KALYAANA UTSAVA CEREMONY FOR THE LORD IN TEMPLES
(Discourse by N.R. Srinivasan)
Basic Poojaa vidhaanam (worship ritual) at homes consists of five steps or five-fold offerings—Sankalpa, dhoopa-deepa, naivedya, archana and aarati. A more elaborate Poojaa conducted in temples consists of sixteen steps, known as Shodasoepachaara Pooja. The most elaborate Pooja is sixty-four steps Pooja, where offerings include music, dance, chariots, elephants and other items. Kalyaanoetsava or Wedding ceremony ritual, recalling the incidence from the Puraanas and following Vedic ritualistic tradition of marriage occupies a prominent place in the elaborate pooja rituals in the Temple Tradition. Devotees perform this elaborate pooja with lively celebrations and reverence for the welfare of the family and friends. Often temples themselves conduct such rituals with public support and goodwill for universal peace and prosperity and the benefit of all.
Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad says: The world in the beginning was unmanifest. There was Self (Brahman) and nothing else. The Self split into two pieces. One was male and the other was female. In the drama of female withdrawal and male aggression the entire manifestation (creation) came into being. Thus Nirguna Brahman manifested Itself as Saguna Brahman combining male and female aspect within itself.
Upanishadic texts not only mention desire (Kaama) as an organism inclination, but also suggests that in each individual there is a male aspect as well as a female aspect, an introvert as well as extravert tendency. All this is for the satisfaction of Self, for manifestation and differentiation of names and forms.
In present day Hindu worship, people worship Siva and Parvati, Radha and Krishna, Srinivasa and Padmavati, Rama and Sita etc., as divine couples, symbolic of male and female aspects of Self. It is usual to end elaborate Poojaa Vidhaanam with Kalyaanoetsava or marriage ceremony of the divine couples, signifying unity of male and female aspects of Brahman, culminating in Saguna Brahman (manifested form). The Impersonal Absolute when viewed through human mind becomes a personal God and He in his capacity as creator becomes Brahma, as protector Vishnu and as destroyer Rudra. Rudra later on became Siva, the calm and auspicious. The relationship between static Brahman and active Easwara, is transferred to Siva and Sakti, Vishnu and Lakshmi, and their incarnations--Rama and Sita, Srinivasa and Padmavati etc.
In the symbolic divine marriage ceremony celebrated in Hindu Temples, pure consciousness (thought) and formative energy (action) are viewed together as Easwara in his manifested form (Saguna Brahman) and through this medium facilitate meditation on the Absolute (Nirguna Brahman or Self), which is the only way for salvation, as postulated by all Upanishads.
Hindu marriage ceremony has many elaborate steps symbolizing different stages in the bonding of the couple based on vedic culture and traditions. The various steps include: Kanyaasnaanam; Maangalyadhaaranam, Paanigrahanam; Saptapadi; Laajahomam; Grihapravesam; and Dhruva-arundhati darsanam. There are invocations to the Gods, gurus, and ancestors asking them to witness and bless the sacred bond. At the end of the marriage ceremony, the Sthaaleepaakaa and Aupaasana rituals are performed. The sacred fire from these rituals is then carried home and the Vedic karmas enjoined are performed with this fire as witness for the rest of one's married life. Through such rituals one expresses the gratitude to the sages, gods and ancestors. Marriage ceremony becomes a significant milestone in the life of an individual, giving him the eligibility to perform certain vedic rites.
Kankana bandhanam (tying of the wrist-band),; Kalasa sthaapanam(installing the pot invoking holy waters); Sankalpam (solemn resolution of the task); Punyaaha-vaachanam (Sprinkling holy waters on the place and things as well as the assembly invoking divine blessings); Yajnoepaveeta dhaaranam (offering holy strands of threads to the Lord); Mangalya dhaaranam (tying of the holy knots); exchange of garlands; Honoring the ecology (paalikaa visarjanam); Kankana visarjanam (discarding the wrist-band) and Aaseervaadam (offering gifts to the Lord and praying for auspiciousness to him): these form the important steps in the divine wedding along with the concluding Shoedasa-upachaara pooja.
Hindu Saastras prescribe procedures to conduct a marriage ceremony according toVedic rites. Puranas describe the traditional wedding of Lord Vishnu with Maha Lakshmi (for example as in Kalyanotsava Prayoga), according to traditional practices, then existed, which gives the guidelines to conduct such rituals in temples. It includes the marriage proposal, the willingness on the part of the parents of the bride to give her away by way of sacred charity (Kanyaadanam) after verifying the suitability of the boy and the betrothal.
Before tying the ceremonial wedding knot or Maangalya-sootram, the parents of the bride formally hand over, in marriage, the bride to the groom. This is known as Kanyaadaan. In Vedic culture the girl is given as a charity to the boy. People feel blessed if they can perform Kanyaadaanam during their life time. Even though one has the freedom to give charity in any form, there are certain forms of charity, which are culturally significant to Hindus. Kanyaa-daanam is a poignant concept of charity and considered as an important opportunity for charity. It is an important sacrifice because the boy gets the eligibility to perform certain Vedic rites only when married. The parents feel proud of this action, even though they have to part with their daughter permanently, which is an important responsibility for every householder. In Vedic culture any good deed or action is considered to be a charity or sacrifice (yajna). It is virtuous to give away a daughter at a proper place, time and to a suitable and agreeable person to the family. Therefore, great care is taken in choosing the boy for the girl. Parents of Lakshmi had set this tradition as can be seen from the description that follows. This may be the very first wedding celebrated in mythology.
Search for the boy (Varaanveshana); examination of his qualifications and qualities (Varapareeksha); Betrothal (Nischitaartha or Sagai) Ceremony.
The wedding proposal by Lord Vishnu and the subsequent betrothal ceremony, is described below as given in the Puraanas (Mythology):
Vasisthasya Jamadagni thataiva cha | Vivaahaartham risheem praarthya dootoe goepaalavesha dhrik || "
Lord Vishnu requests the great sages Atri, Bhrigu, Vasistha, and Jamadagni, that they should find a suitable girl for him as he is ready for a marriage. The sages, who were devotees of Lord Vishnu, felt honored with such a request and searched for a suitable girl with their divine vision. Maha Lakshmi, the daughter of Samudra-raaja, the king of seas, appeared before their eyes.
"Naanaaphala samaayuktam nootanai vastra samyutam | nischitaamboola dravyaacha subha dravyaani kaarayet||"
At that time, the great sages arranged for five different types of fruits, new clothes, and auspicious things needed for the occasion of seeing the girl.
"Tat kaalay subha vaakyena vipradvaya sudarsanam | suvarnapaala paksheenaaam dakshinoettara gacchati ||"
When the sages with their disciples started towards the house of Samudraraaja they witnessed two Brahmins coming towards them as well as the Suvarnapaala birds (milk birds) flying from south to north, indicative of good omens.
"Mahoetsavam munisrestham subha vaakyaani siddhati |
"We have experienced good omens, our efforts will yield good results", so thought the group and moved forward.
"Visvambaroe ratnaakaroe ksheerasaagara mayvacha | pratyutthaanamcha aasanay ratnakambalay ||"
The sages arrived at the house of Samudraraaja, who was the grandson of Visvambara and son of Ratnaakara. The king received them with due reverence, paying his obeisance. He spread a bejeweled and gold laced carpet for them to sit.
"Yathaa udyoega gamanam buddhi prasaada mayvacha ||"
Samudraraaja asked the sages with all humility, the purpose of their visit.
"Vaikuntha vaasane chaiva sree bhoo kanyaam vrinee mahay ||
The sages informed the king that the purpose of their visit was to ask for the hands of Mahalakshmi for the wedding of Sree Mahavishnu.
"Samudra uvaacha: Uttare pratyuttare chaiva vishnoer doota gunaadikam | Matsyaavataaray durgandham | Kamathoe angaheenaakam | Varaaham babhru roopancha| Nrisimha ghoera roopakam | Vaamanam kubja roopaadyam | Bhaargavam matri-hantakam | ityaadi durgunaam Vishnoe aham Lakshmeem nadaapayaet ||"
Samudraraaja replied: "Mahavishnu has many bad qualities.—In the incarnation of fish, he was full of foul smell. In the incarnation of tortoise he missed many essential parts of the body, and his body was rugged. In the incarnation of boar he was full of hair in the body and that too thorny. In the incarnation of lion-man, he had terrible appearance and ugly to look at being neither the man nor the lion. How can I offer my daughter in marriage to such a terrible figure, and how can she live with him? In the incarnation of dwarf he was only two and a half feet while my daughter is six feet. There is no match! In the incarnation Parasurama he killed his own mother who gave birth to him. It is impossible for my daughter to live with such a person with a catalogue of bad qualities who is the Lord of Vaikuntha. I cannot give my daughter in marriage."
"Risheer uvaacha: Matsyaakriti Mahaavishnoe Veda uddharaet | Koormoe Mandara uddhritya rakshitaam sarva devataa-h | Varaaha roopoe vasudaayi samuddharaet Nrisimhaaya Mahaavishnoe sanandamcha mahaabudhay | Vaamanam Bali bandaakhyam Deva Bhoosura rakshitam | hitoedakam Mahaavishnoe kanyaadaanam kurushtaye ||"
The sages replied back: " Lord took the incarnation of Fish (Matsya) to save Vedas. The demon Somakaasura had hidden the Vedas at the bottom of the sea. The Lord took the form of fish, killed the demon, and gave Vedas back for the benefit of the world. In the incarnation of Tortoise (Koorma) he saved all Devas by balancing the mountain Mandara. In the incarnation of Boar (Varaaha) he destroyed the fortress of Hiranyaaksha, killed him, and saved the Mother Earth. In the incarnation of Man-lion (Nrisimha) he killed Hiranyakasipu, who was torturing and causing immense pains to his staunch devotee Prahlaada and gave peace and happiness to the world. In the incarnation of Dwarf (Vaamana) he obtained three feet of land from Emperor Bali, and pushed him to Netherworlds, protecting Devas and the earth. Parasurama cut off the head of his mother to honor the words of his father Jamadagni. Thus lord Vishnu has been preserving the good and destroying the evil with a view to restore world order (Dharma). Therefore, we strongly urge that you should not miss the opportunity and offer your daughter by way of Kanyaadaana (offering girl as a charity) to Mahaavishnu.
"Samudara uvaacha: Astu santoeshitoe bhootvaa saagarena mahoetsavam | tathaastu rishya-h sarvay santoesha samukhairapi | haridraadi subhadravyaani naanaa vastrascha bhooshnai-h | Aadilakshmeencha Vishnoeyam aham datvaa maharshaya-h ||"
Samudraraaja was very much pleased listening to the great and wise sages, and agreed to give away his daughter Mahaalakshmi to Lord Vishnu. The sages filled with joy offered turmeric, red vermilion and other auspicious items significant of the agreement reached by the king.
"Nischitaarthamidam proektam mahaa srinu padmaja | sakala kalyaana jananam sarvasatru vinaasanam | Aayu-h vriddhikaram nreenaam asvamedhaphalam labhet ||
This story of the betrothal of the Lord and the preceding incidence of thorough investigation of the qualifications of the Lord will bring all round happiness, eliminating all evil forces, and give long life as well as the same fruits, as obtained by performing horse-sacrifice (Asvamedha yaaga) to those devotees who listen with rapt attention.
Saakshee Tamboola devataabhyoe nama-h | aavaahanaadi shoedasoepachaara poojaam karishye ||
Obeisance to "Taamboola devataa" ( holy act of Beatle leaves and areca nuts offering), who acted as the witness to the occasion. I now begin 16-steps Poojaa ritual beginning with the welcoming of the Lord.
Brides side party : By words and deed the girl has been given to you to beget a male progeny. Nischitaartha (betrothal) having been done, may you live happily.
Venkatesvara (Sreenivaasa) Kalyaanam
In Kaliyuga Aksharaaja came to rule over Tondaimandalam (the area located in the interior South India) . His daughter Padmavati was married to Lord Venkatesvara. The marriage officiated by Lord Brahma was celebrated with great pomp and splendor. Still the same Kalyaanoetsavam is being performed in Tirumalai Temple every day. In the absence of Padmaavati deity on Tirumalai hills, the wedding of Lord Venkatesvara with Sreedevi and Bhoodevi is celebrated on daily basis at the request of individual devotees. Beginning with the Panchamoorti poojaa according to the Vaikhaanasa aagama rites, the Mangalyasootra dhaaranam (tying of the sacred knots) and exchange of garlands are done according to the vedic rites.
Once a year there is a big festival celebrating the wedding of Padmavati and Venkatesvara. Her processional idol is taken on an elephant from Tirucchaanoor to Tirumalai Temple. Lord Venkatesvara idol comes out to meet her. Elaborate wedding ceremony then follows as per Vedic rites. The Braahmotsava at Tirucchaanoor Temple also starts on the birthday of Padmavati, generally in the month of November/December.
This traditional Vedic wedding of Venkatesvara and Padmavati is celebrated with all reverence according to aagama rites, wherever Venkatesvara idols are consecrated in temples all over the world, at the request of the devotees as well as general public. It is celebrated for the welfare of the individual family or the devout society in the locality, invoking divine blessings for universal welfare, peace, and prosperity.
"Sree Vaikuntha viraktaaya swami-pushkaranee-tatay | Ramaya ramamaanaaya Venkatesaaya mangalam"
May auspiciousness be to Sree Venkatesa who, giving up attachment to ` Sree Vaikuntha, sports gracefully with Lakshmi on the banks of the Svaamipushkarinee.