Sunday, September 7, 2014

MAANGALYA DHAARANAM AND SUMANGALI KRIYA IN HINDU WEDDING

Maangalya  Dhaaranam and Sumangali Kriya in Hindu Wedding

        (Compilation for a discourse at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville, TN, USA, September 2014)

Hindu marriage symbolizes not only the wedding between and man and woman, but it also symbolizes mutual love, care, affection, understanding, commitment, sacrifice, companionship, dedication, and surrender by both the partners.  It is sometimes said that a Hindu marriage is between two families than between  a boy and a girl.  Each and every ritual associated with the marriage has a meaning.  One   such ritual is tying of Maangalyam.  All attention and eyes of the guests gathered to partake in wedding celebrations mainly concentrates   on Maangalya Dharanam   at the   auspicious time (muhurtam) pre -determined and announced. It is not only the yellow thread or the gold chain that has the significance, but also the bond between two hearts and the protection assured by each other. The maangalyam acts as fence for the married woman who values it as her husband.  Hindu women worship their maangalyam with sindhoor (holy vermilion red powder)   and even does rituals called “Sumangali vratas” for the long-life of their husbands in festivals like Varalakshmi Vrata, Gowri Habba, Karuva chauth etc.

Mangala Sutra  worn by most married woman in  Southern parts of  India and Maharashtra is  a yellow twisted auspicious rope of three strands  into which slides   two beads  of gold on either side holding in between  two  slided  gold  Thalis in many traditions  (or one pendant  in some traditions).    Inclusion of     black beads in Maangalyam is considered important in some traditions. There is a belief that mangalasutra worn by   a wife protects the husband from inauspicious and unfortunate happenings. It wards off evil eyes.  That is the reason why black beads are alternated between gold beads in the chain. The two Thalis invariably represent the religious traditional symbols (like naamam, Bindi, linga etc.) of the boy and girl.  

Maangalyam is made out of solid gold contributed by both sides of the boy and girl, melted and shaped by the family goldsmith ritualistically. Now-a-days fashion has over-powered these Thalis which often limit to one central piece carrying favorite or traditional religious symbol with fashion design. Black beads are also assembled in the unit in some traditions. Gold chain has replaced ropes now-a -days though for the purpose of sacred ceremony bits of ropes are added at the two ends to facilitate tying of the knots.  Sometimes a central piece containing Mangala refers to the planet Mars. Mangala also means   auspicious.  Mangalasutra therefore means auspicious thread. In modern fashion oriented society this thread has turned into golden string or chain. Gold increases energy levels in the body and is a symbol of prosperity as well as Goddess Lakshmi who is often described as one with golden hue (suvarna rajatasrajaam). Sometimes silver is also used but gold is considered superior and does not get tarnished. In some traditions peacock pendant is also added.  A peacock is a symbol of a woman’s love from her husband.   It is also the mount of Lord Subhramanya th Lord of wisdom. Maangalyam holds special place for women in India, especially Tamil Nadu. It is considered as the most   important ornament among all ornaments in a married woman’s life, which remains on her neck throughout her lifetime.    Maangalyam   is considered as a gift from a husband to his wife and meant for protection throughout their married life.

Vedanta Desika has included the following sloka in his Paduka Sahasram which explains the tradition of tying the Mangalyasutram in Hindu tradition:

Vahanthi rangEshvarapAdharakshE !
DhIrGhAyuShAm DharShitha Bhakthi banDhA ||
AshADhipAnAmavarODhanAryasthvan |
mudhrikAm mangaLa hEma sUthraIh||

Meaning: Oh Paaduka! The 8 Direction-guardians enjoy such longevity only because their damsels wear, in their gold-chain-hung Thirumangalya, Your image. They become thus blessed.


In the earlier slokas, Swami Desikan stated that the new brides wear jewelry containing the representation of Paadhukaas on their head. At the high moment of Maangalya dhaaranam, the bridegroom ties the auspicious thread around the neck of the bride that contains the Paadhukaas (Lord Ranganaatha’s feet) as the centerpiece. Swami Desikan points out that the wearing of the Mangala soothram is not confined to human beings alone but is also observed by the wives of the Devaas, who wish to have long lives for their husbands. Swami Desikan says in this context: "Oh Ranganaatha Paadhuke! The wives of the long lived Masters of the 8 directions demonstrate their devotion to their husbands by wearing the auspicious golden chain around their necks containing the medallion bearing your representation". It is probable that tying of Mangalsuthra has come from Tamil tradition though not mentioned in Ramayana when Sita weds Rama.

Surprisingly   Malayalee Syrian Christians in Kerala also wear Thali called Minnu and also follow many customs similar to Hindu wedding influenced by Hindu culture. Minnukettu means tying the knot. Minnukettu means tying the knot.   A 'minnu' is a small leaf shaped pendant made of gold, with 7 tiny beads placed together on the leaf to form a cross (+), symbolizing the holy cross. Minnu is put on a thread spun with twenty one threads taken from the Manthrakodi (wedding saree). Seven threads are first taken and spun together. Two more such sets are made, and these three sets are spun together to make the final thread and minnu is put on this thread. The minnu is tied around the bride's neck by the groom on the day of their marriage. The knot tied is called the reef knot, which is almost impossible to unknot. This symbolizes the permanence of the marriage. A good way to remember how to tie a reef knot is: left over right and right over left. After seven days of marriage, the minnu is put on a gold chain and is expected to be worn till death. Minnu is an indication of a married woman. Manthrakodi or the wedding sari like Koorai pudavai in Hindu Tamil practice is a gift to the bride from the groom and his family symbolizing him as her provider. Covering the brides head with Manthrakodi is another common tradition in Kerala Christian weddings. It symbolizes the groom's promise of being a protector of his bride for the rest of her life.

This practice in Christianity should give some idea to Hindu Americans as to the Thaali design for Hindu weddings performed for Inter-racial  (Hindu-Christian )wed-locks.  The girl in such weddings can have one Thaali  as per the Hindu tradition and the other similar to Minnu as in Syrian Christian tradition as there is no religious taboo on it being traditions based. In inter-caste marriages the two traditional religious symbols may go into the Thaalis.

To me the most logical, non-controversial and spiritual symbol for a Thaali is Swastika. The word Swastika is of Sanskrit origin. Su+asti+ka=swastika. Su means good, asti means to be and ka means making. Thus it is a symbol of Prosperity. It is a symbol popular in all traditions--Indian, Celts, Greeks and others. It is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, induism Buddhism and Jainism and among many other cultures and religions. Unfortunately this was adopted as good luck symbol by Nazi party in 1920 and so was stigmatized by Germany because of the anti-Semitism practiced by Hitler. It was outlawed in Germany and other countries later. However Hindu Swastika with four dots is a form of Ganesha glorified in Ganesa Purana. Its use in India dates back to Indus Valley Civilization representing Vishnu. Thus it is acceptable to all traditions of Hindus. Hindus draw Swatika symbol on the doors and entrances during festivals as a welcome sign to Goddess Lakshmi to come to the house and bless all.  In Tibetan Buddhism it symbolizes Mother Earth.  

Hindu religious texts say the eight arms of the Swastika are symbolic of the Pancha-bhootas, mind, emotions and feelings. They also represent four yugas,   four  Aasramas, four basic aims of human pursuits--Dharma Artha, Kaama and Moksha,  four Vedas, Brahma  and four constellations-- Pushya  (8th), Chitra (14th), Sravana(22nd) and Revati (27th).

In Rigveda Swastika is mentioned as symbol of Surya. Amarakosa the famous Sanskrit dictionary says Swastika means pure and auspicious blessing. Swastika is also known as “Satiya” which is symbolic of Sudarsan Chakra in the hands of Vishnu and worshiped in Puri Jagannth. People also consider it as a symbol denoting (+) like the symbol of cross in Christianity. It is also considered as a symbol of prosperity. Yajurveda hymn runs as follows:

Swasti na indro vridddhasravaah swasti nah poosaa viswadevaah |
Swasti nastaaksharyo arishtanemih swasti no brihaspatir dadhaatu

One who is renowned and glorious, Lord Indra, bless us with well-being! One who is the embodiment of knowledge of the world, Pusadeva, bless us with well-being! OH Garuda! One who has the weapon to destroy misfortune,   please protect us! Oh Bhagawan Brihaspati! Please bless us with auspiciousness in our homes! In Acharya Yask the swastika has been described as indestructible Brahman. All the deities in the mantra above are only Vyahritis   (aggregates) of Brahaman and represent Brahman alone.

Swastika is also a symbol of equal sided Cross (+) with its four legs bent at 90 degrees.  It is known as Gammadion Cross which is identical to four Greek gamma letters affixed to each other. The Swastika is used in Islamic art and is also seen in Christian and Byzantine Empire art. Swastika Thaali suits all kinds of weddings conducted in Hindu Temples. This also lends the Thaali jewelry to restrict to one beautiful pendent which can be studded with precious stones or pure diamond to wear as a permanent jewelry.  What better auspicious symbol you   can aspire for such a happy occasion meeting all traditions and religions?

There are a number of varieties of Maangalyams.  Maangalyam of Iyers contain Sivalingam in it, whereas the mangalyam of Iyengars contain a pair of shell (shakha) and red coral (paula) or naamam with  sankha and chakra, their religious mark. They usually have two thalis carrying the religious traditions of boy and girl. During Shashti-abda-poorti (60th year wedding ceremony) a third thaali of husband’s tradition is added. There are also Thaalis that contain the shapes of trisulam (weapon in Lord Shiva’s hand), damaru (musical instrument of Lord Shiva) and Rudhraksha (holy seed worn by Lord Shiva in his necklace) worn by the Saivites. Most of the Hindus wear Lakshmi thaali whereas the Telugu people wear a pair of Ramar/Pottu thaali. Ela Thaali is worn by the Malayalees and Kumbha Thaali is worn by the Tamils of Kshatriya caste. Some traditions like Bengalis, Oriya and Assamese don’t have the custom of Mangalsutra. Some others wear tortoise shaped Thaali, representing the bondage between the husband and the wife to long-live just like the tortoise which has a long life. Tortoise is the second avatar   of Lord Vishnu. So, tortoise shaped Thaali also means that the Lord Himself is protecting the family. 

The practice of tying Maangalyam was not followed in ancient days and even in ancient Tamil culture when the marriages were performed in Vedic style. The versions of Ramayana by Kalidasa in Raghuvamsa and by Kamban in Tamil also do not mention about tying of Thaali during the marriages. There was no mentioning of Thaali in the older Tamil literature, Silappathikaaram as well. Some believe    that tying Thaali comes from Dravidian cultur who think Dravidians as separate entity. This culture seems to have initially sprung from Tamil Nadu which later spread to other cultures.    This tradition seems to   have existed during the time of Sankara  because  he  mentions  about it  in Soundayalahari.  

Saamudrikaa saastra (Science of Birthmarks) says for noble woman and men there will be birthmarks as lines in the face, neck and stomach regions:

Lalaatocha kale chaiva madhyechaapi valitrayam |
Stree-pumsayor-idam jneyam mahaa-saubhaagya-soochakam || (soundarylahiri)

Grihyasootra says that in certain regions during Braahma wedding after Mangalyadhaarana   the bride is tied with   an arm-band of single strand and three strands on the neck. 

Mangalyam tantunaanena badhvaa mangala-sootrakam |
Vaamahaste saram badhvaa kanthe cha trisaram tathaa ||

The neck portion birth-lines remind us of the holy strands tied during wedding. Again these three lines represent Gati, Gamaka, and Geeta musical steps that rise from the throat of Devi and also represent Shatjam, Madhyamam and Gaandharam limitations of notes portion of classical music.

Arunaa Modinee in its critical review says the three birth-line marks or folds in the neck represent the three strands of Mangalyasootra alone:

Bhraguna gunah yoe maangalya sootraroopah tasya sankhyaah triprakaaraah |

Also Lalitasahasranama has the following reference:

Om kaamo baddha-maangalya-sootra-sobhita kandaraayai namah |

Obeisence to Paraasakti(OM) whose neck is adorned with love-bound  Maangalyasootra!
Lord Siva after killing demon Gajaasura took out the pearls from his head and adorned the neck of Devi with that necklace besides Maangalyasootra.  Soundryalahari also describes the ritual of stepping on the hard stone and wearing nose studs. Parvati also wears the pearl necklace given by Siva permanently as described in the same text. It also glorifies Lalita as some believe that Thaali was actually a tiger tooth that was tied around the bride’s neck by the bridegroom as a gift. The bridegroom himself defeats the tiger without any weapon and brings the tooth to tie in his girl’s neck as a token of bravery and courage, symbolizing that he can protect his wife throughout his lifetime from evils.

The three knots symbolize three different aspects of married woman—body, mind and spirit. As sahadharminee or equal partners in discharging obligations of Dharma she gets tied with her husband in body, mind and spirit. That does not mean she is not independent to think as some Westerners feel. They are free to express their opinion, discuss and take joint decision to act in unison be it spiritual or social. Without the participation of his wife no husband can perform any religious rite or ritual as per scriptural injunctions.    The first knot represents   the bride should respect her husband   through her entire life.  With the second knot the girl is reminded to continue to respect her parents as well as her husband’s parents and to serve them expressing her everlasting gratitude and love.  As explained earlier a Hindu-wedding is between two families which come close to each other besides the girl and boy brought together in holy matrimony. The third knot signifies respect to God or spiritual path.    Eldest sister-in-law of the bridegroom ties   the second and   third knots or additional knots symbolizing that the bride’s love should extend to all the siblings of the boy who have moved out of the family after wedding but who still keep very close  relationship with the boy. The girl likes to divert the love of the boy’s sister which her husband has been showing to his sister so far as the new entrant.  This may cause some pain and trouble in due course. With this knot tying participation   amicability is sought after so that they equally share the love. This applies to all the sisters of the boy. There is a general wrong notion that sister-in-law often dominates and quarrels and so also Mother-in-law.  May be they are more legal minded than mother or sister as the name suggests and misunderstood! This participation in tying the knots is to overcome that sort of inhibitions and diversity.  In some traditions the bridegroom ties all the three knots and the sister-in-law ties the fourth or more knots.   The bridegroom ties the Mangalasutra to the neck of the bride uttering, “May you live hundred winters by wearing this sacred Mangalasutra, and become the very purpose of my life”. Married women wear a Mangalasutra throughout their life as it is believed that the practice enhances the well-being of her husband and family. It is also believed that the Mangalasutra protects the dignity of marriage from any evil eye as she wears this distinct insignia visible easily to on-lookers. It is believed the powerful blessing of Devi invoked    at the time of wedding continues to protect her throughout her life. In typical   Brahmin Tradition the boy is invested with a second set of holy thread or  Yajnopaveeta signifying he is married and is in equal partnership with his wife to perform acts of Dharma. So far his main concentration had been on Artha and Kaama guided by Dharama and now that Dharma should lead him   through the right path to Moksha opening the spiritual window. This aspect is stressed for both the boy and the girl in Maangalya Dhaarana, Yajnopaveeta Dhaarana and wearing of the sindhoor along the path of Brahmarandra on the head.

There is yet another significance as to the tying of the knot. The girl is given as Kanyaadana which is an act of giving away the girl in charity.   In Hindu value this could mean one who accepts the girl in charity incurs a debt (rina) in accepting it. This debt is repaid by acts of Dharma by the boy in equal partnership with the bride whom   he has accepted as Sahadaharminee  and acquires the eligibility for conducting acts of sacrifice. Tying of knots 3 times is   like a legal binding. We are all familiar with the legal oath in which a person in witness stand is made to repeat the word Truth thrice.
A knot literally means fastening together two ends of a rope, string or things similar. This definition gives some relief to later practice of discarding the rope.  In putting the hooks together of the chain is considered as knotting.  In north Indian practice there is also the practice of Gathabandhan. It means bringing together the boy and the girl by symbolically tying loose ends of their scarf and veil, or other clothing.  From two individuals-two bodies and two minds--they become a single entity through holy matrimony.  Apart from the Mangalasutra, the toe rings (bichhua), kumkum (Sacred vermilion), bangles,   black pearls and nose ring form six symbols necessary for a married woman of South Indian   culture.   In some traditions toe rings are put on by sister-in law.   These also form part of sixteen steps beautification of the bride (Sola Singar). In fact the bride is dressed on the model of divines drawing inspiration from the divine brides Andal, Parvati and   Sita celebrated in Puranas during their weddings. While there are local variations with respect to the others, the Mangalasutra is nevertheless worn by most married women in southern parts of India. Srilalita is described as wearing genuine pearl nose ring on her left nose in Soundaryalahari sloka 61 (sisirakara nisvaasagalitam muktaamanidharah iva).

Mangaya Dharana ritual takes place at exactly the pre-determined auspicious (Muhurtam) time observed meticulously to the minute. When the Maangalya is tied all disturbing and inauspicious sounds are deafened by Naadaswaram (wind pipe) raised to its highest pitch (called Gattimelam in Tamil).   Thali-gold pendant knotted on both sides along with golden beads smeared with turmeric and Vermilion is placed in a tray with betel leaf and nut, coconut, banana and turmeric paste and taken round the gathering of elders to receive their blessings for a happy and long married life.  It is blessed by the congregation and the priest sprinkles kumkum on the Thali and blesses it with waving of the lamp invoking the blessings of Devi, Mother Goddess. It is then given to the groom to tie the knots accompanied by his senior-most sister.

APPLYING  TILAK WITH SINDHOOR OR KUMKUM (VERMILION)

This ceremony is called Sumangalee Kriya, meaning auspicious ceremony.  The Tilak or dot adorns the middle of the forehead at the partition of the hairs.  This is a must in North Indian Traditions. This signifies opening of the third eye   symbolic of spiritual enlightenment. The groom puts his arm around the bride to put the red dot on her forehead which must always adorn her as it signifies her married status easily visible to all. After this the girl moves to the left side of the boy and occupies that position as long as they are married and live together.  The Bride is called Vaamangi (left-side partner) after this ceremony. When Brahma split himself as female and male, female part emerged out of his left. 

Sindhoor at the partition of head cautions all people around that the lady of the house should   be respected as Mother Goddess and   protected   against all evil eyes and moves. Vermilion red color is Symbolic of Brahma, the Creator. It is also favorite color of Shakti.  In Devi Bhaagavatam Bhagavati says “Brahma and I (Sakti) are one” Together they are the creative power.  Husband and wife are together responsible for   propagation and growth of the family. Wearing of Sindhoor (vermilion)   in  the hair parting  by married woman is strongly recommended by religious and spiritual  authorities  as this point is just above the suture in the scalp and a little above the point  where the soul resides in line with Brahmarandra through which Udana departs in its life’s journey. The tradition of this wearing sindhoor follows Srilalita who wears naveena arka-kiranamiva sindhooram, vermilion (sindhoor) shining like the rising sun in the morning as described in Soundarya-lahari. This point is also more delicate in women than in men and vermilion has the healing power.  The application vermilion helps to avoid wrinkles and skin problems and protects one from evil influences. It also deters the spread of lice. Women who have a hair-parting or eyebrows inflicted by snake-like line that is considered inauspicious should overcome the problem by the use of vermilion according to Saamudreeka Saastra.



REFERENCES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:    
1. Swami Bhaskarananda,   Essentials of Hinduism, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
2. Ed Viswanathan, Am I A Hindu? Rupa & Co., New Delhi,  India.
3.  Dr. Prem P Bhalla, Hindu Rites, Rituals, Customs & Traditions, Pustak Mahal, Delhi, India.
4. Vivaaha Mantraartha Bhodhini" --published in Tamil by M/S The Little Flower Company, T.Nagar, Madras 600 017.
5. Srinivasan N.R., Vivaaham-- Hindu   Braahma    Sacred Matrimony, <nrsrini.blogspot.com>
6. Various Internet sources
7. Anna, Soundaryalaharee Bhashyam (Tamil), Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.



APPENDIX

An Astrology Expert’s Opinion on Vivaaham

“To my knowledge astrological matching boy’s and girl’s   horoscope for holy matrimony was very rare back around 100 years or so! Only the Purohit (Priest) who conducted the marriage used to see the star and the Gotra.  If both parties had doubt they used to go to a temple and place a white flower and a red flower in betel leaves separately. After placing the same before the presiding deity an innocent boy or girl would be asked pick one of the closed leaves.  If they picked white flower they agreed for the marriage. If they picked the leaf with red flower they agreed to cancel that marriage proposal. This was the system prevailing then. I also feel astrological matching is not a must for marriage.  Manu Smriti says if the parents of the girl do not find a match for the girl before three years after the girl’s  attaining puberty, she has every right to choose her partner. In Hindu marriage Panigrahanam and Kanyaka Daanam are to be performed during the Muhurtam.  Muhurtam time is fixed to overcome all ill effects in the horoscope.  During Mangalya Dhaaranam only a Sanskrit Sloka is chanted and not a sacred  Vedic Mantra  and therefore this is  not  the  most sacred step  as it is made out today. In earlier days only a Kantha sootram was tied around the neck of the bridegroom for the   occasion like the holy thread tied to the hand. You may also note that this sloka is also used during Shashthiabdi poorti celebrations (60th birthday of husband if wife is alive when the marriage ceremony  is reenacted.  Srimad Bhagavatam predicts Sangara Vargam (people marrying out of caste) would increase and gradually all caste system would fail in Chapter 12 while elaborating on Kaliyuga Lakshana” says our astrology expert. [Here is a justification for love marriage as well as inter-caste marriage too in Hinduism.]

Swastika is Pre-Aryan, Dates Back 11,000 years

By Times of India | Mar 05, 2017 

Swastika – the Indian symbol of peace and continuity that Hitler co-opted for his twisted Aryan supremacy theory – is much older than believed, older than the Aryans and even the Indus Valley Civilization, says a team of top-notch researchers from some of the most prestigious institutions in India.
The researchers say the Swastika dates back at least 11,000 years and have traced its spread to western and Middle-Eastern civilizations. In fact, one of their key findings is that an Ukranian Swastika, believed to date back 12,000 years to the Paleolithic Age, may not be this old, say sources.
The team will announce these and other “breakthroughs” at the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) on July 8, exhibiting all the evidence they have collected. They will also answer queries.
The research was like solving a jigsaw puzzle in the maze of history, involving study of codes and symbols that would excite Dan Brown.
Based at IIT-Kharagpur and led by one of its most senior professors, it was conducted by Sandhi, an HRD ministry-sponsored effort to amalgamate ancient Indian knowledge systems with contemporary science.
The riddle was pieced together by scholars from many IITs, NITs, Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology-Ahmedabad, School of Planning and Architecture-Bhopal, and Jadavpur University . In tracking the antiquity of the Swastika, the researchers came across a staggering discovery -that the Rig Veda, generally associated with Aryan civilization, existed much before that, dating back to the pre-Harappan times in the form of Shruti that were orally handed down through the Indus Valley civilization.
“We have found the most mature and geometrically ordered Swastika in the pre-Harappan times in the form of seals. We have also been able to trace the mention of the Swastika in the Vedas around the same time. These are scintillating findings that will help us announce that the Indian civilization is far more ancient than what is written in accepted history books, mostly by Europeans,” said Joy Sen, a faculty member at IIT-Kharagpur faculty and lead project investigator.
The team will show how the Swastika migrated from India -through the Tartar Mongoloid route via Kamchatka to the Americas (hence the plethora of Swastikas in the Aztec and Mayan civilizations), and through the Western land route to Finland, Scandinavia, British Highlands and Europe where the symbol is present in varying shapes of the cruciform.
“After dividing the world into nine quadrants into which Swastika moved from India, we retraced its footprints and have been able to graphically prove our claim through ancient seals, inscriptions, imprints, and religious symbolism in these countries. We will reveal it in great detail,” Sen said.
Unfortunately talk of Swastika cannot avoid the horrors of its hijack by Hitler to suit his Aryan supremacy theory. “It inspired Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche and their progeny, Adolf Hitler, who started an inverted agenda of anti-Semitism based on a falsified Aryan invasion myth through seven years of war, terror, corruption and extermination,” Sen said.