1. VEDIC WEDDING (By Anbil Ramaswamy)
Marriage is a religious ceremony and is an important "Samskaaram". "Samskaaram" is meant "to purify" There are 40 Samskaaras prescribed in the Saastras. 26 of them relate to wedding and post-wedding periods. This shows the importance of the role of Grihasta (householder) who is considered to be pivotal in Society. Also, the others belonging to Brahmacharya (The Celibate), Vaanaprasta (The Anchorite) and Sannyasa (The Renounced) are not qualified to perform any rites involving the use of fire (agni Karyam) and they are prohibited from begetting progeny. "Dharma prajaartham vriNeemahE" says the mantra which means that marriage is primarily for begetting progeny. It is therefore the duty of the house-holder to enter this Aasrama with due respect. Marriage is, no doubt, primarily for begetting children but it was also required for the proper performance of worship. To drive home this point during the first four days after the wedding function, the couple is supposed to share the same bed but is not supposed to indulge in sex. Marriage is not only a contract between individuals but also a contract between families. Marriage is in NOT a license for sexual pleasures but a holy and irrevocable contract not only between the man and wife but also casts the burden of ensuring it to be so, till the very last, on the community comprising of the families of both sides. "Marriage is marriage" and is not a mere "love affair" which is nothing but an infatuation. Love affair is a relationship just for pleasure and when the pleasure wears out, the affair is gone. But, marriage is a lifetime commitment to yourself, to your other half and represents the prime concern of your life. If you make a sacrifice, you are not sacrificing to that person. It is a sacrifice to a permanent relationship. If pain there is in such relationship, there is also life in it. Love bears all, endures all. If the relationship has pains, remember that life is also not all that blissful all through all the time. The stronger the love, the more pain it is prepared to bear and ultimately the pain would turn out to be even enjoyable.Partners who enter in wedlock are not 'paragons of virtue' as they appear in the first flush of enthusiasm. None is perfect and to seek for perfection in the partner is like `seeking a mirage in the desert'. Perfect relationship is created by conscious effort and not discovered all on a sudden. The incompatibilities have to be resolved by a continual mutual adjustment and reconciliation by a willing attitude of 'give and take'.
1. Samaavartanam After completing studies in "Gurukula Vaasam" (Residential school in the teacher's home) learning the Vedas and other scriptures, the student proceeds to marry with the permission of the preceptor.
2. Kaasi YatraThe bachelor is now in a dilemma. He has to decide whether to remain a confirmed bachelor (naishTika Brahmachari) for the rest of his life or to get married and become a Grihasta. His first inclination would be to choose the former. He would plan to be a mendicant and go on a "Paadayatra" to holy places. He would prefer to start with a journey to Kaasi (Vaaruna-asi). At that time, the father of a prospective bride would intervene to persuade him to marry his daughter and start a family of his own offering him a lot of gifts to start the Aasrama. He would consult his parents and other elders in his family. The bachelor would be convinced, when they give the green signal!
3. KANYAA SULKAMA few representatives of the boy would be deputed to meet with the parents of the girl. An offer would be made by the boy's party to the girl's party for conducting the marriage. This is known as "Kanyaa Sulkam"In the good old days, the practice of "Vara dakshiNai" now enforced ruthlessly on the parents of the brides with disastrous consequences was practically unknown and is nowhere contemplated in the Saastras.
4. VARA PRESHANAM When once the parents of the bride accept the offer, the groom is deemed to be a replica of Mahaa VishNu himself and treated as such and is shown due courtesies by the bride's party.
5. NANDI and VARA POOJANandi is a ceremony in which, the two families solicit the blessings of their ancestors for formalizing the marriage.When once the parents of the bride accept the offer, the groom is deemed to be a replica of Mahaa VishNu himself and treated as such and is shown due courtesies by the bride's party.The priest announces three generations of the ancestry of both the bride and the groom.
6. VRATAMThis consists of several preliminary Samskaaras like NaamakaraNam, Jaata karaNam etc. For boys, all these would have been done already during Upanayanam. For girls, however, this is required to be done immediately before the marriage. Usually, it is done on the previous morning or on the morning of the wedding day.
7. VISHWAKSENA ARADANAM / LAKSHMI POOJABefore the commencement of the rites, the first event in any religious ceremony will be to seek the blessings of Vishwaksena who removes all obstacles in the way of successful conduct of the function. Lord Mahaalakshmi is invoked by placing at the feet of the Goddess, a gold pendent and other jewelry of the bride seeking her blessings for a long and happy married life for the young couple.
8. PUNYAHAVACHANAMVaruNa, the Lord of waters with appropriate mantras is then invoked in a vessel containing holy waters and decorated with a coconut, flowers, kumkum and turmeric. Invoking Lord VishNu and the nine planets, the place is sprinkled with this water as a means of purification to make the venue fit for the functions that follow.
9. AnkuraarpaNamSome seeds of paddy, black gram, green gram, sesame and mustard are soaked in water and filled in small mud bowls. The sprouts are carefully nursed and kept intact till the completion of the wedding functions. This is known as "Paalikai". The sprouting is symbolic of the intended production of progenies of the couple.
10. BOY AND GIRL MEETAt the time of the first meeting, several mantras are chanted by the prospective groom praying for the removal of any blemishes that the girl might have contracted knowingly or unknowingly.
11. EXCHANGING GARLANDS The boy and the girl exchange flower garlands and shower each other with rice mixed with turmeric as a token of their coming together for the holy wedding. This indicates that free exchange of ideas between them after the marriage and that neither of them would keep back anything from the other.
12. OONJALThey are made to sit on a swing. The swing symbolizes the ups and downs of life, which the couple may have to face united and with confidence and full faith in each other. Ladies sing songs in lilting tunes to add a festive fervor of the occasion.
13. Parting is painfulAny parting is painful. The bride is about to leave her parent's home where she had grown up all along and is about to enter a totally new and alien surrounding of her would - be husband. Both the girl and her parents would feel the pangs of prospective separation and the uncertain atmosphere in which the girl would have to lead her life post-marriage, tears might roll down their cheeks. Since it would not be proper to shed tears on such an auspicious occasion, a special mantra is uttered to ward off any evil effects of such feelings.
14. PRATISARA BANDHAM / RAKSHA BANDHAMA string soaked in turmeric is tied around the left wrist of the girl and on the right wrist of the boy, probably to indicate a resolution of loyalty to each other. This is known as Pratisara Bhandham.
15. YOKETo reassure them, a ritual is prescribed in which one side of a miniature yoke is placed on the head of the bride signifying that the boy and the girl would act in unison in carrying out their new life like a pair of bulls dragging a cart. The Mangalyam is placed in the hole in the yoke and water is poured drop by drop through the hole on the bride. There are other interpretations of this ritual linking it to the story of one "Apaala" (daughter of Sage Atri) who was rescued by Indra (the Lord of Gods) through a yoke of his chariot as a result of which she became relieved of disease and shone in full luster.
16. MANGALA SNAANAMThe bride is then given a ceremonial bath called MangaLa Snaanam. The bridegroom has a shave and bath. He wears a "Panchakachcham" and two sacred threads (yagjnOpaveetam)
17. AGNI PRATHISHTA Fire god is deemed to be the intermediary between the devotees and Gods. He is the Chief witness to the entire proceedings. So, fire is ignited in the fire pit (hOma kuNDam) into which the offerings (Mainly ghee (Clarified butter) are offered with a request to the Fire God to carry the offerings to satisfy the Gods.
18. MADHUPARKAMThe bride and the groom are then offered some pieces of fruits and honey to indicate that their married life would be sweet all the way.
19. KOORAI PUDAVAIThe groom presents an expensive sari (with blouse) to the girl. She returns to the hall wearing this sari and fully bedecked with jewels befitting the occasion. The groom ties a string of reeds around the waist of the girl, perhaps indicating that she is "tied" to him!
20. THE GIRL IS ALREADY MARRIED!According to Saastras, a spinster is euphemistically said to have married the celestials called Soman, Chandran, and Agni before marrying a human! In other words, she has been blessed by these celestials. The groom recites a mantra to this effect and proceeds to go through the rest of the rituals.[To be continued] dasohamAnbil Ramaswamy(To be continued)