1. VEDIC WEDDING (By Anbil Ramaswamy) AN INTRODUCTION Marriage is a religious ceremony and is an important "Samskaaram".

"Samskaaram" is meant "to purify" There are 40 Samskaaras prescribed in the Saastras. 26 of them relate to wedding and postwedding periods. This shows the importance of the role of Grihasta (householder) who is considered to be pivotal in Society. Also, the others belonging to Brahmacharya (The Celibate), Vaanaprasta (The Anchorite) and Sannyasa (The Renounced) are not qualified to perform any rites involving the use of fire (agni Karyam) and they are prohibited from begetting progeny. "Dharma prajaartham vriNeemahE" says the mantra which means that marriage is primarily for begetting progeny. It is therefore the duty of the house-holder to enter this Aasrama with due respect. Marriage is, no doubt, primarily for begetting children but it was also required for the proper performance of worship. To drive home this point during the first four days after the wedding function, the couple is supposed to share the same bed but is not supposed to indulge in sex. Marriage is not only a contract between individuals but also a contract between families. Marriage is in NOT a license for sexual pleasures but a holy and irrevocable contract not only between the man and wife but also casts the burden of ensuring it to be so, till the very last, on the community comprising of the families of both sides. "Marriage is marriage" and is not a mere "love affair" which is nothing but an infatuation. Love affair is a relationship just for pleasure and when the pleasure wears out, the affair is gone. But, marriage is a lifetime commitment to yourself, to your other half and represents the prime concern of your life. If you make a sacrifice, you are not sacrificing to that person. It is a sacrifice to a permanent relationship. If pain there is in such relationship, there is also life in it. Love bears all, endures all. If the relationship has pains, remember that life is also not all that blissful all through all the time. The stronger the love, the more pain it is prepared to bear and ultimately the pain would turn out to be even enjoyable. Partners who enter in wedlock are not 'paragons of virtue' as they appear in the first flush of enthusiasm. None is perfect and to seek for perfection in the partner is like `seeking a mirage in the desert'. Perfect relationship is created by conscious effort and not discovered all on a sudden. The incompatibilities have to be resolved by a continual mutual adjustment and reconciliation by a willing attitude of 'give and take'. 1. Samaavartanam After completing studies in "Gurukula Vaasam" (Residential school in the teacher's home) learning the Vedas and other scriptures, the student proceeds to marry with the permission of the preceptor. 2. Kaasi Yatra

The bachelor is now in a dilemma. He has to decide whether to remain a confirmed bachelor (naishTika Brahmachari) for the rest of his life or to get married and become a Grihasta. His first inclination would be to choose the former. He would plan to be a mendicant and go on a "Paadayatra" to holy places. He would prefer to start with a journey to Kaasi (Vaaruna-asi). At that time, the father of a prospective bride would intervene to persuade him to marry his daughter and start a family of his own offering him a lot of gifts to start the Aasrama. He would consult his parents and other elders in his family. The bachelor would be convinced, when they give the green signal! 3. KANYAA SULKAM A few representatives of the boy would be deputed to meet with the parents of the girl. An offer would be made by the boy's party to the girl's party for conducting the marriage. This is known as "Kanyaa Sulkam" In the good old days, the practice of "Vara dakshiNai" now enforced ruthlessly on the parents of the brides with disastrous consequences was practically unknown and is nowhere contemplated in the Saastras. 4. VARA PRESHANAM When once the parents of the bride accept the offer, the groom is deemed to be a replica of Mahaa VishNu himself and treated as such and is shown due courtesies by the bride's party. 5. NANDI and VARA POOJA

Nandi is a ceremony in which, the two families solicit the blessings of their ancestors for formalizing the marriage. When once the parents of the bride accept the offer, the groom is deemed to be a replica of Mahaa VishNu himself and treated as such and is shown due courtesies by the bride's party. The priest announces three generations of the ancestry of both the bride and the groom. 6. VRATAM This consists of several preliminary Samskaaras like NaamakaraNam, Jaata karaNam etc. For boys, all these would have been done already during Upanayanam. For girls, however, this is required to be done immediately before the marriage. Usually, it is done on the previous morning or on the morning of the wedding day. 7. VISHWAKSENA ARADANAM / LAKSHMI POOJA Before the commencement of the rites, the first event in any religious ceremony will be to seek the blessings of Vishwaksena who removes all obstacles in the way of successful conduct of the function. Lord Mahaalakshmi is invoked by placing at the feet of the Goddess, a gold pendent and other jewelry of the bride seeking her blessings for a long and happy married life for the young couple. 8. PUNYAHAVACHANAM VaruNa, the Lord of waters with appropriate mantras is then invoked in a vessel containing holy waters and decorated with a coconut, flowers, kumkum and turmeric. Invoking Lord VishNu and the nine planets, the place is sprinkled with this water as a means of

purification to make the venue fit for the functions that follow. 9. AnkuraarpaNam Some seeds of paddy, black gram, green gram, sesame and mustard are soaked in water and filled in small mud bowls. The sprouts are carefully nursed and kept intact till the completion of the wedding functions. This is known as "Paalikai". The sprouting is symbolic of the intended production of progenies of the couple. 10. BOY AND GIRL MEET At the time of the first meeting, several mantras are chanted by the prospective groom praying for the removal of any blemishes that the girl might have contracted knowingly or unknowingly. 11. EXCHANGING GARLANDS The boy and the girl exchange flower garlands and shower each other with rice mixed with turmeric as a token of their coming together for the holy wedding. This indicates that free exchange of ideas between them after the marriage and that neither of them would keep back anything from the other. 12. OONJAL They are made to sit on a swing. The swing symbolizes the ups and downs of life, which the couple may have to face united and with confidence and full faith in each other. Ladies sing songs in lilting tunes to add a festive fervor of the occasion. 13. Parting is painful Any parting is painful. The bride is about to leave her parent's home where she had grown up all along and is about to enter a totally new and alien surrounding of her would - be husband. Both the girl and her parents would feel the pangs of prospective separation and the uncertain atmosphere in which the girl would have to lead her life post-marriage, tears might roll down their cheeks. Since it would not be proper to shed tears on such an auspicious occasion, a special mantra is uttered to ward off any evil effects of such feelings. 14. PRATISARA BANDHAM / RAKSHA BANDHAM A string soaked in turmeric is tied around the left wrist of the girl and on the right wrist of the boy, probably to indicate a resolution of loyalty to each other. This is known as Pratisara Bhandham. 15. YOKE To reassure them, a ritual is prescribed in which one side of a miniature yoke is placed on the head of the bride signifying that the boy and the girl would act in unison in carrying out their new life like a pair of bulls dragging a cart. The Mangalyam is placed in the hole in the yoke and water is poured drop by drop through the hole on the bride. There are other interpretations of this ritual linking it to the story of one "Apaala" (daughter of Sage Atri) who was rescued by Indra (the Lord of Gods) through a yoke of his chariot as a result of which she became relieved of disease and shone in full luster.

16. MANGALA SNAANAM The bride is then given a ceremonial bath called MangaLa Snaanam. The bridegroom has a shave and bath. He wears a "Panchakachcham" and two sacred threads (yagjnOpaveetam) 17. AGNI PRATHISHTA Fire god is deemed to be the intermediary between the devotees and Gods. He is the Chief witness to the entire proceedings. So, fire is ignited in the fire pit (hOma kuNDam) into which the offerings (Mainly ghee (Clarified butter) are offered with a request to the Fire God to carry the offerings to satisfy the Gods. 18. MADHUPARKAM The bride and the groom are then offered some pieces of fruits and honey to indicate that their married life would be sweet all the way. 19. KOORAI PUDAVAI The groom presents an expensive sari (with blouse) to the girl. She returns to the hall wearing this sari and fully bedecked with jewels befitting the occasion. The groom ties a string of reeds around the waist of the girl, perhaps indicating that she is "tied" to him! 20. THE GIRL IS ALREADY MARRIED! According to Saastras, a spinster is euphemistically said to have married the celestials called Soman, Chandran, and Agni before marrying a human! In other words, she has been blessed by these celestials. The groom recites a mantra to this effect and proceeds to go through the rest of the rituals. [To be continued] dasoham Anbil Ramaswamy (To be continued)

VEDIC WEDDING – Part 2 (By Anbil Ramaswamy) 21. MARRIAGE RITES There are several rites to be observed in sequence prescribed in the 10th MaNDala of the Rig vEda and the Grihya Sutras and Kalpa Sutras and compiled by Sage Aaapatsthamba and are purely religious- like Sumangali Praartahna, Pandakkaal, Nishcyatartham, Vratam, Jaatakama, Naama karma, Laaja hOma, Griha pravEsam, Ammi midittal, (flat grinding stone) Arundati Sighting, Paalikai, wearing MeTTi (silver toe-rings) etc. There are other observances that are mainly social like Jaanuvaasam, Kaasi Yaatra, Oonjal, and Tiru maangalyam. The most significant part of the wedding ceremony as prescribed in the ancient texts are "PaaNi-grahaNam" and "Sapta-Pathi" without which no marriage could be considered to be complete. 22. MAANGALYA DHAARANAM The Tirumaangalyam is taken round to get the blessings of the elders present in the marriage hall. The bridegroom then invokes Maangalya DEvataa and performs "ShOdasa Upachaara" (16 kinds of obeisance). The bride's father sits on a raised seat facing east. The bride sits on his lap. The bridegroom places the Mangalyam around the neck of the bride and ties one knot. Uttering the well known SlOkam that is invariably flashed out in season and out of season in Television shows and movies depicting the tying of the "MangaLa Sutram". This, however, is NOT A VEDIC MANTRAM but it is recited by way of tradition. "maangalyam tantunaanEna mama jeevana hEtunaa/ kaNTE badnaami subhagE tvam jeeva saratas satam//" (Vide page 23 of Vivaaha Mantraartha Bodhini" pub: Llifco Associates Reprint 1991)The bridegroom's sister then ties two more knots. 23. PAANI GRAHANAM (CLASPING THE HAND) The bridegroom clasps with his right palm the right palm of the bride including the thumb and recites 4 Mantras invoking celestials like Bagan, Aryama, Savita, Indra Agni, Surya, Saraswati and Vaayu praying for their blessings. There is a famous SlOka in Srimad Ramayana on this. King Janaka requests Sri Rama to grasp with his right palm, Sri Sita's right palm including all her five fingers. "iyam Sita mama suthaa saha dharma charee tava/ Prateecha cha yENaam badram tE paaNim griheeshva paaNinaa//" Once this grasping of hand commences, the grasp cannot be given the go by till at least after "Saptapathi". Nowadays, it is the norm to hold the reception on the eve of the wedding. It is, however, NOT a desirable practice to introduce the couple as husband and wife, even prior to the marriage ceremony. There is a tendency among the guests to rush to the dais, to shake hands with the couple, immediately after the "Maangalya DhaaraNam"

is over. Instead, they should wait till the immediate post-marriage rituals including the "Seven steps" are completed, when alone the marriage gets fully solemnized." (Page27 of "Lakshmi Kalyaana VaibhogamE' Supplement to Nrisimhapriya Jan. 2005) 24. SAPTAPATHEE This literally means seven steps and is the MOST IMPORTANT item in the Marriage ceremony. The groom is required to hold the right toe of the bride with his right hand and make her take 7 steps towards the north or east of the "hOma kuNdam" (fire-pit) reciting the relevant mantras for each step as follows: 1. EkamishE VishNus tvaa anvEtu// "Oh! Fair maiden! With this your first step, May Lord VishNu come with you to bless you with plentitude of grains etc. for a life without hunger" 2. dvE OorjE VishNus tvaa anvEtu// "With this second step of yours, May Lord VishNu come with you to bless you physical and mental strength and health in life" 3. treeNI vrataaya VishNus tvaa anvEtu// "With this third step of yours, May Lord VishNu come with you to bless you with the power and energy to do all your religious duties diligently" 4. chatvaari mayO bhavaaya VishNus tvaa anvEtu// "With this fourth step of yours, May Lord VishNu come with you to bless you with all happiness to at all times" 5. pancha pasubhyO VishNus tvaa anvEtu// "With this fifth step of yours, May Lord VishNu come with you to bless you with wealth in cattle" 6. shad ritubhyO VishNus tvaa anvEtu// "With this sixth step of yours, May Lord VishNu come with you to make all the seasons good and favorable for you" 7. sapta saptabhyO hOtraabhyO VishNus tvaa anvEtu// "With this seventh step of yours, May Lord VishNu come with you to give you the ability to fulfill all your duties in life by performing all the prescribed hOmas" 25. AFTER SAPTAPATHI After taking these seven steps, the groom says to the bride: (Meanings given after the SlOkas) sakhaa sapta padaa bhava, sakhaayou sapta padaa babhoova, sakhyantE gamEyam, sakhyaath tE maa yOsham, sakhyaan mE maayOshTaah, samayaiva sankalpaa vahai, sam priyou rOchishNoo, su-manasya maanee, eesham oorjam abhi sam vasaanou, sannou manaagumsi, sam vrataa sam uchittaany aakaram, saa tvam asya mooham, amooham asmi saa tvam, dhyour aham prithvee tvam, rEto aham rEtO bhru tvam,

manO aham asmi vaak tvam, saama aham asmi ruk tvam, saa maam anu vrataa bhava, pugumsE putraaya vEttavai, sriyai putraaya vEttavaa yEhi soonrutE//" Meaning: "Having taken these seven steps with me, you have become my friend. Once we have taken these seven steps together, we have become partners. I take your friendship. I will not leave your side under any circumstances. Neither do you leave me. Let us be together always. We will live with mutual love and affection for each other. We will live with good intentions. We will enjoy our life together. We will be of one mind. We will do our Vratas (religious duties) together. Our wishes will be of the same kind. I will be the music and you will be the lyrics of the song of life. I will be the sky and you will be the earth. I will be the voice and you will be the mind. Oh! Maiden with sweet words! We will obtain all that is good in life. Please come with me" Saastras say that on taking seven steps together, friendship blossoms. Since the couple should remain friendly to each other throughout their lives, it is a vow addressed to the sanctity of this friendship. What is friendship? In weal and woe, the couple should stand united, face the joys and sorrows of life together without blaming each other, thus promoting perfect understanding between them. Just like "Rik" and "Saamam" are inseparable forever, the mantras seek to emphasize that the couple should remain inseparable at all times. 26. HOMAMS GALORE - PRADAANA HOMAM AND LAAJA HOMAM This is followed by several hOmams, the most important one being "Pradaana HOmam" and later on a "Laaja HOmam" in which the brother of the bride hands over the palm of the bride parched rice which mixed with clarified butter, she offers in the sacred fire. Parched rice is a symbol of prosperity. 27. AMMI MIDITTAL / ASMAAROHANAM The groom holds the feet of the bride and places it on a grinding stone accompanied by recital of some mantras. This is said to indicate a request to her to stand firm like a rock through ups and downs in their married life. 28. A BOY ON THE LAP OF THE BRIDE! A small boy is made to sit on the lap of the bride after ensuring that none of the boy's siblings had died! This is probably to indicate that the bride should bring forth a male child like him if and when she conceives. 29. SIGHTING DHRUVA AND ARUNDATI ON THE SKY The groom shows her the Dhruva star (Pole star) and Arundati star, the proverbial personification of chastity. This is also said to reinforce the same message as "Ammi Midittal" 30. ROLLING THE COCONUT AND SMASHING THE FRIED PAPAD To impart an aura of festive mood, a mock game is arranged in which

the bride and the groom are seated facing each other and engage in rolling coconuts like balls and the onlookers are said to umpire the game and declare the winner. Later, they are made to smash fired pappads on each other's head! This is observed in south Indian marriages. 31. GRIHA PRAVESAM This refers to the formal entry of the bride into the home of the husband. She is supposed to enter placing her right foot first while entering and this is considered as auspicious. 32. HOMAMS AGAIN "Pravisya HOmam", "Jayaati Homam" "SEsha Homam" and "Praayaschitta Homam"Pravisya HOmam relates to the formal entry of the bride into her new home. Jayaati Homam seeks to pray for prosperity in the new home. SEsha Homam relates to a prayer for protection of the family in the new home. Praayaschitta Homam relates to atonement for any commissions and omissions in observing the rituals and praying to God to forgive their transgressions, if any. 33. ASIEERVAADAM The elders assembled would sprinkle rice mixed with turmeric powder and bless the couple to the chanting of appropriate mantras. 34. ARATHI This is the traditional closing ceremony when two Sumangali ladies wave around the face of the couple plate containing water made red with turmeric and lime (ChuNNaambu) to ward off effects of any evil eye! 35. SAANTHI MUHOORTHAM Marriage is not meant as a means to satisfy carnal craving. It is regarded as a means to spiritual glory, a `sin qua non' for the development of lineage - a necessary link between the "dead past" and an "unborn future" that must come alive to be undertaken as a part of spiritual duty with devotion to perpetuate the family tradition. Marriage is an integral part of a Grihasta for it is said that no ritual is efficacious without the presence of the wife, the "Saha DharmiNi". The wife always accompanies the husband in discharging his duties dasoham Anbil Ramaswamy (To be continued)

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