Booking the hall, deciding on caterers, choosing the mandap and decorations, sending out the invitations, finding photographers, choosing the Priest – music, bridal outfits, nails, makeup, jewellery, matching colour schemes, groom’s outfit — Aaaaaaaah!! As the stress levels escalate and we strive to organise the wedding of the year, how much time do we get to step back and think about the rituals we are about to perform and appreciate the true meaning of the Hindu marriage ceremony?
According to Hindu Dharma, marriage is a sacrament. Its purpose is to create and develop a religious and spiritual outlook in life. Marriage influences the personality of man and woman as life partners, enabling them to take their rightful place in society.
Hindu marriage is solemnised in accordance with an approved ritual instructed by the VEDAS, the holy scriptures of the Hindus. According to Hindu Dharma the ceremony of marriage is a firm uniting of two souls such that after marriage the individual bodies remain as separate entities but the souls merge into one harmonious whole. The idea behind the institution of marriage in Hindu Dharma is to foster not self-interest, but love for the entire family (and society). It is the love and duty cultivated for the entire family that prevents break-ups. During the nuptial ceremony in a Vedic marriage, both the bride and the bridegroom take an oath for the practice of self-restraint, to work together for the welfare of the family & Dharma and to help each other attain spiritual peace. This lofty ideal of sanctity is a great gift of Hindu Dharma to the world at large.
The majority of a Hindu marriage ceremony takes place inside a four-pole canopy termed the mandap and takes place in different stages.
Time is expressed on many levels within Hinduism. It is not simply a linear concept as it is in the West. The entire universe is part of a natural process of recurring periodical cycles. These cycles are stratified to different levels from the years of mankind to the years of Brahma. The process of creation moves through four periods, namely Sata Yuga, Tretaa Yuga, Dwapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga.
When I found out that my family were going to name me Kevin as opposed to Ketan, I must admit, I was in a state of hysteria. And if you really want to know why they were going to name me Kevin then hold on tight. They thought it would have been (invoke Auntyji accent) “so svweeet” to have my name rhyme with my older brother – Pravin! Beats me. It’s at times like that I appreciate being a Ketan and not a Kevin. Funnily enough though, one of my best mates at school turned out to be a Kevin. Anyways…
- Lighting a fire and offering wood, ghee and herbs is a symbolic act of giving and teaches one not to be selfish.
- Recitation of prayers in a group teaches one to live happily by sharing with others.
- It represents the protection of the environment we all have to live in.
Looking back at my educational experiences at school and university, it seems as if I was being trained to stuff my brain with excessive amounts of facts, figures and statistical information in order to simply pass examinations. What was lacking was an essential equipment of life, namely culture and character development. In the ancient Indian Gurukula System of education, the objective was to produce an educated individual with cultural and moral values. Performing samskaras before entering formal education and after completion of studies assists in the transition from one stage of life to another.