As you may have gathered by now, most Indian weddings are long drawn out elaborate socio-religious functions. Yet Kerala Hindu weddings are short and sweet – 15 minutes max and then it is time for the sadhya or the banquet. Moreover, as you may have noticed, traditions and customs are mainly for women. But what embitters women is that often, her opinion or consent in matters of the wedding or the groom does not hold any significance.
But this wasnt always so – in ancient India, the practice of swayamvara (swayam is self and vara is groom) where the girl chose her life partner from amongst all the gathered suitors was very much accepted. References to it have been made both in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In fact it was as recent as the 12th century, when one of the most romantic of swayamvaras (Prithviraj Chauhan and Samyukta) allegedly took place.
Manu, the first man, is said to have devised the laws of Hindu society in the Manusmriti. It is believed that this was first written between 2nd century BCE to 3rd century CE. Most scholars consider the text a composite produced by many authors put together over a long period of time. According to Manusmriti (“Laws of Manu”), there are 8 types of Hindu weddings. Not all weddings had religious sanction.
- Brahma Vivah
Brahma vivah is considered the best marriage. In this, the boy and girl belonging to good families and the same varna get married. The boy should have completed his Brahmacharya Ashram (studenthood). There is no dowry involved and the girl enters the boy’s house with two sets of clothes and some ornaments. In this marriage, the boy’s family approaches the girl’s family. Kanyadaan, which is the handing of the bride by her father to the groom, is an important ritual of the Brahma Vivah.
- Daiva Vivah
In this type of Hindu marriage, the girl’s family looks for a groom. If a girl has not been able to get a suitable husband for a period of time, her family marries her off to a priest who officiates over sacrifices.
- Arsha Vivah
This usually takes place when the girl’s parents can not afford to meet the expense of the marriage. Here the groom gives a gift (a cow and a pair of bulls) to the girl’s family as bride price. This is not considered an ideal marriage because there is a monetary consideration involved in this wedding.
- Prajapatya Vivah
Somewhat similar to the Brahma Vivah, except in this case the girl’s family looks for a groom and the ritual of kanyadaan is not followed. Instead of kanyadaan, the bride’s father hands over protection of his daughter to the groom during the panigrahanam ritual. The actual wedding takes place after panigrahanam.
- Gandharva Vivah
This is a love marriage, where the bride and groom marry of their own free will, usually by simple exchange of garlands. Usually the consent of the parents is not taken or is not available because either or both parents are against the marriage. This type of wedding was considered acceptable for kshatriyas or the warrior caste.
- Asura Vivah
Somewhat similar to the Arsha Vivah where the groom gives presents to the bride’s family in order to get their approval for the marriage. Usually the groom is not of the same stature as the bride. This type of wedding was considered acceptable for traders and certain other sections of the society.
- Rakshasa Vivah
In this Hindu wedding, the bride is ready to marry groom, but the bride’s family is against the marriage. In such cases, if the groom’s family forcibly takes away the bride, it is a rakshasa vivah. This type of wedding was considered acceptable for traders and some other sections of the society.
- Paishacha Vivah
In this marriage, a girl, who is not in her senses (she may not be of sound mind or intoxicated or drugged, etc) is forcibly married off. This type of marriage is condemned in the Manusmriti as the girl has not consented to the marriage.
Quote of the day:
I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance,
A church filled with family and friends.
I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for,
He said one that would make me his wife.
What’s your favorite kind of wedding?