The Science Behind Unique Indian Wedding Rituals

Eastern weddings are rich in rituals. Read about the meaning of some of them.

The essence of Indian weddings is the circumambulation of the couple around fire or Lord Agni, known as pheras in Hindi. Have you heard of couples taking 4 pheras, instead of the mandatory 7? There is a scientific explanation for this. This is not all. There is weirder stuff out there about marriages, which is probably lesser known. And there is a scientific explanation for each of them!

Meet Padma Shri Dr. KK Aggarwal, a doctor who has written a book on the science behind marriage rituals! Surprises don’t cease, do they?

There are certain unusual wedding rituals which he enumerates on for the benefit of those who have the need to do the marriage rituals differently.

Four pheras instead of seven pheras
The three most important marriage rituals are Ghurchadi, Varmala and Pheras. All three have a scientific base, depicting the transformation of a person from childhood to adulthood. The female horse (Ghodi) in mythology represents the five senses in the body and sitting on the Ghodi and pulling/ tightening of the rope signify controlling our five senses. So in a gist it means that once you tighten your five senses, your phase of behaving like a child is over and it’s time to act with responsibly towards yourself and your wife-to-be.

Secondly the Varmala ceremony represents the ability to learn how to bow in front of the society and let go of one’s ego.

And lastly, each of the four pheras signifies a person’s decision to follow the very purpose of his life, i.e. Dharm, Artha, Kama and Moksha. From Vedic point-of-view, these four pheras are the most important and over a period of time, they have extended to become seven pheras.

These four purposes of life also called the Purushartha, imply a person’s ability to righteously fulfill one’s desires and attain inner happiness. Here Dharma means to hold your righteousness, Artha means to earn, Kama means desires and Moksha means inner happiness.

Marriage is the transformation of a child into an adult. A person is supposed to follow the path of righteousness to the one he’s been bound by holy matrimony. It also coincides with the second ashrama or phase of life to earn and this earning should be based on righteousness. This is also the phase of fulfilling one’s desires but that fulfillment should be in such a way that every desire ends up with inner happiness or connects one to one’s consciousness.

Why people don’t get married during the Chaturmas
The Chaturmas are the first four months of Dakshinayan lasting from July – Mid October. Uttarayan is the period of northward movement of the sun with days lasting longer than the nights and during the period of the Dakshinayan, nights are longer than the days. Medically, Uttarayan is a phase of a positive state of mind and Dakshinayan is the phase of a negative state of mind.

Human body is a balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic phases and also a balance between serotonin and melatonin chemicals. Negativity of the mind means more sympathetic activity and an increase in a person’s melatonin levels.

Most festivals which require detoxification of the mind, body and soul are designed in such a way that they fall in the Chaturmas. The first two months of Chaturmas are Saawan and Bhadon. There is a famous song called Saawan ka mahina pawan kare sore… (Milan) There is another song Mere naina saawan bhadon, phir bhi mera man pyasa…

(Mehbooba), which means in the month of Saawan and Bhadon, the negativity of the mind is at its peak and that a person’s mind is full of unfulfilled desires and is vulnerable to a fluctuation of emotions.

This is the reason why in India, marriages are not allowed in the Saawan, Bhadon, and Kartik months. During this time, a person’s state of mind is negative and in a situation of arranged marriage, there will be more chances of divorce and fights.

Also Chaturmas falls at the time of the rainy season with a high rate of infestation by worms in the soil leading to contamination of surface vegetables. Leafy vegetable are a part and parcel of all marriage ceremonies, therefore, community lunches and dinners are avoided in Chaturmas to prevent people from being food poisoned.
This may not be applicable to Indians living outside India, as Saawan and Bhadon would occur in different months as well as for people who have a love marriage based on years of understanding.

Taking permission from ancestors on the day of the marriage

Ancestors’ permission is needed prior to all auspicious functions in Indian families. This ritual is only important for families, who have not performed the Mahapind Ceremony in Gaya, Pushkar, Haridwar, Kurukshetra after a person’s death.

Shradh is a ritual performed by families when somebody has died with unfulfilled desires. Till those desires are fulfilled, the Shradh ceremony is performed according to our customs.

These ceremonies are usually held on a monthly basis i.e. on the day of Amavasya, on the day of death or on the Tithi during the Shradh month. The family members pay homage to their ancestors and ask them for a time extension to fulfill their desires. The day their desires are fulfilled, a Mahashradh is observed in one of the above places.

Taking permission on the day of the marriage basically signifies conveying to one’s ancestors that their unfulfilled desires have not been forgotten but one wishes to marry the person on priority.

Getting married even after death of an important person in family

It is a traditional Hindu ritual not to have an important function like a wedding in a family after the death of a person close to the people getting married. Some people observe this mourning period for 13 days, one month and some for one year.

Many families today permit getting married post someone’s death and often also state in their will that in a case they happen to die suddenly, important rituals and celebrations in the family should not be stopped.

The reason why people usually don’t hold functions after the death of someone close is that the person usually goes into a state of shock with only thoughts of their loved ones disturbing them constantly. This period of mental detoxification usually takes 4-13 days and if they get married during this time, negativity can creep into the relationship.

For this reason some people get married after the Chautha (four days), some wait for the Tehrawhi (13 days). In some situations, the Chautha is performed on the second or third day and then the marriage takes place. This happens if some person in the family, who is senior to them, comes forward and passes on message to the community that the last wish of the deceased person was not to disturb any family function in a situation of tragedy in the family.

I have seen marriages taking place even if there is a death in the family a day before or on the day of the marriage. These rituals are observed only to prevent a persistently disturbed state of mind, which may occur if there is a violation of any known ritual.

Marriage during the month of Magh, Kartik and Vaishakh

In this day and age at least 1% of the women in our society suffer from infertility, something which was not prevalent in our Vedic era, a time with no or limited medical facilities.

As per ancient belief, the months of fertility are the month of Magh, Vaishakh and Kartik and during this month, Shahi Snans are observed. In these rituals, one is supposed to spend over an hour either before sunrise or before sunset near the Ganges and after that observe a fast and consume Calcium rich udad ki daal or sesame products.

Scientifically, an exposure to sunlight is a source of Vitamin D, which then helps the body absorb the maximum out of the calcium from sesame seeds. Vitamin D, when consumed during fertile months, increases chances of conception.

In these auspicious months, observing a fast further shifts a person’s sympathetic state of mind to a parasympathetic state of mind. It is a proven fact that the chances of conception increase when a person is in a relaxed and positive frame of mind.

Specially, in newly married couples, the chances of conception are more during these months; therefore, these are also the months preferred for marriage in the Hindu mythology.

Compulsory observing of Tulsi Vivah before marriage during Kartik month

The month of Kartik is the month of fertility. It ends the period of Chaturmas and the onset of a positive state of mind. It ends the period of Devsoyani and starts Dev Uthani.

Marriages are traditionally conceptualized for procreation and there is a higher chance of conception when one is in a positive phase of mind. This is the reason why marriages never take place in the month of Chaturmas.

The first day of the marriage is the Tulsi Vivah, which means getting married to a Tulsi plant to fulfill the main reason of your marriage, which is to reproduce. Marrying a Tulsi plant here means consuming Tulsi.

The black Tulsi or Shyama Tulsi seeds are known to increase the sperm count of a person and increased ovulation. Tulsi Vivah ceremony is always observed simultaneously with worshiping the Amla tree. Amla in Ayurveda is again known for its fertility properties. If you try to conceive in Kartik month, consume more Tulsi and Amla, do fast and spend 40-50 minutes in early morning sunlight, there are more chances of conception.

Vidhyalakshmi Rao

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