Article : Traditional Marriage - A Sacrament
Traditional Hindu marriage was strictly based on absolute trust, mutual
affection, capacity to adjust and sharing the responsibilities equally. At every stage of
the wedding ceremony when the incantations (Mantras) from the Vedas were uttered, prayers
were offered to ensure a smooth life. The duties were demarcated and freedom given to
both. The union being sacred, the vow did not give room for separation.
The character of the bridegroom was first assessed and his qualifications were
taken into consideration. Both husband and wife should be loyal to each other and contrary
to the mistaken belief that the wife was not treated on par with her husband she had full
charge of the household while he was to assist her in maintaining the family. Wealth
accumulated by him should be used for the family insisting that it should not be frittered
The process of marriage commenced when the parents felt that their son was
mature enough to shoulder responsibility. Unlike the prevailing custom now, in olden times
the eligible boy's father used to go in search of a girl from a noble family and seek her
A verse refers to the expectations regarding the factors governing
compatibility: the bride yearning for a spouse with charm; her mother, a wealthy boy; the
father, a boy of character and high educational qualifications and the relatives, about
the family tradition. For the bridegroom, she must be a companion, an adviser and one who
enthuses him in all his tasks.
Sri A.Sivaramakrishna Sastrigal in a discourse explained the significance of the
mantras recited during the marriage ceremony. The solemn assurance of upholding the spirit
of unity was made before the Lord of Fire (Agni) serving as witness. The ``Paanigrahanam''
was an important step.
The significance of taking seven steps was that the couple should never give
scope for differences of opinion and should an occasion arise, both should respect the
sentiments of the other, thereby ensuring that no confrontation takes place.
As one who was in charge of the household, she should stand like a rock. Whether
a fine image is carved out of it or rain pours on it or made to bear heat, the stone is
impervious. Another statement records that the father of the bride felt extremely happy
and relieved that the interests of his daughter have been entrusted to a capable person.
From then on, he concentrated on his personal work. The sanctity attached to the marriage
has been clearly brought out in the Ramayana by the manner in which the Divine couple
conducted themselves, both in prosperity and in adversity.
(This article republished from "The Hindu", with permission)