- 1. Meaning and synonyms
- 2. The objectives and their importance
- 3. Types
- 4. Arranging a marriage
- 4.1 At what age should a marriage be arranged?
- 4.2 According to astrology
- 4.3 Consanguinous marriage
- 4.4 Ascertaining the credentials of the groom and his family, based on psychology
- 4.5 On what does the matching with one another depend?
- 4.6 After the death of a family member when should a wedding be held?
1. Meaning and synonyms
‘Vivaha or udvaha is taking the bride from the home of her father to one’s own home.
A. Panigrahan: The groom should hold the bride’s hand, to accept her as his wife.
B. Upayam: Going close to the bride or accepting her.
C. Parinay: Holding the bride’s hand and circumambulating the fire.
All these types are included in the Brahmavivaha method followed in modern times.’(1)
2. The objectives and their importance
A. To 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 he performs ritualistic worship (puja), sacrificial fires (yadnyas), etc. and 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 (सौभाग्यवती). This word is derived from the word subhaga (सुभगा), su (सु) meaning good and bhag (भग) the vagina (yoni).
B.Righteousness (Dharma), wealth (artha) and desire (kama) are the three pursuits (purusharthas) to be shared by a husband and wife. ‘धर्मप्रजासम्पत्ति: प्रयोजनं दारसङ्ग्रहस्य’ means that acquisition of wealth, Righteousness and progeny are the motives of marriage, according to Mitaksharakar in his commentary on the Yadnyavalkyasmruti. The progeny will be good only if the couple is attached to one another, is righteous and dutiful.
C. ‘The sanskar (rite) of marriage is an advanced form of human civilization. In this sanskar, advice given to the newly-weds is to reduce their self-centredness and to foster the emotion that they are a useful part of society.’(2)
D. ‘Marriage is the main institution among all institutions of human civilization. In the sixteen sanskars too, emphasis is laid on the sanskar of marriage. Marriage restrains the relationship between a woman and a man. Similarly the social relations of the children born to the couple are decided. The institution of a family is dependent on that of marriage. Hence, the social laws influence this sanskar of marriage. For no other sanskar are so many other factors to be considered as much as for the sanskar 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. He cannot blend with it. 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. Now since the responsibilities are defined he cannot behave erratically according to his whims and fancies.’ (3)
E. 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 gets markedly reduced. This makes it clear that the popular notion of the sanskar of marriage being a licence for intercourse, is a misconcept.
F. After marriage 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). The word ‘पत्नी’ meaning wife is derived from the Sanskrut quote, ‘पत्युर्नो यज्ञ संयोगे’ which means ‘one who accompanies her husband in sacrificial fires (yadnyas)’. Here, yadnya refers to Righteousness (Dharma). The main duty of a wife is to accompany her husband in spiritual practice rather than in marital life. The latter includes acquisition of wealth (artha) and fulfillment of sexual desire (kama).
3.1 The main types
A. ‘Brahma: This is the most pure and most progressed type of marriage. In this, the bride’s father himself invites a scholarly and chaste groom. Then performing rituals to honour him, offers his jewel decked daughter (Kanyadan) to him along with gifts (dakshina). However, the father does not take any kind of marriage settlement from the groom.
B. Daiva: The father offers his bejewelled daughter to the sage presiding over the sacrificial fire (yadnya). This is called a daiva marriage because this giving away of the daughter was done only in the sacrificial fires done to venerate deities. Though this is considered praiseworthy, it is inferior to Brahmavivaha. Here, the priest gets the offering of the daughter for his services rendered towards the sacrificial fire. Hence, this offering is not pure.
C. Arsha: To fulfill various religious rituals like sacrificial fires (yadnya, yag), etc. the father offers his daughter to the groom in exchange for a cow and an ox.
D. Prajapatya: When the groom asks for his daughter’s hand in marriage, the girl’s father offers his daughter after placing the condition that, “Both of you should follow the path of Righteousness (Dharma) and carry out your duties, together”.
E. Asur (asur): Marrying the bride by giving a gift of money, etc. to the bride’s father. This is akin to buying the girl.
F. Gandharva: With the bride’s consent having intercourse with her before marriage. This is considered inferior as here fulfillment of sexual desire is the prime motive.
G. Rakshas (demoniacal): Beating up the relatives and taking away the weeping bride forcefully and marrying her.
H. Paishach: Raping a sleeping, insane or unconscious girl.’(4)
3.2 Anulom and Pratilom marriages
An anulom marriage is one in which a man of a higher class (varna) marries a woman of a lower class while a pratilom marriage is one which involves the marriage of a man of a lower class to a woman of a superior class. The offsprings of the two are called anulom and pratilom progeny.
In reality anulom and pratilom relationships are not sanctioned by Righteousness. Yet all these offsprings were entitled to the attainment of God. This was proven when Shukacharya accepted Suta as His close disciple. Suta’s father was a Brahman while His mother, a Kshatriya. Suta preached the Shrimadbhagvat and other Purans to sages like Shounak. Though Suta was a great exponent of Righteousness He used to consider Himself a Shudra, due to His anulom birth.
3.3 Other types
A. Sambandham: In Kerala, India a matriarchal family pattern prevailed in the Nayar community. Marriage according to this pattern is called Sambandham.
B. Svayamvar: In this, a bride would choose and wed a groom of her choice.
C. Panavivaha: Arranging a contest and giving the daughter’s hand in marriage to the one who emerges victorious in it.
D. Premvivaha (love marriage): The culmination of the love of a young man and woman in marriage, is premvivaha.
E. Sevavivaha (marriage through service): In some tribes it is a custom that if a boy is financially incapable of getting a wife then he should render his services at the bride’s home so as to pay a predetermined amount as the price of the girl and then win her hand in marriage.
F. Vinimayvivaha: A man incapable of marrying due to financial constraints or at times due to a physical deformity offers his sister’s hand in marriage to another man in a similar situation and marries the latter’s sister himself.
Brahmavivaha is superior to all the types of marriages given above. Hence, it will be discussed at length.
4. Arranging a marriage
4.1 At what age should a marriage be arranged?
A. According to the science of Spirituality: After the thread ceremony at the age of eight, a boy would remain at his Guru’s home for study for atleast another twelve years. Thus the parents would not think of getting him married till he was twenty years old. Thereafter to develop the ability to sustain himself financially before entering the stage of the householder in the period of return from the Guru as a celibate (snatak) he would toil for four to five more years. Thus twenty-five to thirty years was the age group considered best for marriage. In case of a girl too, the age group of twenty to twenty-five was considered as appropriate since after the childhood period five to six years were spent in learning how to shoulder the responsibilities of running a household. This holds good today as well. The table below explains how nowadays marrying in a particular age group is conducive from the spiritual point of view.
|The groom||The bride|
|5 – 15||20||5 – 15||20|
|16 – 20||30||16 – 19||40|
|21 – 24||50||20||100|
|25||100||21 – 25||40|
|26 – 30||50||26 – 30||20|
|31 – 35||30||31 – 35||10|
B. 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. For that, obviously the boy should be older than the girl by four to five years.
C. According to the law: 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. Thus in the interest of the nation, to control population explosion the law permits marriage of a girl after eighteen and a boy after twenty-one years of age.
D. Child marriages: This is a popular custom. Nowadays the wedding is held even after several years of the engagement (Sakharpuda). Formerly it was held soon after the engagement. 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 in those days there was the practice of celebrating the wedding immediately thereafter, the custom of child marriages came into being. However, according to all the three sciences – Spirituality, psychology and physiology, child marriage is absolutely wrong.
4.2 According to astrology
A. The gotra (lineage), pravar (ancestral lineage) and the pinda
1. The gotra (lineage): When arranging a marriage first one should find out if the gotra and pravar of both the families match and then the horoscopes of the boy and girl should be matched.
‘Boudhayan has explained the word “gotra” as follows –
विश्वामित्रो जमदग्निर्भरव्दाजोऽथ गौतम: ।
अत्रिर्वसिष्ठ: कश्यप इत्येते सप्त ऋषय: ।।
तेषां सप्तर्षीणामगस्त्याष्ट मानां यदपत्यं तद् गोत्रमुच्यते ।
गोत्राणां तु सहस्राणि प्रयुतान्यर्बुदानि च ।।
Meaning: 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 eight sages are called gotrakrut, gotrakar, vruddha, sthavir or vanshya, the creators of the gotras. Again in every hierarchy some prominent men were born and the family also acquired fame through them. Although they were included in the original gotra they were considered as independent gotra creators, for example Kapi and Bodha of the Angiras gotra gave rise to separate gotras named after them. Rarely, if the father was unknown then the gotra came to be known in the mother’s name. Thus from one basic gotra various famous gotra makers were created. They were called members of the gotra (gotragan). Thus a list of the eight main gotras and the gotragans derived from these gotras was prepared in the ancient times. 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. In the period of the Sutras, the gotras acquired importance in various aspects, for instance
A. Marriage within the gotra was prohibited.
B. It was decided that the inheritance of the property of one without an heir would go to the next of kin of the same gotra.
C. The Brahmans (priests) performing the ritual for the departed (shraddha) should as far as possible not belong to the same gotra as the host performing the ritual.
D. When pouring water upon the corpse the name of the gotra should be pronounced.
E. It was decided that, when performing the sanskar (rite) of Choulkarma a small portion of hair (shendi) should be kept on the head in keeping with the traditions of the gotra and the family.
F. When performing the ritual of sandhya one should utter the name of one’s gotra, pravar, branch of the Vedas and the Sutra that one follows.
G. When performing any observance ordained by the Vedas (shroutkarma) the gotra and pravar of the host should be uttered.
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 and not otherwise.
Formerly, after performing the rite of thread ceremony (Upanayan) the boy would live with his Guru to study the scriptures. Just as nowadays a graduate obtains his degree from the university, in the olden times the celibates (snataks) on returning home from the Guru’s place after study, would accept their Guru’s gotra and introduce themselves as the disciples of that Guru. Thus this clarifies the prevailing misconcept that people belonging to one gotra have the same family tree (vansha).
2. Pravar (ancestral lineage): Pravar refers to the ancestors of the gotras. They are one, two, three or five in number. The root “vru (वृ)” from the word “pravar (प्रवर)” 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. As it was necessary to invoke the three sages who wrote the mantras the number of pravar sages became limited. Thus in all there are forty-nine such pravars. Association of the pravars in relation to the rites performed in the household (gruhakrutyas) are as follows –
A. The pravar of the bride’s and bridegroom’s father should not be the same.
B. The number of knots tied to the waist girdle (mekhala) of the one on whom the rite of thread ceremony (batu) is being performed should correspond to the number of his pravar.
C. When keeping a small portion of hair on the head (shendi) during the rite of Choulkarma the number of pravars related to the boy, should be taken into consideration.’ (5)
3. Pinda: ‘In order to avoid sexual promiscuity (yonisankar) in man who is always 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.
वध्वा वरस्य वा तात: कूट स्थाद्यदि सप्तम: ।।
पंचमी चेत्तयोर्माता तत्सापिंड यं निवर्तते ।।
पंचमात्सप्तमादूर्ध्वं मातृत: पितृतस्तथा ।। – निर्णयसिंधु
Meaning: An extract from the Nirnaysindhu says that if one has to decide whether an individual belongs to the same lineage as oneself (sapinda) one should take any one of his/her ancestors. If he is a male then six generations from him and in the case of a female four generations from her, are considered to be of the same lineage (sapinda). That means if the father of either the bride or groom is not included in the previous seven generations or if the mother is not included in the previous five generations then the bride and groom are not of the same lineage. Hence there is no objection to their marriage.’(6)
The offspring of those marrying within the same gotra is known as chandal (meaning one who is weak physically, psychologically and morally) – ‘Dnyantastu sagotradyutpannanam chandaltvamev (ज्ञानतस्तु सगोत्रद्युत्पन्नानां चाण्डालत्वमेव ।)’ The frequency of genetic disorder is heightened by marriage within the same gotra (sagotra) and same lineage (sapinda). Information about the sequence of gotras and pravars is given in the Hindu almanac (panchang).
B. ‘Matching of horoscopes or looking into the preordained events of life: 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 points are said to match. When minimum of eighteen components match, the horoscopes are said to be matching. The greater the number of points matching beyond eighteen the better it is. It is pointless matching the points based on preordained events when the horoscopes of the boy and girl are not available. Deciding upon a suitable match by matching the horoscope is only a popular custom, and is not prescribed by the scriptures.’(7)
C. 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.
D. 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, etc. ‘If there is a Mangal then the bride should ritualistically worship Umashankar and the ritual of marriage to a pot (Kumbhavivahavidhi) is performed to be rid of widowhood, as a preventive remedy. Before the wedding both parties should perform a sacrificial fire for the planets (grahayadnya). After that the marriage can be held.’ (8)
E. 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.
F. Matching of points in the horoscope of the bride and the groom and their blending together as husband and wife
blending of the
blending of the
4.3 Consanguinous marriage
Though the custom of consanguinous 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 and the sister’s daughter.
4.4 Ascertaining the credentials of the groom and his family, based on psychology
When arranging a marriage the groom’s financial status, looks, 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.
Inquiring about the family: Yadnyavalkya has said that the family which is endowed with renowned Brahmans (priests), versed in the study of the Vedas for ten generations, is superior. With regard to arrangement of a suitable match, all religious men have attributed great importance to the family. The lineage (vansha), class-subclass, financial status, genetic disorders, etc. are carefully probed into.
One should also not marry interregionally, 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.
4.5 On what does the matching with one another depend?
|1. Destiny||65||5. Desires and
|2. Similarity in
|4. Likes and
If 36 points in the horoscopes match, then the blending of a husband and wife or two average individuals is only 10%. This will make it clear why it is generally said that astrology based on horoscopes according to the time of birth is correct only upto 35%.The average matching of Gurubrethren is 30%.
4.6 After the death of a family member when should a wedding be held?
‘How far is the social custom of celebrating a wedding within a year of the death of one’s parents or a close family member or postponing it by three years if not celebrated within a year, correct according to the scriptures?
This custom is one among the many dangerous customs prevalent in the society without any scriptural or philosophical basis, or cultural justification. Generally the deceased person remains as a spirit for one year and hence does not become one of the ancestors. Therefore it is appropriate that this year be symbolically considered to be one of mourning just as is practised nowadays. In this period the ritualistic actions (nityakarma), incidental actions (naimittik karma), family tradition of spiritual practice (kulachar), observance of codes of righteousness of the family (kuladharma) and vowed religious observances (vrats) are unavoidable. But those actions (karmas) for which the performance of Punyahavachan, Nandishraddha (Vruddhishraddha) is necessary should be avoided till the completion of a year. If they are inevitable then one should allow the month of Chaitra to pass, so that the action performed is considered to be falling in the next year (sanvatsar). If one is faced with a dire emergency and if the month of Chaitra is not close by then one can perform the sixteen monthly (shodashamasik) shraddhas and the Abdapurtishraddha of the deceased one. Then one is free to perform the rites of marriage, thread ceremony, Vastushanti, commencement of new vowed observances, etc. These can certainly be taken up after the completion of one year. The custom of keeping the marriage pending for three years is totally wrong and contrary to the scriptures.’(9)
‘Sixteen Sanskars and some other rituals’, published by Sanatan Sanstha.
Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh. Publishers: Pandit Mahadevshastri Joshi, Secretary, Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal, 410 Shanivar Peth, Pune 411 030.
Vol. 3 to 10: First edition Vol. 1 and 2: Second edition
1. Vol. 8, Pg. 714
2. Vol.9, Pg. 566
3. Vol. 8, Pg. 714
4. Vol.8, Pg. 724, 725
5. Vol. 3, Pg. 130, 131
7. Vol.8, Pg. 721
6. Jivitvidya Athva Satyam Shivam Sundaram. Second edition – 1979, Pg 43. Author: Late Hari Ganesh Godbole. Publishers: G.Y. Rane Publications, 2040 Sadashiv Peth, Tilak Road, Pune 411 030.
Shastra Ase Sangate. First edition, fifth reprint – October 94, Vedavani Publications, Kolhapur 416 010.
8. Pg. 130, 131
9. Pg. 134