Indeed, Kanyadaan is core ritual of Hindu marriage

Indeed, Kanyadaan is core ritual of Hindu marriage

Interestingly, a Single Bench of Allahabad High Court on March 22, 2024 held that ‘Kanyadaan’ was not necessary for solemnisation of marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, and only 'Saptapadi' is an essential ceremony.

Interestingly, a Single Bench of Allahabad High Court on March 22, 2024 held that ‘Kanyadaan’ was not necessary for solemnisation of marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, and only 'Saptapadi' is an essential ceremony. Yes, it is mentioned so, in the Hindu Marriage Act, under ceremonies, that a Hindu marriage may be solemnised where the ceremonies include the ‘Saptapadi’ or taking of ‘Seven Steps’ together by the bridegroom and bride around the sacred fire. Marriage becomes complete and binding when the ‘Seventh Step’ is taken.

Notwithstanding the Act, the ritual ‘Kanyadaan’ practice of Hindu marriage alone denotes ‘Giving Away’ of the daughter (bride) by her parents to the bridegroom, treating him as ‘Vishnu,’ and bride as ‘Lakshmi.’ Bride’s father, ‘Kanya Data’ places her right hand into groom’s, known as ‘Pani Grahana,’ a ritual in presence of sacred fire, symbolising the bride ‘Conceding Her Heart’ to the groom. The groom pledges to treat bride as an ‘Equal Partner’ and also ‘Take her Responsibility.’ Marriage signifies spiritual and emotional union of two individuals and two families depicting a ‘Way of Life.’

Even celestial weddings are performed consistent with similar customs and traditions. For instance, in Sri Sita Rama Kalyanam, Janaka, while giving away his daughter Sita, as ‘Kanyadaan’ said to Rama that, ‘Take her in marriage and take her from her father by holding her palm with your palm.’ Later, Rama and Sita holding their palms, performed circumambulations around the Ritual Fire, what is known as ‘Saptapadi.’

The Hindu marriage symbolises ‘Conjugal Dharma’ an unwritten staunch relationship that knows no boundaries, between husband and wife. At every stage of marriage, the mantras explicitly reveal this. ‘Kama’ (Lust) one of the four ‘Purusharthas’ namely, ‘Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha’ can be dedicated to Dharma as ‘Love’ only through marriage. Common well-wishers of prospective bride and groom families, as a self-imposed responsibility, normally initiate the ‘Arranged Marriage’ process which is still prevalent in many families. Through them the two families come to know of each other better, that paves way to ‘In Principle Acceptance.’

‘Nischitartham’ or ‘Nischaya Tambulam’ which now is called as ‘Engagement’ on an agreed day is the next step. Exchange of rings, fixing (muhurta) auspicious date and time of marriage, followed by formal writing of ‘Wedding Invitation Card’ on a white paper duly applying turmeric on four sides etc. are done on that day. Muhurta is fixed based on bride and groom’s birth stars and horoscope. Printing and distribution of wedding cards follows. Hindu marriages are the social gatherings where among others, prospective brides and grooms meet.

Ritual ‘Snatakam,’ performed either in bridegroom’s house or in a guest house arranged by bride’s side, prepares him to leave ‘Brahmacharya’ (Bachelor Life) for ‘Grihastha Ashram’ (Marital Life). The ‘Guru’ (Teacher), here the Purohit guides the bridegroom that he shall not ‘Err in the Matter of Truth, Righteousness, and Cleverness.’ Bride and groom will be getting ready with traditional head baths (Mangala Snana) in their respective places. Ritual ‘Ankurarpan’ where nine varieties of seeds (Nava Dhanya) are poured in a mud plate, filled with water, for germination as sprouts takes place. On the day of marriage, bride is considered as the combined form of ‘Laxmi, Parvati, Saraswati’ performs ‘Gouri Pooja’ and groom considered as ‘Divine form of the Trinity’ performs ‘Vara Pooja’ at their respective places. Meanwhile, bride’s father (Kanya Data) accompanied by relatives proceed to groom’s place and as part of Vara Pooja, wedding Invitations are ceremonially exchanged. Bride’s father formally makes a request to groom’s relatives to come to marriage. As groom’s side proceed to marriage venue, Bride continues to perform her Gouri Pooja.

‘Kanya Data’ welcomes bridegroom at the entrance of venue, and leads him on to the ‘Kalyan Mandap’ (Marriage Platform). Preceding the marriage event, Kanya Data performs ‘Pada Prakshalana’ (Washing Groom’s Feet) treating him as Lord Narayana. Bride’s maternal uncle ‘Hosts’ bridegroom with honey (Madhu Parkam). Groom wears the new cloths presented to him during ‘Madhu Parka’ and waits for Bride’s arrival.

In the interim, Kanya Data along with groom’s father arrive at ‘Gowri Pooja’ being performed by Bride. ‘Gotra and Pravara’ of both sides are pronounced here, and depending upon the capability of Purohit, it evinces interest. Gotra is the clan and Pravara denotes genesis and three generations family tree. Then Groom’s father makes a request to Kanya Data to give his daughter for marriage with his son. After Kanya Data consents, the next step commences. An interesting rather amusing phase of marriage is maternal uncles of the bride carrying her holding a ‘Coconut Bonda’ in her hands, ceremonially in a ‘Bamboo Basket’ up to the wedding platform, amidst cheers and claps.

Then, despite being elder to the groom, Kanya Data washes groom’s feet, as Purohit chants hymns. This is, ‘The Essential Part’ of Kanyadaan. Bride and groom are literally considered to be alike to ‘Laxmi and Narayana’ respectively and the marriage is performed as ‘Laxmi Narayana Kalyanam.’ Bride still in the basket, Purohit delivers ‘Maha Sankalpa’ and proceeds to the next step. Maha Sankalpa comprises Genesis of Creation, Infinite Capabilities of Creator, Cosmic Form, Celestial Position, Seven Islands, Nine Varshas, Nine Continents, Ten Forests, Island of Jambu, Bharata Varsha, Bharata Khanda, and finally venue of Kanyadaan with geographical boundaries.

After this ‘Kanyadaan’ at the auspicious Muhurta as fixed already, Purohit recites as ‘Kanyam Kanaka Sampannam Kanakabharanairyutam! Daswami Vishnave Tubhyam Brahma Loka Jagishiya.’ Kanya Data thus offers his daughter to Groom, to attain ‘Brahma Loka.’ Kanya Data pours water in the hands of groom and says that, despite her marriage with him, ‘She shall be my daughter.’ Kanya Data administers oath with groom as, ‘Dharmecha, Arthecha, Kamecha, Esha Nathi Charitavya.’ Bride responds as ‘Nathi Cha Rami’ thrice. Exactly on dot at the auspicious Muhurta, Purohit makes both bride and groom to apply paste made of ‘Cumin stick-jaggery’ on each other’s head.

‘Mangalya Dharana’ follows next. Indian and Hindu tradition is, from the time of marriage, women wear around the neck, the ‘Mangal Sutra’ often referred to as ‘Shata Manas’ and made of gold, one of the two by bride’s side and the other by groom’s side, and which is knotted by the groom. As musical instruments are played and Pujari recites ‘Mangalyam Tantunanena Mamajivana Hetuna! Kanthe Midnami Subhage Tvam Jiva Sharadam Shatam,’ the bride groom ties the Sutra around the neck of bride with three knots, representing Three Worlds – Sattva, Raja and Tamo qualities. Veda Pundits bless the couple as, ‘Shatamanam Bhavathi, Shatayu: Purusha.’

After the Mangalya Dharana, the most uproarious, hilarious, and funny event of marriage, pouring of ‘Talambralu’ prepared with rice mixed in cumin powder liquid, ghee, cow milk etc. giving a yellow look, by bride and groom on each other head, in competition follows. Friends and relatives enjoy a lot and encourage both taking sides. This is followed with tying one end of bride’s saree with bride groom’s one attire (Uttariyam) end, suggesting that henceforth they are together in every activity and she as the ‘Owner of the House’ shall hold all responsibilities.

Next event is ‘Sthalipakam’ near a sacred ritual fire known as ‘Homam.’ Here the most important part of Hindu Marriage ‘Saptapadi’ or solemnisation of Marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, takes place, with Fire God (Agnihotra) as a witness, the bride and the bridegroom take seven steps, starting with the right foot of the bride, doing circumambulations around the Altar of Fire. This signals the ultimate step into ‘Grihastha Ashram’ and with this the bride’s gotra, pravara, surname changing to those of the bride groom. The other rituals are: ‘Nagavalli, Sadashyam, and finally Appagintalu (Physically passing on the Bride to Groom’s family elders).’

Every step of Hindu marriage is an ‘Essential Implicit Feature’ of ‘Kanyadaan.’

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