A Vedic Vivah is a Sanskar. A wedding solemnized according to the Vedic rites is a Sacrament. It is not a contract which may be rescinded at will. In a Vedic Vivah, the matrimony is for both spiritual and physical benefits. A man and a woman choose to come close to each other and take on special responsibilities of life to improve self and society. They take a solemn vow to procreate and raise children and through good upbringing help the progeny, sons and daughters achieve social efficiency.
By entering into a marital tie up, the bride and groom discharge their debt to parents. The Pitra Rin stands fully paid up.
Matrimony is for Happiness. A happy man and a happy woman make others happy. Happiness indeed begets happiness. So, our motto is:
Get Married and Stay Married.
Allow me to quote from my book, VEDIC THOUGHTS: ``Equality between spouses in marital affairs has been the hallmark of the Vedic way of life. A man and his wife are Friends. Their prayer to Prajapati, The Almighty is:
MAY WE EVER BE IN LOVE.
Let us now go through the important landmarks in rituals of a Vedic Vivah.
In the days of yore, kings and captains used to organize `Swayamvars where the princess would choose her life partner after observing his miraculous martial feats. Thus martial art and marital vows went hand in hand. Devi Sita garlanded Shri Ram, Draupadi chose Arjun and Samyukta tied the nuptial knot with Prithiviraj Chauhan through swaimvar or the bride choosing the groom of her own accord without any pressure from parents. In the Vedic society women had freedom to choose their husbands and vice versa.Brahmacharen kanya yuvanam bindate patim and it means that when a girl has completed education and is mature to enter the marital stage of life, she herself chooses her husband.
Ved Mantras are recited to invoke the blessings of Param Pita Parmatma, the Almighty. The bride takes the lead and garlands the groom, the groom follows suit. One may ask why should the bride take a lead in the Varmala , garlanding , and why should the groom not garland first ? Well, generally speaking, the groom is an invitee at the brides house and, therefore, it is the bride who welcomes the groom by garlanding first.
Moreover, in a Swýamvar, the bride has chosen the groom of her own free will, without threat or inducement, and by garlanding the groom first she makes her wish to wed him public. One may say that by this ritual, she has announced her intention from housetop. The guests and relatives bless them. They now move to the mandap the vedi or sanctum sanctorum where Vivah Sanskar Vedic wedding will be solemnized.
The bride and her people make the groom and his people comfortable by offering an ``aasan, a comfortable carpet piece or mat to sit on. It is the bride who personally invites the groom to be comfortable, to wash feet with water that is offered there. She offers him water to wash face with Argha jal. She again offers water for aachaman sipping water from cupped hand to refresh himself.
The bride offers to the groom semi solid edible concoction called 'Madhu Park'. It comprises yogurt or curd, honey and purified butter or ghee. It is for health and happiness. The groom sprinkles a part of the Madhu Park in all four directions signifying a desire to share the goodies that he earns in life with one and all.
When the groom looks at the Madhu Park he recites a mantra saying ``As God, with the help of the sun pulsates this universe with life, I shall, after consuming Madhu Park be in the pink of health and attain longevity. While the groom is holding the vessel of Madhu Park and mixing the three ingredients, he recites three mantras praying to Parmatma for harmony all around him enabling him to gel with nature. May air, water, weather and seasons sun and rain, cows and other animals bring sweetness and joy to the marital aspect of life. He partakes of it thrice eulogizing the health promoting madhu park as the finest and the sweetest grain.
The final phase is : giving away a cow or its cash equivalent by the bride to the groom signifying cultural and economic importance of cow in the social system. Further, the brides father is indeed concerned about the health of his daughter and son-in-law. Cows milk is indeed Amrit (nectar). Hence, this ritual is of importance.
The bride and groom voluntarily and willingly accept each other as equal partners in the lifes journey. In sections of society, under the influence of dark ages, Panigrahan is named as "Kanya Daan" or giving away The Girl in charity. The nomenclature Kanya Daan is a product of a grave error. In the Vedic Wedding it is called as Pani-Grahan - the two Hold Hands to share joys and sorrows of life for ever.
The groom presents clothes to the bride and says: "O damsel! May you live with me until the old age. Now put on, please, the dress that I present to you. May you live long to be a centenarian. May your sons and your wealth not cross limits of honesty and integrity. Thereafter the groom himself dons a "Uttariya" unsewn cloth across shoulder- and vows to be a centenarian while remaining within limits while partaking of the fruits of life. He prays for name and fame all around, even among the learned ones.
Now for additional safety from fire and security, one man of grooms side sits alert with a pitcherful of clean water. Likewise another man of grooms side sits on the southern end of "Agni Kund" facing North.
A brother or a cousin of the bride sits near the `Vedi with puffed rice and Shami dried leaves in a winnowing basket. Sitting at the west end, he faces the east. At this stage the bride and the groom address the august assembly:
``O ye learned people assembled here in a Yajna Shala, please know it for sure we two have chosen to live together in `Grihastha Ashram happily. Our hearts are placid as water and joined together as water mixes with water. We are as dear to each other as the life giving breath is to the living being. We shall be happy together and love each other as a preacher loves the congregation. Our souls shall be in a union of love forever.
The bride and the groom hold each others right hand and aligning themselves with natures gift air and water the marital couple says :
Like the sun draws water through its rays and bestows benefits to all, far and wide, may you and I, by the grace of God, be together in thought and action. May we be amenable to each others counsel and ever be favourably disposed towards each other.
At this juncture what the groom, inter alia, prays for is:
The learned bride, with the blessings of God, should have `compassion for both man and animal. May she give birth to brave sons. May she not be averse to ``niyog that is, if and when necessary, she willingly and publicly go in for a physical, mental and spiritual close union with a``Devar (one who with the religious sanction deputises for the husband), to procreate to preserve and protect the `dharma, the path of righteousness. May I, the groom, follow suit.
The Bride prays: ``May the path to my husbands home be level and wide and I enter unencumbered by sorrow generating disease. (The Vivah Yajna incorporating Rashtra Bhrita Yajna is performed for making our nation strong and powerful. The individual and the nation are indeed interdependent.) JAYAHOM is for success of the nation.
The six mantras of mutual love and dedication. The bride and groom take a vow to live together until old age and have unflinching faith in each other leading to love. They shall ever be amenable. We shall live like husband and wife hereafter. God, our creator and preserver, and the learned assembly of men and women are witnesses to our Vivah eternal bond of love.
The groom makes his intention of receiving the bride and holding her hand forever. ``I am your husband and you are my lawfully wedded wife. Let us two be together in carrying out the house chores. We shall not lead a promiscuous life. We shall give birth to and raise finest children and ever promote peace and prosperity.
The groom addresses the wife as `Prajavati one who will beget finest children. He affirms his pious intention of remaining faithful to her. We shall be centenarians. Likewise the bride affirms that none but he will always receive her loving care and attention. Thus both take a solemn vow not to steal the affection of a third person never to entertain amorous thoughts out of wedlock. The prospective couple promise to look after each others creative comforts and give gifts of fine clothes, attractive jewellery. This state of bliss will beget fine children.
The 'Grih ashram that is the second stage of life which the bride and the groom are entering now, will be at its zenith when the two do all they can to provide a fine future to their progeny. The bride and the groom promise to each other that they shall NOT cheat on each other. Let us be of help to each other, to keep the ``third person out for good. Mutual love and togetherness will cement our ties and bring bliss.
The groom holds the brides right palm and helps her get up. Both go round the Yajna kund once. Standing at the original position they recite a mantra to take a vow: the groom says ``I, in command of my senses, knowingly and willingly accept thee. Likewise, knowingly and willingly you accept me. Whereas I am Samved, you are Rigved. You are earth I am sun. We voluntarily and delightedly marry and beget progeny. May our offspring live long until old age be centenarians and remain in command of senses. The bride follows suit.
Stepping On Rock
Brides stepping on the rock, called Shilarohan in Sanskrit, is a symbolic act signifying that she should be as firm as a rock. The road ahead is rocky; walk well, stumble not. It is her brother or mother who helps the bride ascend the rock. It is a gentle suggestion. Although she is leaving her maiden home and going to marital home, she may count on their help,that is help and guidance of loved ones of the parental home without contravening or ignoring wishes of new loved ones of the marital home. Never mind the tight rope balancing but it has to be done for the sake of Happiness of all concerned.
(Offering puffed rice as Aahuti) It is a social and psychological ritual of importance. Like a paddy sapling is transplanted and then it blooms, a bride is transplanted from parental home to a marital home where she blooms blossoms. The puffed rice is a symbol of that.
The `lajahom ceremony is a symbol of continuity. The Brides brother hands over puffed rice to her; she and the groom make an offering of it to the `havan fire. The ritual makes them stick together through thick and thin. Further, the bride and the groom will participate in `havan and other Vedic ceremonies together. They are entering the Grihastha Ashram to live as lawfully wedded husband and wife perform their religious and social duties together. After every offering of puffed rice the couple make a parikrama (perambulation) of the `agni kund that is the fire. Mantras are chanted for the health and happiness of all concerned.
The groom unlocks the locks of hair of the bride. Thus both stand released from rigours of the `Brahmcharya ashram a life of celibacy for acquiring knowledge and receiving formal education. The groom chants two Ved mantras signifying graduation to the second phase of life. The groom releases the bride from parental home and formally initiates her into the marital home. Welcomes her as one who will beget bright and brilliant children.
Now the vivah sanskar is about to reach the climax. As a part of the preparation for the great moment, the bride and the groom tie the knot the nuptial knot. It is a symbol of togetherness. It signifies a resolve to face the world together and solve problems.
SEVEN STEPS TO BLISS The bride and the groom now take seven steps together and move forward. The vivah sanskar is complete in the eye of the law when Saptpadi (seven steps) is done. Hereafter the couple shares joys and sorrows of life.
Love is Sharing
The seven steps of Saptpadi are:
The first one:- Strive together for food. The two are indeed partners. It is a prayer to attain moral, mental, physical and financial capability to beget children.
The second one:-For health and strength. Acquire unending energy.
The third one:- Prayer for acquisition of wealth through righteous means.
The fourth one:-For HAPPINESS. Let all our thoughts and action generate happiness.
The fifth one:- Give birth to and raise healthy, happy and intelligent children. Begetting children is a sacred duty, enjoined on us by the Vedas. Shirk not, shun not.
The sixth one:- Let us gel with nature. Let us be environment friendly.
The seventh one:- Let us be friends through word and deed, generate `Sakha bhav as is the feeling, the emotion of togetherness through thick and thin among equals. May we ever be in love.
Sprinkling of a little water on the grooms head by the bride is done for cooling effect. He recites mantras for both. Both chant a Ved mantra for a long life and take a look at the sun, if it is daylight. The groom touches his brides heart literally and figuratively. He says: ``I pray for compatibility of body, mind and soul. May you listen to me and act accordingly. The bride says: ``May you and I have unity of thought and action. May you listen to me and act accordingly. The Almighty has enjoined on both of us to shun promiscuity and be faithful and loyal to each other. We shall be in LOVE.
The groom places his hand on the brides head and addresses the assembled guests: ``Kindly behold the bride and bless her before retiring to your quarters. The blessings and flowers are showered and closing offerings (Aahuti) made to Agni fire. Thus blessed, the newly married couple retire for rest. The newly weds have the pitra rin or parental debt in mind and move forward to take effective steps for Prajanan or procreation. It is both a religious and social obligation which should be fulfilled willingly and happily.