कन्यादानं in Vedic Weddings — Receiving the Bride is As Important


By Kollengode S Venkataraman

In Vedic and Christian weddings all over the world, the giving away of the bride is an poignant, emotional part of the ceremony. While the details vary widely, the tradition of the father handing over his daughter to the groom is common in both. I am sure, some anthropologist somewhere has studied how this ritual is common in both cultures even though separated by thousands of miles, and irreconcilably differing in theology — salvation (Christians) vs. liberation (Hindus); obedience & sin (Christians) vs. karma & avidya (Hindus).

In August, I attended a cross-cultural Hindu Vedic wedding on the West Coast. Shri Sashidhara Somayaji (contact number 408 800 5444), one of the pandits conducting the wedding, said this in facile English before kanyaadaanam, widely understood as the parents of the bride giving away their daughter: “We understand कन्यादानं (kanyaadaanam) by splitting the phrase using Sanskrit Sandhi rules into कन्या + दानं, with कन्या (kanya) meaning bride; and दानं (daanam) contextually meaning “gift.” Incidentally, Pandit Somayaji, who is from Udupi in Karnataka, is facile in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Tulu, Hindi, Sanskrit and English.

He continued: “Understanding कन्यादानं exclusively as parents giving away their daughter is incomplete. Following Sanskrit’s sandhi rules, कन्यादानं also splits into कन्या + आदानं (aadaanam). आदानं (aadaanam) means receipt or receiving. So, कन्यादानं should be correctly understood with emphasis on both parents giving their daughter away and the groom accepting her in the ceremony.” After all, when someone gives, someone else receives.

The आदानं part gives an entirely different flavor to the ceremony with the obligation on the groom to live compatibly with his new bride, with the implied responsibility on the bride also in their journey together. — END

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