In the last article, we have seen a brief overview of the elements of the ritual. In this article let us explore the first set of elements.
In the olden days, children at the age of 7 are joined in Gurukul – A tutelage under the guidance of a learned master. Irrespective of caste, creed and sex, the master used to accept a student. After gauging the interests of the student by means of introducing them to different arts/sciences, he/she used to group them into different varṇās. Genetic roots did not have any role. So, everyone used to get proper education and exposure into fine arts or sciences, and later, some specializations. This truth will be known when one properly pursues the tree structures of different lineages of ancient seers. Rig Veda has ~45 woman seers. Vyasa, author of so many scriptures, was born to a fisherman’s daughter and Valmiki, author of Ramayanam, to a hunter!
1. Gōdāna Vrata: Ritual of physical grooming
When a child enters a gurukul, the hair is not cut until the end of their education. just like in case of Upanayana, a GURU needs to shave/cut the hair of the disciple. Then a disciple offers some offerings, for having stayed for free for around 10-14 years under the master’s guidance. This act of shaving/cutting of hair is known as Gōdāna. One may wonder as to why “Gau/Cow” in the name?! In the past, the offerings were made in terms of cows and cattle and hence the name “Gōdāna“!
After this, for a period of one year, the disciple needs to stay in a “Vrata” or “Path of austerity”. This is to revise and establish all that they learnt in the past period of tutelage.
2. Snātakaṃ and Samāvartana: Convocation of the disciple & leaving the Guru
After the period of one year, the disciple is blessed to enter the vast social life. The event of convocation (having successfully completed the bachelor life of education) is called “Snātakaṃ“. The event of coming back into social life is called “Samāvartanaṃ“. The disciple will have learnt all that is necessary tools to lead a social life. They must have had enough experience at gurukul which forms a proper grounding for their future life.
3. Vrata Lōpa Prāyaścitta: Rectification of Disciplinary Mistakes
When the disciple was in the path of “brahmacharya/tutelage”, they might have had crossed the limits of the path (knowingly or unknowingly). To rectify those mishaps and to correct their consciousness of any such guilt or karmic associations, the following are performed to nullify the aforementioned effects:
- Ācamanaṃ: Sipping of holy waters by uttering the names of lord viṣṇu
- Prāṇāyāma: Controlling of vital currents of our body (Prāṇa, Apāna, Vyāna, Udāna and Samāna) whose effects are seen as regulated breath
- Different fire rituals pertaining to different dēvās.
All these ensure to nullify any karmic mishaps and gives us proper stir for embarking a new life style. A performance of above rituals with knowledge of meaning of the mantrās is more beneficial than merely uttering and performing a ritual!
4. Suvarṇa Maṇi Bhūṣita Dhāraṇa: Wearing (Gold and stone) Ornaments
Here, one wears gold ornaments by uttering specific mantrās. Gold is very dear to almost all Indians. Now a days, it is due to the price value of it. But the ancients had a different reason. The solar orb was called “Hiraṇya Garbha” – The one having a belly of GOLD. Goddess is named “Hiraṇya Varṇāṃ Hariṇīṃ”, etc. Alchemy, one of the seemingly lost ancient arts, also takes GOLD to be one of those metals which can help us realize god. WHen one looks at the mantrās related to this act, we can see the esoteric nature intended. Basically, “the GOLD is symbolic to the LIGHT that surrounds us during the day (when we are awake) and the ornament is an epitome of it. Wearing it is akin to us wrapping ourselves in the layer of god’s gold effulgence. Thus, it will ensure my longevity, my likelihood of happy living with enough riches, etc….”. All this can be seen in the associated mantrās.
One may ask, what about the economically poor? Well, those who have gold, can wear and those who do not, need not. It is not compulsory. But having gold ornament on body (touching the body — not over the clothes) is always suggested by the Tantra/Mantra sastrās. Those who cat not should make their devotion itself as an ornament!
5. Kāśī Yātra: Going on a Pilgrimage to Kāśi/Banaras
The disciple now has to enter a social life. In ancient days, Kāśi/Vāraṇāsi/Banaras was considered a place of “settling”. The modern day equivalent of banaras is “States”! Well, the ancients used to go to banaras in search of different jobs. From there, they used to get guided to all other places. It was like a center of excellence! So, the disciple now starts his journey into social life by getting ready to go to Banaras (on foot! 😛 ).
Those families who are in search for proper groom, will generally keep an eye onto gurukuls so as to see who are being convocated and are starting their social lives. After a thorough background checks, the elders of the family (mostly father or brother of the bride) used to go to the disciple and request him to come and see their daughter/sister.
These 2, 3, 4 and 5 are put together called “Snātakaṃ/Kāśi Yātra” these days (due to less knowledge) and the whole event lasts around 1 hr max. But it is fun to watch. The groom says that he is going to kāśi for becoming a celibate and the bride’s brothers will have to convince him. But it so happens that they ask for a return gift so as to allow him to marry their sister. Its hard to explain, when one watches this event, one is sure to have a nice laugh! But fun aside, the original background for these acts of 2-3-4-5 are as above!
If the disciple is willing to, he will have to sit and prostrate to AGNI and perform the following (6th) element.
6. Vivāha Dīkṣā Swīkaraṇ: Accepting the Path of Marriage
The mantrās of this element are very grand. The would-be groom now utters to Agni that “Among all the binaries viz., unherad/heard, Ignorance/bliss, concentration/no-concentration, meaningful/meaningless, etc., give me the ability to discriminate and choose that which is GOOD alone!”. “Let the following dēvās establish in my soul as the very property of the soul. I am performing this in front of you (Agni as the Sākṣi/Observer)”:
- Indra – Cosmic Mind and the lord of all dēvās
- Prajāpati – The divine progenitors
- Ṛṣīs and Ṛiṣi Rājas – The lords of wisdom – seers
- Pitṛs andd Pitṛ Rājās – Lords of Reproductiory abilities
- Manuṣya and Manyṣya Rājas – All beings of MIND
- Ākāśaṃ – The visible SPACE
- Atikāśaṃ – Element of SPACE
- Anūkāśaṃ – The Imperceivable SPACE
- Pratīkāśaṃ – The objectified visible LIGHT (space)
- Dēvās – The embodiments of divine LIGHT
- Gandharvās – The Intelligences of Music of creation
- Apsarasas – The lords of condenstation
- Araṇya – Those which are born from the fire of Friction (Araṇi)
- Paśus – Senses and reflexes
- Grāmyams – Groups of souls
Uttering these mantrās, he will put 12 sticks into the fire. 12 represents the formula of an YEAR-cycle and fire the dynamic agent. So, the whole brick of cycle of AGE/LIFE is fueled by these mantrās and hence he will be showered by the “All Blessings”, as one can see from above list!
7. Yajñōpavīta Dhāraṇa: Wearing the Sacred Thread.
First sacred thread (having three strands) is worn at the time of Upanayana (when the disciple joins a gurukul and hence the name upan + ayana = going along or upa + nayana = extra eye of wisdom, etc.). Having been convocated, he gets a second thread. That is to be worn at this event. Each strand symbolizes the following three debts:
- Debt to Dēvās (Dēva Ṛṇa) – We are indebted to the intelligences that govern our minds, hunger, body, blood circulation, etc., as well as the nature around us (cosmic intelligences). So we need to maintain them in pure conditions.
- Debt to Seers (Ṛṣi Ṛṇa) – All our wisdom, modern/ancient, is not ours and hence we ow to those who contributed it. We too need to contribute something or at the least, utilize it for te greater GOOD of humanity.
- Debt to Reproductory angels (Pitṛ Ṛṇa) – Our ability to form a body and bring in a soul is not ours. Those angels are called Pitṛs. So, we need to maintain the purity of reproduction i.e., not indulging in too much pleasure, for, it is not ours to do so!
*In the past, even woman used to wear the sacred threads and used to perform “Sandhya Vandana”. This fact is proved by the great “Kāvya Kaṇtha Vāśiṣṭha Gaṇapati Muni” of Tamil Nadu.
8. Gṛhastha Āśrama Pramāṇa: Promises unto the household lifestyle.
Now, the following promises are undertaken by the groom. These promises ensure a safe and long life which is what is required for a proper healthy social structure.
“I would not: …”
- Bath in the dark – This is redundant given the fear of snakes or scorpions
- Bath naked – old washrooms were open washrooms. The present day fear is for hidden pervert cameras!
- Would not see another lady naked nor my own wife except during the time of sex – This is to control the thoughts of the mind. A sxual thought consumes what we call as “Gārhapatyāgni”. An excess consumption of this fire of sexual impulse leads to impotency/weak resistance as per Āyurvēda. Hence a balanced mindset is necessary for a healthy living.
- Become wet in rain – To not catch cold ofcourse! 😛
- Climb trees – To not fall and brea a leg
- Get down a well – To not drown
- Swim and cross a river/lake/Ocean – redundant
- Dare into those situations which are life-risky – like bungee jumping, cliff diving, etc!
“Oh! The omniscient one!, Now I am accepting the Gṛhatāśrama – household lifestyle“, is uttered by the groom addressing the Lord almighty!
All these are actually undertaken in presence of his master. That is why, after this promise, one sees the utterance of peace invocations for which a guru is needed!
One must note that all these events are done in 2 hrs or 3 hrs time. So most of them lost their value these days. But if we need to take in the true value, one must note that the aforementioned events are same for a girl or a boy. But over the time, girls did not go to gurukul and only boys did. The reasons for it initially were the invasions of barabaras, yauvanas, etc., who subjugated the women of our land. So, extra measures were taken for security. Then over the time, male dominance and caste dominance took the form of those barbarian minds. In the present day world of equal rights and equal grounds for all people irrespective of gender, caste, creed, etc., one needs to take the heart of these elements and imbibe into their lifestyles. But we follow these elements in the short period of 2-3 hrs of marriage so as to re-live those golden ancient era where “ego-problems” were less and the struggle to build a good society was more in vague!
To summarize the best of the above, one can look it in the following way. One goes into path of education and learning LIFE at first. This path of education is unlike the present day dumping art. It should be that art with which, even a 18 year old child should be able to live on his/her own! After true learning, one must come back to society to serve it, for, without society they no more exist. To serve the society, they need a proper support and hence need a family and hence the marriage. To search for a bride or a groom, one must use their own discriminative will or their loved ones’s choice, taking support of ancient guidance. I did not mention the kinds of marriages. In fact Hindu marriages are 8 kinds, broadly speaking, and to all these 8 kinds, the above rituals will be tailor made.
- Brahmaṃ – When a proper groom is chosen for the bride based on the requirements given by bride and her family.
- Daivaṃ – When the bride is married to a person performing a sacrifice.
- Ārṣaṃ – When some return gifts are taken from the groom in order to marry the bride
- Prājāpatyaṃ – When both bride and groom promise, in front of society, to lead a pure life and marry each other
- Asuraṃ – When return money is taken from the groom in order to marry the bride
- Gāndharvaṃ – When a man and a woman are in mutual attraction (which they call love) and dicide to marry without telling anyone in their families i.e., in secret
- Rākṣasaṃ – To fight with those related to bride/groom by groom/bride respectively and then marry by eloping
- Paiśācaṃ – This is what is shown in allmost all Telugu/Hindi movies these days. Initially the girl declines the proposal. Then the guy haunts her and repeatedly says “I love you”. Slowly, the girl has no choice but to be “impressed” (or so depicts the movies). This kind of repetitions, even though one of them do not like, come under this category. or sometimes, it will be a forced marriage. The bride or groom do not like and yet are married. Even that is Paiśācaṃ – meaning sadistic!
Now one can see that the set of elements is not final or only set, but should be tailormade depending on situation.
In this article of part-2, we have explored the first set of the elements of Hindu marriage along with an important extra note. Stay tuned for part-3!