Vivaha (marriage), in Hindu society, is one of the most important samskaras, out of the sixteen sacraments, which a person steps in with full understanding/consciousness. Marriage is a fascinating experience that stays alive in one's mind throughout the life. The mantras and slokas of the Grhya- Sutras of the four Vedas, chanted in this ritual, are in Sanskrit and a vast majority is unaware of their meanings and just follows the instructions of the celebrant priest, purohita.
The author delves deep into the Grhya- Sutras of Vedas and brings forth the details of vivaha samskara - principles, philosophy, practices, rituals and so on. Grhya-Sutras- Asvalayana, Sankhayana and Kausitaki of Rgveda; Paraskara (Sukhla Yajurveda), Apastamba and Hiranyakesin(Krsna Yajurveda), Baudhayana, Varaha, Manava, Agnivesya, Bharadvaja, Kathaka and Vaikhanasa of Yajurveda; Gobhila, Khadira and Jaimini of Samaveda; and Kausika of Atharvaveda - are well explored and seriously analysed, having given the original mantras in Sanskrit with their English translation.
Of a rare kind, this book does comparative analyses of the number and type of rituals in each Grhya-Sutra and the order of performance of rituals.
This scholarly work creates a sudden seriousness and sanctity to vivaha samskara through the detailing of mantras and the rituals. Being in it, one is not far off the Vedic period, giving a new meaning and dimension to our understanding of Hindu vivaha samskara and its sanctity.
Dr V.R. Anil Kumar is a graduate engineer and a businessman who set up and ran a small-scale industry dealing with the design, manufacture, supply and installation of Air Pollution Control systems and components in Chennai from 1970 to 2003. Getting interested in the origin of Hindu marriage rituals triggered by the questions of the parents of his American daughter-in- law, Dr Anil Kumar obtained a MA (Sanskrit) degree from the University of Madras in 2005. Having registered for a Ph.D. in 2006, he was conferred the doctorate in 2012 after five years of research and presentation of the dissertation entitled "Comparative Study of Vivaha Samskara in the Grhya-Sutras of the Four Vedas" in 2011.
THE Hindu marriage ceremony is a fascinating blend of
elaborate rituals, joyous celebration, colourful dresses,
sumptuous feasts, etc. with religious sanctity underlying the
event. The way it is conducted follows traditions which are
centuries old with mantras and slokas in Sanskrit being chanted
at each step of the ceremony being carried out. While there
are a few who understand the meaning and import of the
rituals, the vast majority merely follow the instructions of the
purohitas without understanding the significance of the rituals.
This is mostly because of the fact that Sanskrit is not learnt by
most people and also because it requires years of study to
learn the meanings of mantras and the relevance of rituals.
Having been fascinated by the marriage ceremony and
having a desire to understand it fully, I decided to take up
research on the topic. I got admitted as a full-time research
scholar at the Department of Sanskrit, University of Madras.
I was fortunate that Prof. Dr S. Revathy guided me
throughout the tenure of this research. Under her guidance
and with the advice of other faculty members, I proceeded to
collect material for my research. I thank her from the bottom
of my heart. After preliminary studies, it was clear that the
main sources of the rituals that a householder is expected to
observe were the Crhya-Sutras falling under Kalpasastra -
one of the six limbs of Vedanga. I, therefore, decided to collect
Grhya-Sutra texts belonging to different branches of the four
Vedas and conduct a comparative study of vivaha samskara,
the Hindu marriage ceremony as depicted in the Grhya-Sutras.
Though there have been numerous branches of the four
Vedas and texts written by rsis and scholars pertaining to each
branch, many of the texts have been lost. People followed
different branches of the Vedas in different regions of India.
Texts have been written for each of the branches. As time
went by, some of the schools began to have fewer and fewer
adherents and texts pertaining to them have become scarce.
I could collect texts of eighteen Crhya-Sutras from various
sources. Of these, one of them, Kauthuma Grhya-Sutra of
Samaveda does not contain much material on vivaha. The study
is, therefore, confined to seventeen Grhya-Sutras. Some of
the texts were available in the bookshops but many were not.
Apart from procuring the available texts from the bookshops,
I was able to collect photocopies of texts from different sources.
Among the many institutions which helped me were the Adyar
Library, Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute, Chennai;
Oriental Research Institute, Mysore; Bhandarkar Oriental
Research Institute, Pune; Vaidik Samshodhan Mandal, Pune;
Deccan College, Pune; Manuscripts Library, University of
Kerala, Tiruvananthapuram and Sri Sankara Samskrta Veda
Pathasala of Mathur, Karnataka. I would like to place on record
my immense gratitude to the authorities of these institutions
for providing me photocopies of required texts. I was also
able to refer many texts in the Hatcher Graduate Library of
the University of Michigan, USA, thanks to Dr Madhav
Deshpande who is a professor of Asian Studies at the
Books by foreign scholars such as W. Caland, Oldenberg,
Maurice Winternitz and others with translations helped
enormously in understanding the texts. The internet also
proved to be a useful source. Especially, sites like those of
Maharshi University of Management, sanskritdocuments.org,
Ulrich Stiehl (sanskritweb.net) and others were very useful.
Many books on vivaha in languages such as Tamil, Kannada,
Marathi and Hindi also proved useful.
The sources of the rituals are the Grhya-Sutras. However,
the contents are in the form of aphorisms (sutras) perhaps for
ease of memorizing. Commentaries have been written for
many of the texts explaining the content and context of the
sutras. From the commentaries evolved prayogas and paddhatis,
which laid down detailed instructions for conducting each
samskara. Over time, due to geographical and social factors,
considerable changes took place in the way the rituals were
performed. Further fragmentation in sects and castes also gave
rise to more deviations. Though the underlying rituals are
more or less similar in each of the Grhya-Sutras, there have
been many additions and changes in practice because of these
developments. A comparative study of vivaha samskara based
on all the prayogas and paddhatis would be too enormous a
task. The very task of collecting all the material itself would
take up a lot of time and expense. Even the collection of Grhya-
Sutras was not an easy task to accomplish.
It was therefore decided that a "Comparative Study of
Vivaha Sarnskaras in the Crhya-Sutras of the Four Vedas" with
the extant material would be a worthwhile project. The
bringing together of sections containing details of vivaha
samskara in all the extant Crhya-Sutras at one place itself
involved considerable effort. The sections have been presented
with English translations, mainly with the help of existing
English and Hindi translations. Where English translations
were not available, as in the case of Baudhayana and Bharaduaja
Grhya-Sutras, help was rendered by Sri Venkatesa Avadhani
of Mathur, Kamataka in translating the Sanskrit texts.
Samskaras SAMSKARAS (sacraments) are rituals a Hindu is expected to perform at various events in his life. Beginning with conception and ending with funeral rites, samskaras prescribe the way each activity is to be carried out. Offerings and oblations are required to be made in a prescribed manner at every event in order to propitiate gods to attain desired goals and to ward off evils and enemies. Even in the Vedic era, there was recognition of the existence of superhuman elements which affected a person's life. Samskaras were developed to help one achieve one's goals in life by appeasing deities by offering sacrifices and performing rituals. Rituals represent an age when people followed religious injunctions assiduously. Samskaras served as a link between spiritualism and the day- to-day life of the householder. While being an ascetic meant renunciation of all worldly things, samskaras added spirituality to natural events of a householder and made the householder live a full materialistic life which was, however, infused with religious undertones. Because of the disciplinary and dharmic nature underlying samskaras one was guided towards living a life full of right values.
People in the Vedic period were expected to lead a disciplined life with various stages of life classified and samskaras prescribed to be observed at every event in life. A highly-evolved ritualistic system guided people to carry out their lives in a systematic manner. The asrama system described four stages in a person's life - (1) brahmacarya, (2) grhastha, (3) vanaprastha, and (4) samnyasa. Brahmacarya was the stage of life from childhood to the end of studies. Grhasthasrama was the stage of life when a person got married and led the life of a householder giving birth to and raising children. This was the period when he worked and earned money to satisfy his desires. Vanaprasthasrama was the stage when at around the age of sixty years, one began philosophical contemplation. Vanaprastha means that one should go to the forest away from the worries of day-to-day life to seek spiritual knowledge. Samnyasa is the stage when a person became totally detached from worldly goods and became immersed in his spiritual quest to attain moksa. The asrama, system reflected. the transitional phases of a man from birth, studentship, being a householder, being philosophical and trying to achieve the ultimate, moksa (deliverance from re-birth). It acknowledged the transient nature of human, life with its joys and sorrows, birth-growth-death cycle.
In Manu-Smrti is the following sloka:'
Having spent the first fourth part of his life in gurukula
The second fourth part in his own house with 'his wife
The third part in the forest
He should take samnyasa in the final part renouncing all wordly ties.
During the four stages of life, one is required to follow the four principles of purusartha - dharma, artha, kama and moksa.
While dharma (righteousness) is to be observed during all the four stages of life, artha and Kama are to be followed during grhasthtasrama. Efforts to attain moksa are to be made during samnyasa. Dharma is a highly desired concept. Based on the concept of rta (natural justice), dharma became a guiding force in all activities of life. Dharma also meant carrying out one's duty judiciously in whatever situation or occupation one was placed in. The combination of righteousness and a sense of duty ensured that justice would be done.
The primary source of dharma is considered to be the Vedas.
Veda is the source of dharma. And the practices and traditions of those who know and remember Vedas.
Samskaras were developed, inspired by the Vedas and the hymns in them. While Vedas did not contain rules and regulations for conducting rituals, they formed the basis for samskara which came into being subsequently. Samskaras specified the way each step in a man's life was to be observed with specific procedures and mantras. The materials required for conducting the rituals, the way to establish the fire and the way to prepare the place where the rituals were to be conducted were clearly spelt out. A householder was expected to follow the rituals (samskaras) depicted in Grhya-Sutras, which came to be written by rsis belonging to different branches of the four Vedas.
As per Harita samskaras are classified into two types - brahma and daiva.
According to Harita, samskara are of two kinds, brahma and daiva. Samskaras beginning with garbhadhana are called brahma. Paka yajnas, havir yajnas and soma yajnas are called daiva. A man who performs brahma samskara attains equality with rsis and one who performs daiva samskaras; attains equality with gods.
Every activity in life was marked by specific samskara to be observed. The number and constituents of samskaras vary according to different sutrakaras. In the beginning, the number of samskaras to be observed by the householder used to be around forty-eight.
According to Gautama, the forty-eight samskara include the following:
Garbhadhana, pumsavana, simantonnayana, jatakarma, namakarana, annaprasana, caula, and upanayana. - Eight
Vedavratas - mahanamni, mahavrata, upanisadvrata, and godana. -Four
Samavartana, Vivaha - Two
Paka Yajnas - 1. astaka, 2. parvana sthalipaka, 3. sraddha (pindapitr yajna), 4. sravana karma, 5.agrahayana, 6. caitri, and 7. asvayuji. (This list varies from source to source. Aupasana and pratyavarohana are included in some lists instead of caitri and asvayuji.). - Seven
Maha Yajnas - 1. deva yajna, 2. pitr yajna, 3. bhuta yajna, 4. manusya yajna, and 5. brahma yajna. - Five
Havir Yajnas - 1. agnyadhana, 2. agnihotra, 3. darsapurnamasa, 4. agrayana, 5. Caturmasya, 6. Nirudhapasu-bandha and 7. sautramani. - Seven
Soma Yajnas -1. agnistoma, 2. atyagnistoma, 3. ukthya, 4.sodasi, 5. vajapeya, 6. atiratra, and 7. aptoryama. - Seven
Atmagunakas - 1. daya: kindness, 2. ksama: tolerance, 3. anasuya: being without jealousy, 4. saucam: cleanliness, 5. anayasa: doing things with a balanced mind without over exertion, 6. mangalyam: concentrating on the good and the auspicious, 7. akarpanyam: being generous and without greed, and 8. aspruha: having a mind devoid of desires. - Eight
Atmagunakas were included because it was felt that merely carrying out samskaras without having dharmic values would be futile. These eight qualities represent a high level of ethical values.
According to Angiras, the following are the twenty-seven samskaras:
Garbhadhana, pumsavana, simantonnayana, visnu bali,
jatakarma, namakarana, niskramana, annaprasana, caula, and
upanayana (10); vedavratas 4; samavartana, vivaha, agrayana
3; and astaka 8.
According to Vyasa, the following are the sixteen samskaras:
Garbhadhana, pumsavana, simantonnayana, jatakarma,
namakarana, niskramana, annaprasana, caula, karna-vedha,
Upanayana, kesanta, samavartana, vivaha, and agni sacrifices
3 are the sixteen samskaras of the ones who follow Smrtis,
However, yajnas, veda vratas (except godana) and atmagunakas began to be excluded, as time went by, from the list of samskaras leaving sixteen samskaras. These are known as sodasa samskaras. Even in the list of sixteen samskaras, there is difference of opinion among sturakaras. Some texts include visnu bali, sosyanti karma, etc. Karnavedha, vidyarambha and vedarambha appear to be the later additions.
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