In Ramayana…when Shri Ram and Sita were announced they will get married and Dashratha came to Mithila with his other sons..Janaka made a proposal to marry his other 3 daughters with his three sons and their family be united..
Dashratha accepted this proposal and along with Ram Sita..Laxman married Urmila, Bharata married Mandavi and Shatrugan married Shrutakirti.
Janaka gave his daughters to the son of Dashratha saying ‘I give you Lakshmi,wealth, who will bring you pleasure and prosperity. Grant me Saraswati, wisdom Let me learn the joy of letting go’. This culture came to be known as kanya-daan. Unlike dakshina, where wealth is asked in exchange and bhiksha where power is asked in exchange. in daan only wisdom is sought.
The four couples took seven steps together in front of their elders. this meant they would share seven things for ever: a house, fire, water, income, children, pleasure and conversation. Placing their palms one below the other they made offering of ghee and grain to the fire so that the smoke carried them up to the realm above sky where devas could feast to their satisfaction. offerings were also made to the cow, dog, serpent, banana plant , banyan tree, to rocks to water, a reminder that humanity does not live in isolation.
Finally as the brides were about to leave, a fistful of rice was given to them. they threw it over their heads. that rice symbolized repayment of a daughter’s debt to her parents. Sita, Urmila, Mandavi and Shrutakriti wanted to turn back but they knew that there is wisdom in letting go and moving on.
a huge caravan of horses ,elephants left with the brides. it contained fabrics ,jewels, pulses, vegetables, herbs. for when a bride enters the husband’s house she brings with her not just the promise of a new generation but also a new culture and with that new thoughts that enrich her husband’s household.
marriage since vedic times, is just not the union of man and a woman but an opportunity for two cultures to intermingle so that new customs and beliefs can enter an old household and revitalize it.
well hope this lends a new perspective to our thoughts on marriage and its related rituals..will keep posted as i unravel the beauty and wisdom of our puraans and mythologies.