What is Marriage

In a Hindu marriage, both husband and wife are two parts of one, complementing each other and becoming one in their spiritual journey. The most sacred part of the cermony involves circumbulating the sacred fire in seven steps to a Vedic mantra where the groom addresses his wife thus

“Dear Wife! By taking these seven steps, you have become my dearest friend. I pledge my unfailing loyalty to you. Let us stay together for the rest of our lives. Let us not separate from each other ever. Let us be of one mind in carrying out our responsibilities as householders (grihasthas). Let us love and cherish each other and enjoy nourishing food and good health. Let us discharge our prescribed Vedic duties to our elders, ancestors, rishis, creatures, and gods. Let our aspirations be united. I will be the Saaman and may you be the Rk (Saaman here refers to the music and Rk refers to the Vedic text that is being cast into music). Let me be the upper world and let you be the Bhumi or Mother Earth. I will be the Sukla or life force and may you be the bearer of that Sukla. Let me be the mind and let you be the speech. May you follow me to conceive children and gain worldly as well as spiritual wealth. May all auspiciousness come your way.”

The Vedas prescribe, as do most ancient cultures, that a dowry be given by the bride’s family to the groom. The Rig Veda states that cows and gifts given by the father of the bride to the daughter accompanied the bride’s procession [Rg Ved. X.85].

In the Manu Smriti, on the other hand, 8 types of marriage are specified; two involve bedecking the bride with costly garments and ornaments before giving her away, two involve the groom’s family giving a gift to the bride’s and the other four do not involve an exchange of gifts.

The Manusmriti enjoins ‘ Let mutual fidelity continue until death,’ this may be considered as the summary of the highest law for husband and wife.[Manu IX 101].

The Manu Smriti prescribed that the best partner for a man was one-third his age. “A man, aged thirty years, shall marry a maiden of twelve who pleases him, or a man of twenty-four a girl of eight years of age; if (the performance of) his duties would otherwise be impeded, he must marry sooner.” [Manu IX.94] The girl would live with her husband after she reached puberty and consummation of the marriage would take place then.