The Indian Concept of Kanyadaan

A traditional Hindu wedding is very elaborate and follows many traditions and rituals, which are very symbolic and crucial to the marriage ceremony. Whether it is a Kannada, Bengali or Gujarati Vivaah, there are several compulsory rituals in for a wedding in the Hindu religion. These rituals hold immense significance and have a deeply rooted meaning in the society.

The rituals of the Hindu wedding ceremony typically several days prior to the actual wedding ceremony. While a Hindu matrimony is religious and steeped in tradition, the concept of Kanyadaan, makes the ceremony quite emotional as well. During this ritual, a father hands over all his rights and duties towards his daughter to her groom, signifying that she is no longer a part of her father’s family.

Meaning of Kanyadaan

On the wedding day, the entire marriage ceremony last lasts for several hours due to many small and large customs that have to be performed because they’re considered good luck in establishing a marriage. Among all the important rituals performed during a wedding, kanyadaan is the most vital and significant ritual. the word kanyadaan literary means gifting away a virgin girl; the word is actually a compound of two separate words – ‘kanya’ and ‘daan’. Kanya translates as a virgin daughter and Daan denotes donation.

The Ritual

The ritual of kanyadaan is performed right before the phere, or the seven rounds around the sacred fire. Kanyadaan is a ritual in which the bride’s father gives her away to her new husband, who is considered to be a form of Lord Vishnu, at the time of marriage. As a pre-condition for offering his daughter to the groom for marriage, the bride’s father asks the groom to promise to assist her in achieving three important goals of the life – dharma, artha, and kama. To convey he accepts the terms, the groom touches the bride’s right shoulder as a symbol of his promise to take care of her and shoulder her responsibility.

The ritual of kanyadaan is considered to be a very pious, auspicious and dutiful ritual which gives good fortune and atonement from the sins of the bride’s parents. It is considered to be a path to attain moksha or salvation in the afterlife.

Hastamilap

In the ritual of kanyadaan, irrespective of its location throughout India, the bride’s parents, usually her father or an elderly male relative ‘give’ custody of their daughter to the groom by placing the bride’s right hand in the groom’s right hand. This sub-ritual is referred to as Hastamilap, which literally means joining hands. This entire process happens while priests recite sacred verses.

In a Marathi vivaah, the curtain separating the bride and groom is then removed and then the couple exchange flower garlands. When the father of the bride gives away his daughter to the groom signs of good luck, the priests presiding over the ceremony or the family elders place a white cotton thread encircling the couple’s shoulders to protect them from evil omens. Then, the bride and the groom shower each other with rice. This ritual is a symbol of couple’s bond and love during the matrimonial alliance. The groom holds the bride’s hand and the newly married couple takes vows to love, be loyal, care for, and protect each other throughout their lives.

In dominant Hindu religion, according to the holy text “The Laws of Manu”, “one of the ten paths to reach moksha or enlightenment in Hinduism is kanyadaan, the act of giving a virgin bride to the groom along with financial and/or other gifts that is known as dakhshina or dowry”. Thus in any Hindu wedding, the ritual of Kanyadaan is of supreme significance.

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