In this post I would like to share certain insights on how marriages were fixed in the olden days.
The 8 types of marriages were about the way marriages were categorized on the basis of how they were proposed or conducted with specific stipulations on the circumstances that led to the union of the couple in the olden days.
Swayamvara and ghandharva vivaha were popular among kshathriyas..
The prajapatya vivaha was the most common type followed by many communities in those days.
The prajapatya vivaha centres around the Prajapathy or Brahma or the Bruhaspathy or the purohit who conducted the marriage. The marriage among Brahmins (that we follow to day) is prajapatya only.
In this type of vivaha, even fixing an alliance begins with the blessings of the Bruhaspathy or Purohit or a rishi or the acharya.
In Tamil nadu, any one of the 'aim- kuravargaL' were in a position to influence marriage decisions.
The 'aim kuravargaL' or the 5 kuravargaL are Mother, father, elder brother, guru and God.
(In Sethu mahathmiyam found in skanda purana, it is said that any apacharam to any one of the 5 kuravargaL amounts to a worst sin. Such a sin can be washed away only by taking a holy dip in the Sethu.)
Kovalan- kannagi marriage was decided by the parents - among the aim- kuravargaL.
This habit was widely prevalent until recently all over Tamil nadu and in rest of India also.
Here the parents were led by their own judgment of the suitability of the choice (of groom or bride) on the basis of kulam, status, age, compatibility on different accounts between the couple etc. Some times they followed the custom of seeking some extraneous acceptance to their proposals.
The most commonly followed practice was to seek the advice of a "Vibra" Brahmin. The authentication for this comes from Janardhana maharishi – "Vibra vAkyO JanArdhana:"
This Vibra was a well respected person in the local area. It was also customary in the families to regularly seek the advice of a particular Vibra Brahmin. Some families regarded them as their gurus or acharyas and sought their advice in fixing marriages. Since many people used to go the Vibra or guru, the Guru would be knowing about the families seeking alliance. Until a few generations ago, Gurus played an important role in fixing marriages in Brahmin communities. Here the Guru's words only mattered.
There was another way of fixing the marriage – be seeing sagunas or omens. This is authenticated by Brahaspathy, as there is a saying in vogue, "saguNaanthu Bruhaspathy".
One does not exactly know who Bruhaspathy is. One opinion is that he is Brahma (four-faced one) himself. Parashara maharishi is said to have learnt the tattwas from Garga Maharishi who in turn learnt from Bruhaspathy or Brahma. The Bruhaspathy is also the officiating priest in vEdic kriyas.
According to Bruhaspathy, the omens seen at the time of deciding the marriage must indicate if it is good to proceed with the alliance or not.
Yet another way of fixing marriage is seeking Divine acceptance. This was followed by those who have completely surrendered to God. When a prospective alliance is at hand, they would seek divine acceptance by placing some colored flowers at the feet of God. If the desired flower is picked up, the alliance was accepted.
But with changing times and lack of spiritual strength, even the learned Vibras started depending on horoscopes for matching. It is said that Lord Krishna Himself has authenticated seeking advice of those well versed in 'vaana sastra'.
The spurt in formulation of vivahadhi yogas a few centuries ago gave enough impetus to horoscope matching. The 4 Southern states were together in those days and we find a near unanimous opinion on horoscope poruttham among scholars of Tamil, Kannada, Kerala and Andhra origin. Most of what we follow in Tamilnadu in star matching comes from Uttara Kalamritham by Andhra based scholar Kalidasa. (not Mahakavi Kalidasa of Raghu vamsam fame).
The Mars dosha factors were contributed by Kerala writers. The horoscope matching has been refined over a period with specific emphasis on Mangalya sthaan in sthree jataka.
Today no one is ready to take risk in fixing marriage. When communities were confined in smaller areas having allegiance to the same guru or Vibra, it was possible to get a first hand information about the prospective alliances. Today this advantage is not there.
When proposals for marriage are coming from unknown persons whose antecedents can not be known, the safe route is to analyse the horoscopes not only for matching but also for knowing about the person, his character, prospects etc.
We find people coming to astrologers to know about the person also while wishing to know if the horoscopes match!
Another trend nowadays is that matching is already there in 'mental matching' –(read love). We have authentication for this also in Maharishi MAndavya!! There is a saying "ManO jayanthu MandavyO"!!!
If the couple has mental matching, one can go ahead with the marriage.
But when this matching is a crossed one – between different communities, it is something that causes stress. Obviously Mandavya Maharishi did not mean love marriages or inter-caste marriages.
There has been resistance to moving to communities having lesser religious observance. The issue to be noted here is indicated by none other than Arjuna in the battle front (chapter -1 BG). When a varna- mix happens due to movement of a woman into another varna, the pithrus lose pindam! This is the basic issue that Arjuna was concerned about as a fall-out of the war. Those who become responsible for making someone lose the rights or habits to pay back the pithru ruNam, will have to pay back in a future birth.
Pithru tarpan is something which no one must do away with. If by marriage, a woman goes to a community that does not observe regular pithru- related actions, such a marriage can not be accepted.
By this it is also implied that movement of a woman to a community that follows better observance of pithru related practices, does not invite the wrath of Dharma devatha. Her future progeny will be having the fortune of following better practices.
This must be borne in mind in deciding marriage alliances in today's conditions.