Vedic weddings

 How did traditional Indians wed and live in marriage?  An intriguing question, that was, until I read rig-veda, a traditional Indian text.  It was a translation by O.M. C Narayanan Nampoothiri from Sanskrit to the tongue of Keralites, Malayalam.


A word about rig-veda
Seemingly, there was no aspect of life that had not come under the purview of traditional Indians in however primitive form they may appear to the modern mind.  And what they came to grasp, they popularized for the benefit of their future population.  Lyrics were their popularizing medium because of their ease to remember.  Initially, not written down, those lyrics formed part of traditional India's oral tradition.  It was also a time at which India was not segregated in the name of caste, colour and varna (race). 


Later on, they were written in many traditional Indian languages by authors who belonged to various walks of life.


As time progressed each generation added its own contribution to what the previous generation had acquired.  Their summary came to be known as the Vedas. Altogether there were four vedas available in the Indian tradition- rig, yejur, samam and atharvam.




Unfortunately, none of them are found now in their pure form.  They have seemingly undergone chopping and changing to suit the benefits and interests of the hierarchical classes that exploded into India in the years that followed the traditional times.  The most popular version survived is the Sanskrit version. That too, only of the rig-veda. It is a Sayana version seemingly written in the thirteenth century AD.  Sayana was associated with the Vijayanagara dynasty. The remaining three sank into calculated oblivion. 


Vedic weddings 


There are many chapters and lines that holds interesting information on weddings and marriage in the rig-veda, some in duplications. But what captivated me was chapter 8.10-85. They do not give it all explicitly as a modern text.  Remember they represent the thought process of a traditional people who lived  thousands of years back.  


In their archaic style and poetic charm, the lyrics transported me to a realistic and pragmatic world that India was once, the very moment I read them.  The information are unfolded in the thought process or day dreaming of a girl called Surya- interpreted as the daughter of Sun.  What surprised me most was the clarity in her dreams. One would doubt, was it happening in the modern time, or in some other part of the present world.  


In India even in the modern times, a girl, dreaming about a man, thinking about marrying him, are all taboo for most Indian parents.  Parents find a 'he' and ask their daughter to marry him, in response, she says 'yes'.  That is how it goes at least in most Kerala households. Otherwise it tenders friction.


What I grasped from those verses can be summarized as follows:


Wedding as the union between a man and a woman is very special. It unshackles both from the confinement of single-hood. That union is for life and cherished in harmony through mutual love and care. It was customary to give the bride utmost respect in her groom's household deserving that of an 'empress'. And she has to live up to that position through her inner purity, strength, love and affection. Her husband holds her in high esteem; he is not her master but teacher, friend and lover. 


Bride money or dowry was not associated with the bride, neither gold nor feast; but relatives, friends, families and teachers visited the couples to give their blessings.  More especially there was no horoscope matching. However, there was mentioning about the girl's father sending presents to her but not on bridegrooms' demand or terms.  


There were ceremonies but no rituals, no mention of religion, caste or sub-caste.  


The wedding ceremony: 


I have already mentioned there were no rituals, but ceremonies.  They were either conducted by a priest. (In all likelihood there were no priests then, or those who were called priests were not religious ritualists). The high point of the ceremony was the bride-groom taking the bride's hand.



Before that the groom had to make a passionate appeal to the bride; ''my dear bride, in whatever way I should be, so that you accept me to live with me till the end of my life, I shall be so, always, so may I hold your hand with that promise so that we stay together in well-being forever. Gods have given me you when I am entering my family stage of life (I do not claim any perfection in this translation).



There was caution against the bride wearing her pre-wedding dress after wedding. After wedding she should wear a new set of dress.  Otherwise the bad Oman would enter the husband's body through it in the appearance of his wife to confuse him and cause distress in the marital life. (May be a symbolic warning against beauties in the neighbourhood :)


There was mentioning about consummation of the wedding.  Importance of sex in marriage and the need for having children especially male.


There was no mentioning of the other-world and the spirituality to reach heaven through performing religious sacrifices. The couples' closing prayer to gods was to make their hearts trouble-free so that they could engage in, this worldly (material) life that gave them comfort and pleasure to have a meaningful life that upholds values and responsibilities.  




Next post vedic weddings vs vaidic weddings






Comments

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