Hindu Marriage and Its Traditions – Part I

MARRIAGE & OTHER IMPORTANT FUNCTIONS IN A MAN’S LIFE A talk delivered at the Hindu Center, SingaporeByE.S.J.Chandran 

   Sanathana Dharma or ‘Hinduism’ – a crude name by which it is commonly called – attaches sanctity to the institution of marriage. The rituals and Vedic incantations that go with it are extremely significant, designed as they are, to ensure the happy, prosperous and harmonious living of the couple. If the various rituals are performed properly and the Mantras uttered correctly and sincerely, understanding their meanings and significance, they are bound to be effective. What is Marriage 

 Marriage, according to Sanathana Dharma, is a means to an end, a part of a person’s Dharma. It is not the or utters will explain this: coming together of two persons, a man and a woman; but the unification of two souls. The bride and groom are manifestations of Sakthi and Siva, Lakshmi and Vishnu. It is the culmination of two souls walking hand-in-hand towards the ultimate goal in life that is Moksha. Some of the Manthras during the wedding ceremony which the groom chants “You have become my friend and we shall be friends for ever. You are ‘Sama’ the music and I am ‘Righ’ the lyric. I am heaven and you are the earth. I am the mind and you shall be my voice. Please follow me.” 

You see the beautiful concept? Our marriages give prominence and importance to spiritual rather than physical togetherness of the couple. How is it a Dharma 

 Why do we call marriage a part of Dharma? Our Vedhas and Sruthis have devised four classes or stages of Dharma for men, based on their physical and intellectual capabilities and capacities. They are:            (1)  Brahmacharyam  (2)  Grahasthasramam  (3)  Vanaprastham, (4)   Sanyasam. Among the four Grahasthasramam has been singled out as the best by our ancient seers and sages (Rishis). The reason for this are two fold: 

(i)                It is the Grahasthan or married man who has the responsibility of feeding the Brahmachari and Sanyasins. Brahmacharis and Sanyasis are not allowed to cook on their own. They have to beg for their food.(ii)              Those belonging to the other three Ashrams are not conferred with the right to produce children. It is the Grahasthan or married man who is given the responsibility of producing intelligent, morally perfect and useful children and upholds the Dharma of the universe. 

When to get married? What is the right age for a man to get married and enter Grahasthasramam?  Before coming to that, let us see the various stages of men. Well, our Sastras say that anyone who has lived to a ripe old age of eighty has had “Poorna Ayusu” or a ‘Full Life.’ 

These eighty years are devided into ten segments of eight years each, through which hour passes.  During the first eight years, a child enjoys a carefree life having the affection and love of the parents. At eight the “UpavithaDharanam” or sacred thread ceremony is conducted. From the day he wears a “Upavitham” or commonly called “Poonool” he is called a “Brahmachari”. From eight to sixteen he undergoes a course of study under the tutelage of a Guru (An evolved teacher of the scriptures and Sastras). From sixteen to twenty four he goes for higher studies of the Vedhas, Puranas and the Sastras. 

Equipped with knowledge and a proper direction in life, he enters Grahasthasramam” at the age of twenty four. From twenty four to thirty two, together with his wife, he follows the ‘Kula Dharma’ and takes steps to have children to satisfy the ‘Pithrus’ (Fore fathers) and the Devas. From thirty two to forty he spends his time in acquiring material things for his family and to bring up his children. From forty to forty eight he concentrates, with his wife, on acquiring spiritual knowledge and the practice of rituals and meditation for the liberation of bondage and to attain ‘Mokhsha’. 

From forty eight to fifty six he prepares himself for the third stage which is ‘Vanaprastham’, when he would have his children who will be settled with their own families, and with the wife lead a secluded life. He would have completed his duties of ‘Grahasthasramam’. From fifty six to sixty four he, with his wife, lives a simple hermetic life of ‘Vanaprastham’.  

Between sixty four and seventy two, he leaves the last bondage in life that is his wife, and lives a life like a Sanyasi. If he gets initiation and becomes a full-fledged Sanyasi, he sheds all his possessions, travels from place to place eating whatever is offered as ‘Biksha’ or alms. During this period he is not allowed to stay for more than one night at any village or town. His only duty is to be immersed in God-consciousness and to enlighten people on spiritual matters. From seventy two to eighty he retires to a forest or a cave in a mountain peak and spends the rest of his life time in meditation and ‘Tapas’. He is immersed in super-consciousness and becomes one with ‘Athman’ or ‘Brahman’ waiting for his mortal body to drop off. 

So, sixteen to twenty four, according to the scriptures is the right age for a girl or man to get married. Let us look at it scientifically. Biologists say that a man attains mental and physical maturity between the ages of twenty one and twenty four and a girl between thirteen and sixteen. May be, that is why a person is called a ‘Major’ when he attains the age of twenty one. This is also one of the reasons why our forefathers stipulated as a rule a minimum four year difference between a boy and a girl who wanted to get married.


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