" The nuptial ceremony is considered as the complete institution of women, ordained for them in the Veda, together with reference to their husbands." (Mann, ii 67.)
HINDU laws and regulations on the marriage question take it for granted that all men and women must marry. It is only those who may be suffering from disqualifications of mind or body that do not marry.
There are no old bachelors or old maids amongst the Hindus. The regulations and directions are all confined to the matter of how to choose, and how and when the marriage is to be performed.
It appears quite clear that in Vedic time there was some liberty of choice amongst both men and women, as to their partners , for it is thus written :-
"Three years let a damsel wait, though she be marriageable ; but, after that term, let her choose for herself a bridegroom of equal rank.
If, not being given in marriage, she choose her bridegroom, neither she nor the youth chosen commit any offence.
But a damsel, thus electing her husband, shall not carry with her the ornaments which she received from her father, nor those given by her mother or brethren : if she carry them away, she commits theft." (Mann, ix. 90-92.)
But whatever liberty may have existed in this respect in ancient times, it is very certain that such is not the case now. The institution of child marriage has entirely destroyed that liberty. Amongst Brahmins, and Vaisyas a boy cannot be married until he has been invested with the marks of the twice-born (upanayanam), though they are often married immediately after that event. Girls must be married before puberty and usually it is done whilst they are quite young. Other castes and non-castes may marry later on in life still, even amongst them, the vows of matrimony are taken at a very early age. This necessity for marriage is often a great burden, as the choice is more or less limited. Marriages can only take place between those of the same caste and the same sect. There are also prohibitive degrees of tribe and family within which marriages are not allowed. Amongst the larger sects this does not act much as an obstacle, but amongst the smaller ones it often causes great difficulty. There are also natural likes and dislikes, some of which are thus alluded to by Manu, and which evidently point to a period when marriages were settled at a more natural age, and in a more natural manner :—
"Let him not marry a girl with reddish hair, nor with any deformed limb, nor one troubled with habitual sickness, nor one either with no hair or with too much, nor one immoderately talkative, nor one with inflamed eyes.
Let him choose for his wife a girl whose form has no defect, who has an agreeable name, who walks gracefully, like a pheni- copteros, or like a young elephant, whose hair and teeth are moderate respectively in quality and in size, whose body has exquisite softness." (iii. 8, 80.)
The two institutions of polyandry and polygamy exist in India. The former cannot be said to be a Hindu institution indeed it is utterly opposed and abhorrent to the very spirit of Hinduism. It is practised by such non-Hindus, or unorthodox Hindus, as the Todas of the Nilgiris, and the Nairs of the Western Coast, but it is only a local and in no sense a universal custom. Polygamy, however, is a true Hindu institution, and it is duly legislated upon in the various codes. Maim lays down the law as follows :-
" For the first marriage of the twice-born classes, a woman of the same class is recommended; but for such as are impelled by inclination to marry again women in the direct order of the classes are to be preferred
A Sudra woman only must be the wife of a Sudra, she and a Vaisya of a Vaisya, these two and a Cshatriya of a Cshatriya, these two and a Brahmani of a Brahman. (iii. 13, 14.)
This only alludes to a state of things in those early Vedic days ; in this Kali Yuga or degenerate age, though a man may have, and in some cases should have, more wives than one at the same time, it can only be within strictly recognized caste limits. One of the stories in the "Vickramarkacharitra" turns upon the fact of a Brahmin being allowed to take to wife a woman from each of the four castes. Now, however, no one, especially a Brahmin, dares to marry outside of his own caste ; but, within these limits, there are circumstances under which it is rather incumbent upon a Hindu than otherwise to take a second wife. Should his wife prove barren, or should all the male issue die, then, very often, the husband will be pressed by the wife herself to re-marry, so that there may be surviving male issue, and thus the reproach of the family be wiped away and the future salvation of those concerned fully assured. This concession is, however, guarded round with conditions, some of which are thus stated by Mann :-
" A barren wife may be superseded by another in the eighth year, she whose children are all dead in the tenth, she who brings forth only daughters in the eleventh, she who speaks unkindly, without delay." (ix. 81.)
Another condition, not absolutely binding in all cases, is that the first wife should consent to the remarriage. It is not difficult to understand how reluctant a woman would naturally be thus to have a sharer in her husband's affection ; and perhaps it is impossible for Europeans to understand her ever consenting to, much less wishing for, such a state of things. The desire, however, for male issue, indeed the absolute necessity for a son, either born or adopted, is so overpowering that it is not so unusual a thing as might at first be supposed, for a woman, at all and any risk to her own personal happiness or position in the family, to strongly desire her husband to seek out another suitable spouse and bring her to his home. Still, notwithstanding all this, it is comparatively an unusual thing for a Hindu, especially among the higher castes, to have more wives than one. Amongst the non-caste people we do now and then meet with cases where a man is living with more than one wife. It may be that one important deterrent to polygamy is the very great expense connected with an orthodox Hindu marriage. The cost is such that once in a lifetime is enough to hang a load of debt around the poor man's neck for the greater part of his natural existence.
Amongst nearly all Hindus there is a peculiar idea in the matter of degrees of relationships within which marriage is desirable, and amongst the Vaisyas the carrying out of this idea has become an imperative necessity ; whilst most other castes think it so desirable as to be worth a great effort to carry it into effect. I allude to what is called amongst the Telugu people menarikam, which means that a youth should marry his mother's brother's daughter, and a girl should marry her father's sister's son. Failing such relationships the choice is left free, that is free within the proper limits of caste and sect. Much trouble is sometimes caused in the Christian Church by the hold this idea has upon, the minds of the people, for sometimes one of the parties thus eligible may be a Christian, and the other outside the pale of the church. There are, however, some sects of Brahmins who are opposed to this menarikam rule, thinking the blood-relationship too close for marriage.
There is another bar to marriages amongst Hindus that does not exist amongst Europeans, and that is that a younger brother cannot marry until the elder one is married. Neither can a younger sister marry before the elder one is disposed of. This is not a mere custom, it is according to what is strictly laid down in the code. Manu says :—
"He who makes a marriage contract with the connubial fire, whilst his elder brother continues unmarried, is called a parivetru; and the elder brother a parivitti. The parivetru, the parivitti, the damsel thus wedded, the giver of her in wedlock and fifthly, the performer of the nuptial sacrifice, all sink to a region of torment." (Mann, iii. 171, 172.)
I am now chiefly describing the customs of the Brahmins, who are more particular in ceremonies than other castes except, perhaps, the Vaisyas ; but at the same time, though the inferior castes may leave out various items of the ritual, the mode of procedure is very much the same amongst all orthodox Hindus.
Many marriages are arranged, especially between near relatives, when the boy and girl are mere infants, perhaps within a few months of birth ; but when that is not done, the parents begin to look around for a suitable person when the proper time for marriage is drawing near. In such a case, if the father of a marriageable boy hears or knows of a suitable match, he will select a fortunate day and then proceed to visit the parents of the girl with a view to preliminaries and to talk the matter over. He is always careful to take with him his son's horoscope, as the girl's friends will want to see whether the youth was born under such a combination of the planets as to augur well for the future of the proposed pair,. The horoscope is a document drawn up by the family priest at the birth of every boy, and sometimes of a girl, showing the date and even the moment of the birth, and the state of the planetary system at the time. This document is always carefully preserved for future reference. If the horoscope is favourable, preliminaries are talked over and financial arrangements made. Sometimes, particularly if the expectant bridegroom should be unpromising or old and a comparative stranger, the friends of the girl, on his sending a go-between, may try to drive a bargain and squeeze money out of him.
No well-to-do father would care to give his daughter to such a man with the certainty of her soon becoming a widow ; but a poor man might be tempted to do it for the sake of gain. Sometimes, when a rich old 'man loses his wife, the parents of a young girl will take means of intimating to him their willingness to give him their daughter for a consideration. This, however, is considered very improper, and is indeed against the letter of the law.
" Let no father who knows the law, receive a gratuity, however small, for giving his daughter to marriage; since the man who, through avarice, takes a gratuity for that purpose is a seller of his offspring." (Mann, iii. 51.)
Notwithstanding, it is not now uncommon for the bride's parents to demand a sum of money, sometimes comparatively large, from the boy's friends before they will consent to a match. This is very like selling the girl, and is the thing guarded against in the above quotation. The dowry given by the friends of the bridegroom to the bride, in the shape of jewels, which goes with the bride when she goes to her new home, is besides and over and above the money in question. The name given to the arrangements for this money gift to the girl's parent is one' which means bargaining ; and, when there are several applicants for her hand, it often becomes very much like an auction in which the highest bid is held out for. I quote a case that is said to have recently happened in South India, which is, I am informed, only one of many that are of more or less frequent occurrence in one part or another. A certain poor Brahmin agreed to give his daughter, nine years of age, to the son of one of his own caste. The sum of money agreed upon in this case was Rs. 700 which was handed over to the girl's father, and the prathanam, or betrothal ceremony, actually took place. Within a couple of months, a more wealthy suitor appeared on the scene, and offered Rs. 1,000, which sum was duly paid over, and a second prathanam was performed. The matter came to the ears of the first party and he took legal steps to stay all proceedings, and obtained an injunction from the Law Court, pending the hearing of a suit. The case duly came before the Court, and it resulted in the girl's father having to refund the Rs. 700 to the first suitor for his daughter, besides paying the costs of the proceedings. After this the girl was finally married to the son of the one who gave the larger sum.
This unlawful custom of a father's receiving money in return for thus giving his daughter appears to prevail mostly amongst Brahmins. Ordinarily, amongst other Hindus, there is an interchange of gifts by way of dowry from the bride's father to the bridegroom, and from his father to the bride. These dowries usually take the shape of jewels, clothes, brass and copper household vessels and the like. The nature and value of these mutual gifts is all settled at the interview between the parents and friends before the prathanam. Jewels are also given to the bride by her father to be her sole property ; and, in some cases, if a young wife dies without issue, these jewels are returned to him. There appears to be no definite rule on this latter point, but it is a custom that is often complied with, and there is sometimes much bad feeling aroused when it is not done.
When a marriage is arranged between a young couple, and all preliminaries are settled to the satisfaction of the parties concerned, a suitable day is fixed upon for the prathanam, the formal engagement, or betrothal. The day fixed upon must be a lucky one, and it is not settled without consulting either an astrologer or the priest. At the pre-arranged time, the father of the boy with a friend or two, not the boy himself, proceeds to the house of the girl's father, who then calls together a few friends, and his priest. It is also the proper thing to have musicians at this entertainment. The boy's father then produces certain presents he has brought for the girl, such as jewels, cloths and a ring. These things are' handed over to the girl in the' presence of them all, and she is arrayed in all the finery. The ring, which is of a peculiar shape, is carefully kept all through life. It is put on the third or ring finger, and the elders present are called upon to bless the girl which they do saying, " may you like Lakshmi be happy and prosperous."
At the close of the ceremony, betel is distributed to the guests, and rose-water is sprinkled over them. After this, when, with the aid of the astrologer, a suitable day for the marriage has been fixed, the friends depart and the betrothal is complete. Like an engagement' amongst Europeans, this prathanam is not necessarily a binding ceremony ; that is, it is possible, in the event of any obstacle arising, for this betrothal to be broken.
The time chosen for the actual performance of the marriage should be in one of the five months beginning from February. It is not that marriages cannot be performed at other times during the year, but this is considered the most propitious time. It is probable that this idea took its rise from convenience, for, during the period in question, there is little agricultural labour to be done ; and, as the crops also have been harvested, money is in hand for the expenses that must be incurred. At the time fixed upon, the bride's father has his house cleaned up and decorated, and a pandal, or large open booth, is erected in front and at the back of the house to accommodate the guests and friends. Permission must be obtained from the authorities to erect these pandals, and a tax is levied for the permission. The bridegroom's father sets out from his abode to go to that of the bride. He takes with him the bridegroom, a great part of his household, his own purohita and other friends. It is made a great holiday and these visitors always have a band of musicians with them to cheer them on the journey. On approaching the home of the bride, the party array themselves in their best finery, the band strikes up and all await the coming out to meet them of the bride's parents and friends. Before going out to meet the party, the bride's father, if the parties are Brahmins, proceeds to the north-east of the village in search of some earth from the hillocks made by white ants. This he takes home and, having prepared a space in the room where the chief marriage ceremony is to be performed, he fills five earthen or metal vessels with it and places them in. a row. In these vessels he plants nine different kinds of grain, and sprinkles them with milk and water, repeating • a mantram. The grain thus treated quickly sprouts during the days of the ceremonies. Five of the gods are invoked and requested to be present as witnesses at the ceremony ; namely Indra (the god of storms), Varuna (the god of the waters), Chandra (the moon), Yama (the god of death), and Brahma. This ceremony is confined to Brahmins. The saying of the mantram is a necessary part of the proceedings.
The mantram is :—
" The earth like the cow bears all things and supplies all things."
The bride's father and friends, with the family priest, go out in a body to meet the bridegroom and his party. When they meet there is a mutual exchange of civilities, such as gifts of betel, sprinkling one another with rose-water, and then rubbing upon the hands, neck and chest of each other some sandalwood paste. Finally, the guests are conducted to a lodging, previously prepared for them. This lodging must not be in the bride's house, for that would be considered very improper. The marriage ceremony may commence on the evening of the arrival of the bridegroom and the whole affair lasts for five days.
The hour for the ceremony of the actual marriage has to be carefully fixed so as to be at the most propitious time. It may fall during the day or the night time. A little before the time fixed upon, the party assembles in the apartment near the place where the grain is sprouting. The bridegroom is then duly bathed. This bathing is called blessed or fortunate bathing (mangalasnánam). After this, seated on a slightly raised platform, previously prepared for the occasion, dressed in his ceremonially pure clothes and facing the east, he prays to Ganêsha (the god of obstacles) to be propitious. An image of Ganesha is placed there, if one can be procured ; otherwise they place a lump of saffron made into a paste to represent him. After this he performs a ceremony of purification called punyahavachanam. Meanwhile the bride in another part of the house, has been going through much the same kind of thing. She has been bathing, and worshipping Ganesha, and also Gauri the wife of Siva, or Lakshmi the wife of Vishnu. Which one it is depends on the religious sect of the parties.
The bride's parents now come forward and, with necessary ceremonies, invest the bridegroom with the two skeins necessary to form the full sacred thread of a married man. A curtain is then fixed up across the platform, and the bride is brought out seated in a kind of wicker-basket, and is then placed behind the curtain which separates the young couple, so that they cannot actually see each other until later on in the affair. The bride's father or mother then proceeds to give to the bridegroom a mixture of curds, milk, ghee, sugar, cummin, honey and other ingredients. This mixture is known as mathuparkam. A portion of it is placed in his hand and he proceeds to eat it. This is repeated three times. It is supposed to refresh him after the fatigue he has already gone through and also to prepare him for the further ceremonies. The bride's parents then present the bridegroom with a beautiful cloth and other like things, including a kind of yagnopavitam. made of one golden and two silver threads. The youth then proceeds to array himself in the gorgeous presents.
The important ceremony called kanyadknam (giving of the damsel) now takes place. This is done as follows. The bridegroom first makes the following declaration :—
" I of such and such a name, family and tribe, perform this taking of hands for the remission of my sins and for the satisfaction of the supreme God."
The bride's family priest then asks the bridegroom if he is willing to take so and so to wife. On his -answering in the affirmative, the ends of the upper garments of the pair are tied together in what is called the Brahma knot.' The priest in tying this knot says " Vishveth tratet," that is, " You both must trust and be a prop to each other." They sit thus tied together until it may be necessary for them to move away from the place where they are sitting, when the knot is loosed. This tying of the cloths, is an important part of the marriage ceremony and is repeated at various stages of the proceedings. Certain presents of jewels and cloths, one of which should be of silk, are now given to the bride by the bridegroom's father. The bridegroom then again makes a declaration of his willingness to accept the bride, and her father makes a declaration of his willingness to give her. The bride's mother then brings in a vessel of water with which her father proceeds to wash the bridegroom's feet, sprinkling some of the water on his own head. He then takes the right hand of the bride, which is underneath the curtain, and placing it in the right hand of the bridegroom, pours over the clasped hands some water from the vessel. Whilst this is being done, the father with the help of his purohita, repeats certain mantrams of which the following is- a specimen :—
" This damsel laden with gold,
And adorned with jewels of gold,
I give to thee who art like unto Vishnu,
In the hope that I may attain the heaven of Brahma."
The pouring of water over the clasped hands is one of the most important ceremonies of the whole proceedings. After this is done, the curtain which has hitherto separated the bride and bridegroom is removed, and they see each other, possibly for the first time in their lives. The parties may be very young. Indeed, the bride must be young, and may be a mere infant of three or four years of age.
A very. curious ceremony is gone through at this stage of the proceedings. An ox-yoke is brought in, and a cord made of darbha grass is tied round the waist of the bride by the bridegroom. This cord is supposed to represent one of those used to place round the neck of the ox when it is yoked. It is easy to see the origin and significance of the act. The yoke is now held over the bride in such a manner that one of the holes in it shall come right over her head. The mangalasutram, to be presently described, is now taken and held under the hole through which water is poured by the bridegroom. The water trickles down the mangalasutram on to the bride's head. During this the young couple are made to say to each other " nati chargmani," or " I will never leave thee."
The next ceremony is the important one of tying on the mangalasutram. This is a saffron coloured thread or cord to which a small gold ornament is attached. It is fastened round the neck and hangs down in front, like a locket. This is always worn by married women, like the wedding ring among Europeans, and it is never parted with, for any consideration whatever, until the death of either party. Thus, if a woman has not on the mangalasutram, it is a sign of widowhood.
A beautiful cloth is now given to the bride by her father and she departs for a little in order to array herself in it ; on her return she is accompanied by her female relatives. The bridegroom now takes the mangalasutram and, with an appropriate declaration, ties it round the neck of the bride. Whilst this is being done, the musicians make loud noise with their instruments. Others who are present clap their hands. This is to prevent any sneezing from being heard. Sneezing is considered a very bad omen ; and for fear any one might be seized with an attack during this important part of the marriage ceremony, the loud noise is made to drown so unlucky a sound. The declaration which the bridegroom, prompted by the priest, gives utterance to on tying the cord is as follows :—
" This mangalasutram
For the lengthening of my life,
I tie to thy neck,
Do thou live for a hundred years."
Whilst the mangalasutram is being tied on, the purohitas and those present chant the mangalashtakam, or eight marriage blessings. When the chanting is concluded, some of those present throw coloured rice upon the couple, by way of blessing them. One of the eight marriage blessings is as follows :–
" The pearls in the lotus-like hands of Sita which shone like rubies
When poured on the head of Rama appeared white like jasmine flowers,
And falling over his dark blue body shone like sapphires:
May those pearls thus used at the marriage of Rama give happiness unto you."
An ornament called bhashikam is also worn by the bride and bridegroom, when they are seated together at any time during the five days for which the ceremony lasts. This ornament is usually made of twigs and coloured thread and is worn tied. on to the forehead by a string passing round the head. After the tying of the mangalasutram, the priest places a few grains of coloured rice into the hands of those present, who in company chant as a blessing some verses from the Vedas. After this, all present throw the rice on to the heads of the married pair. It may be that the modern English custom of throwing rice after a newly married couple arose from this Indian rite.
At this stage of the proceedings the bridegroom, duly prompted by the family priest, proceeds to perform a hómam or sacrifice of fire. This is done in the sacred fire which is made and kept up in the centre of a prepared place, during the whole of the marriage festival days. The hómam is performed by dropping into the fire certain kinds of twigs and rice and ghee. Mantrams are also repeated at the same time.
The next ceremony is called saptapadi or seven steps. This is the most important ceremony in the whole marriage rite, and in a court of justice this is the test ceremony by which it is decided whether a disputed marriage was completely performed or not. Manu also makes this the irrevocable act, upon which the rite is complete :-
" The nuptial texts are a certain rule in regard to wedlock, and the bridal contract is known by the learned to be complete and irrevocable on the seventh step of the married pair, hand in hand, after those texts have been pronounced." (viii. 227.)
The ceremony is performed as follows. The couple, holding each other by the hand, walk three times round the sacred fire, each circle being supposed to be done in seven steps. Whilst they are thus marching the purohita repeats a mantram, the bridegroom joining in with him if he is able to do so. The mantram is supposed to be said by the bridegroom to the bride and is as follows :—
" By taking seven steps with me do thou become my friend,
By taking seven steps together we become friends.
I shall become thy friend,
I shall never give up thy friendship.
Do thou never give up my friendship :
Let us live together and take counsel one of another."
With this rite the marriage may be said to be indissolubly completed and, upon this, betel and fruit are distributed to those present, after which those who, through religious differences, cannot eat together with the household take their leave. The women present then sing marriage songs, which are taken from the marriage songs of Rama and Sita. Whilst singing they hold in their hands small lamps, fed with ghee. The following is a specimen of these songs taken from the Telugu language.
Sometime after darkness has set in, the ceremony called sthalipakam is performed. This is done as follows. The company being assembled, a little rice is cooked in a small vessel on the sacred fire when, after several suppressions of the breath and repeating " Om bhuh, Om bhuvaha, Om suvaha " (the names of the three worlds of the Hindus), the bridegroom mentions the exact time that then is, naming the age, year, day, and hour, and also the place where they are at the time. He then makes this declaration :—" I make this sthalfpakam, on behalf of this damsel, in order to please the supreme God." After this is done, he sprinkles ghee over some of the cooked rice and, taking pinches of it up in his two fingers and thumb, performs a homam by casting it upon the fire. He does this several times, repeating the following mantram :—
" May this become a sacrifice to Agni (the god of fire).
To him this is given; it is not mine.
May this become a sacrifice to him who fulfils our desires.
This belongs to him ; it is not mine."
Before the bride and bridegroom can take any food, the last ceremony of this first day's proceedings must be done. The puróhita takes them outside the house and, pointing out a very small star called arundhati, bids them pay homage to it. This star is near the middle one in the tail of Ursa Major and is named after Arundhati, the wife of Vasishtah one of the seven Rishis. It is not clear what is meant by this ceremony, but doubtless it had some meaning in olden times. This Arundhati is said to have been a pattern wife, and probably the ceremony is meant to draw the attention of the bride to that fact and to bid her follow so good an example.
After this the bride and bridegroom take food together, eating from the same leaf. This is rather a noteworthy act, as it is the only time during their life when the husband and wife eat together. Ever after they will eat apart. The duty of the wife is to serve her husband whilst he eats, and when he has done, to partake of what is left of the food, using as a plate the leaf from which her husband has just breakfasted, or dined. This unsocial custom is universal amongst Hindus of every rank and caste. At the time when the bride and bridegroom are partaking of their " love feast," the family and guests sit down—the males and females apart—all duly bathed and prepared for food and partake of the marriage feast. Generally a very large number come together for this. The parents of the bride, however, do not sit down with their guests, but wait for their meal until all the feasting is over.
On the morning of the second day the bride is duly decorated and loaded with jewels, partly marriage gifts, but some probably borrowed for the occasion. Then seated in a marriage palanquin, and accompanied by dancing. women and a band of music, she is taken in procession to the house where the bridegroom's father and friends lodge. The bridegroom then, all gorgeously arrayed, joins her and sits opposite to her in the palanquin. Then they are carried round in a grand procession back to the bride's house. On their return home from this procession, and also when they return from any of the processions, as they alight from the palanquin, their feet are washed by some attendants, and they are made to speak each other's name. This also is noteworthy, as it is not customary for husband and wife ever to mention each other's name, and it is amusing to see the various shifts that are resorted to in order to avoid doing so. Even in the case of a poor woman, if asked by one strange to the customs of the country what her husband's name is, instead of replying she will, with a titter, ask some one standing by, perhaps her own child, to mention it. Sometimes for fun, romping girls will tease a little wife to make her say her husband's name. They will shut her up in a room, or in. some other way imprison her, and not let her out until she has mentioned what is usually so sacred and unmentionable.
This day is passed in singing marriage songs and feasting, with a few minor ceremonies. In the evening there is again a grand procession, like that of the morning, except that they make a longer round and fireworks are let off at various places on the way. On arriving home, a hómam is performed, and the second day's affairs close with the usual feastings.
On the morning of the third day there is the usual procession, after which there is an elaborate ceremony called sadasyam or the meeting of the elders. During this ceremony presents are made of cloths and. money to various people, and the forenoon closes with a grand feast. In the evening a very elaborate procession is made. The people first go to the bank of a river or some nice shady place, where carpets are spread. When all are seated, betel is served round and rose-water sprinkled on then). Then various games are played. All this being over, the procession again forms and, with much blazing of torches and burning of coloured lights, braying of horns and beating of drums, singing of dancing girls, and letting off of fireworks, it slowly makes a grand progress through the streets home again. It is not a pleasant thing to meet one of these marriage processions in the narrow streets of a village, or in the crowded parts of a bazaar, when returning home after dark from an evening ride. The blare of the trumpets, the din of the drums, the swishing rush and pistol-like report of the rockets, together with the glare of the torches and coloured lights, all combined form a scene that is enough to make any animal nervous that has not received the education of a trained charger. For my own part, I know I have often been thankful to get clear of such processions without accident to myself, or without any harm being done by the timid horse to any one of the surging, shouting, parti-coloured crowd that goes to make a Hindu holiday.
The fourth day is passed in the same way, except that one of the proper things to be done is for the bridegroom to pretend to be angry and sulky. He even goes so far as to start off in his palanquin to run away. The father of the bride then goes out to find him and tries to appease his anger, promising to give him presents of various kinds. He is supposed to take advantage of this to ask for various things as presents, a house for instance, or cattle, or money, or lands. The father-in-law then promises to give so and so, upon which the youth shakes off his pretended sulks and returns to the festivities. This amusing and somewhat ridiculous farce seems to he a peculiar custom kept up as an opportunity for demanding and giving additional presents, by way of dowry to the bride. In the evening, after the usual feast, the most elaborate and prolonged of the various festal parades take place, with its accompaniments of torches, lime-lights, fireworks, singing of dancing girls and Other festivities. Whilst the bride's home is partly deserted, the inmates being out with the procession, the friends of the bridegroom have some fun by going to the house and removing any useful thing they can lay their hands on ; such as the ropes for drawing water and necessary culinary vessels. The consternation at the loss on the return of the procession is a source of much amusement.
Very early in the morning of the fifth day, say about three o'clock, the last hómam is performed (shesha hómam). The gods, who have been invoked to be present at the proceedings, are then solemnly dismissed to their several worlds. A. mantram said upon this occasion is as follows :—
" 0 ye gods depart in peace."
In the evening of this fifth and last day, a final ceremony is performed, called nakabali, or sacrifice to the inhabitants of heaven. The prepared place is again adorned and smeared with the dung of cows and a number of small lights, fed with ghee, are placed in a square formed of coloured pots. Several mantrams are repeated by the puróhita, in the presence of the assembled company, invoking the presence of the whole three hundred and thirty millions of gods of the Hindu pantheon.. These are duly honoured and worshipped by prayers and offerings of cooked rice. The bride and bridegroom are then tied together with the Brahma knot and marched three times round the burning lights by the priest, who meanwhile repeats certain mantrams.
Sometime, after the nakabali, there is more singing and music and betel is again distributed. Various bits of romping and fun are then indulged in. The bride and bridegroom are each seized upon by any two present, and carried about at a run ; during this, white and coloured powders, and coloured water are freely thrown about, and there is a good deal of frolic and amusement.
The appaginta, or final delivering over, then takes place. This is always a most sorrowful proceeding, and the bride's mother, brothers, sisters and other relatives weep much, and in various ways express their grief as they give up their dear one into other hands. The ceremony is as follows. A. dish of milk is brought in and the bride places her right hand in the milk ; over her hand the bridegroom's father and mother and sister place their right hands, when the priest repeats some verses, of which the following is one ;
" This damsel has attained her eighth year,
She has been fostered by me like a son,
She is now given to thy son,
Protect her in love."
When this has proceeded far enough, a bundle of rice is tied to the waist of the bride, and she is once more seated in the palanquin opposite her husband. They then set out to go to the village of the bridegroom, thus bringing the prolonged and intricate ceremonial to a close.
The bride is supposed to stay for three days in her husband's house. She is then taken back to her own home, there to remain until she has attained a fit age to discharge the duties of a wife.
When the young wife has arrived at a suitable age, notification of the fact is sent to the husband's parents, and the occasion is celebrated by various feastings and festivities. The parents and friends on both sides consult as to a propitious time for the taking home of the bride. At the time fixed upon, the husband and his friends proceed to the bride's home where certain ceremonies and feastings take place. There is also much distributing of cloths, fruit, betel and other presents. After a few days thus spent, the bride is taken away by her husband to his own home, which she henceforth shares with him.
Sometimes in fulfilment of a vow the marriage takes place at some more or less celebrated place of pilgrimage. In that event, a pilgrimage is made by all concerned to the favoured shrine and the marriage takes place there. In such cases, all the ceremonies are crowded into one day, and some of lesser importance are omitted altogether.
In this description of the mode of procedure followed in the marriages of Hindus, I have not mentioned many customary rites and ceremonies of lesser importance, but I give an account of one. At some stage or other of the proceedings there is a peculiar ceremony, which is one of various minor ones. Some rice, which has been steeped in milk, is brought, and the bridegroom places a portion of this into the hand of the bride. Over this he sprinkles some drops of ghee, with a betel leaf, saying :—
"May righteousness increase! peace be unto you !"
He then takes some of the rice from her hand and puts it on her head. She then takes some of it and puts it upon his head. This is done 'several times, after which they both do it at the same time, putting some of the rice upon each other's head.
In ancient days it was customary for the bride's father to present to the bridegroom a fatted calf, to be used for food at the marriage feast. In these days, however, this custom has given way and cloths and other things are presented.
Whilst the chief acts of ritual are the same amongst all Hindus, many minor ceremonies may differ much in . different parts of this vast country, and amongst the different races and nations who profess the Brahminical religion. Some account of unorthodox marriages will be given in the next chapter.
It will easily be seen what an expensive affair such marriages are, and what large sums of money are thus squandered. There is no more fruitful source of debt, that curse of India, than the cost of these marriage customs and the wasteful expenditure incurred at funeral ceremonies. The presents of cloths, jewels and money ; the feasting and feeding ; the elaborate processions, and the necessary hiring of bearers and musicians and dancing girls ; together with the fireworks and lights,—all these things swallow up large sums of money and often the chief supply comes from the bags of the money-lenders. It is no matter if the parties concerned are poor, the laws of custom are so inexorable that their demands must be complied with, even though by so doing a millstone of debts is hung around the neck to be a drag and a burden all through life. Many of the wiser people groan under these and similar bonds and occasionally a feeble voice is raised up in protest ; but the Hindu is so conservative and so wanting in firmness of mind that there is not much hope of a radical change in such matters for many long years to come.
( Originally Published 1908 )
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