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TOP =======UNDERSTANDING HINDUISM========
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Having previously recited the Vedic Mantras in adoration of the Lord, invoking His blessings (Swasti Vachana) and prayed for peace on earth and goodwill to all beings (Shanti Prakarana) and having performed the usual Homa (Sacred fire ceremony), the bride and the bridegroom shall, at the appointed time, enter the altar (Vedi), specially erected for the performance of their marriage ceremony.The Marriage Ceremony
[Note: The marriage ceremony may
I. Reception of the bridegroom (Vara Satkaarah)
[Note: As soon as the bridegrooms party arrives, they are warmly welcomed by the bride's parents, relatives and friends. At the entrance of the hall the threshold ceremony is performed. The officiating priest chants a few mantras of blessings and welcome. The threshold ceremony requires the brides mother to receive and bless the groom with rice, red tumeric powde (kumkum) etc., by applying tilak (red dot and uncooked rice) on the grooms forehead. She sprinkles rice and red tumeric powder on the groom, and then blesses him with the palms of both hands- stretching them close to the grooms head. Now the priest and the brides parents lead the bridegroom and his parents to the stage where they are given appropriate seats.All the other guests take their seats in the hall to witness the marriage ceremony.
To the accompaniment of ceremonial mantras by the officiating priest the brides parents welcome the groom by invoking Gods blessings and then offering the bridegroom a nutritious drink called Madhuparka. This is called the Madhuparka Ceremony, the origin of which dates back thousands of years when Rishis and sages of India used it as a way of welcoming guests.]
The bridegroom shall stand facing the east. The Bride shall stand facing the north. The
bride (offering the seat or Asana, shall address the bridegroom as follows:
The bride shall take her seat to the right of the bridegroom.
The bridegroom performs the Achamana and Angasparsha with water.
Holding with his left hand a cup of Madhuparka (composed of honey, curd and ghee or clarified butter), after removing the cover and looking at the Madhuparka,
The bridegroom says:
[Note: honey-sweet = pleasant, advantageous, conducive to happiness.]
Gift of a cow
[Note: The brides father symbolically offers to the bridegroom a cow as a
present. In olden times sons-in-law received real cows as gifts, since that was the most
precious asset with which a newly wedded couple could start life. This part of the
tradition has been preserved by a symbolical presentation. At the conclusion of the first
part of the wedding ceremony, it is customary to present gifts to the bride. The
bridegroom presents the bride with gifts of clothing and jewellery thereby acknowledging
his life-long duty to provide her with the necessities of life.]
[Note: Kanya means daughter or girl. Daan means giving away. This is an important part of the marriage ceremony in which the brides parents give her away to the groom by entrusting her to the bridegroom. The officiating priest chants appropriate verses in Sanskrit. The people in the audience (the public) is now notified that the parents have willingly expressed their wish and consent by requesting the groom to accept their daughter as his bride. As soon as the groom indicates his acceptance the brides parents place their daughters right hand into the bridegrooms right hand. The parents now bestow their blessings on both the bride and the groom and pray to the Lord to shower His choicest blessings on them.]
The father of the bride, placing her right hand on the right hand of the bridegroom, says:
The father of the bride:
The bridegroom wears the garments and the scarf offered by the parents of the bride.
Then facing each other The bride and the bridegroom speak as follows:
Ye learned people assembled at this sacred ceremony know it for certain that we two
hereby accept each other as companions for life and agree to live together most cordially
as husband and wife. May the hearts of us both be blended and beat in unison. May we love
each other like the very breath of our lives. As the all-pervading God sustains the
universe, so may we sustain each other. As a preceptor loves his disciple, so may we love
each other steadfastly
- RigVeda X.85.47
Addressing the bride, the bridegroom says:
2. Through the grace of God, may the eyes radiate benevolence. Be thou my shield. May thou have a cheerful heart and a smiling face. May thou be a true devotee of God and mother of heroes. May thou have at heart the welfare of all living beings!
Rig Veda X.85.44
III. The Nuptial Homa (Vivah-homa or the sacred fire ceremony).
[Note: All solemn rites and ceremonies commence with the performance of Homa (sacred fire ceremony) among the followers of Vedic religion. The idea is to begin all auspicious undertakings in an atmosphere of purity and spirituality. This atmosphere is created by the burning of fragrant herbs and ghee and by the recitation of suitable Mantras. Also see Page Mantras-Sacred Fire].
The Achaman and Angasparsha are performed for the second time. The bride also participates.
The three Achaman mantras involve sipping of a little water three times.
The seven Angasparsha mantras involve touching water with the right hand middle two fingers apply the water to various limbs first to the right side and then the left side as follows:
Mouth 2.Nostrils 3.Eyes 4.Ears 5.Arms 6.Thighs 7. Sprinkling water all over the body.
The bridegroom rising from his seat and facing the bride, shall raise her right hand with his left hand and then clasping it says:
V. Solemn vows (Pratigna-Karanam)
The bridegroom taking the palm of the bride into his hand helps her to rise and then they both shall walk round the altar, the bride leading. Then facing the east take the solemn vows:
The bride and the bridegroom:
VI. Ascending the slab(or stepping on the stone) [Shila arohanam or Shilarohanam]
[Note: Shila means stone. Arohan means ascending or
The bride shall place her right foot on the slab (stone), assisted by her mother or her
brother. The priest recites a Mantra from the Atharva Veda (AV II.13. 4)
VII. The fried-rice offerings (Laja-Homah)
[Note: Laja means puffed rice or barley like popcorn.]
The bride shall place the palms of her hands over those of the bridegroom and make three offerings (ahutis) of fried rice soaked in ghee (clarified butter).
VIII. Circumambulation around the sacred fire
(Parikrama or Pradakshina or Mangal fera)
[Note: This is an auspicious and important part of the marriage ceremony. It consists in walking around the sacred fire (clockwise) four times. This aspect of the ceremony and the one that follows, namely Saptapadi (seven steps)- constitute the most important art, in as much as it legalises the marriage according to Hindu custom and tradition. These two aspects of the marriage ceremony establish an indissoluble matrimonial bond between the couple.
In the first three rounds the bridegroom leads the bride as they circle together around the sacred fire. In the fourth (last) round, the bride leads the bridegroom around the sacred fire.
In each round around the sacred fire, an appropriate mantra is recited which expresses noble sentiments in relation to their future matrimonial life. Each round culminates in both the bride and the bridegroom placing offerings or ahutis of fried rice in the sacred fire. The Hindu religion emphasises enjoyment of life as well as the discharging of family, social and national responsibilities.
During the first three rounds, Gods blessings and help are sought; loyalty to each other is emphasised and; a promise to keep in mind the well-being and care of the future children is made.
In the fourth (last) round (led by the bride) the bride promises that she will lead her life according to the tenets of the Hindu religion, namely Satya and Dharma or Truth and devotion to duty, and that she will always ensure that the bridegroom can rely on her to carry out her family, religious and household duties.
The bridegroom then places his hand on the brides head and states that henceforth she will be his wife and he will shield her against any danger or harm.
At the end of the four rounds they shall exchange seats, the bride taking her seat to
the left of the bridegroom.]
IX. Seven Steps (Saptapadi)
The ends of their garments (the bridegrooms scarf and upper garment of the bride) are tied together by the priest (signifying marriage knot).Then both shall stand facing the north. The bridegroom shall place his right hand upon the right shoulder of the bride.
They shall take the first step in the north easterly direction.
In taking these seven steps, the right foot shall always lead and the left foot be
brought forward in line with it. Uncooked grains of rice (about a small handful) are
placed in a line at equal distance at seven places. The bride and the groom take seven
steps together, stepping upon first mound of rice with the right foot as the priest
recites a mantra. Then stepping upon the second mount of rice with the right foot as the
priest recites a mantra. (All seven steps are done the same way).
May the second step lead to strength (at the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels).
May the third step lead to prosperity.
May the fourth step lead to all round happiness.
May the fifth step lead to progeny (noble and virtuous children).
May the sixth step lead to long life.
May the seventh step lead to friendship (through harmony, understanding).
The bridegroom says:
After the completion of the seven steps ceremony, the couple (with knots tied to each
other) take their seats. The wife now takes her rightful place on the left side of her
husband as the marriage is now religiously solemnized in its entirety. Now the couple are
husband and wife. The husband garlands the wife and she in turn garlands her husband.
X. Sprinkling of water (Abhishek).
The priest (or a brother of the newly wedded wife) shall sprinkle water on the
foreheads of the bride and the groom. The priest recites mantras from the Rig Veda (RV
X.9.1/2/3) during the sprinkling of water.
(Looking at or mentally visualising the sun, to give them power to lead a creative, useful and meaningful life).
The bride and the bridegroom together pray:
XII.Meditating upon the Pole Star and the Arundhati Star (Dhruva dhyaanam darshanam va)
[Note: The Pole Star is stationary and fixed in its position, likewise the couple is expected to be steadfast and firm in fulfilling their vows and responsibilities.]
Placing his hand upon the brides forehead
(Addressing the bride)Thou are the Pole star; I see in thee stability and firmness. Mayst thou ever be steadfast in thy affection for me. The great God has united thee with me. Mayst thou live with me, blessed with children, for a hundred years!
XIII.Partaking of food (Anna praashanam)
In the last symbolic rite the couple make offerings of food with chantings of Vedic Havan Mantras (oblations of food in the Sacred fire). Having done that, the couple feed a morsel of food to each other from the residue of the offerings. This being the symbolic expression of mutual love and affection.
Placing his hand upon the forehead of the bride,
All the people present shall pronounce the following blessings upon the couple.
2. O Lord, may this couple live in perpetual happiness!
3 O Lord, may this couple be ever infused with love for each other. May this couple be blessed with children and grand-children and live in the best of homes for the full period of their lives!
4. May you two live here together. May you never be parted. May you enjoy the full span of human life in the delightful company of your happy sons and grandsons!
[Note: The Hindu wedding ceremony may vary in minor details from region to region and different priests may adopt some variations.]
[Sacraments constitute an important part of Hindu religion. Sacraments in Hinduism are
designed to build a solid foundation for righteous living. They are known as
Sanskaras.Their purpose is to create and develop a religious and spiritual
outlook in life.
From Manusmrti (Laws of Manu) Chapter III
5. A damsel who is neither a Sapinda on the mothers side, nor belongs to the
same family on the fathers side, is recommended to twice-born men for wedlock and
[Note: The text above (7. "It is declared that a Sudra woman alone can be the wife of a Sudra,..........") refers to the practice of polygamy as practised in Hindu society. The above text can be paraphrased as A Sudra male is allowed to have only one wife who should be chosen exclusively from his own caste. A Vaisya is allowed to have two wives; one chosen from his own Vaisya caste and the other from Sudra caste. A Kshatriya is allowed to have three wives; one chosen from his own Kshatriya caste, one from the Vaisya caste and one from the Sudra caste. A Brahmana can have four wives; one from his own Brahmana caste, one from Kshatriya caste, one from Vaisya caste and one from Sudra caste. Compare the following text from the Mahabharata.]
From The Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva
Addressing King Yudhishthira
Bhishma said: A Brahmana can take three wives. A
That girl who has no brother nor father should not be wed, O chief of Bharatas race, for she may be intended as Putrika of her sire.
[Note: Explanations by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli: Putrika: When a father happens to have an only daughter, he frequently bestows her in marriage upon some eligible youth on the understanding that the son born of her shall be the son, for purposes of both Sraddha rites and inheritance, not of the husband begetting him but of the girls father. Such a contract would be valid whether expressed or not at the time of marriage. The mere wish of the girls father, unexpressed at the time of marriage, would convert the son into a son not of the father who begets him but of the father of the girl herself. A daughter reserved for such a purpose is said to be a Putrikadharmini or invested with the character of a son. To wed such a girl was not honourable. It was in effect an abandonment of the fruits of marriage. Even if dead at the time of marriage, still if the girls father had, while living, cherished such a wish, that would convert the girl into a Putrikadharmini. The repugnance to wedding girls without fathers and brothers exists to this day.]
[Note: The Mahabharata acknowledges the authority of Manu which becomes evident from the text reproduced below.]
From The Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva,
Bhishma said: After the appearance of puberty, the girl (if not married) should wait
for three years. During the fourth year, she should look for a husband herself (without
waiting any longer for her kinsmen to select one for her). The offspring
of such a girl do not lose their respectability, nor does union with such a girl become
disgraceful. If, instead of selecting a husband for herself, she acts otherwise, she
incurs the reproach of Prajapati himself. One should wed that girl who is not a Sapinda of
ones mother or of the same Gotra with ones father. Even this is the usage
(consistent with the sacred law) which Manu
[Note: In modern day India, as also in other countries where constitution of the
country guarantees freedom of religious practices, it is a moot point that Hindus may have
been prosecuted for practising polygamy in contravention of their constitutional rights.
In India, for example, a person of Islamic faith can have four wives, but Hindus may be
prosecuted for marrying more than one wife.]
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Let no prudent man, after giving his daughter to one (man), give her again to another;
for he who gives (his daughter) whom he had before given, incurs (the guilt of) speaking
falsely regarding a human being.
Though a man may have accepted a damsel in due form, he may abandon (her if she be)
blemished, diseased, or deflowered, and (if she have been) given with fraud.
If anybody gives away a maiden possessing blemishes without declaring them, (the
bridegroom) may annul that (agreement or arrangement)) with the evil-minded giver.
A man who has business (abroad) may depart after securing a maintenance for his wife;
for a wife, even though virtuous, may be corrupted if she be distressed by want of
If the husband went on a journey after providing (for her), the wife shall subject
herself to restraints in her daily life; but if he departed without providing (for her),
she may subsist by blameless manual work.
If the husband went abroad for some sacred duty, (she) must wait for him for eight
years, if (he went) to (acquire) learning or fame (she must wait for him) six (years); and
if he went for pleasure, three years.
For one year let a husband bear with a wife who hates him; but after (the lapse of) a
year let him deprive her of her property and cease to cohabit with her.
She who shows disrespect to her husband who is addicted to (some evil) passion, who is
a drunkard or diseased, (she) shall be deserted for three months (and be) deprived of her
ornaments and furniture.
But she who shows aversion towards a mad or outcast (husband), a eunuch, one destitute
of manly strength, or one afflicted with such diseases as punish crimes*, shall neither be
cast off nor be deprived of her property.
She who drinks spirituous liquor, is of bad conduct, rebellious, diseased, mischievous,
or wasteful, may at any time be superseded (by another wife).
A barren wife may be superseded in the eighth year; she whose children (all) die (may
be superseded) in the tenth (year); she who bears only daughters (may be superseded)in the
eleventh (year), but she who is quarrelsome, (may be superseded) without delay.
But a sick wife, who is kind (to her husband) and virtuous in her conduct, may be
superseded (only) with her own consent and must never be disgraced.
A wife who, being superseded, in anger departs from (her husbands) house, must
either be instantly confined or cast off in the presence of the family.
But she who, though having been forbidden, drinks spirituous liquor even at festivals,
or goes to public spectacles or assemblies, shall be fined six Krishnalas.
If twice-born men (Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaisya) wed women of their own (caste) and of
other (lower castes), the seniority, honour, and habitation of those (wives) must be
(settled) according to the order of castes (Varna).
Among all (twice-born men) the wife of equal caste alone, not a wife of a different
caste by any means, shall personally attend her husband and assist him in his daily sacred
But he who foolishly causes that (duty) to be performed by another, while his wife of
equal caste is alive, is declared by the ancients (to be) as (despicable) as a Chandala
(sprung from the) Brahmana (caste).
To a distinguished handsome suitor of equal caste should (a father) give his daughter
in accordance with the prescribed rule, though she have not attained (the proper age).
But the maiden, though marriageable, should rather stop in (the fathers) house
until death, than that he should ever give her to a man destitute of good qualities.
Let mutual fidelity continue until death, this may be considered as the
summary of the highest law for husband and wife.
Let man and woman, unite in marriage, constantly exert themselves, that (they may not
be) disunited (and) may not violate their mutual fidelity.
Thus has been declared to you the law for a husband and his wife, which is intimately
connected with conjugal happiness, and the manner of raising offspring in times of
If among all the wives of one husband one (wife) has a son, Manu declares them all to
be mothers of male children through that son.
On failure of each better (son), each next inferior one is worthy of the inheritance;
but if there be many of equal rank, they shall all share the estate.
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From Manusmrti (Laws of Manu) Chapter III
20. Now listen to the brief description of the following eight marriage-rites used by the four castes (varna) which partly secure benefits and partly produce evil both in this life and after death.
21. They are the rite of Brahmana (Brahma), that of the gods (Daiva), that of the Rishis (Arsha), that of Prajapati (Prajapatya), that of the Asuras (Asura), that of the Gandharvas (Gandharva), that of the Rakshasas (Rakshasa), and that of the Pisakas (Paisaka).
22. Which is lawful for each caste (varna) and which are the virtues or faults of each (rite), all this I will declare to you, as well as their good and evil results with respect to the offspring.
23. One may know that the first six according to the order (followed above) are lawful for a Brahmana, the four last for a Kshatriya, and the same four, excepting the Rakshasa rite, for a Vaisya and a Sudra.
24. The sages state that the first four are approved (in the case) of a Brahmana, one, the Rakshasa rite in the case of a Kshatriya, and the Asura (marriage in that) of a Vaisya and of a Sudra.
25. But in these institutes of the sacred law, three of the five (last) are declared to be lawful and two unlawful; the Paisaka and the Asura rites must never be used.
26. For Kshatriyas those before mentioned two rites, the Gandharva and the Rakshasa, whether separate or mixed, are permitted by the sacred tradition.
27. The gift of a daughter, after decking her (with costly garments) and honouring (her by presents of jewels), to a man learned in the Veda and of good conduct, whom (the father) himself invites, is called the Brahma rite.
28. The gift of a daughter who has been decked with ornaments, to a priest who duly officiates at a sacrifice, during the course of its performance, they call the Daiva rite.
29. When the father gives away his daughter according to the rule, after receiving from the bridegroom, for (the fulfillment of) the sacred law, a cow and a bull or two pairs, that is named the Arsha rite.
30. The gift of a daughter by her father after he has
31. When the bridegroom receives a maiden, after having given as much wealth as he can afford, to the kinsmen and to the bride herself, according to his own will, that is called the Asura rite.
32. The voluntary union of a maiden and her lover one
33. The forcible abduction of a maiden from her home,
34. When a man by stealth seduces a girl who is sleeping, intoxicated, or disordered in intellect, that is the eighth, the most base and sinful rite of the Pisakas.
35. The gift of daughters among Brahmanas is most
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FromThe Mahabharata, Anusasana
King Yudhishthira said: I think the marriage of ones daughter should be regarded as the foremost of all duties. Tell me, however, O king, upon what sort of a person should one bestow ones daughter?
Bhishma said: Having enquired into the conduct and disposition of the person, his learning and acquirements, his birth, and his acts, good people should then bestow their daughters upon accomplished bridegrooms. All righteous Brahmanas, O Yudhishthira, act in this way (in the matter of the bestowal of their daughters). This is known as the Brahama marriage.
Selecting an eligible bridegroom, the father of the girl should cause him to marry his daughter, having, by presents of diverse kinds, induced the bridegroom to that act. This form of marriage constitutes the eternal practice of all good Kshatriyas.
When the father of the girl, disregarding his own wishes, bestows his daughter upon a person whom the daughter likes and who reciprocates the girls sentiments, this form of marriage, O Yudhishthira, is called Gandharva by those that are conversant with the Vedas.
The wise have said this, O king, to be the practice of the Asuras, viz., wedding a girl after purchasing her at a high cost and after gratifying the cupidity of her kinsmen.
Slaying and cutting off the heads of weeping kinsmen, the bridegroom sometimes forcibly takes away the girl he would wed. Such wedding is called by the name of Rakshasa. Of these five (the Brahma, the Kshatra, the Gandharva, the Asura, and the Rakshasa), three are righteous, O Yuthishthira. And two are unrighteous. The Paisacha and the Asura forms should never be resorted to.
[Note: Explanations by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli: Eight form of marriage are mentioned
by Manu and five forms of marriage are described in the Mahabharata. Such parts of the
Mahabharata are unquestionably more ancient than the Manu we know. There must have been an
older Manu upon whose work the Manu we know has been based.]
50 He who avoids women on the six forbidden nights and on eight others is equal in chastity to a student, in whichever order he may live.
But families that are rich in the knowledge of the Veda,