Dear Lauren, I have been giving serious thought to converting to Hinduism. I was raised Christian and feel as if I am betraying Christianity by even considering converting. I do not belong to a church any more but do read my bible. I feel so … Continue reading
Growing up, I was always searching for the universal truth, I really wanted to be religious and have faith. I wanted to know which religion was the true religion. I was jealous of those people who had a strong faith, I wanted that certainty and security, I wanted to know what or who God was.
Whilst researching all the theologies and ‘rule books’ of all the major religions, I felt conflicted and confused. I felt simultaneously attracted and repelled by separate parts of each religion. Unlike many people, I didn’t feel I fitted into a single religion. If only I could take all the pieces I felt resonated with me and ignore the other bits, but I assumed religion doesn’t work like that, religion doesn’t involve cherry picking. During my early teenage years, one of my friends told me that it didn’t matter how good of a person I was, I would go to hell if I didn’t become a strict Christian and go to Church every Sunday, that scared the sh*t out me for a while (just to be clear, that is not the opinion of many Christians).
When I moved to India, I slipped from an untraditional Christian tradition, into a traditional Hindu tradition. I automatically began to compare, contrast and search for the similarities between the religions my husband and I were born into. When you go to Church you pray, you look towards the altar, sing together, receive bread and wine which has been blessed. There will be flowers, candles and occasionally incense, there will be a sense of community. When you go to a Temple you pray, you look towards the deity, during aarti (a ritual) you sing together, receive prasad (a small token of food) which has been blessed. There will be flowers, oil lamps, incense, there will be a sense of community. I found the similarities between an Eastern worship and a Western worship, fascinating and I have found solace in both forms.
All religions at their heart value love, kindness, compassion, charity, faith, truth, peace, tolerance and forgiveness. All people should have those values too, sadly that’s not always the case (even those who would label themselves as ‘religious’). The way people from each religion worship, see the world and live their lives can be extremely different, but we humans are all different, this shouldn’t be a reason to discriminate and hate. Surely God, in his omnipresent and omnipotent splendor, would lay out more than just one road towards him/her. I now feel that wisdom can be found in every tradition, we don’t have to sign up to religious sect to feel worthy, we should concentrate on being good people.
“One should not think, ‘My religion alone is the right path and other religions are false.’ God can be realized by means of all paths. It is enough to have sincere yearning for God. Infinite are the paths and infinite the opinions.”
The different types of marriages are described in Ancient Hindu literature, but not all of them have religious sanction, some are only acceptable in certain castes and a couple are completely prohibited.
Hindu philosophy states that marriage is not only two people uniting, but two souls uniting and this union lasts for many lifetimes. Some of these methods of acquiring a wife are not pleasant, thankfully, those ones are recognised as wrong.
1. Brahma Marriage
The Brahma marriage is widely considered as the best type of Hindu marriage. The father of the bride finds a suitable man who has completed his studies and gives his daughter to him in the form of a gift (kanyadan). The ‘gift’ is adorning with gold, jewels and expensive clothes. The grooms family should not ask for anything from the brides family, this type of marriage opposes dowry (money the grooms family demand from the brides family) but sadly it still occurs across all castes and classes.
Dowry is now illegal in India but it’s estimated that an Indian women is murdered every hour because her family was unable to meet her husband and in-laws’ demands for higher dowry.
The Hindu scriptures consider this marriage as the most honorable, because there is no physical force or lust and ideally no exchange of money. This is the most common Hindu marriage.
2. Daiva Marriage
This type of marriage occurs if the brides family cannot find her a groom. The father of the bride resorts to giving his daughter, covered with treasures, to a priest. The priest then performs a sacrifice to complete the marriage. This type of marriage is exclusively for the Brahmin caste, only a Brahmin can perform sacrifices as priest. It is now quite rare that a family will give away their daughters to priests.
3. Arsha Marriage
This type of marriage is not considered noble, it is basically a business transaction. The father gives away his daughter after receiving a cow and a bull from the bridegroom. The boys suitability is not always considered, the condition of the cow and bull are more important.
4. Prajapatya Marriage
This type of marriage is an orthodox union, the purpose of the marriage is religious duty. The father of the bride blesses the couple with the a sacred mantra, on the condition they both do their civic and religious duties. The husband and wife are seen as equal parties in the marriage, remaining dutiful together and living a Hindu lifestyle.
5. Gandharva Marriage
This is a love marriage. A voluntary union of mutual love between the bride and groom. This type of marriage is usually done in secret, without the knowledge of their parents.
The Kama Sūtra says this kind of marriage is the ideal one because it is passion and love which brought the couple together instead of social compatibility or financial gain. There are hundreds of examples of this type of marriage in Hindu mythology, the original Indian love stories. However, other Hindu texts find this type of marriage inferior because it does not always consider social acceptability (allowing inter-caste marriage for example).
6. Asura Marriage
The bridegroom pays for his bride and the amount he decides to pay depends on the social status of the brides family, known as ‘bride price’. Sadly, this form of marriage is still popular among some castes of Hindus and tribes of India. The social compatibility of the groom is not considered here, greed is the deciding factor.
Manu is said to be the father of humanity, he was the first man on Earth, the same man a Christian calls Adam. The father of humanity condemns this type of marriage in the Manusmriti (The laws of Manu), “The father of the girl should not accept even the least amount of price, accepting a price out of greed, he becomes the seller of children.”
7. Rakshasa Marriage
This type of marriage involves the forcible abduction of a girl from her home after her family have been killed. During ancient times, tribes looked upon women as war prizes and took the women of their defeated enemies as brides. This didn’t only happen in Ancient India, this occurred in many other early civilisations. This type of marriage appealed to the nature of the Kshatriya (warrior) caste of men. Women would have been the reason for many battles. The poor brides would cry and scream during the marriage, the word rakshas means demonic.
8. Paishacha Marriage
This was the most awful form of marriage, a man steals the chastity of the women whilst she is either sleeping, intoxicated or unable to consent. Once this has happened, it was thought during the time, she has no alternative but to marry him. Paishacha literally means ‘goblin, the men who do this are literally goblins. This reminds me of those ‘modern’ men who prey on drunken girls in nightclubs, those men who take advantage of girls who are barely conscious. This vile behaviour has obviously been happening for millennia.
The 9th type of marriage…
This type of marriage is not usually mentioned as one of the eight types of Hindu marriage but it also existed in Ancient times, the times when the Hindu Gods and Goddesses walked the earth, the mythical times we learn about in story books. What I find interesting about this type of marriage, unlike the others, is; the boy doesn’t acquire a wife, the girl chooses a husband.
When a girl decided that she wanted to get married, her father would organise a Swaymvara. Swaymvara literally means ‘ones own choice’. Invitations were sent to eligible men across the land and those who were interested in seeking her hand would meet on an auspicious date, at an auspicious venue. The suitors would all try to impress the girl and prove their worth. Once the bride had seen enough, she would select her champion by putting a garland of flowers round his neck.
For reasons I cannot explain, Swaymvara is usually ignored and not added to the eight other forms of traditional Hindu marriage. Swaymvara shares a close resemblance with Gandharva marriage. The difference is that the father allows his daughter to choose her husband whilst Gandharva marriages usually involve the lovers marrying in secret.
In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Sita chooses to marry Lord Rama after he shows he is stronger than the other suitors who gathered for her Swaymvara. The Mahabharata, another Hindu epic, tells of Draupadi’s Swaymvara. She asks her suitors to prove their skills by shooting a rotating fish through the eye by only looking at its reflection in a pool of water. Draupadi rejected the fit suitor who shot the fish in the eye and married the second successful suitor, Prince Arjuna.
Think about this: