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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 away.

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 parent's approval.

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)


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