Earlier this week a Hinduphobic advertisement was released which asked Hindus to revisit the tradition of Kanyadaan. Needless to say, creative heads at the ad agency went overboard in their effort to reform Hinduism out of regressive and patriarchal practices. In a matter of hours, it received a lot of flak in social media. As has come to be norm, the majority or offensive form of outrage was on the lack of efforts on part of brands to make similar reformist advertisements for Abrahamic faiths – we never fail to understand why they are the benchmark. While the remaining or defensive form of outage was a mixture of how the entire ceremony is symbolic – the standard being husband-wife being rupas of Vishnu-Lakshmi, or how Hinduism is not sexist as we also have concept of “putradaan”, or the weak attempt at relying on etymology of Kanyadaan to show it is a Sanskrit non-translatable. Funnily enough, etymology is hardly helpful as a counter to an advertisement but at least it corrects hyper-Hindu netizens who believe we had it all wrong for centuries. As per some netizens the term is not “Kanya-Daana” but “Kanya-Aadana”, where Aadhana means “receive” So basically “Kanyadaana” translates to “Receiving the bride” . It is mind numbing to see the extent to which one can twist facts just to conform to modern sensibilities.
Let’s face the reality as to why we are in such a state. In today’s day and age, even in marriages held as per customs and traditions, most of the relatives and friends are already back home before the Saptapadi is concluded. The few waiting till the end are busy sorting pictures and videos for Instagram, while the couple and their parents are just mechanically following the Purohit without paying attention. When such folks, who don’t have any inkling of what’s happening in the samskara/ceremony are confronted by likes of the Maanyavar advertisement, they will immediately latch onto any explanation that sounds logical and can withstand scrutiny from post-modern western educated lenses.
The shortcomings in the aforementioned approach to counter Hinduphobia are quite obvious. First of all, attacks on Hinduism will continue, and not just on the ritual of Kanyadaan. One can keep switching onto the latest logical explanation which may work temporary for a ritual in isolation, but not extendable to other rituals, and in fact might end up contradicting one’s earlier stance. Very soon, the well meaning defender of Hinduism will find himself trying to monkey-balance his way out.
Cultural Marxism meets Bollywood & Industry
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this script, and this wont be the last. Ever since the liberal movement was taken over by the cultural Marxists, we’ve seen outrages against everything Hindu ad absurdum. Everyone from detergent-makers to jewelers and now apparel-makers have taken potshots at Hinduism. The less said about Bollywood, the better. One would be hard-pressed to find an industry that objectifies women, promotes toxic masculinity, and glorifies sexual harassment (often camouflaged as a dedicated lover “hero” pursuing his muse) as much as Bollywood. In its latest avatar, the same Bollywood seems to be donning the social-reformer hat, its activities ranging from disparaging Hindu rituals to glorifying folks who mass-murdered Hindus in ancient India. The best response from the Hindu to such hypocrisy-ridden virtue signaling should be two-fold : First, treat the virtue signaling with the contempt it deserves. Second, demonstrate to the cultural Marxists that they’re past their expiry date by asserting your Hindu identity and reaffirming your Śraddhā in Dharma and Hindu rituals. The latter is only possible when every Hindu is educated about his own religion.
Understanding Hindu rituals
As explained here, purpose of life is to obtain moksha. Such Adhyatmika endeavors are successful only by following sabda-pramana, the pre-requisite being Śraddhā (श्रद्धा) . Let there be no doubt that performing rituals without shraddha is meaningless. The BhagavadGita states:
vidhi-hīnam asṛiṣhṭānnaṁ mantra-hīnam adakṣhiṇam
śhraddhā-virahitaṁ yajñaṁ tāmasaṁ parichakṣhate
Sacrifice devoid of faith and contrary to the injunctions of the scriptures, in which no food is offered, no mantras chanted, and no donation made, is to be considered in the mode of ignorance.Srimad Bhagavadgita, 17.13
Now, coming to marriages, a vedic Hindu marriage is viewed as sacramental, a lifelong commitment between a man and woman. Our marriage system is modeled on the marriage of Soma with Soorya’s (सूर्या) daughter, described in the Rig Veda Mandala 10, Sookta 85. In the wedding Raibhi was the bridesmaid while the twin Gods Asvins were the bridesmen led by Agni.
Marriage is the strongest bond which takes place in the presence of parents, relatives and friends. For a Hindu, marriage is the only way to continue the family, and thereby repay his debt to his ancestors (pitru-runa). The Krishna Yajurveda’s Taittiriya Brahmana says ‘one who is not getting married becomes “Yajna-heena” and thus becomes condemnable’ (18.104.22.168). The Taittiriya Samhita says a brahmin has to fulfill “Rishi runa” through brahmacharya, “Deva runa” through yagnas and “Pitru runa” by getting married and begetting children (22.214.171.124). A Vedic sage in Prayoga Chandrika has emphasized that the basis of happy and fulfilling married life is the sense of unity, intimacy and love between husband and wife. Thus, marriage is not for self indulgence, but rather should be considered a life-long social and spiritual responsibility.
While there are several angas in a marriage, our focus here is on Pradhaanam which also include Kanyadaan. Translated literally Kanyadaan means gifting the bride to the groom. Our Sastras attach great importance to Kanyadaan as the most sacred of all daana. The groom is treated as a “swaroopa” of Lord Vishnu himself. From the “Essence of Dharma Sindhu”:
The Kanya-Daata would then leave the Sankalpa-Kushaakshatas on the ground with water and stands up and hands over the Kanya to the Vara stating:
Kanyaam kanaka sa sapannam Kanakaabharanairyutaam, Daasyaami Vishnavey tubhyam Brahmaloka jigeeshayaa/ Vishwabharam Sarva Bhutah Saakshinyah Sarva Devataah, Imaam Kanyaam pradaashyaami Pitrunaam Taaranaa- ya cha/
( I am now handing over this perfect Kanya of mine who is duly ornamented with golden jewelry and Sadgunas to the Vara who is of Vishnu Swarupa with the objective of attaining Brahma Loka after my life-term. This memorable and auspicious action of mine is evidenced by the Whole Universe, Sarva Bhutas, Sarva devataas and is being performed to liberate my Pitru Devataas.).
Having stated thus, he keeps filling up the Vadhu’s folded palms with Shuddhodaka or pure water through a golden ornament even as his wife standing to his right side enables him to do so and the Vadhu in turn pours the water uninterruptedly into the folded palms of the Vara as the free flow of the water falls in a ‘copper’ plate kept underneath.Chap 21, Vivaha Prakarana
To this the groom replies “Kanyaam Prathigrunnami” (“I am accepting her”). The kanya data/ father of the bride addresses the groom three times saying “Dharmecha, Arthecha, Kaamecha Naathi charitavya” and the groom replies all three times “Naati charaami”. It means that the groom will not violate accepted codes of conduct in his married life with the bride.
Even a bare perusal of marriage rituals, as we have done in this post, clearly shows that in Hinduism, marriage is much more than a “social contract” and is treated as a duty towards our ancestors. Elsewhere in the scriptures, the Grihasta is praised as the sustainer of all the 4 Ashramas. Thus, a Hindu marriage is not just limited to being centered around the two individuals, but is integral to the sustenance of Dharma itself.