Vedic Marriage Ceremony Part---1

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Vedic Marriage Ceremony
By S. N. Sastri

"Where womenare honoured, there the gods are pleased; where women are not honoured,there all worship of gods is futile." - Manusmriti, 3.56

"Wherethere is mutual affection and regard between husband and wife, therealone will there be happiness and welfare". - Manusmriti, 3. 60

TheHindu religion, or, to use its original name, Sanaatana Dharma, laysdown a comprehensive scheme for the spiritual development of the humanbeing. The ultimate goal of human life is liberation from the repeatedcycle of births and deaths. All the rites laid down in the Vedas have,as their ultimate purpose, the attainment of this goal. The essentialrequisite for progress towards this goal is purity of mind. The Vedas,supplemented by the Dharma Sastras, prescribe a series of samskaras orsacraments to be undergone by Dvijas (Brahmanas, Kshatriyas andVaisyas) at various stages of life. These sacraments have, apart fromtheir immediate objective, the effect of purifying the mind and makingthe person fit for spiritual progress and ultimate liberation. Some ofthe important samskaras are jaatakarma (performed immediately after thebirth of the child), naamakarana (naming ceremony),, annapraasana(first feeding of rice), upanayana (investing with the sacred thread)and vivaaha (marriage). Of all the sacraments marriage is the mostimportant. Our scriptures accord a very high place to the Grihastha orhouseholder. Those belonging to all the other three orders, namely,Brahmachaaris, Vaanaprasthas and Sannyaasins, depend on the householderfor their sustenance. Manusmriti says:" Just as every creature lives byair, so the other orders of life are sustained by the householder".After completing his studies under a guru the Brahmachaari is enjoinedto enter Grihastha-asrama in the normal course. (It is only for thosevery rare individuals who have attained total detachment towardsworldly affairs that Sannyaasa directly from Brahma-charya isprescribed). One of the mantras in the marriage ceremony says that thepurpose of marriage is to beget virtuous progeny. Only a Grihastha isentitled to perform the rituals prescribed in the Vedas, includingSraaddha to ancestors. There is an anecdote in the Rigveda describingthe origin of the institution of marriage. A god by name Soma desiredto get married and sent the two Aswinidevas to Savita, the father of agirl named Sooryaa, to ask for her hand. Savita agreed to give hisdaughter in marriage to Soma. Then the bridegroom Soma went to Savita'shouse and was received there with honours. Sooryaa was given inmarriage to Soma with the god of fire as the witness. Our marriageshave been modelled on this episode from time immemorial. There is oneitem in the marriage ceremony, known as Vara-preshanam, which isreminiscent of this episode and re-enacts it by the chanting of mantrasimplying the sending of two or four Brahmanas by the prospectivebridegroom to seek the consent of the father of the prospective bride.

Inour tradition, marriage is not merely bringing about the relationshipof husband and wife between a man and a woman. It is the union of twofamilies, who merge as one.