Director, CBI, CGO Complex
New Delhi 110013.
Marriage is one of the main institutions of human
civilization. In the sixteen sanskars, emphasis is laid on the
sanskar of marriage. Marriage formalizes the relationship between a
woman and a man. Similarly the social relations of the children
born to the couple are official. The institution of a family is
dependent on that of marriage. Hence, the social laws influence
this sanskar of marriage. This article discusses these factors
which play such an important part in the life of couple.
Marriage i.e. Vivaha or udvaha is taking the bride from the home of her father to the groom’s home. There are three types of marriagesas per Hindu scriptures. Panigrahan: The groom should hold the bride’s hand, to accept her as his wife. Upayam: Going close to the bride or accepting her. Parinay: Holding the bride’s hand and circumambulating the fire.
Marriages liberate oneself from the debt to God and one’s ancestors. Most of the rituals in marriage are associated with procreation which is essential to achieve liberation from these debts. When a son is born into a family, he performs ritualistic worship (puja), sacrificial fires (yadnyas), . and other rites, which helps in liberation from the debt towards God. By performing a ritual for the departed (shraddha-paksha) he helps in liberation from the debt to the ancestors. As the daughter goes to her in-laws after marriage her religious acts benefit the ancestors of the in-laws. After marriage, a woman is called a soubhagyavati. This word is derived from the word subhaga, su meaning good and bhag the vagina (yoni).
Righteousness (Dharma), wealth (artha) and desire (kama) are the three pursuits (purusharthas) to be shared by a husband and wife. The progeny will be good only if the couple is attached to one another, is righteous and dutiful. In the sanskar of marriage, advice is given to the newly-weds to reduce their self-centeredness and to foster the emotion that they are a positive part of society.
Other objectives of marriage
- Marriage controls the impetuous behaviour of women and
men, which is detrimental to society. A man becomes restrained in
his behaviour in the society because of his spouse. A bachelor
remains solitary inspite of living in society. However, when he
gets married, he blends with the society. Marriage expands his
family and relations and he becomes expansive in his attitudes
towards life. Since the responsibilities are defined he
cannot behave erratically according to his selfish needs.
- Marriage is a practice to reduce sexual desire. The mind gets
diverted from several women to one as a result of marriage. In
addition, due to vowed religious observances
(vratavaikalyas) and regulations of the married
householder’s stage (gruhasthashram), sexual life
gradually decreases in a disciplined way. Later, due to each one’s
qualities the physical attachment is converted into emotional
attachment and sexual desire decreases further. Then conversion of
emotional attachment into love without expectation, that is,
spiritual love (priti) occurs and sexual desire markedly
- After marriage, very often a woman changes her name. She leaves her home and comes to live with her husband. To sum it up, since marriage is a kind of rebirth for a woman, in the rituals of marriage she gains predominance. A woman considers it her fortune to acquire a husband and calls herself a soubhagyavati. To display this, she either applies vermilion (kumkum) in her husband’s name on her forehead or sindur (a saffron coloured powder) in the parting of her hair (bhang).
Arranging a marriage
At what age should a marriage be arranged?
According to the science of Spirituality: In the old days, after the thread ceremony at the age of eight, a boy would remain at his Guru’s home for study for at least another twelve years. Thus the parents would not think of getting him married till he was twenty years old. Thereafter the young man needs to develop the ability to sustain himself financially before entering the stage of the householder. After his return from the Guru as a celibate (snatak) he would toil for four or five more years. Therefore twenty-five to thirty years was the age group considered best for marriage. In case of a girl too, the age range of twenty to twenty-five was considered as appropriate. During adolescent stage, a young woman spends five to six years in learning how to shoulder the responsibilities of running a household. This system holds good today as well.
According to physiology: A girl matures faster than a boy in both physical and psychological aspects. Marriage of a boy and girl of the same maturity helps both of them physically and psychologically. Therefore, the boy should be older than the girl by four or five years.
According to general physiology: The ability to procreate is the highest in the age group of sixteen to eighteen years in a girl and eighteen to twenty-one years in a boy. To avoid over population, the law permits marriage of a woman only after the age of eighteen and for a man after twenty-one years of age.
Child marriages: This used to be a popular custom. Sometimes the wedding is held even after several years of the engagement ceremony (Sakharpuda). In olden days,marriages were decided on the basis of the family (kul) to which the child belonged. Arranging a marriage based on the family background was a type of engagement by itself, and since it was common practice to celebrate the wedding soon after the engagement, the custom of child marriages came into being. However, according to all the three sciences - Spirituality, psychology and physiology, child marriage is absolutely wrong.
According to astrology
A. The gotra (Lineage), pravar (Ancestral lineage) and the pinda
1. The gotra
(Lineage): When arranging a marriage, the
gotra and pravar of both the families are first
checked and if they match then the horoscopes of the boy and
girl should be matched. Gotra is the term used to denote
the descendants of the eight Sages - Vishvamitra, Jamadagni,
Bharadvaj, Goutam, Atri, Vasishtha, Kashyap and Agastya. There are
millions of such gotras.
These gotras were divided into gans and the gans subdivided again into pakshas (groups), for example from Vasishtha gan were derived four pakshas - Upamanyu, Parashar, Kundin and Vasishtha. They have innumerable further subdivisions. Marriage within the gotra was prohibited.
A quote from the recent scriptures states that Kshatriyas and Vaishyas should be considered to be of the same gotra-pravar as that of their priest (purohit). This rule holds good only when they forget their own gotra..
Pravar (Ancestral lineage): Pravar refers to the ancestors of the gotras. They are one, two, three or five in number. The root “vru” from the word “pravar ” means to select; to accept. The words arsheya or arsha are used synonymously with pravar. Arsheyavaran means acceptance of one of the existing sects of Vedic rites (karma). This makes it clear that pravar represents the name of a founder sage of a sect following particular observances as ordained by the Vedas. Just as the word gotra represents learning (vidya), pravar is associated with a sect of karma. The authors of the Sutras have mentioned specific pravar sages for specific gotras, for example Vasishtha, Shaktya and Parasharya for Parashar gotra. Vasishtha, Maitravarun and Koundinya for Kundin gotra and Vasishtha, Bharadvasu and Indrapramad for Upamanyu gotra.
Pinda: ‘In order to avoid sexual promiscuity (yonisankar) in man who is generally sexually oriented, the Vedic scriptures created the four classes (varnashramdharma) based on the qualities (gunas) and actions (karma) and later established the code of marriage to prevent the generation of interclass progeny (varnasankar). It was decided that with the exclusion of the fifth and the seventh generation, a man should accept as a bride (Panigrahan) a girl of the same class but of a different gotra (such as Atri, Vasishtha, Kashyap, Bharadvaj, etc.) and different lineage (asapinda). As the term sapinda is extremely important in the scriptures its description is essential.
Matching of horoscopes: When matching horoscopes the following eight aspects are taken into consideration - the class (varna), the matching of the lunar and solar signs (vashya), the lunar asterism (nakshatra), the species (yoni), the planets (grahas), the genus (gan), the lineage (kuta) and one of the three divisions of the lunar asterism (nadi). If all these eight match each other then in all, thirty-six attributes (Gunas) are said to match. When minimum of eighteen components match, the horoscopes are said to be matching. Deciding upon a suitable match by matching the horoscope is only a popular custom, and is not prescribed by the scriptures.
An identical sub-division of the lunar asterism (nadi) is prohibited: If one of the three divisions of the lunar asterism of the bride and groom is identical then according to astrology, their ability to procreate is reduced.
The defect of Mangal (Mars): If in the horoscope any of the five positions 1, 4, 7, 8 and 12 are occupied by Mangal then the horoscope is said to have ‘a Mangal’. If the Mangal exists in the horoscope of either the bride or the groom it is considered inauspicious. There are several exceptions to this. For instance if out of the 36 points from the horoscope more than 27 match, then it is said that there is no defect of the Mangal.
Shadashtak: Those star signs which are situated at six and eight places away from one another are known as shadashtak. Here there are two types, the friendship (maitri) shadashtak and the death (mrutyu) shadashtak. Their varying results according to the star signs are given in astrology.
Consanguineous marriage: Though the custom of consanguineous marriages is prevalent the world over and is also accepted, it is not sanctioned by the scriptures. In such a relationship however the groom has to be the sister’s son and the bride the brother’s daughter. In some communities in South India, there is a tradition of marriage of the brother’s son with the sister’s daughter.
Ascertaining the credentials of the groom and his family: When arranging a marriage the groom’s financial status, appearance, education, intellect and family background are taken into account. Of these, the financial status is the least and the family background (kula) the most important of all. The remaining points are in ascending order of importance.
One should also not marry inter-regionally, for example the bride should not be from the coastal region and the groom from the plains. Because of cultural and traditional variations the bride finds it difficult to adjust with the groom’s household.
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