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Institution of Marriage in Sanatana Dharma | Promises made during marriage | Valmiki Ramayana-17

What was Mother Parvati's previous birth?

Essence of Ramayana in the meaning of 1 shloka

Ramayana is a huge scripture, composed by Sage Vamiki. Originally, Lord Brahma delivered the Ramayana comprising hundred-crore verses to his son Narada. But, in Satyalok or Brahma lok, time travels very slowly. Hence, reading the Ramayana is not difficult, owing to the long life-span of Brahma Deva. But, on earth, the average lifespan of common man is 70-75 years. Due to this limitation, Brahma, inspired Sage Narada to deliver the essence of Ramayana to Adi-Kavi Valmiki, which consolidated itself in 24,000 verses out of which 1000 verses were Sargams or divine melodies. But, today human-retention has dropped considerably, owing to social media and other distractions. Even if one dedicates most part of his life, reading the scripture, one will be unable to complete it.

Is there an abridged version of the Ramayana then? The essence of Ramayana can be relished through this one Shloka, which says: “A man who walks on the path of Dharma and never goes astray, is granted the support of even sub-human species like the monkeys while for a person who violates Vedic injunctions, his own blood-related brother will surely desert him.”

Shri Rama is the upholder and protector of moral conduct and Dharma, while Ravana is the epitome of evil and unrighteousness. Sri Rama was accompanied by monkeys in his mission while in case of Ravana, his own younger brother Vibheeshana was forced to abandon him due to his inappropriate conduct and evil tendency to go against the Shastras. Valmiki wrote Ramayana to illustrate the path of righteousness and preached the various means to get there. He also elaborately explains the ill-effects of Adharma through the life-sketch of Ravana.

Sita Devi: The epitome of chastity

Sita devi was 6 years old when she was married to 12 year old Rama. The description of their marriage is better explained when they resided in the forest for 14 years. At that time, they visited Risi Atri and his wife Anusuya devi. Both the ladies, Sita devi and Anusuya devi discuss about Sri Rama and her marriage. Sita Devi told her that her father, King Janaka was struck with grief as she had already reached a marriageable age, yet none in the court of warriors could qualify as her bridegroom. Anusuya devi inquired: “What was your age, Sitey?” She replied: “Six.”

Lessons to learn from Sita Devi’s character

This conversation seems ordinary, but it actually discusses the standards for a happy married life. In olden times, girls were married at a very young age, so that they could gain experience and skillfully handle challenging-situations that prop up in married life. Today, the minimum age criterion for marriage is 18 years for girls and at the maximum 24 years. It is natural that if a woman exceeds this age limit, then she’ll lack the capacity to adapt to the new lifestyle. The body-mind stops coordinating efficiently as lethargy and physical weaknesses catch upon owing to the age. Marriage is a full-time responsibility. One sign of a good marriage is the number of years the couple spent together. Most marriages fail in a matter of two/three years as both are unware of each other’s temperaments.

Definition of Chastity or Pativrata

A chaste wife encourages her husband to apply the precepts of Dharma. If a husband, due to some negative influence drifts away from Dharma, it is the responsibility of the wife to bring him back on track.

In the modern times, people misinterpret the Shastras and end up saying something like this: “A pativrata stri (chaste wife) always follows the footsteps of her husband.” But, this is not true in all circumstances. A pativrata stri (chaste wife) is the one who can distinguish between Dharma and Adharma. Her chastity can only be proven when she opposes her unrighteous husband and insists to follow Dharma along with him. A wife who does not follow Dharma and does not encourage it, cannot be defined as Pativrata. Due to her inability to pursue Dharma she gives in for Adharma. This is not the sign of chastity. Queen Mandodari is the best example of a chaste woman. Though she was the wife of demon king Ravana and had all luxuries of life at her beck and call, she rejected to accept the ill-doings of her husband. She incessantly pleaded to her husband to follow Dharma. Such a wife is venerable as she is the true well-wisher of a husband. Therefore, a wife is also regarded as the closest friend of her husband.

A wife does not fulfil her duty by merely giving pleasure to her husband, serving him or raising children, but instead she also promotes a Vedic way of life and sets higher ideals for the entire family to tread on. Therefore, Santana Dharma places a woman at a very high pedestal.

Institution of Marriage in Sanatana Dharma and the concept of Divorce

There is no ritual of divorce or staying separate from the husband after marriage. This concept might be an intrinsic part of marriage in other religions and sects, but Sanatana Dharma sanctions the institution of marriage as a life-time agreement and not as a temporary settlement. It is not the union of the body but it is union at the very soul level. Today, registered marriage has replaced traditional marriage rituals, just because a piece of paper claims as evidence. Marriage is never considered complete after signing on a piece of paper or just tying a thread around a neck without chanting the Vedic mantras. Vedic rituals cannot be taken on face value. They have deeper significance and the mantras empower the action.  The action alone has no significance. Movies promote register marriage, or garlanding each other in front of a deity without walking around the holy fire. Marriage mantras are significant. They sanctifying thought, word, deeds and body of the couple. There are several rituals that deal at various platforms, on the gross physical body as well as on the subtle and aatmic levels.

Saptapadi ritual in marriage

Marriage is only complete when Vedic rituals are performed and most-importantly when the couple circumambulate Agni or the homa kundam. This process is called Saptapadi or seven-steps of marriage. Husband-wife evoke the blessings of Agni Deva and promise to stay united in his presence. They promise to accompany each other at all times, also in times of hardship. Life is never smooth. Due to our own past bad actions (bad karmas) we experience bad times in life. The planetary positions move accordingly, resulting in bad phases and good phases. Therefore, couples take an oath to undergo bad times together and also in good phases of life they contribute to each other’s happiness. In Santana Dharma there is no question of abandonment, at any cost. For sense enjoyment, people engage in sinful actions and cheat the other. Dharma condemns such an action as this goes against the principle of marriage, as prescribed in the Shastras. If one leaves his/her spouse due to financial difficulties or other hardships, such an act is also condemned in Sanatana Dharma as it indicates selfishness and self-centeredness. There is a subtle desire for sense-enjoyment which propels one to desert the other, when they are needed the most. There is no bigger curse than a spouse who is not faithful and who does not care for the other. Any action intended to cause harm to the other person or for sense gratification is a sin. Such an approach is opposed in Sanatana Dharma. Therefore, Saptapadi is a significant ritual, as it is promise made to Agnidev. Hence, it is the only authorized source of evidence, in Vedic terms.

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