṣṇu. The meanings of those invocations can be understood as follows: ” Let the light of the lord protect us in the same way it protects all the 7 planes of existence. But these 7 planes were occupied by Viṣṇu in three steps/stages i.e., 3 modes of creation. These form the protective paths of Dharma/Righteousness for us. With these bricks of divine light of Dharma, may our intellects choose the RIGHT from the WRONG.”
After that, the bride and groom should be guided to what is called as “Maṇgaḷa Snānaṃ” or “Auspicious Bath”. First the bride does and then the groom. After that, the groom performs a worship ritual of Gaṇēśa or the lord of obstacles so as to not have any obstacles in the forth coming event(s) of marriage. Then he invokes special mantrās unto those elders whom he sends to see the bride. The mantrās suggest that he wants to follow their path of successful marriage and hence requests them to guide him and bless him accordingly while they go to meet the bride! Is this not a way of reverence needed?! I really liked teh idea in these mantrās!
12. Kanyā Yācana (by uttering Gōtra): Requesting for the bride by uttering the spiritual linage
In the event of Kāśi Yātra we saw that bride’s father came to invite the groom. But that was not an event of asking to marry as such. It was to just to start an introduction. The actual proposal of marriage should come from groom’s elders (see above sub section) who went to the bride’s place. Now, they formally request the bride’s family bu uttering PRAVARA including GŌTRA (a side note is necessary here ->).
- GŌTRA: Go or Gau = COW in general sense and esoterically it symbolizes pure wisdom. Tra means to protect. So, a GŌTRA is that linage of sages which has been protecting us since the times of our great great grand fathers. Examples of Gōtrās are Bhāradwājasa, Kaśyapa, Ambarīṣa, etc. So, this can be called a spiritual linage.
- PRAVARA: This is the linage of genetic descendance starting from the great grand father of the groom till the groom. This starts with a peace statement to all rivers (represents a proper irrigation and hence food for the country), cows (the light of wisdom or the symbolic resources of a country) and brahmins (only those who follow the path of wisdom/brahma). Then, the name of the great grandfather of the groom, then that of the grandfather, then that of the father and then the groom’s names are uttered in prescribed format.
With this pravara, the groom’s family requests three times the bride family to give their daughter in the event of marrying their son. If agreed, the bride’s family also utters similar pravara with their gōtra (including the names of her, her father, grandfather and great grandfather) and states that they agree to the marriage.
After this, they have to come and convey the news to the groom! Later the groom will again perform some purificatory rituals and utters the following: “So as to please the lord Pramēśwara (to please implies to be a part of divine drama of creation selflessly) I am about to marry this woman in resonance with the tenets of Dharma (Righteous Living), Saṃtāna (Progeny that would build a great society) and Sampada (For the sake of wealth which can be used to sustain the familial structure of society)”.
13. Mahāsankalpa: Grand Invocation
You know what! We can actually dedicate a separate article for this section. Generally a “Sankalpa” involves an utterance of the place where the ritual is about to happen (like in the globe of JaṂbu, south towards the himālayās, In the land of Bhārata, at the east of Gōdāvari RIver, etc.). But in marriage, a Maha+Sankalpa is uttered. It means a grand invocation i.e., the sankalpa does not just start with Jaṃbū Dwīpa, but starts with Lord almighty and then a series of descriptions of our Universe in terms of subtle as well as physical plans exist. It will also involve the divisions of time from Yugās (longer units) to liptās (micro units of time). We will see the details of this invocation some time later in a separate article. For now, it is enough to have the idea that the invocation is to be as precise as possible to hint the angels (agents in our consciousness) about their location in the vast creation and to create humility as well as awareness of the TRUTH as perceived by the seers of vēdic lore.
14. Varapūja: Pūja offered to groom by the bride’s father
15. Pādābhiṣēka: Washing the feet of the groom by bride’s father
The bride’s father will now perform a worship of the Groom. If the mantrās are not understood, these sections’ events will look like a weird acts of overdoing. No where in India will we see an elder touching the feet of a younger, unless the younger is a celibate of high order. The essence of the mantras of this section are as follows: “I perceive the groom sitting here, as an embodiment of divine Śri Lakṣhmi Nārāyaṇa i.e., I see only Lord with his consort in the groom and no one else. I take your right foot and then the left foot to be the form of Indra and establish it in my domain of perception (now he washes the right foot first and then the left foot, of the groom). Now he washes both feet uttering that the angels of the FEET of the lord will protect him from any harm”.
You see, the father of the bride establishes the view of lord almighty into the groom and only then performs the rites of washing the feet. When we look at the mapping of our body to that of the divine (Virāṭ), we see that each part of our body is associated with different angel. We (souls) are but hosts in the body of many angels – This is the view of Vēdās. That is why, after the event of this washing feet, when the bride’s father offers a sweet item to have, the groom says that “I accept your offering for the sake of Lord almighty, who is SAVITA, with the help of my arms belonging to “Aświni Dēvās”, into the palms sanctified by the “Deva of Pūṣa.” No where do we see the role of groom or bride’s father “as they are” in these acts i.e., there are no person A or B here, but only the lord almighty in different modes of expression. Without this key thought, the whole ritual will seem a dumb play and there is no difference between a cat in a math lecture and us in the ritual!
Also, there is a special reason to use water in these acts. The mythology says that daughter of Ocean (Lakṣmi and hence she comes out of the churning milky ocean episode as well) was married to Agni (or viṣṇu). So, the bride’s father is equivalent to lord of waters and hence his daughter to Lakṣṃi in the above analogy!
16. Kanyādānaṃ: Giving off the bride to the groom
When the bride’s father established that the groom is an embodiment of Lord Nārāyaṇa, his daughter is established as Lakṣmi Dēvi by default. So, he has to offer the goddess in his daughter to the lord in the groom. The mantrās would properly explain the intentions of giving his daughter to the groom:
- “For the sake of attaining highest of Heavens and For the sake of helping the Pitṛ Dēvās (reproductory angels) I am giving my daughter”
- “I am accepting your daughter with the arms of Aświns and hands of Pūṣa”, says teh groom.
- “Never cross the limits or boundaries of co-existence with your wife in terms of Dharma (righteous living), Artha (wealth) and Kāma (Desire)” says the father of the bride. “I agree to not cross (Nāticarāmi)”, promises the groom.
This completes another chunk in the set of marriage ritual!
All these ideas that I am expounding show a great deal of openness and vastness in the ancient thoughts! There is lot more to what I explored in here. But unfortunately, I am in midst of something and hence unable to fully put in words. But if a doubt or question arise, please do comment and I hope to structure the answer which would then add to the essence of this series. In the next and final article of this series, let us see the end rituals which form the main marriage event! Stay Tuned!