Marriage sacrament is the thirteenth sacrament out of sixteen sacraments. Marriage sacrament is also known as entry into the stage of married family life. The stage of being in married family life is regarded as the biggest and noblest of all stages of life. This stage of life commences with marriage. What is marriage? Vedic marriage is a high standard of religious bond. The word ‘vivah’ is made up of two words- ‘vi’-‘vah’ = ‘vishesh’. ‘Vi’ means ‘vishesh’ or ‘special’ and ‘vah’ means ‘vahan’ or ‘vehicle’, chariot, motor car etc. Marriage is such a vehicle in which the husband and wife are like two wheels, in which both have to be of one type. In other words, it can be also said that when two human beings – male and female, become attracted to one another in love and promise to help one another with heart, soul and body, it is called marriage.
Marriage also has another meaning i.e., to fulfill the responsibilities of married family life in a special way.
EXAMINATION OF BRIDE AND BRIDEGROOM
Before marriage takes place, the marriage partners should be examined. This means that an examination of the good and bad characteristics of males and females should be conducted by those qualified to do so, and marriage should only be conducted between males and females who have good characteristics. A male doctor should conduct an examination of any hidden diseases in the male and in like manner, a female doctor should examine the female for such diseases. Their state of mental health should also be checked by a learned male and a learned female. The age, family background, permanent place of residence, body and nature of the bride and bridegroom must also be examined. In other words, both should know about one another i.e., their qualities, deeds and nature should be similar and both should be desirous of getting married. The age of the female should be two to four years less that the age of the male. Both parties should investigate the family back grounds of each other. Marriage should never take place between close relatives.
THE MERITS OF CLOSE AND DISTANT MARRIAGES IS AS FOLLOWS
1) It is not possible to develop true love between those males and females who have lived together from childhood, played together, fought and loved one another, know the good and bad qualities of one another and have seen one another naked.
2) Just as mixing water with water does not change the quality of the water, in the same way marrying someone in one’s own family does not produce children of good breed.
3) Just as mixing sugar candy or ginger in milk makes it good, in the same way marriage of males and females away from their families is good.
4) Just as a sick person regains his health by moving to another country which involves change in the environment and food, in the same way distant marriages are the best.
5) There is likely to be disputes between families of close marriages
because there will be regular visits between family members.This does not happen in distant marriages, furthermore, the love between the distant families increases, whereas this does not happen in close marriages.
5) If the parents of the bride are poor and the marriage has taken
place at a close distance, then she will visit her parents regularly and when returning, the parents will have to give her something each time. In this way the parents will become even poorer. This problem does not occur in distant marriages.
Sacraments have great importance in the Vedic religion. To enable human life to be of a high standard, divine, great and highly cultured, Maharishi Dayanand has set out the sixteen sacraments in ‘Sanskar Vidhi’. All sacraments are important, however marriage sacrament is most important of all. In reality, this is the sacrament which is the foundation of all other sacaraments.
At the present time human beings give very little attention to sacraments. Today, only two or three sacraments are being practised in place of the sixteen sacraments and even those are not being done in accordance with the proper procedure. The families of the bridegroom and bride consider feeding everyone to be the main event and as far as the sacrament is concerned, it is their wish that it be completed within the minimum of time.
Marriage at youthful stage
A male enters into the stage of youth at 25 years of age, while a female enters this stage at 18-20 years of age. There are many benefits of marriage at this stage of life.
(1) Marriage at this stage takes place after fully understanding one’s responsibilities. The benefit of marriage when the male is 25 years or over and female is 18-20 years is that such marriage takes place after proper investigations, is done with the consent of the male and the female, hence the responsibility falls on the husband and the wife, and not on the parents. They cannot blame anyone else if they do not get along together in future.
(2) State of physical and mental maturity - at this stage the male and female have fully grown up physically, therefore marriage at this age does not interfere with the physical development of the body. Children born from such mature human beings are healthy. It is only right that immature body produces immature children and mature body produces mature children. Like physical maturity, there is mental maturity at this age which is necessary for having a good family life.
Vedic marriage is a religious sacrament, not a task, that is why there are several procedures undertaken in it, in the form of sacrament, so that righteousness becomes firmly established. For example, verses from the Vedas are recited, marriage is performed in front of the sacrificial fire, seven steps and other procedures are undertaken and close relatives are invited and marriage is performed in their presence.
The religious sacrament that is performed in Vedic marriages is outlined below.
Position of wife in marriage
Maharishi Dayanand has accepted the position of the wife in marriage to be always on the right hand side of the husband. After performance of ‘Lajahom’ procedure, wherein oblations of roasted paddy are given, Rishi Dayanand writes –
‘After this, the bride should sit on the right hand side of the bridegroom and seated west of the Hawan Kund and facing the east, the bridegroom, after reciting ‘Om Prajapataye swaha’…. should give one oblation of ghee into the Hawan Kund’.
After completion of the marriage ceremony and when bride and bridegroom are leaving, Rishi Dayanand writes - ‘and while sitting in the vehicle the bride groom should have the bride seated on his right hand side.’
Not only this, Dayanand has further stated that when performing the Yajna on reaching home after marriage, the wife shall be seated on the right hand side of the husband - ‘The bride shall be seated on the right hand side of the bridegroom, west of the Hawan Kund and facing the sun’.
Vedic Marriage- a critical examination
Married life is the most important and noble of all stages of life. This stage of life commences with marriage. In Vedic religion great emphasis is placed on ensuring that the qualities, deeds and nature of the bride and bridegroom are similar. A Western doctor- Dr. Magnus Hirsh Field has also written beautifully on this subject-
‘Happy marriages are not made in heaven but in the laboratory’. Both the man and woman should be carefully examined not only with regard to their fitness to marry but whether they are fit to marry each other.
Marriage sacrament means entering into the stage of married life. According to our religious books, marriage sacrament is very pure and important sacrament. The Vedic procedure for marriage sacrament is as follows -
1) Welcoming of the bridegroom
When the bridegroom enters the ‘mandap’ (place where marriage is to be conducted) at the bride’s residence on the day of the marriage ceremony, the bride first of all says ‘I welcome you’ and garlands the bridegroom. After the garlanding, the bride requests the bridegroom to take a seat and gives ‘madhupark’ (curd, honey and ghee mixed together ) for him to eat.
In fact this is the method of serving the husband who returns home after the day’s hard work. Whenever the husband comes home, the wife should welcome him and look after him with a smile. Irrespective of the number of servants in the household, the husband should be looked after by the wife herself. Other visitors to the house should be similarly greeted and served.
Madhupark is a mixture of curd, honey and ghee. The proportion in which these are mixed is as follows- curd three parts, honey two parts and ghee one part. After mixing these, it should be kept in a glass container. This is a tonic and of great medicinal value. The qualities of the three food items is as follows-
Curd - increases heat, digestion, smoothness, energy and semen and destroys gas.
Honey - is cool, sweet, delicious, conducive to appetite, destroys abscess and removes phlegm.
Ghee - brings about extreme beauty, brightness, increases intelligence and destroys poison and bile.
The performance of ‘madhupark’ signifies as to the type of food that the wife should cook in the home. Food should have qualities derived from yoghurt, honey and ghee. Accordingly food should be such as to:-
1. Keep the level of gas, bile and phlegm in the body even. If these three are not kept even the body becomes unhealthy.
2. Promote long life and strength. Food should be attractive and delicious like honey. There is another special quality in honey. Other things in this world are prepared after destroying some thing first; for example when sugar is made, sugar cane is destroyed. However the process whereby honey is made is such that flowers etc from which nector is collected by bees to make honey are not destroyed. In the same way earnings through occupation in married life should be such that one does not rule over others or destroy others.
The bridegroom holds the madhupark and says as follows:-
Om mitrasya twa chakshusha pratikshe. Paraskar 1/3/16
O God! I am looking at this madhupark with a friendly eye.
Whenever food comes our way, we should always look at it with a friendly eye. The best of foods eaten without feeling happy or showing interest in it does not nourish the body. Food eaten with interest is not only tasty but is also very nourishing to the body.
Holding the madhupark in his left hand the bridegroom says:- O Almighty God! May the air, the river and medicinal herbs be honey-like. May the night and the morning, earth and the space above us be beneficial to us. May the forests be honey-like. May the sun shine for our happiness and may the cows and other animals produce a lot of milk.
With the above feelings the bridegroom sprinkles the madhupark to the east, south, west, north, and in the upward direction. Sprinkling the madhupark, the bridegroom is expressing his feeling that may there always be plentiful of good things like madhupark everywhere; may everyone have food of this type to eat so that every citizen may be healthy, strong and happy.
(3) GODAAN (donating cow)
After madhupark, the next step in the marriage ceremony is Godaan or donating a cow. Cow is a symbol of Vedic culture. As the saying goes - if there is no cow there is no home. The reason for giving a cow to the newly wed is that milk and other milk products are necessary for the good health of all members of the family. Ancient seers have created an excellent system for the protection of cows by requiring donation of a cow at the time of marriage. These days instead of donating a cow, money and other items are donated.
(4) KANYA SAMARPAN (handing over of the bride)
After donating a cow or money etc., the bride’s father hands over his daughter to the bridegroom by placing her daughter’s right hand onto the bridegroom’s right hand. This is what is known as handing over the bride. On this occasion whatever sovereign etc. that the father gives to the daughter is regarded as her possession. At some time or another when she faces difficulty in her life, this possession can prove to be very helpful. In this way the father gives to his daughter a part of his wealth which is not available to her in any other way.
(5) PRATIJYA MANTRA (Promises)
The bridegroom and bride both say the following mantra :-
Om samanjantu vishwe deva samapo hridayani nau.
Sam matarishwa sam dhata samudeshtri dadhatu nau. Rig 10.85.47
Meaning - O learned persons present in this yajshala! (place where marriage is performed). We are entering into married life through our own free will and happiness. May our hearts become one, like water. Just as air is precious to all, in the same way we will be precious for one another. Just as God is the support of all, in the same way may we be the support of one another. The main essence of marriage is the meeting of two hearts. May our hearts meet in such way as do waters from two wells.
In this world when two things meet and become one, they can be separated. For example if sugar gets mixed with sand, ants can separate it. If milk is mixed with water then a swan can separate it. But there is no animal or bird nor has any scientist invented any instrument which can separate water from two separate wells that has been mixed together. Just as two hearts leave their individual identities and become one, in the same way, may our hearts also become one. The bride and bridegroom should not even think of any other male or female as their partners, apart from one another.
(6) MAIN DUTIES OF THE WIFE
After marriage the bride will go with the bridegroom to his house. How should she behave in her new home - the bridegroom voices his feelings on this as follows :-
Om bhurbhuvah swah. Aghorachakshurpatighnyedhi shiva pashubhyah sumanah suvarchah . Virsurdevrikama syona bhav dwipade sham chatushpade. Rig 10.85.44
Meaning - O beautiful wife who does not rebel against the husband! With the blessing of Almighty God and with your own effort may you show respect and love to everyone. May you be auspicious to the animals. With a pure heart, be smiling like the beautiful flowers. May you shine with knowledge and good qualities. Give birth to brave sons and daughters. Treat my younger brothers with love and affection. In short, treat all human beings and animals in the house in such a way that everyone is happy.
The wife replies as follows-
Om pra me patiyanah panthah kalpatam shiva arishta patilok gameyam. Gobhil Grihasutra.. 2.1.20
Meaning - My path is the same as my husband’s path (of righteousness). I will follow whatever instructions (righteous) that you will give me so that I may be happy and achieve moksha (salvation) without difficulty.
(7) AGNIHOTRA (Yaj)
Followers of Vedic faith use fire as the symbol of witness in all their religious duties. Therefore before commencing the main part of the marriage ceremony, normal yaj is performed first. This is also the time when the Vedic Purohit (priest) who will officiate the marriage ceremony is accorded acceptance.
(8) FIVE SPECIAL OBLATIONS
After normal yaj has been performed, five special oblations are offered. While offering these five oblations the bride places her right hand on the right shoulder of the bridegroom. These five oblations draw the attention of the couple to the five duties that need to be performed in the home daily. These five duties should be performed daily in every family, in so far as practicable. By placing her right hand on the husband’s shoulder the wife is signifying that she will continue to perform these duties during his absence , however the husband will have to meet the cost that will be incurred in this.
(9) RASHTRABHRIT HOM (Prayer for the nation)
A number of responsibilities fall upon the newly married couple as soon as they enter the stage of married life. It is the duty of every married couple to look after the nation, to make the nation determined and powerful. We must make our nation prosperous in every way, therefore they offer special oblations for the nation. In these mantras(verses) it is requested of the couple that they protect mental and physical strength in the society. “Brahm Shakti” refers to power of the brain, or the power of mental and spiritual knowledge. ‘Kshatra Shakti” refers refers to the power of the body or the physical power. The society maintains its strength with these two powers.
JAYA HOM (Prayer for victory)
In this prayer, oblations are offered with the aim of being successful in life.
ABHYATAN HOM (Prayer for prosperity )
‘Abhyatan’ means personal progress in every way- that is the development of the body, mind and soul. The prayer in Abhyatan mantras is- “So ma awatu asmin brahmni, asmin chatre - may God be my protector in the development of my mental and physical strength.
There is beauty in this sequence. Firstly there is collective prayer in this and then there is personal prayer. It is clear from this sequence that the nation is more important than the individual. Where national importance is considered paramount there is the emergence of the national spirit and the nation prospers. In contrast to this where an individual is given all powers and responsibilities, national independence is destroyed. If the citizens of the country are healthy and strong then the country will also be powerful. Therefore the development of the individual is most important for the development of the nation. Someone has put it well “if every individual improves himself/herself, then the improvement of the nation is very simple. If a person is only thinking of the national progress, and does not pay attention to his own progress then what is the consequence of this? Such people do not make progress and are left behind.
On the other hand if a person only thinks of his/her own progress, and closes his/her eyes to the national welfare, then there is bad behaviour, corruption, dishonest practices, theft, hoarding and other evils through selfishness. The question arises as to what is the noble path? The answer is that the middle path is the noble path. The person who keeps in mind both the national progress as well as the individual progress, that is the person who is victorious in this world. This is why Jaya Hom is placed in between the two yajs.
(10) OBLATIONS OFFERED IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
After Jaya Hom, eight oblations of ghee are offered. The main prayer in these mantras is as follows:- (1) May the wife give birth to good children. (2) May the wife not suffer children related problems. (3) May she never suffer from lack of children. (4) May her children live for long, so that she may enjoy their company. (5) Through God’s grace may peace prevail in her house and that there be no unhappiness at night.
(11) HOLDING THE BRIDES HAND - DUTY OF THE HUSBAND
From here the main part of the marriage ceremony begins. Holding the right hand of the bride, the husband recites six mantras. The essence of these mantras is as follows:-
Aum gribhnani te saubhagatwaya hastam maya patya jaradashtiryathasah . Bhago aryama savita purandhirmahyam twadurgarhpatyaya devah. (Rigveda 10/85/36)
O beautiful bride! I take your hand for fame and noble children and other fortune. May you live with me happily until old age.
In the same way the bride says:- O brave husband! I am also accepting your hand for good fortune. May you live with me happily and contended until old age. God who is the giver of peace and happiness, just, the creator of the universe and its supporter and those learned persons present in this ceremony have handed me over to you for the sustenance of married life. We are for on another from today.
Bhagaste hastamgrabhit savita hastamgrabhit. Patni twamasi dharmanaham grahpatistava. Atharva Ved 14/1/51
O bride! Full of fame and able to procreate, and follower of the path of righteousness, I take your hand. You are my wife through dharm, similarly I am your husband. Let us together fulfill the duties of the house and married life.
Mameyamastu poshya mahyam twadad brihaspatih. Maya patya prajawati sam jiva sharadah shatam. Atharva ved 14/1/52
O bride! God who is the sustainer of the whole universe has given you to me. I will never forget my duty that I have to earn wealth through just means and provide for your living. O bride! Live with me happily for a hundred years.
Twashta waso vyadadhachubhhe kam brihaspateh prashisha kavinam.
Tenemam narim savita bhagashcha surryamiwa pari dhattam prajaya.
O bride! Together with food items I will also provide you with clothing and ornaments which have been prepared by noble skilled persons. May God who is full of fame and the creator of the whole universe bless you shining like the sun’s rays, with children.
Indragni dyawaprithivi matarishwa mitravaruna bhago ashwinobha. Brihaspatirmaruto brahm som narim prajaya wardhayantu. (Atharvaved 14/1/55)
O my relatives! Just as electricity and fire, sun and earth, air, breathe, peace giving materials, good doctors and true preachers, king, learned persons, subjects, God, knowledge of Vedas, medicinal herbs enhance this lady with children, in the same way please also increase her happiness with good wishes and blessings. I will also continue to enhance her with children etc.
Aham vishyami mayi rupamasya vedaditpashyanmanasah kulayam.
Na steyamadmi manasodmuchye swayam shrathnano varunasya pashan.
(Atharvaved 14/1/57 )
O bride! I see the enhancement of my progeny and look at you with love and come to you with affection. In the same way please come to me also. I will never consume anything by hiding it from you and will never let such thought enter my mind. With all my strength and good behaviour, I will remove evil hearted persons from you
After reciting these six mantras the bridegroom helps the bride to stand up. Thereafter both walk around the sacrificial fire once and stand at their original places of sitting.
The bride groom recites the following mantra:-
Om amo hamasmi sa twam sa twamasyamoham. Samahamasmi riktwam dyohraham prithivi twam. Taveva vivahavahai putran vindavahai sah reto dadhavahai. Prajam prajanayavahai bahun. Te santu jaradastayah sam priyoh rochishnu sumanasyamanau. Pashyema sharadah shatam jivema sharadah shatam, shrinuyama sharadah shatam. ( Paraskar 1.6.3.)
O Dear! I am like the musical Samved and you are poetess like Rigved. I am like the sun which promotes rain and you are conceiver like the earth. Come let us marry with pleasure and conceive and produce noble children. May those children have long life. May we love each other, be in the best of health, always be happy and see each other with love for a hundred years, live in bliss for a hundred years and listen to each others pleasant speech for a hundred years.
(12) Shila Arohan
Om arohma mashman mashmeva twam sthira bhawa. Abhitishta pritanyato – vabadhaswa pritanayatah. ( Paraskar 1.7.1.)
O Lady! You must become firm as a rock, in religious activities. If you ever come across difficulties, in family life then be firm and steady like the rock which stays steady during heavy rainfall and hurricane. You must defend yourself firmly from those who may attack you. For this make your body as strong as steel.
(13) Laja Hom (Oblations of roasted paddy)
Offering oblations of roasted paddy is a very important procedure in the marriage ceremony. In this procedure the bride’s brother fills the palms of his sister (the bride) with the roasted paddy. After reciting the mantras, she drops it into the sacrificial fire. The groom helps her in this performance – meaning both of them should do all religious ceremonies together. The meanings of the mantras the bride recites are as follows;-
1. O Just God! You are separating me from my parents but I must stay firm in my husband’s family and never ever separate from there.
2. In offering these roasted paddy, my wish is that my husband may live long and the members of my family (the in-laws) prosper with wealth and health.
3. O husband! I am offering this paddy for your success. May God bless for ever, the love between you and me.
After completing the paddy oblation ceremony, the bridegroom holds the phalanges of the bride and recites the mantras which expresses the women’s dignity.
Tamadya gatham gasyami ya strinam uttamam yashah.
O Lady! I will sing the praises and good deeds of the ladies to you from this day.
This was the procedure, now let us focus on the ideological meaning of the procedure. The brother while filling the palms of his sister (the bride) is promising to her as follows: O Sister! You are departing from your parent’s home. The father’s responsibility finishes today and my responsibility begins. Whenever you will come here, I will fill your palms with noble and generous earnings of mine, on your departure from here.
While offering the paddy, the true meaning of marriage is explained to the bride and the groom. The roasted paddy is made from paddy. The paddy comprises of husk and rice. The husk represents the bride and the rice represents the groom. As long they keep together they are protected. As long as the husk sticks with the rice, it’s value is high, but if it separates, it loses its value. In the same way as long as the bride is in the company of the groom, she is very adorable and respectable. On the other hand, the rice becomes more valuable when separated from it’s husk, but looses it’s germinating values. On planting the rice no cultivator can fulfil his ambitions. No matter how valuable the polished rice may be, to germinate it has to take the assistance of it’s husk. Similarly a man who wants children must respect his wife.
The paddy is sown in seed bed first to produce seedlings. Later these seedlings are uprooted and transplanted at a different place, then only does it grow, flower and fruit. Similarly a girl is born and bred at the parent’s home, but only produces children when she goes to her husband’s home.
(14) Saptpati (seven steps, seven vows)
This is the last main procedure in the marriage ceremony. At this stage the bride’s clothes are tied in a knot to the groom’s clothes. The significance behind tying the knot is that a man or a woman is unable to take the seven steps alone. Both of them, together, can assist each other to live a steady family life in this world, which can be likened a huge river.
What is the other reason for tying the knot?
Sitting in the marriage ceremonial stage and tying the knots does not only represent the fact of clothes being tied together. More importantly it represents the tying together of two hearts. In the Vedic religion there is no divorce. Thus the groom and the bride have become one and their relationship has become one. Tying of the knot is done to signify this.
While taking the steps, the groom is reminding the bride, “Ma savyen dakhshin matikram”.
O bride! Never take a wrong step in place of the right step.
While fulfilling family duties never let deceptive means take the place of simplicity, truth and justice to be over powered by untruth and injustice. Do not ever follow wrong directions under any circumstance. Always give preference only to truth and not untruth. With these words the groom requests the bride to walk forward beginning with the right foot. To begin walking with the right foot means you should follow simple, correct path and never the wrong path.