The Central Purpose of Marriage
Husband and Wife
O Divines, may the husband and wife who with one accord offer the elixir of dedication with pure heart and propitiate you with the milk of sweet devotional prayers, constantly associated—may they acquire appropriate food, may they be able to offer sacrifice, and may they never fail in strength and vigor.
Rig Veda 8.31.5-6. rvp, 3,015
What Is the Central Purpose of Marriage?
The two purposes of marriage are: the mutual support, both spiritual and material, of man and wife; and bringing children into the world. Marriage is a religious sacrament, a human contract and a civil institution. Aum.
Through marriage, a man and a woman each fulfil their dharma, becoming physically, emotionally and spiritually complete.
He needs her tenderness, companionship and encouragement, while she needs his strength, love and understanding. Their union results in the birth of children and the perpetuation of the human race.
Marriage is a three-fold state: it is a sacrament, a contract and an institution.
As a sacrament, it is a spiritual union in which man and woman utter certain vows one to another and thus bind themselves together for life and for their souls’ mutual benefit.
As a contract, it is a personal agreement to live together as husband and wife, he to provide shelter, protection, sustenance, and she to care for the home and bear and nurture their children.
As an institution, marriage is the lawful custom in society, bringing stability to the family and the social order. Marriage is a jīvayajña, a sacrifice of each small self to the greater good of the family and society.
The Vedas exclaim:
“I am he, you are she, I am song, you are verse, I am Heaven, you are Earth. We two shall here together dwell, becoming parents of children.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Marriage, the pillar of culture, fulfils each partner’s needs, as they discharge their dharma and support one another physically, intellectually and spiritually.
What Are the Duties of the Husband?
It is the husband’s duty, his Puruṣaḥ dharma, to protect and provide for his wife and children. He, as head of the family, gṛiheśvara, is responsible for its spiritual, economic, physical, mental and emotional security. Aum.
By their physical, mental and emotional differences, the man is suited to work in the world and the woman to bear and raise their children in the home.
The husband is, first, an equal participant in the procreation and upbringing of the future generation. Second, he is the generator of economic resources necessary for society and the immediate family.
The husband must be caring, understanding, masculine, loving, affectionate, and an unselfish provider, to the best of his ability and through honest means. He is well equipped physically and mentally for the stress and demands placed upon him.
When he performs his dharma well, the family is materially and emotionally secure. Still, he is not restricted from participation in household chores, remembering that the home is the wife’s domain and she is its mistress.
The Vedas implore:
“Through this oblation, which invokes prosperity, may this bridegroom flourish anew; may he, with his manly energies, flourish the wife they have brought to him. May he excel in strength, excel in royalty! May this couple be inexhaustible in wealth that bestows luster a thousand fold!” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Are Special Duties of the Wife?
It is the wife’s duty, her Strī dharma, to bear, nurse and raise the children. She is the able homemaker, standing beside her husband as the mother and educator of their children and the home’s silent leader, gṛihiṇī. Aum.
The biological differences between man and woman are part of their human dharma. The two together constitute a whole. They are equal partners in joy and sorrow, companions and helpmates, yet their functions differ.
The Hindu home and family is the fortress of the Sanātana Dharma, which the wife and mother is duty-bound to maintain and thus to perpetuate the faith and create fine citizens.
As long as the husband is capable of supporting the family, a woman should not leave the home to work in the world, though she may earn through home industry.
The spiritual and emotional loss suffered by the children and the bad karma accrued from having a wife and mother work outside the home is never offset by the financial gain.
The woman’s more intuitive and emotional qualities of femininity, gentleness, modesty, kindness and compassion are needed for the children’s proper care and development.
The Vedas encourage:
“May happiness await you with your children! Watch over this house as mistress of the home. Unite yourself wholly with your husband. Thus authority in speech till old age will be yours.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Hindu View of Sexuality?
The purpose of sexual union is to express and foster love’s beautiful intimacy and to draw husband and wife together for procreation. While offering community guidance, Hinduism does not legislate sexual matters. Aum.
Sexual intercourse is a natural reproductive function, a part of the instinctive nature, and its pleasures draw man and woman together that a child may be conceived. It also serves through its intimacy to express and nurture love.
It is love which endows sexual intercourse with its higher qualities, transforming it from an animal function to a human fulfillment.
Intensely personal matters of sex as they affect the family or individual are not legislated, but left to the judgment of those involved, subject to community laws and customs.
Hinduism neither condones nor condemns birth control, sterilization, masturbation, homosexuality, petting, polygamy or pornography.
It does not exclude or draw harsh conclusions against any part of human nature, though scripture prohibits adultery and forbids abortion except to save a mother’s life.
Advice in such matters should be sought from parents, elders and spiritual leaders. The only rigid rule is wisdom, guided by tradition and virtue.
The Vedas beseech:
“May all the divine powers together with the waters join our two hearts in one! May the Messenger, the Creator and holy Obedience unite us.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Relation of Sex to Marriage?
Wisdom demands that the intimacies of sexual intercourse be confined to marriage. Marriages that are free of prior relationships are the truest and strongest, seldom ending in separation or divorce. Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
When a virgin man and woman marry and share physical intimacy with each other, their union is very strong and their marriage stable. This is because their psychic nerve currents, or nādīs, grow together and they form a one body and a one mind.
Conversely, if the man or woman has had intercourse before the marriage, the emotional-psychic closeness of the marriage will suffer, and this in proportion to the extent of promiscuity.
For a marriage to succeed, sexual intercourse must be preserved for husband and wife. Each should grow to understand the other’s needs and take care to neither deny intercourse to the married partner nor make excessive demands.
A healthy, unrepressed attitude should be kept regarding sexual matters.
Boys and girls must be taught to value and protect their chastity as a sacred treasure, and to save the special gift of intimacy for their spouse. They should be taught the importance of loyalty in marriage and to avoid even the thought of adultery.
The Vedas intone:
“Sweet be the glances we exchange, our faces showing true concord. Enshrine me in your heart and let one spirit dwell with us.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
O man and woman, having acquired knowledge from the learned, proclaim amongst the wise the fact of your intention of entering the married life.
Attain to fame, observing the noble virtue of nonviolence, and uplift your soul. Shun crookedness. Converse together happily.
Living in a peaceful home, spoil not your life. Spoil not your progeny. In this world, pass your life happily, on this wide Earth full of enjoyment!
Śukla Yajur Veda 5.17. ty, 44
Husband and wife in sweet accord give milk oblations to the Gods and press and strain the Soma. They acquire a plenteous store of food. They come united to the altar. Their rewards never lessen.
They do not wander from the Gods or seek to hide their favors granted. Thus they acquire great glory. With sons and daughters at their side, they live a good long span of years, both decked with precious gold.
Rig Veda 8.31.5-8. ve, 265
Have your eating and drinking in common. I bind you together. Assemble for worship of the Lord, like spokes around a hub. Of one mind and one purpose I make you, following one leader. Be like the Gods, ever deathless! Never stop loving.
Atharva Veda 3.30.6-7. ve, 857
Many are the paths of the Gods winding heavenward. May they stream for me with favors, bringing me milk and butter! Thus in my business may I succeed and accumulate treasure.
I offer this wood and this butter in your honor, O Lord, with a prayer for energy and strength. These sacred words I now chant with all my devotion, to win by this hymn a hundredfold.
Thus, steadfast and firm as a horse, we shall offer our praises, Omniscient Lord, forever. Replete with food and with riches, being close to you always, may we never suffer reverses!
Atharva Veda 3.15.2-3; 8. ve, 295
May Mitra, Varuṇa and Aryamān grant us freedom and space enough for us and for our children! May we find pleasant pathways, good to travel! Preserve us evermore, O Gods, with blessings!
Rig Veda 7.63.6. ve, 822
Divine Architect of the universe, well pleased, may you give us procre- ant vigor, whence a brave son—skilled in action, lover of divine powers and resolute like grinding stones—be born.
Rig Veda 7.2.9. rvp, 2,355
Unite, O Lord, this couple like a pair of lovebirds. May they surrounded by children be, living both long and happily.
Atharva Veda 14.2.64. ve, 259
May the Lord of the clouds protect our stores, piled high in our homes! May the Lord of the clouds give us vitality in our homes, granting goods and riches!
O generous God, Lord of thousand-fold abundance impart to us now a share of abundance; may we have a share in prosperity!
Atharva Veda 6.79.1-3. ve, 274
Let there be faithfulness to each other until death. This, in short, should be known as the highest duty of husband and wife. So let husband and wife ever strive, doing all their duties, that they may not, separated from each other, wander apart.
Manu Dharma Śastras 9.101-2. sd, 161
Family life, however full, remains empty if the wife lacks the lofty culture of the home. It is said a worthy wife is the blessing of a home, and good children are its precious adornments. Thirukural 52; 60. ww
No greater dignity exists than when a man resolutely declares, “I will never cease in laboring to fulfill my karmas" The posterity of householders who gather wealth without misdeeds and share meals without miserliness will never perish.
Thirukural 45; 1021; 44. ww
Whether he be a sannyāsin or a householder, he who is devoid of both affection and hatred is a superman. Great souls speak of him as a jīvan- mukta.
To live in communion with one’s true nature is the greatest bliss. That does not entail conformity with any external pattern—it is a real feeling.
Everything will become clear if one is true to oneself. To love others as oneself is tapas. That is dharma. Everywhere is Śiva.
Natchintanai, Letter 6. NT, 19