Agni has now returned the bride endowed with splendors and length of life. May she live a lengthy span of days and may her husband live a hundred autumns.
Rig Veda 10.85.39. ve, 256
What Is the Basis for a Happy Marriage?
A happy marriage is based first and foremost on a mature love, not a romantic ideal of love. It requires selflessness and constant attention. A successful marriage is one which both partners work at making successful. Aum.
While not all marriages must be arranged, there is wisdom in arranged marriages, which have always been an important part of Hindu culture. Their success lies in the families’ judgment to base the union on pragmatic matters which will outlast the sweetest infatuation and endure through the years.
The ideal age for women is from 18 to 25, men from 21 to 30. Stability is enhanced if the boy has completed his education, established earnings through a profession and is at least five years older than the girl.
Mature love includes accepting obligations, duties and even difficulties. The couple should be prepared to work with their marriage, not expecting it to take care of itself.
It is good for bride and groom to write out a covenant by hand, each pledging to fulfil certain duties and promises. They should approach the marriage as holy, advancing both partners spiritually.
It is important to marry a spouse who is dependable, chaste and serious about raising children in the Hindu way, and then worship and pray together.
The Vedas say:
“Devoted to sacrifice, gathering wealth, they serve the Immortal and honor the Gods, united in mutual love.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Must We Marry Within Our Religion?
Tradition requires that the wife adopt the religion and lifestyle of her husband. Thus, Hindu women wanting to continue their family culture and religion will, in wisdom, marry a spouse of the same sect and lineage. Aum.
The mutual spiritual unfoldment of man and wife is a central purpose of marriage.
When we marry outside our religion, we create disharmony and conflict for ourselves and our children. Such a marriage draws us away from religious involvement instead of deeper into its fulfilment.
For marriage to serve its spiritual purpose to the highest, husband and wife should hold the same beliefs and share the same religious practices. Their harmony of minds will be reflected in the children.
A man’s choice of spouse is a simple decision, because his wife is bound to follow him. For a woman, it is a far more important decision, because her choice determines the future of her religious and social life. While his lifestyle will not change, hers will.
Should a Hindu marry a non-Hindu, traditional wisdom dictates that the wife conform to her husband’s heritage, and that the children be raised in his faith, with no conflicting beliefs or customs. The husband may be invited to convert to her faith before marriage.
The Vedas pray:
“United your resolve, united your hearts, may your spirits be one that you may long together dwell in unity and concord!” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Two priests conduct the Vivāhaḥ saṁskāra, sacred Hindu marriage rites. Bride and groom offer handfuls of grains into the fire to invoke abundance. By marrying within their faith, they ensure that their children will continue their tradition.
How Are Hindu Marriages Arranged?
Marriage is a union not only of boy and girl, but of their families, too. Not leaving such crucial matters to chance, all family members participate in finding the most suitable spouse for the eligible son or daughter. Aum.
In seeking a bride for a son, or a groom for a daughter, the goal is to find a mate compatible in age, physique, education, social status, religion, character and personality.
Elders may first seek a partner among families they know and esteem for the kinship bonds the marriage would bring. Astrology is always consulted for compatibility. Of course, mutual attraction and full consent of the couple are crucial.
Once a potential spouse is selected, informal inquiries are made by a relative or friend. If the response is encouraging, the father of the girl meets the father of the boy and presents a proposal.
Next, the families gather at the girl’s home to get acquainted and to allow the couple to meet and discuss their expectations.
If all agree to the match, the boy’s mother adorns the girl with a gold necklace, or gifts are exchanged between families, signifying a firm betrothal. Rejoicing begins with the engagement ceremony and culminates on the wedding day.
The Vedas say:
“Straight be the paths and thornless on which our friends will travel to present our suit! May Aryamān and Bhaga lead us together! May heaven grant us a stable marriage!” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
A man promises before his kinsmen and hers to care for his new wife, make her secure, give her all she wants and all she needs for a rewarding life. Lord Śiva witnesses his vow, blessing the marriage which was arranged by community elders.
What Is the Hindu Family Structure?
The main Hindu social unit is the joint family, usually consisting of several generations living together under the guidance of the father and mother. Each joint family is part of a greater body called the extended family. Aum.
A joint family lives under one roof. It includes a father and mother, their sons, grandsons and great-grandsons and all their spouses, as well as all daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters until they are married.
The head of the family is the father, assisted by his wife, or in his absence the eldest son, encouraged by his mother, and in his absence, the next eldest brother.
The family head delegates responsibilities to members according to their abilities.
The mother oversees household activities, nurturance, hospitality and gift-giving. Religious observances are the eldest son’s responsibility.
The joint family is founded on selfless sharing, community ownership and the fact that each member’s voice and opinion is important.
The extended family includes one or more joint families, community elders, married daughters and their kindred, close friends and business associates. It is headed by the family guru, priests and panditas.
The Vedas offer blessings:
“Dwell in this home; never be parted! Enjoy the full duration of your days, with sons and grandsons playing to the end, rejoicing in your home to your heart’s content.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
How Are Marital Problems Reconciled?
When problems arise in marriage, Hindus study the scriptures and seek advice of family, elders and spiritual leaders. A good marriage requires that the husband be masculine and the wife feminine. Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Success in marriage depends on learning to discuss problems with each other freely and constructively.
Criticizing one another, even mentally, must be strictly avoided, for that erodes a marriage most quickly. Under no circumstance should a husband hit or abuse his wife, nor should a wife dominate or torment her husband.
It is important to not be jealous or overly protective, but to have trust in one another and live up to that trust.
Problems should be resolved daily before sleep. If inharmony persists, advice of elders should be sought.
A reading and reaffirmation of original marriage covenants and an astrological assessment may provide a common point of reference and a foundation for mutual sacrifice and understanding.
The husband who does not take the lead is not fulfilling his duty. The wife who takes an aggressive lead in the marriage makes her husband weak. She must be shy to make him bold.
Couples keep a healthy attitude toward sex, never offering it as reward or withholding it as punishment.
The Vedas say:
“Be courteous, planning and working in harness together. Approach, conversing pleasantly, like-minded, united.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
May the Provident One lead you, holding your hand! May the two Aśvīns transport you on their chariot! Enter your house as that household’s mistress. May authority in speech ever be yours! Signs of good fortune attend the bride. Congregate, one and all, to see her! Wish her joy and return to your homes.
Rig Veda 10.85.26 & 33. ve, 255-256
We offer praise to the Friend, the kindly marriage arranger. Like one who plucks a cucumber, I release you from here, not from yonder. Love, children, happiness and wealth will come to answer your hopes. Devoted to your husband’s needs, be girded for immortality!
Atharva Veda 14.1.17 &42. ve, 259
Here do I fix my dwelling. May it stand firm, flowing with melted butter! May we approach you, O House, with all our people, sound in heart and limb.
Here do you stand, firm dwelling, rich in horses and cattle, pleasantly resounding, wealthy in food abundant, ghee and milk. Stand erect for great good fortune!
Atharva Veda 3.12.1-2. ve, 288-289
May Prajāpati grant to us an issue, Aryamān keep us till death in holy marriage! Free from ill omens enter the home of your husband. Bring blessing to both humans and cattle.
Not evil-eyed nor harmful to your husband, kind to dumb beasts, radiant, gentle-hearted, pleasing, beloved by the Gods, bring forth heroes.
To menfolk and beasts alike bring blessing. Bless now this bride, O bounteous Lord, cheering her heart with the gift of brave sons. Grant her ten sons; her husband to make the eleventh.
Rig Veda 10.85.43-44. ve, 257
Act like a queen to your husband’s father, to your husband’s mother likewise, and his sister. To all your husband’s brothers be queen.
Rig Veda 10.85.46. ve, 257
I hold your heart in serving fellowship; your mind follows my mind.
In my word you rejoice with all your heart. You are joined to me by the Lord of all creatures. You are firm and I see you. Be firm with me,
O flourishing one! Brihaspati has given you to me, so live with me a hundred years bearing children by me, your husband.
Pāraskara Gṛiyha Sutra 1.8.8; 19. ve, 263-264
The Lord brings us riches, food in daily abundance, renown and hero sons to gladden our hearts. So, like a father to his sons, be to us easy of entreaty. Stay with us, O Lord, for our joy.
Rig Veda 1.1.3 & 9. ve, 329
May our minds move in accord. May our thinking be in harmony— common the purpose and common the desire. May our prayers and worship be alike, and may our devotional offerings be one and the same.
Rig Veda 10.191.3. rvp, 4739
With seven steps we become friends. Let me reach your friendship.
Let me not be severed from your friendship. Let your friendship not be severed from me.
Hiraṇyakeśi Gṛiyha Sutra 220.127.116.11.; ve, 263
The gift of a daughter, after decking her with costly garments and honoring her by presents of jewels, to a man learned in the Veda and of good conduct whom the father himself invites, is called the Brahma rite.
Manu Dharma Śastras 3.27. lm, 80
Endowed with the qualities of beauty and goodness, possessing wealth and fame, obtaining as many enjoyments as they desire and being most righteous, they will live a hundred years.
Manu Dharma Śastras 3.40. lm, 82
Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands and brothers-in-law, who desire their own welfare. Where women are honored, there the Gods are pleased. But where they are not honored, no sacred rite yields rewards.
Manu Dharma Śastras 3.55-56. lm, 85
The foremost duty of family life is to serve duly these five: God, guests, kindred, ancestors and oneself. When family life possesses love and virtue, it has found both its essence and fruition.
Thirukural 43; 45. ww
Father and mother are Śiva. Dear brothers and sisters are Śiva. Matchless wife is Śiva. Precious children are Śiva. Rulers and kings are Śiva. All the Gods are Śiva. The whole universe is Śiva.
Natchintanai, “All Is Śiva” NT, 237