In the land of Telugus: Mantras, Rituals and Festivities
Matrimony is seminal to any culture, for the family is the first, basic component to make a society and ordered living. Vedic Civilization is the highest watermark of the evolution of organized living and an extremely significant milestone in cultural anthropology. The Vedic times laid emphasis rituals and Arsha Dharma, also called Sanatana Dharma largely is a reflection of reverence to nature. Vedic pantheism held man as the most holy, next to the elements and nature. Sanatana Dharma enjoined on Man to consider sex essentially holy. Matrimony is devised then. Civilized men and intellectuals consider marriage and wife and children as a discipline to humanity. Sanatana Dharma is a way of life. That Hinduism is a religion is an afterthought and an imposition: it is a modern coinage. Since the Vedas are the fountainheads of e discipline in the highest sense of the word and since matrimony is considered sacred and a gateway to felicitous living, Vedic times laid down rituals and incantations to go with the performance of weddings.
The present work details the rituals and festivities in the land of the Telugus, a language- community of about seventy million people. Here the rituals are explained and the incantations during the performance are given an exegesis. No doubt there is a variety of variations in the festivities as well as the traditions and customs in diverse castes and families. That marriage is a sacred sacrament no one denies, though people tend to be more and more flexible, permissive and free. A study and the understanding, of the once iconoclastic ideals, may be useful from the point of view of cultural anthropology.
Aarshadharma, the pristine, thoughtful, righteous and pious way of life, is drawn from Vedas and Vedic culture advocated by sages and seers. Human life has a goal and is evident from the envisaged fourfold objectives, dharma, artha, kaama and moksha, righteous life according to the sacred law, affluence in riches, fulfilling desires and finally salvation or deliverance from the cycle of birth and death. The ultimate goal is self-realization obtaining aatmajnaana. To know the self is to know that the self is just a fraction of the universal soul. Understanding and consciously adhering to the ways of life laid down in the shaastra make the path to self-realization easy and pleasurable.
Vivaaha is a sacred sacrament and the most important ceremony in human life according to our sagacious elders. This samskaara, ‘refinement’, enables the coming together of a man and woman to start a family and promoting progeny. This helps the couple to achieve fulfillment in the four objectives of human life, called purushaarthas: dharma, artha, kaama and moksha.
patneedharmaartha kaamaanaam kaaraNam prathamam smrutam
apatnikO narO bhoopa karma yogyO najaayatE.
Just as all living things need oxygen, a man can become fulfilled in samsaara only by a woman. That is the reason why the state of a householder was described as the very best state in human life.
Marriage is the most important event in the life of human beings. The bond made absolute by wedlock makes the two pursue the goal together, while going through the state of grihasthaashram, the state of being householders. When a young man and a young woman attain the age of discretion the parents of both plan and perform the event thus initiating the couple to accomplish the useful and the good being together as wife and husband.
Aarshadharma is a part and parcel of Vedic faith and practice taking the bride and the groom to the most significant stage towards reaching the goal of all-round fulfillment. Brahmacharya, the stage of the student and celibate, is the stage where the young learn and improve knowledge of the world and the understanding of men and manners.
Modern life with all its complexities and compulsions does not allow much time either for the young or the old to think about and understand the basics of aarshadharma derived from the wisdom and experience of the rishis and the law-makers like Manu. A vital mile-stone in the progress of individual life, marriage is performed but in the majority of cases, neither the young getting married nor the elders who bring the two partners in the wedlock together in a sacred and established way, have an understanding of the real significance of the mantras (incantations), rituals and the festivities associated with the performance of marriages. Festivities and rituals may vary slightly from region to region or from one community to another but the basic mantras (not uniformly and not exhaustively uttered in every case) are almost the same.
This little work is an attempt to outline the aspects of the vivaahakratu, an elaborate and sacred fire ritual. Kratu is a sacred observance and performance undertaken in all commitment and solemnity with piety in accordance with the modes laid down in dharma, the sacred order.
The rituals and festivities vary from region to region but the mantras are the same. As per custom and convenience the festivities and rituals are sometimes cut short. The focus on the mantras is important and an understanding of their meaning and significance contributes to cultivating happy, harmonious and fruitful life-styles.
I am indebted to Sri Akella Suryanarayana garu, who wrote in Telugu the text entitled NA ATI CHARAAMI, published in 2001 by Shri Tanikella Vijaymurty of New Delhi. This book gave me a lot of information and I have been permitted by the publishers to use the text for the benefit of readers in English. This is a rough and ready rendering of the original Telugu text. I place on record my appreciation and gratitude to the original compiler and the publisher.
Understanding vivaaha, Marriage
Vivaaha is from the Sanskrit root ‘vahee’, which means praapaNa, to obtain. With the prefix ‘vi’ it means a unique offering. Thus vivaaha became very meaningful compound. This word has several synonyms in Sanskrit. pariNaya, udvaaham, kaLyaaNam, paaNigrahaNam, paaNipeeDanam, paanA bandham darOpasngrahaNam, daara parigrahaNam, daara karma and daara kriya. All these words are indicative of the various ceremonies laid down in the Vedas.
Eight kinds of marriage are listed by the knowing ones. Ever since its inception, this institution has undergone several changes or modifications. The ancient law-giver Manu in his code called Manudharmashastra detailed these different kinds of vivaaha.
braahmo daivasthadhaivaarshah praajaapatyastadhaasurah
These are explained thus:
1. Braahmam: Inviting one who has all the deserts and qualifications to be a groom, offering him the fully decked daughter, kanya, as prescribed in our shastras, books of knowledge, is braahmam. The offspring from such wedlock would cause the salvation of ten generations of his ancestors, manes. It is widely believed that he would cause the deliverance from the birth cycle of his offspring too, thus sanctifying and making them enjoy the stay in swarga, the upper world. This is most generally followed type.
2. Daivam: The yajamani, master, who performs the yajna, performs the fire ritual. If he gives away his daughter to one of the ritwiks, the co-performers, that marriage is daivam.
The offspring of such a couple would secure deliverance for the seven generations of the manes, past and forthcoming.
3. Aarsham: When the bride-giver performs the wedding accepting two cows from the groom it is arsham. This would ensure the deliverance of manes of three generations of his in the past and three forthcoming generations.
4. Praajaapatyam: If the ceremony orders the couple to lead life together as husband and wife, and if the two promise to obey the command, the marriage is praajaapatyam. The male offspring of such couple would ensure besides his own deliverance, that of six generations of the past and the forthcoming.
5. Amaram: When accepting as return a payment called shulkam for giving away the bride in marriage, the marriage is termed amaram. The son of such a couple would not be able to secure deliverance for any.
6. Gandharavam: If by mutual attraction a young man and young woman get themselves locked in wedlock without obtaining the permission of their elders this becomes Gaandharvam. This is just a physical bond with no spiritual sanction. This does not lead to anybody’s deliverance.
7. Raakshasam: Before the wedding if the girl is taken away after defeating her people in a battle and taking her away and marrying her is raakshasam. This does not lead to the deliverance of any and this is considered as an emergency alliance for the kshatriyas, the fighting, warrior-like people in the old nomenclature of castes, now fast disappearing.
8. Paishaacham: When an unwilling damsel is taken by force and married cruelly, simply by the groom’s whim, or molesting while the woman is asleep and later marrying her is also paishaacham. This is considered a sordid and mean act.
Continued to Hindu Marraige - 02