Samskaras Origin and Significance

Vivaha (marriage ceremony)

It is the most important S. During the Vedic times marriage, a sweet home, a ladylove and fondlings were coveted objects. During the Upanishadic times the Ashrama theory was established which said that man must live the life of a student, get married, retire and in the end he must give up all worldly attachments and become a religious wanderer. Married life was regarded as essential for the growth of personality. During the period of the Smritis the importance of marriage only increased. Marriage was a family affair rather than a personal one, having children was one of the important objects of marrying. The Vedic hyms and the Grhyasutras celebrate a regular marriage for a life-long companionship. The S recognized the fulfedged marriage bereft of savage waywardness on the part of man and woman.

Indians were not the only people to hold marriage in high esteem. The Israelis respected it for the same reason as the Hindus. In Greece also marriage was highly respected and looked upon as a sacred ceremony. But a contrast is presented by the Christian views wrt marriage. Influenced by St. Paul, pronouncements by Church fathers show scant appreciation of the uplifting and strengthening influence of a true marriage, of its power to quicken and deepen all worthy emotions. But it should be noted that this was a reaction against the corrupt Roman society where sexual relations were very loose, which led to the physical and spiritual downfall of the Romans.

Its Origin lay in the desire of woman for protection during the critical period of her confinement and her child in its infancy that drove her to select a permanent companion in life. In this selection, she fully considered the fitness of the man and arrived at a mutual understanding before she gave in. The desire for a son, protection, need for running a home and the ideal of domestic felicity. Lovemaking aided the union, period.

The eight forms of marriage are discussed in the essay A Tribute to the Indian Woman under the heading, history. The purest and the most evolved form of marriage was Brahma. In it the father, with such ornaments gave the girl as he could afford, to a man of character and learning, whom he invited voluntarily and received respectfully without taking anything in return. The Smritis regard it as the most honorable type of marriage, as it was free from physical force, imposition of conditions or lure of money. This form of marriage is traced back to the Vedic times.

What was the reason why utmost care was spent on the examination of the family? The best possible progeny was desirable and for it physically, mentally and morally fit matches were necessary, as the children inherit the good or bad qualities of their parents. Today when we see the family it is more from the point of view of upbringing of the child, values, in short character of the family is most important.

Girls were married after sixteen or whereabouts till the beginning of the first foreign invasion. Starting the 4th century BC, the Greeks, Parthians etc who were physically stronger but less civilized occupied various parts of NorthWest. The position of woman was low amongst these peoples and she was regarded as an article of enjoyment. The social life of the Hindus were endangered and influenced by these onslaughts. Perhaps for safety and fashion, marriage age was lowered. Marriage kept coming down till the Gupta period where there was a national awakening and the security of life, so adult marriages were revived, continued till the advent of the Muslims. Besides the conquest by foreigners, marriage in course of time, came to be regarded as a gift by the father to her husband. A gift has to be original; something that has been enjoyed cannot be given as a gift. So the age had to be lowered before she lost her virginity to a foreigner.

Inspite of this mediaeval Rajputs had a custom of late marriages. Early medical doctors recognized that a girl did not develop fully till she was 16. Said Susruta “A man in his 25th but a girl in her 16th have reached the summit of their vigor, an experienced doctor ought to know that.

Symbolism of Hindu Nuptials
a) The Meaning of a Symbol – A symbol is regarded by general consent as naturally representing something by possession of qualities or by association of thought. A symbol is not important by itself but it is a vehicle that conveys something beyond it. In ancient times when human beings were not that articulate symbols played an important part. Well, they continue to retain their importance, are used political parties today to indicate ideology.

b) Sacramental Marriage and Symbol – Hindu marriage is not a social contract but a religious institution, a sacrament. Besides man and woman there is a third superhuman, spiritual or divine element in marriage. It is on the third element that the permanent relationship between the husband and wife depends and to whom they are responsible. This is the religious or mystic touch in the purely social and material contract between man and woman. The mystic aspect of the Hindu marriage necessitates the use of a number of symbols.

c) Marriage a Union of the fittest couple – In the very beginning there is a ceremony, which symbolizes the union of the fittest parties. Called Arghya, Showing Respect, while conferring honor on the bridegroom indicates that he is the best of his sex and equals. The father-in-law honors the son-in-law to be after which he publicly declares that he is the fittest match for the bride.

d) Marriage a New Bond – Some of the nuptials symbolize that marriage creates a new bond between the bride and bridegroom. They unite them like two plants. One such nuptial is Samanjana or Anointment. The father of the bride is supposed to anoint the pair. While this ceremony is being performed the bridegroom says, “May the Visvedevah, may the Waters unite our hearts. May Matarisva, may Dhatr, may Destr join us. The anointment is symbolical of Love and consequently union of the pair. Another ceremony is Panigrahana or the Grasping of the Bride’s Hand. The bridegroom seizes the right hand of the bride with the verse, “I seize thy hand for sake of happiness, that thou mayest live to old age with me thy husband”. This ceremony is symbolical of physical bond between husband and wife. The next ceremony is Hrdayasparsa or Touching of the Bride’s Heart. He touches the bride’s heart with the words, “Into my will I will take thy heart, thy mind shall dwell in my mind, in my word thou shall rejoice with all thy heart, May Prajapati join thee to me”. This indicates that marriage is not only the physical union of the two persons but also the union of the two hearts or souls.

e) Marriage a Permanent and Stable Union - Marriage is not a temporary contract but a permanent union which is expected to grow stronger and stronger with time. It is symbolized by a number of ceremonies like the Asmarahana, or Mounting the Stone is a symbol of firmness and strength. Another ceremony is Dhruvadarsana or Looking at the Pole Star. This is to indicate that the wife must be firm and fixed, as is the Pole Star amidst innumerable bodies in the firmament. Secondly the union should last for a hundred years, which is the normal span of life.

f) Biological Symbolism of Marriage – An important reason of marriage is the continuity of the race through procreation of children. After accepting the bride formally, the bridegroom puts a significant? Who has given this bride to me? The answer is Kama or the Lord of Love.

g) Marriage should be fruitful and Prosperous – The nuptials employ a number of symbols, which refer to the fertility, and prosperity of married life. There is Laja Homa or Offering of Grains into Fire ceremony in which the brother pours out of his joined hands fried grains mixed with Sami leaves. The bride offers them with firmly joined hands standing, while the bridegroom recites the verses, “To the god Aryaman the girl has made sacrifice, to Agni. May he god, Aryaman loosen us from here, and not from the husband’s side. Svaha! The girl strewing grains prayed thus, “May my husband live long, my relationship be prosperous. Svah! This grain I have thrown into the fire, may this bring prosperity to thee, and may it unite me with thee. May Agni grant us N. N. Svaha! Here grains and leaves are symbols of fruitfulness and prosperity.

h) Marriage a Crisis: Removal of Evil Influences – Marriage is an important milestone in the lives of two individuals. There are insecurities fears about what the future has in store. The father of the bride extorts her, “Be thou of benign and pleasing eyes, never cherish an evil design against your husband, be kind and well wishing to cattle and others dependant like them, be cheerful and prosperous, be the mother of heroic sons, sacrifice to the gods, be happy etc”. The bride is more worried since she moves into a new house and has to deal with new people. There is the Abhisinchana, Sprinkling of Water ceremony and at the close of the nuptials the Caturthi-karma ceremony, which is performed on the fourth day after marriage. In all these ceremonies the critical nature of marriage and dangers attendant thereon are realized and attempts made to remove them. The bride is supposed to be more susceptible to dangers than the bridegroom and, therefore, she is the center of auspicious ceremonies.

i) Marriage not a License – The fact is not a passport for sexual indulgence but a human institution aimed at moderation is married life has been emphasized at the end of the nuptials when the Trirarta-vrata or the Observance of Continence for Three Nights is undertaken. For a period of three nights there would be no intercourse between husband and wife. The symbolism is a lesson in moderation to the married couple. It attempts to make the couple realize that greater the moderation the happier the married life will be.

j) Marriage a Social Change and a Sacrifice – Marriage symbolizes a great social transition for man and woman. From being foot free fancy free they have to know become responsible individuals, earn money for themselves, have children, discharge their obligation to their parents, gods. This is the life of responsibilities and cares. It is only in this sense that Hindu shaadi or Vivaha can be properly understood, which means “to lift, to support, to hold up, to sustain”. This involves lots of compromise and sacrifice. Marriage is not full of roses. The essential difficulties of life are not given a send-off under the pretext of marriage but as a matter of fact are invited. We talk of a happy marriage but the happiness of the married life is not personal pleasure. We realize what marriage is when the relationship is based on willing sacrifice of a partner for the benefit for another, the family, society and the world.

Thus the general function of nuptial symbolism is to cover all the aspects of married life. The biological significance, the critical nature, the physical and mental union, the moderation, the social transition and sacrifice are the main features of Hindu nuptials.

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