Marriage, or vivah, represents the most important and sacred ritual in Hindu tradition. The Hindus view husband and wife as two halves of organic whole, rather than two separate beings capable of reproduction. Thus, the marriage is a sacrament and goes beyond a biological necessity in Hinduism. Since the joint family system is traditional in Hindu society, a wedding also includes the relationship of two families. This paper describes the peculiarities of marriage and family structure in Hinduism.
Marriage is regarded as a duty in Hindu scriptures. From the early childhood, the parents prepare their daughters for marriage. The role of wife is to promote religious tradition, give love and happiness as well as ensure progeny. Boys, in their turn, should get married after the studentship.
Traditional Hindu wedding should follow the rules of the Vedas. According to these holy books, human life consists of four stages: student, householder, forest dweller, and ascetic. The householder stage marks the end of the studentship stage and requires a man to get married. Traditionally, the parents seek a suitable same-caste partners for their sons and daughters. It is also permissible for the females of lower caste status to get married with the male of higher caste status. However, a woman cannot marry a lower caste man. Even if a man and woman decide by themselves to get married, they should receive familys endorsement. Currently, especially in the urban areas, the parents limit their involvement in the selection of partner. As soon as the choice is made, the parents choose a favorable day for a wedding ceremony, with the help of the family priest and astrological calendar.
Certain rituals precede the marriage day. The purpose of these rituals is to ensure auspicious wedding ceremony. Thus, a day or two before the marriage, the bride and the groom apply ointment of turmeric root and oil on their body that also has healing effect. In addition, the families celebrate a night before the actual wedding ceremony in their houses. Relatives, family members, and friends are gathered to have dinner together. They also entertain themselves by singing wedding songs and playing folk dances.
In the past, the traditional Hindu marriage lasted for several days. However, currently, it takes a few hours from the time of the groom arrival for the ceremony to when a couple enters the grooms house as husband and wife. The bride and the groom ordinarily take the nuptial bath and recite Vedic verses in the morning. After that, the groom goes with many friends and relatives to the brides house. It represents a colorful procession. Traditional grooms wedding outfit includes a head-crown and a long white coat with colorful embroidery that symbolizes serenity and purity. In some cases, he rides a white horse.
The brides mother meets the groom and greets him with garlands of flower and a silver plate, namely an arati, that contains sacred water, flowers, and a lighted oil lamp. All these things are the symbols of good fortune. The groom waits the bride near the altar. When the bride arrive, her parents accompany her to the site of the wedding ceremony. The bride customarily wears a bright red attire, signifying love and fertility. She also holds a fresh flower garland in her hands. The groom leads the bride to the wedding ceremony place, where they garland each other, while all the guests applaud loudly. This ritual is also known as Jai Mala. It is a signal that both partners are ready to get married. A family priest, who belongs to the Brahmin class, performs the marriage ritual.
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The four basic rites constitute the core of the Hindu marriage ceremony. Havan is a fire ritual that includes lighting of the sacred fire and the worship at it. This ritual is essential during the wedding. The brides father performs kanyadan, the second important part of Hindu marriage. Thus, the father bestows his daughters hand in marriage to the groom. The father places the brides hands filled with flowers and jewelry into the grooms hands and recites Vedic verses. The next rite called granthi bandhan involves tying of the marriage knot. It signifies the eternal union. The final rite is parikrama, or mangal pherra. The groom and the bride walk four times around the sacred fire. The three rounds, in which the groom leads the bride, symbolize three activities of a traditional Hindu life, such as religious duty (dharma), prosperity (artha), and fulfillment of desires (kama). In the fourth circle, the bride leads the groom, and it is a symbol of salvation.
Sapatpadi, a main part of the Hindu marriage, implies seven wedding vows. The groom and the bride promise each other to perform roles and duties. The end of the sapatpadi signifies that the groom and the bride become husband and wife. A married couple eats a common meal, which symbolizes their union. After the wedding ceremony, the couple arrive to the husbands house.
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The joint family represents the basic family unit in Hindu society. Two, three, and even four generations of a family share common house in the joint family system. The oldest man tends to head the family. In current world, Hindu family system undergoes transformation. Thus, the nuclear family becomes more popular within Hindu society. A number of women enter educational institution and start earning money. They become more independent. Hence, modern Hindu women need less support from men of their families that resulted in the decreasing importance of the joint family. Although the families do not live together, the relationship between the family members remains close. Moreover, older family members have considerable authority over younger members. Families gathered on certain occasions, such as births, weddings, and deaths. It contributes to enhancing a sense of solidarity. Women in Hindu family are responsible for the transmission of traditions and customs across generations. Children learn Hindu practices and belief within a family. They participate in Hindu rituals and festivals. Hindus devote much time to their children upbringing. Therefore, the relationships between the parents and their children remain close even after their sons and daughters become adults and get married.
In conclusion, marriage is a sacred act in Hinduism. The rules of Hindu wedding are described in the Vedas. Thus, men should get married in the end of the studentship stage of their life. Marriage signifies the beginning of the householder stage. When the man and woman decide to get married, they should receive the families endorsement. Hindus have their traditional wedding attire. The groom wears a head-crown and a long white coat, while the bride puts on a bright red dress. The wedding ceremony begins with the grooms arrival to the brides house. The family priest performs the marriage ritual. Hindu marriage consists of four rites, such as havan, kanyadan, granthi bandhan, and parikrama. Sapatpadi, or seven wedding vows, refers to the essential stage of the marriage ceremony. After the groom and the bride make promises to each other, they become husband and wife. When the wedding ceremony ends, the married couple goes to the husbands house. Customarily, the joint family is prevalent in Hindu society. However, a nuclear family gains popularity at present time.