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Significance Of Marriage In Hinduism

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Introduction

Marriage is the union between a man and a woman, where the two become “one” through a great or sometimes divine bond. Regardless of culture and religion, marriages are significant to individuals as they usually mark a turning point in one’s life. Due to religion and culture, marriages are celebrated in various ways but usually include the performance of religious rituals, dancing, music, feasting, oath taking, and gift exchange.

Hypothesis

Vivaha (Hindu Marriage) communicates many teachings of Hinduism through the utilization of actions and symbols. This ritual is significant for Hindus as undertaking it is crucial for one to continue on the Samsara cycle. However, the structure of this ritual has been severely affected by culture, society and time of occurrence, due to the lack of authority in the Vedas.

Background information

The elaborate Vivaha ritual that many know today originated from the Indo-Arayan tribes that mixed with pre-Arayans and Non-Arayans in India as explain by (Sengupta, 1958). This mix in cultures led to the many complex steps within the ritual known presently. Today this ritual has been subject to much influence by the ever-changing ideals of society, examples being: changes to procedures, to even accepting antagonized ideals. Vivaha utilizes actions and symbols to communicate many purposes and key beliefs of Hinduism. However, the main purpose of Vivaha is to insure a union between the bride and groom so that they will be prepared for household life, but more importantly to ensure that both will continue in the Samsara cycle towards Hindu salvation (Moksha).

The Hindu ritual, Vivaha utilizes actions and symbolism to communicate multiple key beliefs

Professor Terrence Lovat explains the importance of finding the pattern of which a ritual is run, he is important in this essay as he created the well-known “Lovat’s model” which will be used within this essay to find the stages of the Vivaha ritual. The “Lovat’s model” explains that there are five stages of a ritual, of which the most crucial is regarded as the “climax”. Though the Vivaha ritual may be heavily impacted by location, society and time, for an average Vivaha ritual, the “climax” is where blessings are performed by a priest, offerings are given to the sacred fire and seven steps are taken around it by the bride and groom. In this case the importance of the climax is because it is the point which the two individuals are bound together. This is essentially the general purpose of a marriage ritual. Further support for this purpose is found in (‘Seven Vows,’ 2016), which explains that it is known to Hindus that after Vivaha the bride and groom will reincarnate after their deaths and will be bound to marry again for seven lifetimes. The other five stages identified in Vivaha through Professor Lovat’s model include the “entry” – both families arrive on scene with a prayer to the Hindu God, Ghenesha. “Preparation” – the bride’s family welcomes the groom. Celebration – games are played by the bride and groom to “break the ice”. Finally, “return” – the groom and bride exit as husband and wife.

Lovat’s model uncovered structure, but to find the meaning of a ritual, one must turn to British anthropologist Victor Turner, who created the famous “Turner’s model”. This model explains that there are three meanings of a ritual, exegetical, operational and positional. Exegetical being what is explained by the performer – for in this case being hopes for prosperity within the marriage and the uniting of two individuals. Operational being the observation of an outsider – for Vivaha being once again the union of two individuals. Finally, the positional meaning is the meaning conveyed through symbols – in this case there are many symbols used which represents the cooperation of the bride and groom to face future challenges, hopes for prosperity, and once again the union of both adherents.

For Hindus, marriage is significant as undertaking the ritual is paramount for an adherent’s atman to continue to progress positively in the Samsara cycle

Hindu’s believe that all living creatures have an atman (soul) that is everlasting and exists even after death. Upon the death of the individual/animal the atman will either possess a worse body and be further down in the cycle of Samsara or will reincarnate in a better body and become closer to achieving Moksha by combining itself with Brahman (The supreme Hindu God). For the atman to receive better incarnations, the previous life must have completed Dharma (Hindu duty) to attain enough good karma over bad karma. Marriage is one of many duties that are included in dharma, this therefore makes marriage significant for Hindus. Furthermore, when a Hindu is born they gain three debts: Deva Rina (debt to the Gods), Rishi Rina (debt to the Seers) and the Pitru Rina (debt to the ancestors or the manes) as explained by senior monk Swami Harshananda within (H, n.d., p. xx). Each of these debts must be repaid otherwise the adherent will gain bad karma which will negatively affect the adherent’s next reincarnation. Of these debts the Pitru Rina can only be repaid if a Hindu begets a son, and this can only be morally achieved through marriage, hence for a Hindu to avoid bad karma they must undertake the marriage ritual. Moreover, according to (Onedera, 2007, p. 121) if a couple fail to beget a son the husband will be cursed to become a Bhut (ghost) when he dies and will wonder the Earth without rest. For this reason, it would be mandatory for a Hindu to complete this ritual, as for Hindus, becoming a ghost is seen as a severely unfortunate event. This is because in this state the adherent will not be able to continue on the cycle of Samsara and therefore will not be able to achieve moksha (salvation).

Ultimately, Hindu’s must undertake the marriage ritual as without it, one will experience great suffering as they will not be able to achieve Moksha.

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Through time, the Hindu marriage ritual has been subject to much influence by society, due to the lack of authority in the Vedas

There have been several changes made to a “traditional” Hindu wedding, one of these changes is the removal of dowry. Historically in Hindu weddings, the bride’s family has always been expected to pay the groom’s family before the wedding. However, from the modern studies that have been conducted on this section of the ritual. It has been proven that this action promotes violence more specifically towards the bride if the dowry is not payed in full. For this reason, this step within the ritual has been made illegal, even in India where almost all Hindu marriages are conducted very traditionally. Another reason why this has been able to occur is due to the reason of the Vedic texts not specifying exactly how to conduct a wedding. Moreover, the only mentions of weddings within the texts are of Gods which mainly focuses on the roles of a husband and wife, this allows for many perspectives to arise of how to conduct a wedding.

Additionally, (S, 2015) explains that another effect society has had upon the Vivaha ritual is the rise of “love” marriages. In Hinduism “love” marriage, also known as “Gandharva marriage” is one of four out of the eight types of marriages, which are looked down upon by the religion. This is because due to central Hindu key beliefs, Hindus are expected to live their life to uphold dharma and not give in to kama (human desires) as this results in the adherent gaining bad karma. “Gandharva marriage” goes against this precept and the bride and groom are wed because of lust.

For there to have been such a breakage of Vivaha procedures, culture and society must have had a significant impact upon it.

In conclusion

It is evident that the Vivaha ritual is very extensive and presents many key beliefs through instructed actions. This ritual was also found to be very significant to Hindu’s as without it followers of the religion would not be able to achieve moksha. This essay has also proven that Vivaha has been heavily subject to change by society and culture due to the lack of authority within the Vedic texts.

Overall, the Hindu Vivaha ritual (Marriage) is paramount for adherents to achieve moksha, however, this ritual has been subject to much influence by society and culture, even to the point of breaking important procedures, due to the lack of authority in the Vedas.

This dilution of procedures can be catastrophic for Hinduism as through time only more procedures will be bent due to large criticism from society. This may even lead to the decline of the “sacredness” of the ritual and adherents may not even gain the intentioned benefits from partaking in it, as they are performing it incorrectly. Though this issue is also problematic for rituals in all other religions, they are not as severe as the effect it has had upon the Hindu marriage ritual as most other religions have sacred texts that dictate what should occur in rituals.

To conclude, in future, more should be done to preserve the Vivaha ritual, to prevent significant dilution of the “sacredness” of the ritual.

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Significance Of Marriage In Hinduism. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/significance-of-marriage-in-hinduism/
“Significance Of Marriage In Hinduism.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/significance-of-marriage-in-hinduism/
Significance Of Marriage In Hinduism. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/significance-of-marriage-in-hinduism/> [Accessed 4 Dec. 2022].
Significance Of Marriage In Hinduism [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Dec 4]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/significance-of-marriage-in-hinduism/
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