Monday, February 23, 2009

Maangalya dhaaraNam – part-1

( A revised 8-part series on how the custom of tying the Mangal sutra could have come into practice)

The i-paper in down-loadable form, containing the entire series can be read here:-

Mangal sutra - not a part of Vedic marriage.

Human life revolves around four concepts namely, Dharma, Artha , Kama and Moksha.

The very first step "Dharma" can be followed only in Grihastha ashrama.

"Dharma praja sampatyartham StrIyamudvahe" is the sankalapa made at the time of marriage. Only with the wife by his side, a person gets the authority to do any act of dharma or a lead a life of dharma. Only with the wife, a person can achieve perfection in life by begetting children - "Prajayaahi manushyah poornaah" is the sruti vachan.

After the completion of education in Brahmacharya, one pays the dakshinai to the Guru, and seeks permission from the Guru to enter married life to dispose off the third rNa, namely Pithru rNa (the other two are deva rNa and rishi rNa. A person is born with these 3 debts) - " Achaarya priyam dhana mahrutya tantum mavyavatsetsi" is the Taittriya vachan.

The entry into grishatha ashrama is beset with vows and wishes so that dharma, Artha and Kaama can be attained or performed in complementary roles by the man and the woman in a life long commitment. This commitment done as marriage rite, is based on the premise that every act of life encompassing the above four, collectively known as Purusharthas, can not be done without the woman as the force of Thought. This force of Thought is shaped by the three gunas (sattwa, rajasa and tamasa) impelling the man to convert that Thought into Action. (1) The woman and man thus personify Mind and Action and are united in a marriage through a series of rituals of which the tying of the Thaali or Mangal sutra is an important part.

Today the Mangalya dharanam is considered to be the core or the most important ritual of Hindu marriage. The wearing of it is considered as indicative of the married status of the woman. But looking back into history – which can be deciphered from the texts that we have both in Sanskrit and Tamil, we get a picture that this important ceremony of the marriage celebration was not in vogue in olden days.

One of the oldest narration on marriage is the marriage of Rama and Sita.

The Valmiki Ramayana which narrates every detail of Rama's life and his marriage, does not make a mention about the tying of the mangal sutra. There is however a mention of mangal sutra – but that was to be worn around the wrist ceremoniously with the chanting of mantras. Both the bride groom and the bride undergo that ceremony before entering the marriage hall. (2)

The 'daanam' (kanya daanam) is done by Janaka by giving Sita as 'dattam' to Rama by pouring the sacred water on his hand that was holding Sita's hand. But there was no 'Mangalyam tantunanena' sloka as we hear in to-days' marriages. King Janaka gave Sita's hand to Rama and poured water on their hands, with a mantra in the form of a declaration that from thenceforth Sita would become his "Saha dharma chariNi" - who would follow his dharma for ever. (3)

The reproduced versions of Ramayana by Kalidasa in Raghuvamsa and by Kamban in Tamil also do not make any mention of the tying of the thaali. But there were some ornaments exchanged between the families at the time of marriage and given to the bride for wearing. The "Choodamani" (to be worn on the head) was one which was kept as a treasure by Sita. But there is no mention of the Mangalya sutra – nor any chain like ornament to be compulsorily worn around the neck as a mark of married status.

Until around 1000 years ago, there has not been any mention of Mangalya dharanam in marriage ceremony. The strong evidence is Andal's "Varanamayiram' verses. In 'Varanamayiram' pasuram, Andal speaks about 'kaiththalam pattral' (pANi grahaNam)and not about Mangalya dharanam. Every important act of marriage as per Vedic customs is mentioned by her. The 'Pori iduthal' (offering the puffed rice into the agni. The puffed rice is given by the brother of the bride) too is mentioned by her, but not the tying of the mangal sutra.

The Hindu marriage custom that is followed today and that was followed in Rama's marriage was called Prajapathi (one among the 8 marriage types). (4) The original customs did not contain this ritual of Mangalya-dharanam. The marriage customs and mantras can be traced to Vedas and Vedic mantras are used in these customs – barring Kanya daanam and Mangalya dharanam. The Sruti (Vedas) -dictated practices of marriage had 5 angas (parts only) , namely varakanyAnvEShaNa (seeking the bride), pANigrahaNa(taking the hand), pradhAna hOma, saptapadi(taking 7 steps) and lAjA hOma (pouring of puffed rice into the hands of the bride). The left-out parts are Kanya daanam and Mangalya dharanam. The mantras for these are as told in the Vaayu purana. (5)

Based on this there is also an opinion among the Tamils that the tying of the thaali is Dravidian ritual and not an Aryan ritual – harping on the so-called Aryan- Dravidian divide. But then there is absence of mention of Thaali in ancient Tamil customs too. Ancient Tamils did not have this as part of the marriage ceremony! Among the ornaments, only bangles were considered as auspicious and indispensable – but there is no mention of thaali. (6)

If Mangalya dharanam is important as it is today, why it was not found mentioned in olden texts is a question. To put it the other way, if this practice was not sruti- authorized, why and how did it come into practice? When did it come into practice?

This series on Mangalya dharanam looks into all these from all angles and seeks to present the available information with me, thereby putting into perspective what this custom was about and how this could have come up in practice.

I have dwelt to some extent into Sanskrit and Tamil sources and some other works on customs of marriage besides my pet subject of astrology. Needless to say my perspective on this issue got shaped only from astrology and from the life of famous astrologer-mathematician Bhaskara's daughter Leelavathy!

(to be continued)




(2) From Valmiki Ramayana, Bala khanda 73 :-

"Rama arrived at his father together with all of his brothers, keeping sage Vashishta and other eminent-saint ahead of them, on an opportune and appropriate hour called 'Victory...' and all the bridegrooms are adorned with all kinds of jewellery appropriate for the wedding time, and all have performed the auspicious ceremony for marriage-thread, conducted prior to the marriage and, all have thread-bands tied around their wrists, as they all have performed an auspicious ceremony antecedent to marriage ceremony. [1-73-9, 10a]

"Oh, eminent-saint Vashishta, on absolutely performing the auspicious ceremony for the marriage-thread, and thereby tying thread-band at wrists my daughters have already arrived, and they are at the base of the Altar of Fire, like the irradiant jets of flames of radiant fire... [1-73-15]"

(3) iyam siitaa mama sutaa saha dharma carii tava || 1-73-26
pratiicCha ca enaam bhadram te paaNim gR^ihNiiSva paaNinaa |

Meaning :- iyam= this; siitaa= Seetha; mama= my; sutaa= daughter; saha= along with / in unison with; dharma= duty; carii= acquits herself of; tava= your; prati icCha enaam= in turn, you wish for [back, take, wishfully take her back] her; ca= also bhadram te= safe betides you; paaNim= palm; gR^ihNiiSva= take into; paaNinaa= [your] palm.

"This is Seetha, my daughter, she acquits herself in whatever duty you undertake. Take her wishfully, let safeness betide you, take her palm into your palm..." [1-73-26b, 27a]


(5) "VivAha mantra sUtras" by Sri. M.Keshaviah in 1936

PuranaanUru -253 by poet KuLambaadaayanaar.

PuranaanUru -254 by poet Kayamanaar.

PuranaanUru -255 by poet VaN baraNar.

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