Vivaah Sanskar – The importance of marriage in Vedic Culture

The Significance of Marriage in the Vedic Culture

In India, the word ‘Vivaah’ holds a very prominent status and importance. Though when directly translated, it means ‘marriage’, yet it simply cannot be deduced to just that as the ritual of ‘Vivaah’ in Vedic culture and tradition, is based on unique cosmic laws and advanced ancient practices. Under Vedic Hindu traditions, marriage is viewed as a ‘Sanskaar’, and is believed to be a lifelong commitment between the husband and the wife. Marriage is looked upon highly in the Indian Society, and the Vedic belief behind it states that it is designed by the cosmos, and is thus considered “a sacred union of two souls for oneness, which is witnessed by fire itself.” Though the ritual might be followed differently in the various parts of India, because of the different customs followed everywhere, the basic beliefs the priests follow is still the same.

The Marriage Institution as per Vedic Traditions

According to the Vedas, on the basis of which the Hindus follow their rituals an customs, Marriage or ‘ Vivaah’ is a union between a female and male entity, who commit together to pursue the Dharma, Artha(Possessions), Kama(physical and other desires), and Moksha(the liberation), in unison and in togetherness. This union is viewed as a celebration of togetherness which gives progress, prosperity, joy, sensual pleasure, and the liberty to build one’s own family, while elevating the Karmic experience. This is also because Vedic rituals are very much dependent on societal norms, and marriage should be recognized by the society, as it also influences the cultural and societal growth of the society.

According to Manu Smriti, or Manu’s text, which is an ancient legal text among the many Dharmasastras (religious texts) of Hinduism, there are eight different types of marriages. All of them are not approved by the scripture, and in fact the last one is condemned, as it is not regarded as a good union. In serial order, they are: Brahma Marriage, Daiva Marriage, Arsha Marriage, Prajapatya Marriage, Gandharva Marriage, Asura Marriage, Rakshasa Marriage, Paishacha Marriage. But in all of these eight types of marriages, an eligible bride is one who is a never-married virgin, who has just attained puberty, and an eligible groom is one who has completed his Brahmacharya Ashram, which is the student phase as per Vedic rituals. Though this belief still stands true in extremely orthodox communities, it is extremely rare, and in this modern world, this concept of an eligible bride and an eligible groom is regarded to be flawed and vague.

The Ritual of 'Vivaah'

In Vedic culture, cosmic rituals constitute a very important part of Vedic practices, in the Hindu religion. They were designed to build a solid foundation for the Dharma way of living, and to follow the ‘Sanskars’ as per Vedic traditions. One of the main Sanskars among the 16, which are given from the conception of a fetus to marriage to old age and death, ‘Vivaah’ is regarded as a very sacred practice and also as the most important. This is because it is only the Vivaah Sanskaar that influences the life of a couple who are bonded in marriage to become partners for life, and enables them to take their rightful place as creators in the society.

India has a lot of diverse customs, traditions, communities, cultures, and beliefs, even among the ones who follow the Vedic way of life, i.e., Hinduism. This is why many rituals overlap and while the Marriage ceremony is performed. This is why a Marriage in India might have many rituals overlapped among the masses, with only the well-known rituals and common ones being followed by everyone, especially in today’s modern world. We have enumerated those rituals below, with a brief description for the same.

  • Vaak Daanam:
    Agreement for betrothal by the would-be-groom and bride’s parents.

  • Kanyaa Daanam:
    Giving away of the Bride for marriage by the parents.

  • Vara Prekshanam:
    The bridegroom and the bride looking at each other formally for the first time.

  • Ardhasana ceremony
    A ritual that originated from South India.

  • Madhuparka ceremony
    A ritual done by holding a cup of Madhuparka (composed of honey, curd and ghee or clarified butter)

  • Presentation of a ceremonial cow
    The symbolic ritual, where the bride's father, offers a cow to the bridegroom as a gift.

  • Mangala Snaanam
    The wearing of the wedding clothes by the bride and her preparation for the subsequent stages of marriage.

  • Maangalya Dhaaranam
    The groom tying the auspicious thread (mangalsutra), around the neck of the bride.

  • Paani Grahanam
    Ritual symbolic of the bride surrendering herself to the groom.

  • Sapta Padi
    The seven vows taken by both the bride and the groom with the sacred fire as witness.

  • Pradhaana Homam or Jayadi Homamam
    Symbolic participation of the bride and the groom and taking Indra’s blessings.

  • Ashmarohanam
    Stepping on the grinding stone

  • Laaja Homam
    Ceremony of doing homam with parched rice (laja) is conducted.

  • Griha Pravesam
    This ceremony relates to the journey of the wife to her husband's home.

  • Praavisya Homam
    A fire ritual performed by the couple with the thirteen Veda mantras, which offers salutation to the married couple.

  • Nishekam
    The ritual performed before entering the bedroom together, and starting conjugal bliss.

The rich and meaningful ceremony of ‘Vivaah’ or Hindu marriage, is carried out by humming the sacred Veda Mantras. This is done to assure a couple’s long, happy, prosperous married life, and also playing an appropriate role in the society as creators of life and forming a family. Every single ritual is important in its own way, and even up to this modern age, Hindus try their best to follow whatever sacred rituals they can, and live up to the expectations of a Vedic way of life, which is diverse, powerful and traditional in its own way.