Continued from Hindu Marriage - 02
Observance of Snaataka Vrata
The age of the brahmachari, celibate would be about twenty-one to reach this stage after having gone thorough thread ceremony, vowing celibacy, undergoing the learning available at the preceptor’s while serving him, and getting accomplished in his scholarly pursuits. Now is the time for snaataka, literally, bathing. The preceptor would now permit the disciple to have this ceremonial bath and declares him eligible to marry and enter grihastashram. This makes the young man eligible to marry with a view to perpetuating his vamsha, family lineage.
Samaavartana, the ceremony of staging a return to one’s own parents
The preceptor orders the disciple after teaching the celibate all that there is to be learnt under him and he enjoins on him to speak truth, to follow dharma, and not to be negligent in his duty to continue his adhyana, studies as per the dharma. While doing this he accords permission to the young man to marry. In this context, the guru, the preceptor tells him to discharge his debt to his parents in his turn by bringing forth worthy children.
Now he is allowed to be free from his deekshas undertaken while at the hermitage, ashram. The young man is permitted to shave his beard etc. Now he can get the service of a barber. This is gOdaana, not the charity of giving a cow, but to have the service of a barber and have a hair cut. This ceremony is called samaavaratna, coming back to his parents. After this and the snaataka, the disciple presents to his preceptor, ear studs, a pair of dhotis, an umbrella, footwear and a staff along with a garland of flowers. He also presents the guru, hair oil and powder to cleanse his body, kohl or mascara and a turban. The young man also acquires all these for his own use. Now he is permitted to trim hair, look into a looking-glass, talk to women and eat pan, till then forbidden. This is the beginning of the right real thing, the marriage.
The important things in this vrata are pooja to Vighneshwara, purificatory sprinkling of war, punyaahavachana, a penance and absolution for deficiencies in the practice of the celibacy, a fire ritual called paahitrayadasha homam, a fire ritual called praataragnikaryam, rakshabandhanam, hair-cut, kaashiyatraa, visit to Kashi, and finally getting the blessing of the guru and elders, asheervachanam. There are mantras to be chanted. The young man makes amends that any lapses that might have been there in his deeksha, commitment and vow of celibacy. When these mantras are chanted, the assembled elders pronounce that he is absolved of the possible, accidental lapses. The fire ritual, praataragnikaryam is done for longevity, fame, effulgence and strength. Later he wears a rakshabandhan also with the prescribed prayers and observances for protection from evil forces. Then he gets his hair symbolically cut on all four sides for fame, longevity etc. Then he has other self-ministrations, like brushing his teeth, bathing applying mascara to the eyes and wearing on his brow a baashikam, an ornament not only for beauty but also for warding off of evil and making himself prominent and easy for identification. The bride too wears this. Then he is shown the looking glass.
Then there is the symbolic kaashiyatra, a visit to Kashi. He sets out to the holy place to get the blessings of learned ones thereby showing them his accomplishments. He equips himself for travel with footwear, staff, umbrella and materials for his sustenance on the way. It has been customary for the bride’s father to attend to these needs. There are certain mantras to go with the various acts of wearing the footwear, taking the umbrella and the staff offering prayers to all those to protect him and bless him. He offers prayers to the four directions, East, West, North and South to protect him.
This ceremonial observance has significance. Kashi is a religious centre and a centre for all oriental learning too. Any one who has come back from getting the blessings of scholars there for his scholastic achievements is considered great and is held in high esteem. The brahmachari with the permission of his guru used to go there. The idea of performing this ceremony before marriage is to make the bride’s father request the young man not to go away to the distant Kashi, while promising him to give away his daughter, fully decked, in marriage. There are slokas one chanted by the groom and the other by the bride’s father:
charita brahmacharyoham kruta vrata chatushtayah
kaassheeyaatraam gamishyaami anujnaam dehime shubhaam
Young man: After brahmacharya vratam, I performed four others too: praajapatyam; saumyavratam; aagneyavratamu and vaiswadevam. I am going to Kashi. Kindly bless me and permit me to go.
saalamkaraam mama sutaam kanyaam dashyamitE dwija
paaNim grihitvaa, saagnistvam gachcha swaagachcha madgruham
Bride’s father: Oh, Brahmin! We would give you our daughter duly decked. Take her hand with the holy ritual fire as witness and then go to Kashi. Please come to our house.
Honouring the young man by giving him new clothes and perfumes etc, the bride’s father takes him home. Thus comes to a close the episode of Kashi yaatra as part of the wedding.
Continued to Hindu Marriage - 04