Meaning and Understanding
The word Marriage is derived from the Latin word Maritare, meaning to provide with a partner. Another term used for marriage is wedding. This word is derived from old English word, wedding, meaning to join two parts together.
In India, marriage has a more wholistic meaning. It is denoted by the word Vivaha and Kalyan.
India has been and is a glorious civilization. The longest surviving continuous civilization of the world. The word ‘civilization’ come from the word civil, civil meaning ‘seasoned’.
When we work down from the civilization to the society, to community, to family, we see that the centre point, the starting point of a civilization is the family unit. The family unit comes to be from the event of Vivaha, marriage. In this family unit, while husband and wife are expected to go round each other together in a complementary manner, it is the women who is the central theme of a marriage and thereon of the family. So the central pillar, pole, stambha of a marriage, society, community, nation and as well as of the civilization is a woman. It is marriage that gives her this pole position. So, marriage is the bond, the bandhan that keeps family, community, society and civilization together in control – Vivaha.
The term Vivaha means “Vishesena Vahati Iti Vivaha”, meaning Vivaha is that which brings special rights. So, there are rights for the husband and wife, and also rights for them jointly as a family. These rights are not limited in the modern sense of the word of right, but more in the form of traditional India sense of the word right, which comes along with responsibilities, duties and dharma.
Marriage is also known by the term Kalyan, which means welfare. The marriage, Kalyan is auspicious and brings in prosperity. A happy marriage is pleasing, and brings in a salubrious effect to the whole society.
Marriage, a Samskara
Marriage is a Samskara, Sacrament in Indian tradition. “Samskara” is doing something in a well thought out way. Sam(s) means well and Kara means doing. There are in all 40 Samskara laid down by the noble Rishi of yore. These are in consonance with our Guna, the characteristics, our body, soul, nature, consciousness. Through the passage of time what we now practice is only 16 of these Samskara.
We recognize that every aspect of life is sacred. Each stage is significant from conception to cremation. It is celebrated, as life is divine and thus needs to be respected.
The 16 important stages of life has been listed as the “16 Samskars” i.e. “Sodasa Samskara”. Das is for 10 and So is for six. Sodasa stands for sixteen.
- Garbhadan – Conception
- Pumsvan – Male Procreation
- Simanta – Hair Parting
- Namakarma – Naming Ceremony
- Karna Vedha
- Upanayana and Vedarambha
- Vivaha – Marriage
Of these 16 Samskara, Vivaha, Marriage is one of the most important phase of a person’s life where one finds his bride and in case of a women finds a suitable husband, and they jointly take marriage vows.
Marriage – One of Ashrama
In the early burly of the modern world, what was a Shramam, effortless work, has become Brhad Shrama, Brihad meaning heavy effort very difficult work. Ashrama is effortless effort, Brhad Shrama is heavy effort. It is for us to realize this and move back once again from Brhad Shrama to Ashrama. Marriage should not be a burden, bridsharma, but Ashrama, an effortless household journey. Griha means to occupy space. Asan Grahan Karna. In marriage we occupy certain space. At the same time, it is essential to give enough space for one’s spouse, so that Grihastha Ashrama is effortless.
There are four Ashrama which are various stages in one’s life, namely,
- Brahmacharya, Student, learning
- Grihastha, Householder, family rearing, societal contribution.This is the phase in which we contribute most to the society and civilization.
- Vanaprastha, retired life where you travel to tirtha yatra from Kasi to Rameshwaram in Himalayas. As most of these are in forest, it is called Vanaprastha and engage in religious discourses to give space to next generation to carry their obligation of Grihastha Ashrama.
- Sanyasa, Renounced ascetic life. One moves away totally into an Ashram, Mutta to renounce the family bond. This is for those who deems it to take the spiritual path in fourth phase of their life.
The Grihasta Ashrama is the phase of one’s life as a family for one to get children to ensure the continuity of one’s lineage and contributes the needs of the society and civilization continuous to function in a harmonious manner for ages to come.
In the Indian ethos, life should be an effortless journey through these four phases, which also includes Grihasta, the householder stage.
During Graha pravesham husband hold wife’s hand to new abode, live together upholding dharma and raise family.
Kinds of Marriage
In the Indian tradition, there are 8 kinds of marriage. These marriages are mentioned in different Smriti of the land.
While all of them were not sanctioned by the law of the land, these were followed among different communities on different occasions in different parts of the land.
The 8 types of marriages being,
- Brahma Vivaha
- Gandharva Vivaha
- Prajapatya Vivaha
- Arsha Vivaha
- Daiva Vivaha
- Asura Vivaha
- Rakshasa Vivaha
- Paishacha Vivaha
Panguni – marriage of gods
Brahma Vivaha is what is today known as Arranged Marriage. In this form of marriage, all the family members, including the bride and the bridegroom are in complete agreement to the marriage.
In this category of Vivaha come Swayamvara and Vir Swayamvara. Swayam means self and Vara here refers to the groom. Swayamvara is an arranged marriage whereby a girl chooses her husband from a list of selected suitors.
Vir means “courageous”. Vir Swayamvar is when the parents of the daughter arrange for a competition among the suitors. The one who wins gets the right to wed. This type of marriage happens mostly among royal families.
Gandharva Vivaha is in way today’ love marriage, where couple marry first and later make it known to their family and friends. In this form of marriage, girl and boy are in love with each other and marry by exchanging garlands. It could either be in a forest witnessed by Nature or nowadays in a registrar office, observed by the registrar.
Prajapatya Vivaha is today’s Love Marriage, where after the couple have fallen / risen in love, they take consent / acquiescence of their Praja, People, their Parents, their relatives and friends is taken and all the ceremonies and vows relating to marriage are performed.
In Arsha Vivaha, a man offers a productive asset to the girls’s family and gets her hand. Then he ceremoniously marries his bride.
In today’s parlance, Daiva Vivaha is referred to as community marriage. When a major Yajna is conducted, where Deva, Divinities are not only propitiated, but their Kalyanam, marriage is also conducted symbolically. On such occasions, Girls and boys from community are invited and their marriage is performed during the Yajna.
In today’s parlance, Asura Vivaha is where the bride is made to pay dowry to the groom, for the marriage to take place. This is considered to be demonic even by our present society and was highly forbidden in ancient days.
Rakshasa is another term that has today come to be associated with a demon. Rakshasa Vivaha is where a man forcefully abducts a girl and marries her against her will. Rakshasa Vivaha, as is Asura Vivaha, is highly forbidden.
Pisacha means Ghost. This form of marriage is the most forbidden one and is highly dreadful, and is rightly named Pisacha, for it is Ghostly. In Pisacha Vivaha, a girl is drugged, raped and then married.
Sa means “with” and Mudrika means, “impression, mark”. Lakshana means “indication”. Samudrika Lakshana is the indication about a person drawn with the impression from their body, personality and character. These are taken into account for choosing a bride or bridegroom
There is a mention of Samudrika Lakshana is different texts. The Shilpa Sastra talks about these lakshana. Kalidasa has also talked about the Lakshana in his works.
There is Stri Samudrika Lakshana and Purusha Samudrika Lakshana.
Some of the Stri Lakshana being,
- A woman must come from a family of equal rank with that of her husband, a house that is known around for being noble and chaste.
- She must be wise and learned about worldly happenings and be educated which ensures enlightenment of the society and her family.
- A woman must who is cautious about her surrounding and is well-behaved with people from lower and upper strata of life.
- Woman, who is respectful towards her religion and is accustomed with all rituals and customs, and known for discharging her social duties.
- Woman, whose aura is divine. She saves money and boosts her family’s economy like Goddess Lakshmi; whose voice is as sweet and full of purity as Goddess Sarasvati and is as devoted to her husband like Goddess Parvati.
- Woman who’s freed from all vices, advises like a minister and cares for her folks like her kingdom.
- A woman, who is brought up having siblings, has a great deal of patience (like Earth), is great with kids, sense of sharing and protectiveness for relations.
- A woman, who is well-versed with her desire for love and intimacy
- She must be respectful towards and dedicated to her elders, seeking their advice and cherishing their gems of wisdom for the welfare of her and her family.
- Woman who possess great culinary skills and is generous in feeding the hungry.
- She is strong and is undeterred in the toughest of times. She knows how to lead her family out of the darkness into the light with her love and support.
Similarly, there are lakshana for men as well, known as Purusha lakshana.
- He must possess courage, and shall have endurance.
- A man who rises early in the morning, and motivates others to do so.
- A man must be aware of his partner’s needs and wants and works towards their fulfilment
- A man, who possess patience and perseverance
- A man who is down to earth, and doesn’t let his wealth and success, to ruin his sanity, pride, magnificence and ostentation.
- Man, who feels content and is happy with whatever he has and strives to achieve, but at the same time isn’t disheartened to about things he doesn’t have.
- A man, who believes in consuming proper nutrition through his diet and his conscious of his health, and encourages others to do so.
- Man who doesn’t over sleep and is always fresh
- Is optimistic, and hopeful of goodness, and also never gives up on his dreams and way to success.
- The man who never loses out his cool and is patient in the toughest of times, and is quick-thinker. A guy, who never gets violent while fighting with friends and family.
- Man, who is diligent in his work and is working willingly, regardless of external disturbances, like weather.
- Man, who is diligent in his work and is working willingly, regardless of external disturbances,
- A man, who isn’t a coward and wouldn’t look for an easy escape
- He is humble, kind and respectful towards his colleagues, sub ordinates and seniors
- Man, who sets ambitious goals
- A guy, who understands the risk of jeopardizing his relationships, personal and professional.
- A person who understands the value of a relationship
- Man, who shows resoluteness and can take up hard work when needed
- A person who is cautious about people and events around him.
Complementary Nature in marriage
For a family to do well, it is important that wife and husband play a complementary role to each other, rather than the wife playing only a supporting role.
One often hears in the English language, the remark, “Behind every successful man is a woman”. This phrase conjures up an image of the woman being lesser than the male gender and playing only a supportive role, while the man is the achiever.
In contrast to this phrase, which denotes a secondary role for women, the Indian thought, expressed the relationship between man and woman through the word Ardhangini. Ardha means half or equal and angini comes from anga meaning part. Thus women were considered literally as one who has an equal part or role in an effort and life.
In the Indian languages, the wife is called “Saha Dharmini”, meaning one who is along with the man. This term implies that the wife and the husband are to go along in life together, performing their deeds together, towards leading a righteous life, pursuing the 4 goals of life namely, Dharma – which may be translated in a limited way, as righteousness, Artha – wealth, Kama – desires and pleasures, Moksha – liberation, salvation.
While “Saha” is commonly understood to mean equal, there is another word for equal namely “Sama” meaning same level.
So the term “Saha Dharmini” must have a deeper connotation. Saha seems to be more than just equal. Saha denotes a form of partnership, “co-” as in cooperative, togetherness. And for a partnership, togetherness and a cooperative effort to be successful, it calls for a sense of complementing one another to complete the task on hand effectively.
In the Mahabharata, in one question Yudhistira is asked, “kimsvid daiva krutah sakha?” meaning, “Who is man’s god-given friend?” and he says, “bhaaryaa daivakrutah sakha”, – “A man’s God-given friend is his wife”.
Both husband and wife together, as partners, have to complement each other and go around, the central point – the family and society, fulfilling their duties to the best of their innate, individual nature and capability.